Tuesday, May 22, 2007
FOOTBALL... FOOTBALL... AND FOOTBALL
RAMS MAILBAG III
Folks, I'm truly appreciative of the response to recent newsletters focusing on the Rams however it has opened the flood gates. I can't keep up. So, I'll send out one more newsletter focusing on the Rams this week however must refocus on the Cardinals in addition to tasks that actually provide a paycheck. Now it's time to move on with a few facts and stats of interest.
YES AND NO.
One big misconception escalated by the media is the fact that Marc Bulger was much safer in the pocket executing the Rams 2006 offense as compared to previous seasons. Yes, Bulger was touched less however the numbers are much closer than media dissemination would lead you to believe. In 2004, Mike Martz's last full season as head coach, Bulger was sacked on 0.84 percent of his pass attempts. in 2006, Bulger was sacked 0.83 percent of his pass attempts. Last season, Bulger was sacked 49 times, the most in his career, and the second highest total in the NFL in '06.
Furthermore using the QB knockdown stat, in 2004 and 2005, combined, Bulger was knocked down on 14 percent of his pass attempts. Last season, Bulger was knocked on 12 percent of his pass attempts. Translated. based on 600 pass attempts, that is 12 times less per season or less than once per game.
So, yes, he was touched a slightly higher percentage in the two previous seasons, however, no. last year wasn't a year to boast about considering the opposition had Bulger on his back at a higher rate than most starters in the NFL.
THE GO-TO GUYS.
Many have posed the simple question: What are the best sources of information for Rams in town?
The answers are very simple:
I would hope this site brings a little something to the table.
First up is KTRS/Channel 4/KLOU thanks to Steve Savard. Without question, Savard is the most underappreciated source in the city. I rarely form an opinion about players without his input. His knowledge of the game, access to the coaches/management, and insight into the players is unparalleled among broadcasters in this town.
The P-D: I can state unequivocally that my biggest disappointment is failing to discover the means to budget at KTRS bringing Jim Thomas aboard on a regular basis. He is among the hardest working beat writers in all the land. His right-hand man Bill Coats supplements coverage very well. We all know that The Bernie digs covering football. In between shouting at one another on the phone, I always read Brian Burwell because he rarely agree on anything.. Which leads to the shouting but also the intrigue on absorbing a differing view. Yes, it's the only newspaper in town, however with J.T. fronting the coverage and The Bernie on the beat. there could be a dozen newspapers in town and the P-D would be mandatory reading for the football fan.
Howard Balzer: As an independent source, he is cherished by football fans in town and rightfully so. He can be heard on 1380, Sirius Radio, and some damn website that for the life of me I can remember. It's nearly 4:30 a.m., so I'm not calling to ask him.
Rams Radio. a.k.a KLOU does a superb job during the season with Scott Warmann, Jim Hanifan, D'Marco Farr working with Seve among others.
The Belleville News-Democrat, the team website featuring Nick Wagoner, and the only forum board that intrigues me. The Herd Board (although I did receive a link to another site that appeared legit. that has also slipped my memory) are worthy of time spent.
As a side note and for the sake self-promotion, I would like to think that Mike Claiborne and moi can hold our own on The Big 550 (KTRS).
Nationally. USA Today's Sports Weekly and The Sporting News are absolute must reads. The NFL Network is well. the NFL Network, and besides I want to know what Marshall Faulk has to say. The websites for Fox Sports and ESPN along with SI.com will strengthen the databanks.
THE HITS VS. THE CATCHES.
There are two points that Rams insiders have stressed in explaining why they expect Dante Hall to once again morph into a big-time difference maker: Playing on turf and seeing little or no action as a receiver. Frankly, I consider both as flimsy.
First the former, 10 of Hall's 11 return touchdowns came in games played on grass. Both his punt and kickoff return averages on turf were lower than games played on grass. Do the research, the best return specialists over the last 10 years have fared as well if not better taking care of business on grass. There is very little factual information to support this contention other than conjecture.
