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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Going by the numbers, not a lot has changed

    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    11/08/2006

    There's a new coaching staff and a roster that has had 50 percent turnover since the start of the 2005 season. Nonetheless, the Rams are in the same spot at the midpoint of Scott Linehan's first season as head coach: 4-4.

    That's the same record as the team had midway through the 2004 season, too.

    Between the 2005 and 2006 squads, the numbers in several areas are so close, it's scary. For example, the 2005 Rams passed for 2,301 yards in their first eight games; the 2006 Rams are at 2,300.

    Surprisingly, the Rams have rushed for fewer yards this season (805) than last season (831) despite the greater emphasis placed by Linehan on running the football.

    But the most disappointing aspect of the 2006 Rams has been run defense. Despite all the time and money spent rebuilding the defense, the Rams actually are worse against the run this season than they were midway through 2005. The Rams are yielding 5.0 yards per carry and allowing 141.3 yards per game.

    If those numbers don't improve markedly, it will be a long November and December.

    Quarterbacks

    After a slow start, Marc Bulger has made an impressive transition to Linehan's offense and is poised for a career year. He's on pace for 4,600 yards passing, which would be the second-highest total in franchise history, and 26 touchdown passes, which would be sixth-best. Most impressive is his interception total (one). Entering this season, Bulger averaged 1.2 interceptions per game. Despite being smarter with the football, Bulger still is getting the ball downfield. The Rams are averaging 12.4 yards per reception, a half-yard better than last season at this time. There are times when Bulger hangs on to the football too long, and that has contributed to his high sack total (24).



    Grade: A-

    Running backs

    No longer running in the shadow of Marshall Faulk,

    Steven Jackson is flourishing in his expanded role under Linehan. Jackson ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (691), fourth in yards from scrimmage (1,103) and third in first downs (52). Critics may think otherwise, but Jackson has done less dancing and been more decisive in his run reads this season. He could do better in the red zone, where his upright running style makes him a big target. The most surprising development in Jackson's game is as a pass-catcher; he leads all NFL running backs in reception yards (412). The Rams haven't gotten much out of backup Stephen Davis, but his role should increase due to Tony Fisher's season-ending knee injury.

    Grade: B



    Receivers

    After a hot start, with seven TD catches in six games,

    Torry Holt has been getting extra attention from opposing defenses. The Rams need to keep Holt involved no matter what comes his way from opposing secondaries. Isaac Bruce still has gas in the tank; he's on pace for 70 catches and 1,100 yards and is among the league leaders in yards per catch (15.8), which means he's still getting downfield. Kevin Curtis has gotten more involved in the offense in recent weeks. But Shaun McDonald remains a forgotten man (nine catches), largely because the Rams aren't utilizing four-receiver sets as much this season. At tight end, Joe Klopfenstein has been so-so as a blocker and remains under-utilized as a receiver.

    Grade: B



    Offensive line

    The 24 sacks allowed by the Rams is the ninth-highest total in the league. Granted, several were the result of faulty blocking by tight ends or backs, or Bulger hanging on to the ball too long. Regardless, the sack total is too high. Three sacks a game is not conducive to Bulger's health. To date, the run-blocking has been a disappointment. The Rams have 30 more rushing attempts at this stage of the season compared to 2005, but are averaging only 3.8 yards a carry, down nearly a full yard (0.8) from a year ago. Center Andy McCollum's season-ending knee injury resulted in some line shuffling, but Richie Incognito has been solid at center considering his inexperience both at the position and in the NFL.

    Grade: C



    Defensive line

    End Leonard Little is tied for eighth in the NFL with seven sacks, but the rest of the front four — starters and subs — has accounted for only 3 1/2 sacks total. That's not nearly good enough. The Rams were hoping Anthony Hargrove would provide a pass-rushing complement to Little, but Hargrove was traded to Buffalo last month after skipping two work days at Rams Park. The run defense has been even more disappointing than the pass rush. An undersized front four has struggled against elite backs and power running teams. Jimmy Kennedy has made his share of plays at nose tackle, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett wants to see Kennedy work more as an anchor in the middle, clogging up running lanes and occupying blockers.

    Grade: D



    Linebackers

    This is a better unit than the 2005 version, and the improvement would be more apparent were it not for the elbow and hand injuries to Pisa Tinoisamoa. Despite some rough moments against Kansas City and San Diego,

    Will Witherspoon has been a significant upgrade at middle linebacker because of his speed, closing ability and instincts. Brandon Chillar has been solid at strongside LB. But the group as a whole needs to cut down on mistakes and misalignments, and maintain its gap discipline. More big plays would be nice, too. The unit has a modest 3 1/2 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries this season.

    Grade: C-





    Secondary

    Like the rest of the defense, the play of the secondary has declined in recent weeks. After registering eight interceptions in the first four games (seven of which were by defensive backs), the Rams haven't picked off a pass in the past four games. Teams are running the ball so well against St. Louis, they haven't been passing as much. San Diego and Kansas City scored 62 points on the Rams' defense but threw only 38 passes total. The Rams are playing more man coverage this season, and doing more blitzing, and that has resulted in some big plays.

