The St. Louis Rams have been building a strong defense, but have consistently been held back by issues on offense. Last season, they accomplished one of their goals: make life tough for the NFC West. They went 4-1-1 in the division, including a 1-0-1 record against the division-winning and Super Bowl-losing San Francisco 49ers.
Now the Rams are once again putting their trust in Sam Bradford to succeed at the quarterback position, and they made a huge effort to bring in some talent around him heading into next season. Unfortunately, the Rams are also subtracting talent at the running back position. Still, if Bradford can find a reliable target, the Rams will likely be in business.
The biggest change for the Rams: Steven Jackson is no longer with the team. Jackson signed with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason, which means the Rams have a big hole at the running back position. Daryl Richardson is the favorite to start, but that certainly doesn't inspire much confidence at this point.
The team also lost wide receiver Danny Amendola and starting safeties/frequent contributors Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl. That makes the safety position a huge question mark, and Amendola's departure means there will be even more pressure on rookies Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to produce in the passing game.
There were a couple significant free agent additions, however. The Rams went out and gave tight end Jared Cook a healthy contract, and will expect him to be a big contributor in the passing game. Additionally, to strengthen the offensive line, free agent Jake Long was signed. He's recovering from injuries, but if he returns anywhere close to form, the Rams will have gotten a steal on the open market.
St. Louis also has a new defensive coordinator, as Jeff Fisher brought in Tim Walton this offseason. Last season, Gregg Williams was supposed to be the coordinator, but he was suspended due to the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. Walton will be the first proper defensive coordinator the Rams have had under Fisher.
Training camp location and schedule
The Rams kick-off their training camp on July 24, when all players will report, but practices don't get underway until July 25. Training camp is held at Rams Park, with an open scrimmage being held at the Edward Jones Dome on Aug. 3. Rams Park is located at One Rams Way in Earth City, Mo.
Below, we've got a full schedule, including the times of the various open practices, which occur on most days of training camp. The full schedule comes from the team's official website, here.
Running back: This battle is perhaps the most significant on the roster. Daryl Richardson put up 475 yards and had a per-carry average of 4.8 yards in relief of Steven Jackson last season, but he's raw. Richardson hasn't scored a touchdown in the NFL, and picking up where Jackson left off is a tall order. The Rams will hope that Isaiah Pead can compete with Richardson for the job, and guys like Terrance Ganaway and Zac Stacy will be vying for backup roles.
Safety: To call this a battle is somewhat misleading given that St. Louis really doesn't have anything at the position. Darian Stewart and rookie T.J. McDonald are expected to earn starting jobs, but that hinges on strong performances in training camp. Matt Giordano will compete with both of them for one of the starting jobs, though the position shows little promise at face value.
Left guard: Truthfully, the Rams have a lot of issues along their interior line, but the left guard spot will be filled by one of Chris Williams, Shelley Smith or even Barrett Jones once he recovers from injury. Jake Long is expected to take over the left tackle position, and given his injury history, the Rams will need somebody decent at the left guard position. Williams, a former first-round pick, is favored to win the left guard battle.