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  1. #1
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    FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    SCOUT'S HONOR: Rams pre-camp preview
    Brian DeLucia / Special to FOXSports.com
    Posted: 8 hours ago


    Last season, Marc Bulger proved he was a great regular-season quarterback. In 2004, Rams fans need him to prove he can be a great playoff quarterback. (Otto Greule Jr / GettyImages)


    St. Louis Rams
    CAMP SITE: Western Illinois University
    LOCATION: Macomb, Ill.
    ROOKIES REPORT: July 27
    VETERANS REPORT: July 28

    TEAM ATMOSPHERE
    The Rams remain a playoff contender that can put plenty of points on the board, but there are more questions heading into this season than any other time during Mike Martz's tenure as head coach. Last year's devastating playoff exit against Carolina was followed by some key free-agent losses that could linger into the season.

    POSITION OF STRENGTH
    The offense has the ability to score on short notice due to the depth at wide receiver. Torry Holt took his game to another level last season. He matured and became a lot more focused on the little things that make a difference on the field. Isaac Bruce remains a fixture of stability who still maintains his quickness to separate from coverage. Dane Looker became a clutch performer on third downs out of the slot. And Mike Furrey emerged as a solid reserve who runs good routes and has enough quickness to get open. Keep an eye on Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis. Both have intriguing skills to bolster the depth in the passing game.

    POSITION OF WEAKNESS
    Under Mike Martz, the Rams have struggled to find productive return specialists. Arlen Harris (kickoffs) and Mike Furrey (punts) did an adequate job last season, but neither is a gamebreaker. Harris might have outgrown his role further by putting on more weight during his transition to fullback. Furrey was reliable and has good toughness on punt returns. The Rams expected more from DeJuan Groce last season, but had trouble hanging on to the ball. Shaun McDonald could be worth keeping an eye on.

    BIGGEST QUESTION MARK
    Will Marc Bulger bounce back after a tough finish last season? Bulger's struggles down the stretch and in the playoff loss were disturbing. He forced a lot of balls into coverage and was sloppy about pushing the ball downfield. With Kurt Warner out of the picture, Bulger must relax and play loose. I believe Bulger displayed enough of a track record to suggest he'll bounce back and have a productive season.

    KEY POSITION BATTLE(S)
    The Rams are looking at several options to replace Grant Wistrom at right defensive end. Bryce Fisher in many ways is the most like Wistrom. He has a quick first step off the ball and plays with a lot of tenacity and effort. The coaches are also very intrigued by the raw tools displayed by rookie Tony Hargrove. They feel he's responding very well to pro coaching, but must now prove himself during training camp. Veteran Tyoka Jackson is quick and relentless. He's effective in spot duty. Former Bills first-rounder Erik Flowers is also competing for a spot here. Flowers has the kind of quickness that intrigues a lot of people as a pass rusher, but isn't very instinctive and fails to play with enough leverage. If anyone can work out the rough edges with Flowers, it's defensive line coach Bill Kollar.

    IMPACT NEWCOMER
    Although Stephen Jackson was drafted with the long term in mind after Marshall Faulk's days are over, expect him to play a key role immediately. Jackson's strength between the tackles can take a lot of wear and tear off Faulk and allow Martz to design more creative ways to utilize his versatility.

    CRITICAL LOSS
    Although the Rams have Leonard Little and three former first-round picks at defensive tackle, losing Grant Wistrom and Brian Young leaves the front four with a lot of uncertainty. Both were blue-collar performers who brought an attitude along the line of scrimmage. Young, in particular, could be missed because he was their most productive interior player in 2003.

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  2. #2
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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    there are more questions heading into this season than any other time during Mike Martz's tenure as head coach.
    severelly overstated
    some key free-agent losses that could linger into the season
    losses, yes...key, no
    With Kurt Warner out of the picture, Bulger must relax and play loose
    I know I got butchered for making this same statement, but I still think it's accurate.
    The Rams are looking at several options to replace Grant Wistrom at right defensive end. Bryce Fisher in many ways is the most like Wistrom. He has a quick first step off the ball and plays with a lot of tenacity and effort. The coaches are also very intrigued by the raw tools displayed by rookie Tony Hargrove. They feel he's responding very well to pro coaching, but must now prove himself during training camp. Veteran Tyoka Jackson is quick and relentless. He's effective in spot duty. Former Bills first-rounder Erik Flowers is also competing for a spot here. Flowers has the kind of quickness that intrigues a lot of people as a pass rusher, but isn't very instinctive and fails to play with enough leverage. If anyone can work out the rough edges with Flowers, it's defensive line coach Bill Kollar.
    Finally, a sportswriter bright enough to not add Moran to the list of potential answers at RDE. Thank you Brian DeLucia.
    Young, in particular, could be missed because he was their most productive interior player in 2003.
    I wish we could have signed him, but by the end of the season Kennedy & Pickett (barring the proverbial injury) will make us forget about Young '03.
    "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

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison
    severelly overstated
    I'm not sure here. From my perspective, sMartz' honeymoon has extended too long. He inherited a SB power. He did not have to rebuild. He had to accentuate. And his MO seems to be improvement via subtraction. I'm not sure if he has a vision any longer. He has found himself to be reactive.

