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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
    Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
    Friday, Aug. 27 2004

    I like the Rams, and their fans, so I'm going to do everyone a favor:

    I predict the 2004 Rams will finish 9-7 and miss the NFC playoffs.

    And that's optimistic. A record of 8-8 is more realistic.

    That's good news for observant readers who undoubtedly will recall that I
    joined most residents of Western civilization in picking the Cardinals to
    finish third in the National League Central this season, behind the Cubs and
    the Astros.

    So I figure a doom-and-gloom forecast is the least I can do for the Rams, who
    have provided such entertaining and (mostly) fulfilling football for the town
    and their fans since 1999. During this special five-year run, which represents
    the golden era of NFL football in St. Louis, the Rams won 70 percent of their
    regular-season games. They averaged 30 points per game. They made the playoffs
    four times. They reached two Super Bowls, winning one. They produced MVPs in
    quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk. It really was The
    Greatest Show on Turf.

    Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and that's especially true in the
    NFL, where the finest teams are eventually devoured by the jaws of the league
    salary cap. With so many free-agent defections, it's difficult to stay on top.

    The Rams managed to build to winning form through solid drafts and expert
    salary-cap management by Jay Zygmunt. But there's been slippage. The Rams won
    12 games last season, but five victories came by six points or fewer and could
    have gone either way. Shockingly, their defense was slapped around during a
    home playoff loss to Carolina, allowing 216 yards rushing at 5.3 yards per
    carry. The offense finished ninth in total yards; that was down from the norm.

    Drafts that once kept this team stocked and poised to compete have resulted in
    too many recent misses. The Rams invested a lot of premium picks in their
    defensive line and haven't received the anticipated impact.

    Warner is gone, Faulk has slowed, and there are disturbing signs of
    deterioration. Two starters on the offensive line (Kyle Turley and Dave
    Wohlabaugh) are victims of injuries, and this jerry-rigged O-line will be
    pressed to match last season's mediocre output of 3.6 yards per rushing
    attempt. The defensive line is precariously thin. When the interior lines are a
    team's most alarming areas of concern, major problems are likely.

    When they were The Greatest Show, the Rams featured dominant performers at
    multiple key positions. That's no longer the case. Scanning one scouting
    service, I saw some eye-opening rankings. Marc Bulger was the 12th-rated QB.
    Faulk was dropped to the No. 12 spot among halfbacks. Only one receiver (Torry
    Holt) was listed among the league's top 20 wideouts. Orlando Pace was tabbed as
    one of the NFL's premier offensive tackles, and guard Adam Timmerman was given
    a good grade, but other residents of the current line were relegated to
    back-of-the-pack status. And the Rams' tight ends and fullbacks were graded at
    the bottom.

    On defense, Leonard Little scored as the No. 7 defensive end, but the other
    D-linemen were slotted far down the list. The Rams' highest-rated linebacker
    (Tommy Polley) was No. 25 at his position, and he's slumping. The Rams'
    starting cornerbacks (Jerametrius Butler, injured Travis Fisher) didn't crack
    the top 35. Adam Archuleta is viewed as a top 10 safety. Aeneas Williams,
    surprisingly, was left out of the top 25.

    We can quibble with some rankings; certainly, Williams is worthy of more
    respect, as is wide receiver Isaac Bruce. But clearly, there's been a decline
    in the overall talent. Just glance at the Rams' roster . . . realistically, how
    many positions still qualify for elite status? When compared to other groups
    around the NFL, the Rams are well above average at only two spots - wide
    receiver and safety.

    Now, here's the important question: Can the Rams close this widening talent gap
    during the course of the season? It's possible, but they face what appears to
    be a brutally tough non-division schedule.

    There is an upside, however. The offensive line could exceed expectations.
    Maybe Faulk's legs can generate a few more thrilling Sundays. Perhaps rookie
    running back Steven Jackson can make up for any O-line weakness by powering for
    tough yards, on his own. If Bulger gets time to throw, he can choose from
    several attractive targets. And if Bulger gets back to what he used to do so
    beautifully - deliver with a quick release, show accuracy downfield and dump
    the ball to avoid sacks and interceptions - then he'll claim a place among the
    league's best QBs.

