Can the Rams Bounce Back in 2010?

Steven Jackson (Getty)

The Cardinals first opponent of the year is rebuilding. Will the process start in Week 1?

For a team that averaged less than 11 points a game in 2009, it was paramount that the Rams exit training camp with a unit that had the potential to be a lot better.

To do that meant making sure running back Steven Jackson was healthy following April back surgery, putting together an offensive line that could hopefully develop chemistry and, most importantly, getting rookie quarterback Sam Bradford ready to play.

It appears to be mission accomplished on all those fronts, which has resulted in some guarded optimism surrounding a team that has won just six of 48 games over the past three seasons.

There remain questions about the wide receiver corps, but the tight end group looks promising. Still, everyone knows a healthy Jackson is most important.

Said Jackson, three days before the preseason finale against Baltimore, "I'm really excited. I'm ready for Sept. 12. As the days go by, I'm getting more anxious.

"I think as an offensive group, we're making great strides. For us to have so many young guys and be able to move the ball like we have these last two preseason games, it's very encouraging. We're going in the right direction."

Most impressive was how Bradford played in third preseason game against New England. Bradford will be under center when the season opens Sept. 12 at home against the division-rival Arizona Cardinals.

The line is providing the most hope. At the end of OTAs in June, there were six offensive linemen on the sideline, including left tackle Rodger Saffold (knee), left guard Jacob Bell (knee) and right tackle Jason Smith (toe).

When camp opened, Saffold was at left tackle with Smith limited. Bell was sidelined by an abdominal injury and didn't play in the first preseason game. Smith played, but struggled in pass coverage against Minnesota.

However, Bell returned following the game against the Vikings, and since then, the first unit hasn't missed a practice or game.

It all came together against the Patriots as the Rams totaled 462 yards and scored 36 points.

"Much better," Spagnuolo said of the play of the line. "I thought they all worked well together. I think the left side of the line is coming together; the right side is following. The communication is much better."

And with that is the hope that the offense can make three awful seasons a distant memory.



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