    Fakhir Brown has proved to be a good pickup at cornerback; youngsters Tye Hill and Oshiomogho Atogwe have been up and down. The decline of Jerametrius Butler remains a puzzler.

    Grade: C-

    Special teams

    Improved production by the offense has led to fewer field goal opportunities for Jeff Wilkins in recent weeks. But he remains on top of his game with just three misses in 23 attempts. Wilkins is tied for second in the NFC in touchbacks on kickoffs (nine). Punter Matt Turk is proving to be one of the team's best offseason pickups. He's ninth in the league in net punting and has displayed a good touch inside the 20. The Rams' punt coverage has been very good; kickoff coverage has been below average, but not terrible. The Rams have gotten next to nothing from their kickoff return game. Shaun McDonald has had a couple of nice punt returns, but overall, the Rams are getting few punt return opportunities.

    Grade: B-



    Coaching

    More than ever before, the NFL has become a turnover league. The teams with the edge in takeaway-giveaway differential are the teams that win games.

    Scott Linehan has stressed this from the beginning, and the results have been dramatic. The Rams committed 21 turnovers through eight games last season; they have committed only nine through eight contests this season. It's surprising that the team hasn't benefited more from the improved ball security. Linehan's positive approach and even-keel demeanor have been pluses. There have been a few head-scratchers in terms of game-management and personnel, but overall Linehan has a plan and is well-organized. It's too early to get a read on his motivational skills.

    Grade: B-


  2. #2
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Going by the numbers, not a lot has changed

    The linebackers, though this group is an improvement over last years group get a C- ??? Wow, what was last years grade F-?:x

  3. #3
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    Re: Going by the numbers, not a lot has changed

    Thanks for posting this. Look at the numbers and tell me how the defense has improved, despite having better and more expensive talent? The rushing yards per game and rushing average is a JOKE. If this was marmie, people would be screaming bloody murder again.

    The regression, collapse and banishment of hargrove was a very big blow to this defense. I think we all hoped that he would improve on his 6 1/2 sacks last year. Instead, he goes awol and we are back to square one with no pass rush opposite leonard, which has killed us.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


  4. #4
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    Re: Going by the numbers, not a lot has changed

    I agree this is really disappointing to see us get gashed on the ground still with all the changes.

    I agree if Marmie was here and this was happen, we be calling for his head! We made a change brought in some new players and a new scheme. That being said we are making changes and it’s a work in progress. Its obvious we still needs more talent on this unit. Glover has been a hugh disappointment, he made a play last week in the backfield, I thought we would see that a few times a game, he just not getting push. Hill still is not starting half way through the season; I’m a little surprised by that. Tino out for the last two games did not help our cause.

  5. #5
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Re: Going by the numbers, not a lot has changed

    I can not believe this hasn't created more conversation. These numbers are really scary after how much blasting everyone did on Martz for not running the ball enough. Where are all the Martz bashers when under the same philosophy Linehan numbers compare.

    Quote Originally Posted by RamWraith View Post
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    11/08/2006

    There's a new coaching staff and a roster that has had 50 percent turnover since the start of the 2005 season. Nonetheless, the Rams are in the same spot at the midpoint of Scott Linehan's first season as head coach: 4-4.

    That's the same record as the team had midway through the 2004 season, too.

    Between the 2005 and 2006 squads, the numbers in several areas are so close, it's scary. For example, the 2005 Rams passed for 2,301 yards in their first eight games; the 2006 Rams are at 2,300.

    Surprisingly, the Rams have rushed for fewer yards this season (805) than last season (831) despite the greater emphasis placed by Linehan on running the football.

    But the most disappointing aspect of the 2006 Rams has been run defense. Despite all the time and money spent rebuilding the defense, the Rams actually are worse against the run this season than they were midway through 2005. The Rams are yielding 5.0 yards per carry and allowing 141.3 yards per game.

    If those numbers don't improve markedly, it will be a long November and December.

    Quarterbacks

    After a slow start, Marc Bulger has made an impressive transition to Linehan's offense and is poised for a career year. He's on pace for 4,600 yards passing, which would be the second-highest total in franchise history, and 26 touchdown passes, which would be sixth-best. Most impressive is his interception total (one). Entering this season, Bulger averaged 1.2 interceptions per game. Despite being smarter with the football, Bulger still is getting the ball downfield. The Rams are averaging 12.4 yards per reception, a half-yard better than last season at this time. There are times when Bulger hangs on to the football too long, and that has contributed to his high sack total (24).



    Grade: A-

    Running backs

    No longer running in the shadow of Marshall Faulk,

    Steven Jackson is flourishing in his expanded role under Linehan. Jackson ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (691), fourth in yards from scrimmage (1,103) and third in first downs (52). Critics may think otherwise, but Jackson has done less dancing and been more decisive in his run reads this season. He could do better in the red zone, where his upright running style makes him a big target. The most surprising development in Jackson's game is as a pass-catcher; he leads all NFL running backs in reception yards (412). The Rams haven't gotten much out of backup Stephen Davis, but his role should increase due to Tony Fisher's season-ending knee injury.

