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    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Hadley's Mailbag

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007
    OPENING THE MAIL BAG...

    ANSWERING E-MAILS.

    Here are responses to questions posed in three-dozen or more e-mails in the last six weeks.
    (I've paraphrased questions for the sake of simplicity)

    FOOTBALL: TAKE ONE

    THE RAMS.


    QUESTION: Why do I continue to state that Marc Bulger is my greatest concern moving forward?


    The answer is very simple. if the Rams fail to sign Bulger before the season, once again this team could be forced to make moves from a standpoint of desperation.


    One, there isn't an answer in waiting. Gus Frerotte will be 37 years old entering camp in 2008, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is still a work in progress.


    Most importantly, the market for Marc Bulger could be astronomical if the Rams fail to secure his services in the near future.


    There is a common belief that the Detroit Lions would pay top dollar for Bulger if available. Frankly, I'd expand that notion into the entire NFC North. Don't fool yourself, insiders in Green Bay will state unequivocally that Aaron Rodgers isn't prepared to take the reigns of the Packers offense. Minnesota has QB issues and what if Rex Grossman fails in Chicago? So, if there is truth to the fact the Lions would pay top dollar for Bulger. I ask why wouldn't Green Bay or Minnesota be willing to match in order to secure Bulger and just as importantly block a divisional rival from doing the same?


    Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Kansas City, and Washington must be considered possible suitors based on the performance of their, respective, passers this season.


    This is a case and point that denies the Rams an opportunity to play "negotiation roulette."


    Bulger is going to demand top dollar. Considering the signing bonuses given offensive linemen, line backers and defensive backs in recent years. there is every reason to believe that Bulger can secure anywhere from $20 to $30 million in guaranteed money.


    Some will say that the Rams could "franchise" Bulger however from a financial and cap standpoint is that really prudent. If "franchised" it's likely that Bulger will earn in two years what he would command in guaranteed money without the luxury of spreading it over a three-to-four-year period.


    At this juncture, with a glorious array of skilled offensive talent. the thought of losing Bulger is deflating. As currently constituted, the Rams offense should rank among the elite for at least two, with some projecting three years, without a major overhaul as long as Bulger remains at the controls.


    Until he is signed, sealed and delivered, long-term. Bulger remains my greatest concern moving forward.



    QUESTION: Why so down on the Adam Carriker selection?


    Simply stated, he wasn't in my personal estimation a value pick at number 13. As a defensive tackle, at the NFL level, he remains a questionable proposition at best. As a defensive end, how does he compare to Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Terrell Suggs, DeMarcus Ware, Kamerion Wimbley and/or Mario Williams? Those are the six defensive ends selected in the top 13 over the previous five seasons. It's also worth noting that four of the aforementioned six players work in a 3-4 schemes.


    Number two, I believed there were better defensive ends on the board at the time and better value at defensive tackle to be had in the second and third rounds. Additionally, I don't buy into drafting players in the first-half of the first round in any draft with the intention of a positional change. While those at Rams Park obsessively point to the fact that Carriker slid inside on occasion for situational play. there is a huge differential playing a few downs on the inside on the collegiate level compared to survival in the trenches over the course of a 16-game NFL season.


    Next, there is always the mental aspect of the game. switching the mental mode of attacking with vengeance off the edge into the willingness to absorb blows for the greater good on the interior is a complete makeover.


    Third, if the Rams truly intend to play Carriker at the same position as La'Roi Glover it further muddles the waters.


    At the conclusion of the 2006 season, those at Rams Park dissecting the season made mention that Glover was overexposed. It was stated that at this stage of his career, Glover was best suited for 25-30 plays maximum. which equates into splitting the position. a pricy proposition given Glover's paycheck.


    If that's the case, the Rams have a very expensive backup at defensive tackle whether it be Glover or Carriker. Also. what does this mean for Claude Wroten? Furthermore, is this an indication that Jimmy Kennedy is still considered a starter?