    A young defense, led by its promising linebackers and corners, can blossom and
    make a positive difference. The Rams should get good production from their
    committee of defensive right ends. And maybe this is the year that defensive
    tackles Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett finally bust out.

    But if the Rams are to hold off rising Seattle for first place in the NFC West,
    or contend for a wild-card playoff spot, they must overachieve. They'll have to
    play above their projected talent level.

    And that's exactly what we were saying about the Cardinals' starting pitching
    before the 2004 season. So it can be done. There's hope


  2. #2
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    Bernie is entitled to his opinion, but his reasoning is extremely flawed. First, he puts too much emphasis on the Carolina game - that's one game! He never even gives consideration to the possibility that the Rams just had an off day in certain areas.


    He also places great emphasis on the rankings of some unnamed scouting service. Please. Rankings at positions change constantly. Besides, just how many players do you think the Patriots have ranked in the top 10 at their position? Probably fewer than the Rams.

    I really think Bernie hopes the Rams will flop. He seems to find more to write about when things are bad than when they are good.

  3. #3
    ZigZagRam's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    I was listening to KFNS the other day, and a member of the media said it best (can't remember who, maybe Kevin Slaten): "When they lose, it makes our job a lot easier." I'm sure some members of the St. Louis sports media would love an easier topic to write about.

  4. #4
    RamTime Guest

    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    The only thing Bernies article shows is the Rams are no longer thought of as the best or as the elite or as dominating as in the past five years.

    The rankings are kind of comical because just how much difference in talent is the number 5 ranked compared to the 30th ranked? There is not near the difference that those numbers try to imply.

    Just as the 5th ranked rushing team compared to the 20th ranked rushing team is close and interchangable by the week. I think Bernie sees correctly when he predicts the Rams Record (give or take a game or two.) but like rankings and statististics there is not a whole lot of difference between a 10-6 team and a 6-10 team.

    The Rams are going to be in allot of games that go down to the final minutes this year and instead of voicing his real concern has found an out via the Rankings. (Read into that what you will.)

    As far as I see it, this is the Rams 1st real season where they will play at parity with the rest of the league. I think if you look at other teams, The Rams still have an advantage in talent over many teams allbeit ever so slight.

    For instance I would not give up Bruce and Holt for any other tandem in the league. Remember these two are ledgidimet wide receivers that attack downfield and not the 3 yard catch and run wide receivers that put up big misleading numbers.

    Then there are those two running backs, one of which has been an MVP and broken some pretty important records then the new kid Jackson (which in my book has been the Rams best draft pick since Holt) who together just may be part of a new attack and philosophy by the Rams. Unlike most, I believe that Martz could go away from his downfield passing attack and turn that offense into a run first offense. I have my reasons for believing this but won't post them at this time.

    In 2002 Bulger threw the ball well downfield and spread it around. No he didn't hit the bomb like Warner did but if he could some how play like he did in 2002, I will be happy to give up the bomb. Remember in 2002 when the buzz became "Is it Martz that make these QB's great or did we just get lucky with two QB's in a row"? I think the jury is still out on that issue.

    Bottom line is were going to have to do the fundemental things correctly now. We do not have the luxury of ignoring the basic fundementals that start with preperation and end with proper game time managment. That is what is going to be the deciding factor in the Rams success this season Not the Rankings.

  5. #5
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    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    I agree with Avenger to a certian degree. I do not think a lot of players (the talent) were considered elite going into the 1999-2000 season and well, one could say that rose to be an elite team. The present players are talented, but they are not going to surprise anyone.

    Plus, many of those teams who were beaten during the GSoT years 40-13 or 48-17 may have an axe to grind with the Rams. What goes around comes around and if teams get a chance to pound the Rams, they will.

    Now here is where I go my own way. I do think the Carloina game was a telling game. The run defense then was bad and it could get worse. The use of high round picks on D-lineman (that have not lived up to their draft status) has had a talent drain on the team and no team, no matter how good, can stand that drain for 3 drafts in a row.