    Grade: B



    Receivers

    After a hot start, with seven TD catches in six games,

    Torry Holt has been getting extra attention from opposing defenses. The Rams need to keep Holt involved no matter what comes his way from opposing secondaries. Isaac Bruce still has gas in the tank; he's on pace for 70 catches and 1,100 yards and is among the league leaders in yards per catch (15.8), which means he's still getting downfield. Kevin Curtis has gotten more involved in the offense in recent weeks. But Shaun McDonald remains a forgotten man (nine catches), largely because the Rams aren't utilizing four-receiver sets as much this season. At tight end, Joe Klopfenstein has been so-so as a blocker and remains under-utilized as a receiver.

    Grade: B



    Offensive line

    The 24 sacks allowed by the Rams is the ninth-highest total in the league. Granted, several were the result of faulty blocking by tight ends or backs, or Bulger hanging on to the ball too long. Regardless, the sack total is too high. Three sacks a game is not conducive to Bulger's health. To date, the run-blocking has been a disappointment. The Rams have 30 more rushing attempts at this stage of the season compared to 2005, but are averaging only 3.8 yards a carry, down nearly a full yard (0.8) from a year ago. Center Andy McCollum's season-ending knee injury resulted in some line shuffling, but Richie Incognito has been solid at center considering his inexperience both at the position and in the NFL.

    Grade: C



    Defensive line

    End Leonard Little is tied for eighth in the NFL with seven sacks, but the rest of the front four — starters and subs — has accounted for only 3 1/2 sacks total. That's not nearly good enough. The Rams were hoping Anthony Hargrove would provide a pass-rushing complement to Little, but Hargrove was traded to Buffalo last month after skipping two work days at Rams Park. The run defense has been even more disappointing than the pass rush. An undersized front four has struggled against elite backs and power running teams. Jimmy Kennedy has made his share of plays at nose tackle, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett wants to see Kennedy work more as an anchor in the middle, clogging up running lanes and occupying blockers.

    Grade: D



    Linebackers

    This is a better unit than the 2005 version, and the improvement would be more apparent were it not for the elbow and hand injuries to Pisa Tinoisamoa. Despite some rough moments against Kansas City and San Diego,

    Will Witherspoon has been a significant upgrade at middle linebacker because of his speed, closing ability and instincts. Brandon Chillar has been solid at strongside LB. But the group as a whole needs to cut down on mistakes and misalignments, and maintain its gap discipline. More big plays would be nice, too. The unit has a modest 3 1/2 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries this season.

    Grade: C-





    Secondary

    Like the rest of the defense, the play of the secondary has declined in recent weeks. After registering eight interceptions in the first four games (seven of which were by defensive backs), the Rams haven't picked off a pass in the past four games. Teams are running the ball so well against St. Louis, they haven't been passing as much. San Diego and Kansas City scored 62 points on the Rams' defense but threw only 38 passes total. The Rams are playing more man coverage this season, and doing more blitzing, and that has resulted in some big plays.

    Fakhir Brown has proved to be a good pickup at cornerback; youngsters Tye Hill and Oshiomogho Atogwe have been up and down. The decline of Jerametrius Butler remains a puzzler.

    Grade: C-

    Special teams

    Improved production by the offense has led to fewer field goal opportunities for Jeff Wilkins in recent weeks. But he remains on top of his game with just three misses in 23 attempts. Wilkins is tied for second in the NFC in touchbacks on kickoffs (nine). Punter Matt Turk is proving to be one of the team's best offseason pickups. He's ninth in the league in net punting and has displayed a good touch inside the 20. The Rams' punt coverage has been very good; kickoff coverage has been below average, but not terrible. The Rams have gotten next to nothing from their kickoff return game. Shaun McDonald has had a couple of nice punt returns, but overall, the Rams are getting few punt return opportunities.

    Grade: B-



    Coaching

    More than ever before, the NFL has become a turnover league. The teams with the edge in takeaway-giveaway differential are the teams that win games.

    Scott Linehan has stressed this from the beginning, and the results have been dramatic. The Rams committed 21 turnovers through eight games last season; they have committed only nine through eight contests this season. It's surprising that the team hasn't benefited more from the improved ball security. Linehan's positive approach and even-keel demeanor have been pluses. There have been a few head-scratchers in terms of game-management and personnel, but overall Linehan has a plan and is well-organized. It's too early to get a read on his motivational skills.

    Grade: B-

  6. #6
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    Re: Going by the numbers, not a lot has changed

    I agree, the loss of Hargrove was huge on defense. He got everyone so stoked up to play the game. He must have really pissed someone off in the front office to be traded to friggin Buffalo.

    Hargrove was the fuel for the defenses fire

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