    Regardless, questions arising from the loss of Hodgins, Proehl, Conwell, Hakim have still not been addressed convincingly. Still no effective 3rd WR speed merchant, no effective special teams returners (don't even go into field position with Landeta).

    Add less continuity at DL with FA losses, no proven acquisitions that buttress run D, weakened depth at QB and I think there are still more questions this year with only glossly "hail-mary and art-father" answers.

    I'm not convinced the questions are over-stated. sMartz needs to show a vision that is matched by the ability to acquire the parts that make the system a powerhouse it has been.

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    There is more than just one side of the ball adarian. Martz DID have to rebuild the defense. After the Super Bowl win, that D was shot. The 2000 D had to be imploded and the Rams and Martz have done a pretty good job with little room to wiggle in the cap due to the offense taking up so much cap space.

    And he had a hand in building the offense. He didn't just "inherit" it.

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by adarian_too
    I'm not sure here. From my perspective, sMartz' honeymoon has extended too long. He inherited a SB power. He did not have to rebuild. He had to accentuate. And his MO seems to be improvement via subtraction. I'm not sure if he has a vision any longer. He has found himself to be reactive.

    Regardless, questions arising from the loss of Hodgins, Proehl, Conwell, Hakim have still not been addressed convincingly. Still no effective 3rd WR speed merchant, no effective special teams returners (don't even go into field position with Landeta).

    Add less continuity at DL with FA losses, no proven acquisitions that buttress run D, weakened depth at QB and I think there are still more questions this year with only glossly "hail-mary and art-father" answers.

    I'm not convinced the questions are over-stated. sMartz needs to show a vision that is matched by the ability to acquire the parts that make the system a powerhouse it has been.
    But these were all questions he had last year as well + RT + OLB + ILB + CB + QB. Which he has answered with Turley, Tino, Thomas (ie. oust Duncan), Butler, & Bulger. Whether or not these are the right answers is debatable (which I choose not to do in this post), but the point is they are answered. Therefore, when the article says that...
    there are more questions heading into this season than any other time during Mike Martz's tenure as head coach.
    ...I would have to say that is...
    severelly overstated
    "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

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan
    There is more than just one side of the ball adarian. Martz DID have to rebuild the defense. After the Super Bowl win, that D was shot. The 2000 D had to be imploded and the Rams and Martz have done a pretty good job with little room to wiggle in the cap due to the offense taking up so much cap space.

    And he had a hand in building the offense. He didn't just "inherit" it.
    I'm curious. Does anyone happen to know what % of the cap is taken by the offense as compared to the defense. Tx, qualitatively, I bet you're right. It would seem that the offense would take a bigger piece of the pie.

    Anybody know the breakdown on this one?
    "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

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    very good point TX about him having to rebuild the defense. he definitely deserves some credit for that. i just hope the D takes their game to the next level this year. if they do, then watch out. :ramlogo:

    also, i think TX said that the offense has about 66% of the team's salary cap.

  8. #8
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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison
    But these were all questions he had last year as well + RT + OLB + ILB + CB + QB. Which he has answered with Turley, Tino, Thomas (ie. oust Duncan), Butler, & Bulger. Whether or not these are the right answers is debatable (which I choose not to do in this post), but the point is they are answered.
    Well, therein lies the issue. I agree that one's perspective on "the answer" frames whether one thinks the question has been answered. I don't agree that just giving an answer makes the question go away though. Just one example ... Turley was an answer to RT, BUT not to overall O-line play ... especially in the interior ... too much pressure up the gut kept Bulger on his heels. O-line play arguably became a bigger issue even with the addition of Turley. But I won't beat the horse ... I will repeat that winning the SB again will depend on not buying into lip service when listening to whether acquiring journeymen is the answer to D-line questions.



    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan
    Martz DID have to rebuild the defense. After the Super Bowl win, that D was shot. The 2000 D had to be imploded and the Rams and Martz have done a pretty good job with little room to wiggle in the cap due to the offense taking up so much cap space.

    I give you that the D needed drastic help after 2000. And I won't take credit away from sMartz for at least tackling the issue when he did. But he can't stand prosperity and sustain it. The fact that the Run D got so trounced at the end of last year despite all the 1st rounders and all the emphasis and when it counted most says enough about how sMartz hasn't figured out which building blocks will withstand the tests ... just a question of personnel management to me ...

    And ... well you know where I stand relative to cap management ... it is in part a matter of will ... take KW and eating his bonuses now ... could have traded him last year I bet if sMartz had just bitten the bullet when he made the change at QB ... but sMartz's indecision let the other FOs just wait him out and force the Rams to eat the pro-rated signing bonus.

