Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson was made the scapegoat for the horrific 2007 season. Al Saunders was hired after the Redskins cleaned out their coaching staff. Saunders ran the Chiefs offense under **** Vermeil was an assistant head coach in St. Louis when they won the Super Bowl with the Greatest Show on Turf. The changes in the style of offense won't be too drastic.
If anyone doubts the importance of the Offensive Line in fantasy football, look no further than the 2007 St. Louis Rams. Injuries to the Line completely destroyed the front 5, torpedoed team, and the seasons of Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson. They had 11 different players start on the Line because of injuries. Only 2 linemen started more than 10 games. One of them was Alex Barron playing out of position at LT all season, the other was Milford Brown who was playing out of position at LG. The results weren't pretty. Bulger and Jackson got creamed and spent much of the season injured, the team only mustered an NFL worst 5 rushing TD's and allowed 48 sacks.
With better health up front, this team could turn around in a hurry.
After going down for the season in the first game of 2007, LT Orlando Pace has been cleared to practice and would make a huge difference on the line. His presence would allow Alex Barron to play at Right Tackle, and send Brandon Gorin back to the bench. The Rams won a bidding war with the Titans for the services of LG Jacob Bell. Bell will start in place of Milford Brown, who had no business starting and is now a backup for Carolina. At Center, Brett Romberg's play suffered from injuries and now he'll face competition for his job from Richie Incognito who, like every other St. Louis lineman, finished 2007 on IR. Mark Stetterstrom is in line to start at RG.
Normally, changes on the offensive line are a bad thing from a fantasy perspective. This case is unique because the line could not possibly be worse than it was in 2007, and very likely will be better.
Marc Bulger got hurt, looked bad, and played bad. The line bears most of the blame, so I am willing to give Bulger a mulligan. However his health problems are becoming a nuisance, and they do knock him down several slots in any rankings. I don't think Bulger is a guy I'll be targeting because he is still getting drafted fairly high.
Steven Jackson is holding out and it may get ugly. Most contract disputes get resolved by the start of the season so I wouldn't worry about it too much. Jackson had a down year, and missed 4 games with injury, but he was very effective when he returned. This is still a player who has proven capable of a 2,300 total yard season. Don't knock him too far for the struggles of line. I have him as the 5th running back behind Tomlinson, Westbrook, Peterson, and Addai.
Torry Holt was consistent to a scary degree despite the turmoil around him.
2006: 93 catches, 1188 yards
2007: 93 catches, 1189 yards
If he can maintain production even when the team tanks, I'll gladly take him as a high end WR2. Though, he might not be available then. He may be a bit disappointing if you are expecting any more than what he gave you last year.
After a long, decorated career with the Rams, Isaac Bruce had to be cut in a salary cap move, and signed with San Francisco clearing the way for Drew Bennett to start after a disappointing first year with the team. Don't expect First round pick Donnie Avery to do much.
Randy McMichael stands to benefit the most from new Coordinator Al Saunders. Saunders has had some productive TE's in his offense (Tony Gonzalez in KC, Chris Cooley in Was). McMichael looks to be in line for a breakout year. He suffered through poor qb play in Miami, but has always had talent. I can see him getting 65 catches for 700 yards this year, making him a dirt cheap low end TE1. In most leagues he's not even getting drafted.
The Rams defense was 31st in ppg allowed, and 21st in ypg allowed. They recorded few turnovers and weren't great in sacks.
Leonard Little is coming back from surgery and the addition of First Round pick Chris Long should help this line immediately. DT Adam Carriker is also coming off of surgery. He and LaRoi Glover will be the starting DT's. As a unit, they are significantly better on paper.
MLB Will Witherspoon had a superb season as a one man defense and is entering his prime. Pisa Tinoisamoa (what else) got hurt and finished 2007 on IR. He's merely a so-so LB. LB Brandon Chillar is now with Green Bay, and Chris Draft will fill his spot. Overall, the LB's are below average, but this is by no means an awful unit.
The same cannot be said for the secondary. Tye Hill has yet to justify his First Round draft status and will be returning from emergency surgery on a rather gruesome wrist dislocation has only recently been cleared to lift weights. Fakhir Brown is the other starting CB. He missed 4 games of 2007 for skipping a drug test and was set to be suspended for 2008 for a failed drug test, but won an appeal. Still, he wouldn't start on most teams. Safeties Corey Chavous and O.J. Atogwe are serviceable, but far from great.
The D may improve, but not enough to make them a viable fantasy option.