    Is this an indication that Wroten is a bust? Theoretically, Wroten was the developing replacement for Glover. Obviously the Rams didn't draft Carriker to be Wroten's backup.


    While on one hand, I'd never question advance planning (conceivably replacing Glover) with Wroten's presence and Kennedy's ineptitude was the 13th pick in the draft the proper time for such as maneuver?


    In the end, Carriker is a "large tweener." There are questions about him as a 4-3 defensive end with equal questions as a 4-3 defensive tackle. The one consensus among my contacts was that Carriker graded perfectly as 3-4 defensive end. and Rams base defense is a 4-3.


    That noted, there is every reason to believe that Carriker can be a contributor. He can be productive player however the question is was he a value selection at number 13... In my opinion the answer is. no.


    In the end, the Rams lacked imagination in supplementing the interior over the last few seasons, and in a draft nearly void of "big time" defensive tackle prospects reached addressing a need that became a desperation.


    Over the previous five years, there were an average of 4.2 pure defensive tackles selected in the first round, there were an average of 5.2 defensive tackles selected in the first 50 picks and an average of six defensive tackles selected in the first two rounds. This year, there were two pure defensive tackles selected in the first round, three defensive tackles in the top 50 picks and four defensive tackles in the first two rounds. If you choose to add Carriker to the list this year's draft totals DTs were still below the five-year average. as stated earlier this was a down year for projected premium defensive tackles.


    Ironically, the Rams have selected in the top 13 on three occasions this decade. In 2003, the Rams picked Kennedy with the 12th pick. In 2001, they selected Damione Lewis with the 13th pick. This year, they chose Adam Carriker with the 13th pick. Hopefully, in this case, the third time will be charmed.



    QUESTION: Why do you remain so critical of the Rams front office?


    First, to be perfectly clear. I'm not critical of the Rams front office.


    I'm critical of the Rams football operations department. in particular with the personnel department and structure as currently constituted or lack thereof.


    There is no issue with Tony Softli overseeing collegiate scouting however the lack of a proven personnel director overseeing the department and pro scouting is problematic.


    Rams President John Shaw is a brilliant football executive that has succeeded in virtually every aspect of the business both as an active factor in league policy and at Rams Park. Shaw has an eye for coaches that few football executives can match.


    That noted, I remain perplexed why he hasn't placed a "football man" in charge of personnel.


    Whether selecting a coach, finalizing a key trade, financially stabilizing the organization, etc., Shaw has proven "the man" time and again.


    This organization has surpassed all possible expectations since arriving in town however in my estimation however could've rode the crest higher and longer with the proper personnel leadership.


    If there is one common dominator with personnel it's the Rams penchant for supplementing in a desperate position having allowed a need to elevate into desperation.


    As I wrote last spring, stated throughout the season and rewrote recently, last year was the classic example of simply exacerbating a situation lacking a true "football man" while counting on financial means in determining roster movement.


    I had numerous NFL insiders question how the Rams could've allowed Ryan Pickett to depart last season considering the state of the team's defensive interior. However since the conclusion of the 1999 season. the organization has allowed key components to depart without proper supplementation logically permitting the moves. But because of a salary-cap tree that all but pre-determines signings, year-after-year defensive contributors departed. That fact combined with the infatuation of "marquee names" heading south has stunted growth.


    The Rams front office gushed speaking about how quickly they pounced on Dexter Coakley. They claimed to have signed a bargain in Glover last season. The list is lengthy with many of the signings truly based on desperation due mainly to poor decisions made for financial reasons over football production.


    Jay Zygmunt has and still controls personnel. In his role as capologist with his assistant Samir Suleiman, they have a command of the roster. The fact that over the last five seasons he has delved deeper in personnel judgment with his assistant has proven problematic.


    On a day that a handful of teams made moves that bolstered their draft pick cache all the while making premium picks. the Rams remained stagnant. mainly because the failure to properly supplement the interior and lack of creativity of a legitimate personnel director. On the flip side, the Rams failure to move up aggressively in the third and early fourth rounds cost them desired prospects hence the trade downward for additional fifth-round picks.