Second, if there is anything taking it's toll on the diminutive Hall. it's the crazed number of returns he's handled over his career. Over the last 30 years, there has been 11 players record 500 or more returns including Hall.
Hall has 548 career returns during his seven-year career. That's an average of 78.3 returns per season. In the last six seasons, he's averaged 87.7 returns per season, and 5.65 returns per game.
Furthermore, over the last three years, he has averaged a ridiculous 92.7 returns per season and 5.91 returns per game.
Hall is returning kicks at a rate few have ever matched. Over the last five seasons he registered 75 or more returns. You can't fill a hand with the number of players that have returned minimally 75 returns in five consecutive seasons.
The following are the other 10 players that have reached the 500-return plateau along with comparable numbers. You'll note Hall's career total averages exceed the other 10 on the list. His average of 93 returns and six returns per game over the last three seasons is just mind-boggling:
*Brian Mitchell had 1070 career returns (14 seasons), averaging 76.4 returns per season, 4.8 returns per game.
*Glyn Milburn had 711 career returns (nine seasons), averaging 77 returns per season, averaging 5.15 returns per game.
*Mel Gray had 673 career returns (12 seasons), averaging 56.1 returns per season and averaging 3.98 returns per game.
*Allen Rossum has 665 career returns (nine seasons), averaging 73.9 returns per season, averaging 5.32 returns per game.
*Eric Metcalf had 631 career returns (13 seasons), averaging 48.5 returns per season, averaging 3.53 returns per game.
*Desmond Howard had 603 career returns (11 seasons), averaging 54.8 returns per season, averaging 3.86 returns per game.
*David Meggett had 601 career returns (10 seasons), averaging 60.1 returns per season, averaging 4.14 returns per game.
*Kevin Williams had 553 career returns (eight seasons), averaging 69.1 returns per season, averaging 4.57 returns per game.
*Via Sikahema had 527 career returns (eight seasons), averaging 65.9 returns per season, 4.44 returns per game.
*Jermaine Lewis had 507 career returns (nine seasons), averaging 56.3 returns per season.
Next, keep in mind that five of the 10 players listed above registered significantly more touches and/or plays as offensive contributors (rushes and receptions, or in Rossum's case defensively).
Additionally, a few of the aforementioned also excelled on kick-coverage units.
The whole notion that Hall's play as a receiver has hindered his return production is simply conjecture based on the facts. both stated above and as follows:
*In 2003-2004, combined, Dante Hall was the target of passes on 98 plays. In 2004-2005, combined, Hall was the target on 91 plays.
*In 2003-2004, Hall had 89 offensive touches. In 2004-2005, Hall had 70 offensive touches.
*Last season, Hall had just three rushes, his fewest since 2001. Last season, Hall caught 26 passes. the previous three seasons he averaged 33 catches per season.
Simply stated, his participation on the offensive side of the ball began dwindling at the same time his returns numbers were leveling.
Is Dante Hall the best overall return specialist the Rams have lined-up since Az or Tony Horne. there is no doubt. That noted, jumping with a leap of faith that he'll return to his jaw-dropping days could result in a unpleasant fall.
If Hall succeeds in providing the Rams an edge missing in "the game of field possession" he'll be worth every penny as will the draft pick rendered. However at his age, size and with significant wear-and-tear on the tires. tempered expectations should be the order of the day.
Leonard Little has ranked among the top five in the NFL in quarterback knockdowns in each of the last four seasons. During the same timeframe (2003-2006) he ranks fifth in total sacks, and is tied for third in the NFL in forced fumbles. with little assistance on the opposite flank in recent years.
He wreaks havoc in the opposing backfield, rating an elite pass-rusher and creates turnovers.
Since 2001, he ranks fourth in the NFL in sacks and second in forced fumbles. He shines in a variety of other categories as well. save Jason Taylor and Mike Strahan, there isn't another defensive end in the league that matches his totals.
Should Little post comparable if not better numbers over the next two or three seasons. will someone utter the three words: Hall of Famer?
RAMS MAILING VERSION FOUR WILL FOLLOW LATER THIS WEEK