    I too will remain optimistic. However, I will be more optimistic if MM gets his act together. Maybe I am the only one, but too too many commentators and sports writers think MM is idiot. Again, his lack of emphasis on clock and game management and on not holding on to the football, have my sapped my support for him.
    I still think MM is a big part of the problem.

    Being that I remain optimistic, I am willing to wait and see.

    ARF

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    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    Quote Originally Posted by RamWraith
    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
    Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
    Friday, Aug. 27 2004

    Two starters on the offensive line (Kyle Turley and Dave Wohlabaugh) are victims of injuries, and this jerry-rigged O-line will be pressed to match last season's mediocre output of 3.6 yards per rushing attempt. The defensive line is precariously thin. When the interior lines are a team's most alarming areas of concern, major problems are likely.
    How far the Rams go will rest on how far the O/D lines progress and how quickly. He is not a scrambler and thus far he has not shown much ability to throw off his back foot - Bulger needs protection and the ground game needs holes. But we didn't need Bernie to point this out. Fresh blood like Tercero will shine quickly or TV sets will need to be replaced in short order.

  7. #7
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    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    When they were The Greatest Show, the Rams featured dominant performers at multiple key positions. That's no longer the case. Scanning one scouting
    service, I saw some eye-opening rankings.
    Hmmmm, wonder what those rankings looked like in August '99?
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  8. #8
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    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    If the Carolina game is so "telling," maybe what it should tell us that, but for a crazy forward fumble play that resulted in a score and/or a FG that missed by a few feet in OT, the Rams would have beaten a team that went to the Super Bowl and lost by a last minute FG.
    Last edited by AvengerRam; -08-30-2004 at 11:32 AM.

  9. #9
    gap Guest

    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam
    but for a crazy forward fumble play that resulted in a score
    I still maintain that the "score" was down by contact at the 1/2 yard line. They very well could have scored on the next play, or kicked a FG, but they did not actually score then. I also have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the RAMS would not have been awarded a TD had the roles been reversed.

    gap

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    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    Of course, if the Rams had recovered the ball, the Panthers wouldn't have scored at all on that drive.

    My point is, as badly as the Rams played in some aspects of the game against Carolina (i.e. run defense, interceptions), they still were a play or two from winning. So if that game is indicative of how the Rams will do this year, it would logically mean that the Rams would be in the hunt again.

  11. #11
    majorram's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    I totally agree AV, my point is the same...what happened if Holt had caught that home run ball, that would of been the lead, if Bryan Young had fallen on that fumble,etc, hell we came back and took the ball game into OT.. yes I too agree we have areas to address,BIG time, but so do other teams, there is no gap in the NFL nowadays...


    steve :ramlogo:

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    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    The "telling is in the tale"....

    Yep.. If Young can get is bandaged arms around a fumble at the 2 foot line, maybe the Rams win. There were many shouldas and wouldas and couldas, but the facts are:

    1) The the Rams D-line play was horrible in the Carolina game. (I will quote stats if you want).
    2) Lovie's defense was victimized by over-pursuit and was simply overwhelmed at the point of attack.
    3) There was insufficient pressure on Delhomme. When there was pressure the Rams were victimized by draw plays.
    4) Based on the presason games vs Chicago, KC and even Washington (first drive), there was no improvement w/r to run defense. It may have been worse.
    5) Current D-line starters are not living up to their billing. This will be the year where Pickett and Lewis earn thier "bust" badges (or not).
    6) I think that the the loss of Wistrom and Young are a huge blow to the defense, not a death blow, but we could argue as to whether the replacements could be as good. Since we have no history or bad history by which to judge the new D-line, you might agree that what they had is better than what have now.
    7) How does Marmie (who ran the Defense in Arizona) hope to change the blueprint that Lovie drew up??? The only real credential Marmie has is that he was a "long time" buddy of Mike Martz. What does that say?
    8) The Rams play a finesse type of defense, built on speed and athletic ability. They get pushed around by "old" smash mouth run based offenses.

    I would like to find something more positive to say, but nothing really comes to mind. They looked a lot better after the first Washington drive on Friday night, but that was after Portis came of of the game.

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