The defense was dealt a blow when cornerback Jerametrius Butler suffered a season-ending knee injury in August. Butler had five of the team's six interceptions last year; overall the Rams created 15 turnovers, an all-time low for a franchise that dates from 1937.
The Rams certainly should be fresh when the season starts. Coach Mike Martz held preseason camp in St. Louis for the first time in 10 years. The players stayed in a nice hotel 10 minutes from the city -- instead of living in dorms at Western Illinois University -- and grueling two-a-day practices were replaced by a schedule that called for only morning workouts to be in full pads.
The afternoons were spent doing walk-throughs. Coaches said they got the idea from how athletes in the former Soviet Union trained.
"We go at it in the morning and the afternoon is basically a teaching session," said defensive end Leonard Little, who had seven sacks a year ago. "It's a whole lot better."
Linebackers Dexter Coakley (94 tackles with Dallas) and Chris Claiborne (82 tackles with Minnesota) were brought in to help the defense. The defensive line includes tackles Ryan Pickett, Jimmy Kennedy and Damione Lewis; all three are former first-round picks. Pickett and Kennedy are expected to start.
Running back Steven Jackson rushed for 673 yards as a backup to Marshall Faulk (he had 774) but is expected to be the starter this year. The wide receivers are among the best in the league, and include Torry Holt (94 catches, 1,372 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Isaac Bruce (89 catches, 1,292 yards, 6 TDs).