    One can easily develop a two-year and three-year analysis of this roster to see the "hot spots" that will prove to be problematic but based on past results this decade one has to wonder if football personnel has a one-year plan let alone eyeing the future.


    Softli should be given the opportunity to prove his worth overseeing collegiate personnel however until this organization hires a "football man" to run football operations, the guessing will continue in actually building a roster.


    Real "football men" don't care about "name value" or jersey number. they care about production in addition to the abstract assets overlooked by capologists that maintain a roster on "Fantasy Football" perimeters.


    In the NFL you can Band-Aid a scratch, and sometimes a wound however attempting to do so time and again will lead to an infection debilitating a franchise.


    In-depth reviews of this roster by real "football men" offers a different perspective than presented by the media or draftniks. Those inside the game have as many questions about the Rams offensive line as the defensive line. Those inside the game, wonder what happens after this season when Glover is likely done and Kennedy once again failed to advance. what will be the move at that point? Furthermore as one insider contemplated what if James Hall fails to produce. will the Rams move Carriker outside? If so, the team is right back in the desperation mode on the interior.


    The short-term outlook remains bright because of a talented array skilled athletes on the offensive side of the ball with a head coach capable of maximizing their skills. That noted, until the Rams hired a "football man" to oversee football operations the team will float instead of riding the wave of success.


    Simply look back in time, the winning combination in this league combines a strong coaching staff with an equally strong leader overseeing personnel. More often than not. the personnel executive had the final word. Coaches should coach and personnel directors should build rosters. along the way they mix however with defined roles.


    I've said before and say it again. the greatest asset this organization possesses is John Shaw however he can't continually create miracles to keep this team moving upwardly. At some point the must cede authority from Zygmunt in favor a "football man" in order to maintain a level of excellence.


    If you haven't noticed. San Francisco has righted it's ship. Seattle has a terrific front office, and Arizona is precariously close to truly becoming a factor. The room for error in this division has dissipated.


    Shaw catapulted this franchise into the elite by delving into a fractured search for a head coach by luring Dick Vermeil and later forcing him to make the right maneuvers which included the addition of Mike Martz. He followed that with a terrific deal in acquiring Marshall Faulk. The Rams fed off those moves for nearly six years.


    The foundation for success is in place and he can again build a Pyramid of Success if he takes the next step providing this coaching staff and Softli with an established "football man" to run football operations.



    QUESTION: You were close to Mike Martz how can you state this offense could be as good as any since the glory years?


    First, I remain close to Mike Martz.


    Second, I believe Scott Linehan to be an excellent offensive coach as well.


    Third, it's simple. talent.


    I truly believe that Marc Bulger is one of the top six quarterbacks in the NFL with a decent backup in Gus Frerotte. The combination of Steven Jackson and Brian Leonard could rank with the best in the league. The top three receivers are legit with Torry Holt rating as the best in the business. They have, potentially, the best set of receiving tight ends to don The Horns since Mike Barber and David Hill. 25 years ago.


    Imagine. defenses lining up only to see a three-receiver set with Holt, Ike and Bennett supplemented with Randy McMichael eyeing the middle of the field and Jackson emerging from the backfield.


    Few teams can match the totals amassed by the Rams 1999-2001 however the 2007 Rams have the potential to be the best since that glorious three-year period.


    If the offensive line maximizes, don't be surprised if this offense is the best in the NFL this season.


    That mandates that OP remains healthy, Alex Barron and Richie Incognito progress upwardly fulfilling potential and that Mark Setterstrom proving capable of enduring a 16-game schedule as a starter.


    Regardless, the offense will be worth the price of admission this season.


    Frankly, I await the season with great anticipation, this will be a competitive team that will light up the scoreboard.



    QUESTION: Which players are included in the group of "future foundation" players you reference.


