The health of the offensive line is one of the keys for St. Louis

2007 season recap

Spiritless in St. Louis St. Louis battled through numerous injuries -- including a reshuffled offensive line -- to struggle to a 3-13 finish. The team was without Orlando Pace for most of the season, playing behind a patchwork offensive line, often with disastrous results.

Key camp questions

What impact will Al Saunders have on Steven Jackson and the offense?
Offensive coordinator Al Saunders helped create explosive offenses in Kansas City and Washington before coming to St. Louis. Running back Priest Holmes had some of his best years under Saunders' tutelage. That could have a big impact on running back Steven Jackson who battled injuries while posting the lowest totals of his career last season. Look for Saunders to rely heavily on Jackson as he attempts to rebuild the "Greatest Show on Turf." St. Louis also has some questions at receiver. Torry Holt is a year older, while Drew Bennett and Dante' Hall fight for the No. 2 spot. Keep an eye out for rookie Donnie Avery who could challenge for some playing time.

How is Orlando Pace's shoulder progressing?
St. Louis suffered numerous injuries on the offensive line, none bigger than tackle Orlando Pace. The former first overall selection has played in only nine games over the past two seasons and he is 32. Pace didn't practice during mini camp but he is expected to be available when training camp opens, but his health will be one of the something to keep an eye on. St. Louis needs to be healthy on the line this season, and it all starts with Pace.

Can Marc Bulger bounce back?
Bulger passed for 4,301 yards in 2006 and was expected to duplicate those numbers in 2007. That didn't happen. Bulger was besieged behind a make shift offensive line for 12 games and threw for only 2,392 yards. Bulger will have to put last year behind him and look forward to the future. Bulger should benefit from a rebuilt offensive line and healthy Steven Jackson. But his pocket composure is something to watch during training camp and the preseason.

Key position battle

QB Trent Green vs. QB Bruce Gradkowski: Green returns to St. Louis, where he was expected to be the guy to lead the team to the Super Bowl in 1999. But one injury and it was Kurt Warner leading the way. Could there be a reverse in fortune this time? If there is, he is going to have to hold off Gradkowski who joined the team this offseason. Gradkowski has played well in stretches and could be seen as a long-term backup in St. Louis. With Green's history of injury, Gradkowski could make a bid for the No. 2 quarterback spot.

Rookie spotlight

DE Chris Long: St. Louis fans are likely anxious to have their first-round pick in the starting lineup, and he figures to be one of the cornerstones on the defensive line, joining last season's first-round pick Adam Carriker. Long is currently behind James Hall on the depth chart, but probably won't be for long. The team only got 5 1/2 sacks from its defensive end last season and finished near the bottom in team defense, meaning Long will probably get his shot to play sooner rather than later. If Long can sign his contract and get to camp in time, there is a good chance he could be starting for St. Louis by the season opener.

Player on the spot

G Jacob Bell: St. Louis gave Bell a six-year $36 million contract to start at left guard, a trouble spot for the team in recent years. Eleven players have started at left guard for the team since 2004. Bell is being counted on to add some stability to the position.

Fantasy focus

RB Steven Jackson: Many fantasy players used their top pick on Jackson last year. Many of those players likely finished out of the money. Don't be scared this year. The addition of Saunders should provide a spark and really, no team can have that many injuries to its offensive line again, right?

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