For the Rams to turn the corner out of the NFC West cellar, team insiders agree that a big key will be a much better effort from a CB corps that failed to register a single interception one season ago.
As far as the starting CBs are concerned, we hear the team likes what it has in Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher on the left side and right side, respectively, their durability issues notwithstanding.
Bartell had a very solid season-opening performance matched up against Larry Fitzgerald, blanketing the Cardinals' ace receiver practically the entire game. Fitzgerald did register a game-winning TD catch, but down to only two healthy cornerbacks after both Justin King and Kevin Dockery suffered hamstring injuries in the second half, the Rams were in zone coverage at the time.
"He looks more like the guy who played so well in 2008, when he had a bunch of pass breakups that led to a new contract," one team insider said of Bartell. "He appears to have regained the closing speed he lost while trying to play through a thigh injury last year.
"He doesn't have the greatest hands in the world (as evidenced by the interception he muffed in Week One that observers agree probably would have resulted in a sure TD), but he looks pretty good."
Fletcher, meanwhile, is a much less-proven commodity entering his second season.
"But he has a lot of potential," the insider said. "He fits the bill with his long arms and good size. After the serious knee injury he suffered last year that required a couple of surgeries, we didn't think we'd see him for at least a full calendar year. But he's come back strong."
Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo agrees with that assessment.
"That wasn't an easy injury to come back from," Spagnuolo said. "He's probably still a rookie in a lot of ways because he only, I think, played three games last year where he actually was in there playing. But he's done a great job in practice."
The Rams are far less enamored with their backup CB situation, which the insider referred to as "a wing and a prayer right now."
The hope is that third-round rookie Jerome Murphy, who has great size and physicality but needs to maintain focus, can come to the rescue in the nickel role.