    I believe there to be two sets of foundation players. a veteran cast which translates in the present foundation as well as the future foundation which includes players 23-27 years of age that are apt to replace the veteran cast over the next few seasons as the leaders.


    With the Rams I was referencing: O.J. Atogwe, Alex Barron, Tye Hill, Richie Incognito, Steven Jackson, and Will Witherspoon. With the recent draft, the likes of Adam Carriker and Brian Leonard can be added to the group.


    The point I was making before the draft was that 50 percent of the future foundation had proved their worth. Jackson and Witherspoon have clearly earned the designation, and I'm sold long-term on Hill.


    The other 50 percent (at the time) must take their, respective, games to the next level in 2007 to guarantee a solid future. If Barron and Incognito prove the players projected. I challenge anybody to present a better inside-outside combination on any team 25 years or younger. I was truly encouraged by Atogwe's progress last season.


    So while I remain optimistic, if the threesome fail to climb the ladder of production. there is reason for concern. All in all. the upcoming season has many intriguing storylines however the advancement or lack thereof with Barron and Incognito ranks atop the list in my opinion followed by Carriker's play and Atogwe's progression.


  2. #2
    RamOfDenmark is offline Registered User
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    Re: Hadley's Mailbag

    Wow, extremely good article, thanks for posting it Wraith! It's well worth reading through the whole piece. Some of the points may be too "negative" for some people here (although he is very very positive about our offense, justifiably so), but I think on the whole this article offers a realistic assessment of our current state. I'm going to be thinking about the stuff brought up in this article for a while.

    Our future (and current!) situation in the middle of the defensive line worries me especially, I can easily see a situation in the very near future where Glover retires and we let Kennedy walk. Then we're left with basically Carriker (who we still have no conclusive evidence will be a good tackle, (most) people were also excited about Lewis and Kennedy after we picked them in the 1st). I think we still need to either a) get a premier veteran DT or b) draft and develop one ourselves (which means waiting a couple of years while our offensive talent goes to waste) or c) two of our current young tackles (Carriker, Wroten, Ryan, Jackson) develop into legitimate starters (they don't have to be top-10 in the league, just solid) fast, preferably during this season so we're ready to go for it all next year with a middle-of-the-pack+ defense and a top-notch offense. I can't honestly believe option c) right now though, so I'm still hoping for option a) although that looks very out of the question, at least for this year, now that we weren't seriously interested in Jenkins. I think we need to start thinking more about our window of opportunity with our current offensive core, and make the appropriate moves on defense to complement that.

  3. #3
    general counsel's Avatar
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    Re: Hadley's Mailbag

    I agree with ramdenmark on this. The article is well written and well reasoned. I like carriker, but obviously, hadley is preaching to the choir with me when he talks about how the rams could have let pickett walk especially when he didnt get overwhelming money. The bulger situation is obvious, he must be signed long term because without him, our future looks reasonably bleak.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


  4. #4
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Hadley's Mailbag

    This Marc Bulger situation is very interesting in my mind. Obviously I want Bulger under center for our RAMS forever. The question is what is Marc thinking? Is it all about money or a combination of money and length of contract? Do the off season moves that the RAMS have made have any influence on Marc's thought process? I mean after all the RAMS really beefed up the offense as we all know. Does Marc look at the offensive weapons he'll be playing with and how that could affect him? Is it about wins and losses? Marc Bulger is a very smart young man he must feel like this is the year he could really hit the headlines. He will be playing for a contender.:r :l

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    Re: Hadley's Mailbag

    Simply stated, he wasn't in my personal estimation a value pick at number 13. As a defensive tackle, at the NFL level, he remains a questionable proposition at best. As a defensive end, how does he compare to Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Terrell Suggs, DeMarcus Ware, Kamerion Wimbley and/or Mario Williams? Those are the six defensive ends selected in the top 13 over the previous five seasons. It's also worth noting that four of the aforementioned six players work in a 3-4 schemes.