    And that is my story and I'm sticking to it until I change my mind ...

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by adarian_too
    I will repeat that winning the SB again will depend on not buying into lip service when listening to whether acquiring journeymen is the answer to D-line questions
    If you're saying that Bernard Holsey and Sean Moran are not keys to winning the SB, then I will 100% agree with you.....but I don't think anybody has said they are keys, have they?
    "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

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison
    If you're saying that Bernard Holsey and Sean Moran are not keys to winning the SB, then I will 100% agree with you.....but I don't think anybody has said they are keys, have they?
    No. But it seems as if the play of the D-Line is a legitimate question that was added to other questions and if someone is satisfied that the question has been "answered" merely because someone can cite to the FO having "acquired" someone, then I think the satisfaction threshold is too low and the management team is getting a pass too soon. Wistrom is gone. Young is gone. Little is questionable. And they were there when the R-Defense stunk. I just point to them as recent questions that have been added to previous ones - that to me remain unanswered - leading me to the conclusion that there are in fact more questions this year than any other year in sMartz' past.

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    Well then adarian, this is where Armey makes it or breaks it with the DLew/Archuleta/Pickett first round draft isn't it?

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by adarian_too
    No. But it seems as if the play of the D-Line is a legitimate question that was added to other questions and if someone is satisfied that the question has been "answered" merely because someone can cite to the FO having "acquired" someone, then I think the satisfaction threshold is too low and the management team is getting a pass too soon. Wistrom is gone. Young is gone. Little is questionable. And they were there when the R-Defense stunk. I just point to them as recent questions that have been added to previous ones - that to me remain unanswered - leading me to the conclusion that there are in fact more questions this year than any other year in sMartz' past.
    By that train of thought one would have to say that no question is answered until the end of the season. I disagree. I think there are fewer open questions this year than last year. With the exception of FB, RDE and the interior O-line, what questions have not been answered. I reiterate, not necessarily the right answer or for that matter the wrong answer, but an answer none the less. We may not have the answer that we think is correct, but it is a question that has been addressed and answered. For instance, let take an example from the top....QB. Last year this was very much up in the air - can Warner recover, can Bulger take over. Last year, QB was very much an unanswered question. This year, not so. Bulger is the QB. Last year we had absolutely no idea, who was going to take Wilkins place as the #3 or for that matter #4. This season, we know. Our current answer is Looker and Furrey. By the end of camp, Curtis and/or McDonald may supplant one or both of them. Again, one less question to answer. Last year, who was going to play MLB - do we stick with Duncan, is Thomas ready. This year MLB = Thomas. Last year our secondary was a question - FS, Herring or Aeneas or Sehorn - CB Do we move Aeneas, is Fisher ready. This year - FS = Aeneas, CB = Fisher & Butler. So on and so forth.
    "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

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    adarian, you do realize that if we would have traded warner we would have had to eat his prorated signing bonus still right?

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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by adarian_too
    And ... well you know where I stand relative to cap management ... it is in part a matter of will ... take KW and eating his bonuses now ... could have traded him last year I bet if sMartz had just bitten the bullet when he made the change at QB ... but sMartz's indecision let the other FOs just wait him out and force the Rams to eat the pro-rated signing bonus.
    I believe the cap hit would have been larger last season had we done that. We'd have been banking on a QB that had played in six full regular season games. And I'd love to see the list of teams lining up to trade for Warner after 2002. Somehow I figure it looked about the same as the list willing to trade for him after 2003 -- short.
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    Re: FoxSports.com's Pre-Camp Rams Preview

    Quote Originally Posted by tanus
    adarian, you do realize that if we would have traded warner we would have had to eat his prorated signing bonus still right?

    Fair question. Would need to dig into the minutae of Bargaining Agreement. A trade implies to me an exchange of rights. How much of KW's contract would have moved to a new team would have been part of the package I imagine. I'm not sure that the FO might not have been able to negotiate with willing parties the movement of the entire contract except for the previously renegotiated terms of KW's previous contract. I won't stand on ceremony. I don't know for sure.


    Quote Originally Posted by NickSeiler
    I believe the cap hit would have been larger last season had we done that.

    Well we are back to cap mechanics and I don't claim to be the expert. It seems to me the issue of the size of the cap hit was dependant upon whether and when KW was released ... not whether he was traded ... which of course is a separate issue about the value of KW based on immediate past performance.


    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison
    I'm curious. Does anyone happen to know what % of the cap is taken by the offense as compared to the defense.

    Again ... I wouldn't stake one our stills on it but ... I try to keep a spreadsheet up to date with who the Rams have signed and the terms. I know it doesn't match published reports but I have the Rams at $77M in terms of the salary cap. I have 54 names with actual years/bonuses/salary for 2004. The offense (excluding Wilkens ???) represents 26 names holding 58% of the cap. Add Wilkens and you get 50% of the bodies eating 59.3% of the cap.


    And yes TX ... I think Armey's answers are to be graded this year.

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