    Number two, I believed there were better defensive ends on the board at the time and better value at defensive tackle to be had in the second and third rounds. Additionally, I don't buy into drafting players in the first-half of the first round in any draft with the intention of a positional change. While those at Rams Park obsessively point to the fact that Carriker slid inside on occasion for situational play. there is a huge differential playing a few downs on the inside on the collegiate level compared to survival in the trenches over the course of a 16-game NFL season.


    Next, there is always the mental aspect of the game. switching the mental mode of attacking with vengeance off the edge into the willingness to absorb blows for the greater good on the interior is a complete makeover.


    Third, if the Rams truly intend to play Carriker at the same position as La'Roi Glover it further muddles the waters.


    At the conclusion of the 2006 season, those at Rams Park dissecting the season made mention that Glover was overexposed. It was stated that at this stage of his career, Glover was best suited for 25-30 plays maximum. which equates into splitting the position. a pricy proposition given Glover's paycheck.


    If that's the case, the Rams have a very expensive backup at defensive tackle whether it be Glover or Carriker. Also. what does this mean for Claude Wroten? Furthermore, is this an indication that Jimmy Kennedy is still considered a starter?


    Is this an indication that Wroten is a bust? Theoretically, Wroten was the developing replacement for Glover. Obviously the Rams didn't draft Carriker to be Wroten's backup.
    He missing it big time IMO. AC will play a DT/NT role this year and will end up at NT next year. Wroten will split time will Glover, if he plays well Wroten will get most of the reps and next year Glover is done.The bust here is Kennedy, he is the one that will be a high paid back up.

    Third, if the Rams truly intend to play Carriker at the same position as La'Roi Glover it further muddles the waters.
    They don't he's taking Kenedy spot.

    It would have been nice to have some names pf players on the board at 13 he liked better or some DT in the third round that could replace kennedy.

    Carriker has been working at both positions, and Linehan said the rookie has shown "a natural feel for playing inside. It's no secret that you're going to see him in the interior of the line by the opening of the season. ... Right now, he's handling both tackle positions with relative ease."
    Last edited by Rambos; -05-18-2007 at 10:37 AM.

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    Country's Avatar
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    Re: Hadley's Mailbag

    I think that this is a realy good article, but very negative in its tone.

    This guy appears to be the only person that does not like the Adam Carriker pick. Everything that I have seen written and said has loved the Carriker pick and what he brings to the table.

    I agree with him that the Barron Incognito progression can go a long way, they could become an elite side of an OL.

  7. #7
    keith m. klink Guest

    Re: Hadley's Mailbag

    not every team can be the PATRIOT'S , the team that the god's built , everyone neal and pray to the patriot god's . i do agree on the jay zygmunt situation , someone who manages your cap room and football finances , in no way , shape or form have any right to make desisions on roster personel . it is true , that the rams need some footballman help , they made a great addition in softli ,to finally have someone to evaluate the college personel . but it seem that this guy really needs to nit pick things with a bit of negetivity , yes , a few of the past coaches made mistakes on players , ( see #6 pick - lawerance phillips , when eddie george was right in front of the rams faces . ) but what coach doesn't , we didn't have a college evaluator , we used what many middle of the road teams did , and that was using a evaluation sevice , instead of what great teams do , and that is pay extra personel to evaluate talent . ( in comes softli ) so yes , the ship the rams are on has taken on some water , but you have to methodically bail it out , you can't pull a magic plug like a bathtub and have it all drain away . the rams will make some noise this year , they will be better than last year , they have a legitamate chance to take their division and make the playoff's . we should all be happy with knowing that they won't be last years RAIDERS . but also , it is time to secure our QB for the next 5-7 years , and to put jay zygmunt in his office to work on the cap that is given him by a personel director , and not who he see's fit to keep or let go .until the important issue's are resolved on a football basis , the rams will be middle of the road , and if things get worse , we are looking at the rams of the 80's and 90's , who couldn'r beat the 49'ers or any halfway decent team , and had the personel of a highschool team , but had a lot of caproom to be proud of .

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