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  1. #1
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    Haslett leading reversal for Rams

    October 22, 2008 12:58 PM

    Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


    ST. LOUIS -- Missouri troopers blocked freeway on-ramps several miles from St. Louis Rams headquarters Monday as part of a police escort for a visiting political candidate.

    The latest polls reveal an upset in Missouri.

    Jim Haslett, 2-0 after replacing Scott Linehan as Rams coach, has fashioned the Rams as an October surprise.

    Beating the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys in consecutive weeks would have seemed laughable at any point during the Rams' 0-4 start.

    The Rams are the ones laughing now. These are relaxed laughs, not nervous ones, and it all starts with Haslett. The former player (Buffalo Bills) and head coach (New Orleans Saints) admits mistakes, stands up for players in public and isn't trying to be something he's not. His authenticity is palpable and the players are responding.

    "We're a different team, you can see it," tight end Anthony Becht said.

    Perhaps most importantly to the long-term health of the franchise, Haslett is encouraging quarterback Marc Bulger to embrace the leadership role that comes with the position. Bulger's career had taken a disastrous turn when Linehan, fighting for his job after an 0-3 start, benched the $65 million passer in a desperate move to spark the team.

    Bulger was never a natural leader in St. Louis. The Rams had plenty of those when Bulger succeeded Kurt Warner as the starter in 2002 and 2003. Times have changed. Bulger is no longer the young and unproven one. Haslett, a former linebacker, has empowered Bulger to assert himself.

    "I felt like Marc needs to be the guy that takes control of this team," Haslett said.

    True to his nature, Bulger is downplaying talk of a transformation.

    "I just think that we are just playing better, that's all," the quarterback said. "I have been in a lot of player meetings and there is a lot of talking and that doesn't do anything. It is just a matter of guys making plays and we are starting to make plays."

    Bulger is never going to lead the way a Jim Kelly would. It's not his personality. The Rams don't necessarily need that from him, either, with a fiery former linebacker as their head coach. But every team needs its quarterback to prove he has a pulse. The Rams have seen Bulger scramble more aggressively, consequences be damned, and they've seen a different player in the locker room and along the sideline.

    "He talks to the team after the game last week and talks to the team every Saturday," Haslett said. "He works the sideline, which I've never seen him do. He needs to do those things. Don't come off the field and stand there without saying anything to your colleagues. He is doing a great job."

    In the huddle against Dallas, Bulger asserted himself by changing the play that sprung Jackson for a 56-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

    Veteran quarterbacks change plays regularly, but Bulger hasn't had time to get fully acquainted with first-year offensive coordinator Al Saunders. Instead of shifting to an unbalanced formation, as the play called for the Rams to do, Bulger told his teammates to line up that way from the beginning and catch the Cowboys off-balance with a quick count. Haslett pointed to the sequence as an example of Bulger asserting himself.

    "I think he is stepping up and saying, 'This is my offense, I can do some things with it and I'm taking over,' " Haslett said. "It's the first time I've seen him do it."

    Three more reasons the Rams are showing improvement:

    Little

    1. Leonard Little is back.
    The Rams expected their defensive line to be a strength this season, led by Little's return to health following an injury-plagued 2007 season.

    Little started slowly this season. A hamstring injury sidelined him at one point.

    The Rams are using Little as a situational pass rusher and the results are undeniable. Little has 4.5 sacks over the last three games. He's a key to protecting a secondary that struggled early in the season.

    Long

    2. Chris Long is emerging.

    The second overall choice in the 2008 draft repeatedly pressured Cowboys quarterback Brad Johnson. The coaching staff credited him with five pressures.

    "You can see he's not thinking, he's just reacting and really, this week was probably one of his better games," Haslett said. "He didn't get a sack, but he had about four or five quarterback hits, was active in the run game."

    Avery

    3. Donnie Avery is getting deep.

    The Rams made Avery the first receiver chosen in the 2008 draft. The pick seemed like a potential reach. Avery was raw prospect facing a difficult assimilation into Saunders' complex offense.

    Injuries slowed Avery early in the season, but not any longer. Avery caught a deep ball to set up the winning field goal against the Redskins. He caught a 42-yard touchdown pass against the Cowboys and nearly caught an 85-yard touchdown pass later in the game.

    Haslett is quick to minimize the importance of two victories. While the Rams' 2-4 record is good enough for second place in the NFC West, St. Louis plays three of its next four games on the road, starting with a trip to New England.

    "I don't think anything surprises me in this league," Haslett said. "I do think the guys have kind of bought into what we're trying to do and they feel good about themselves and they're taking ownership in their team and you have to like that."


  2. #2
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    Re: Haslett leading reversal for Rams

    man, bulger is really taking it to another level switching plays like that..i definitely saw his aggressiveness in the dallas game when i saw him tuck the ball and run, and especially when Avery's td was called back, he was in the refs ear talkin up a storm...i've liked bulger for his calmness in pressure situations and accuracy, but its good to have the respect im starting to have for your teams quarterback..

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    Re: Haslett leading reversal for Rams

    The question is where does Drew Bennett fit in when he comes back? I don't want to see Avery taken out of the starting lineup. So what do they do when Bennett is healthy?
    Just Fix It

  4. #4
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    Re: Haslett leading reversal for Rams

    Quote Originally Posted by rammiser View Post
    The question is where does Drew Bennett fit in when he comes back? I don't want to see Avery taken out of the starting lineup. So what do they do when Bennett is healthy?
    I'm telling you, he will drop to the number three receiver...or worse.

    I agree. Avery has shown us in TWO games that he deserves to be a starter on this team. I think the Haz realized this too. Avery is a good player, I believe, better than Bennett.

    Who knows, we could utilize Bennett...but Avery must remain a starter.

    Bulger is getting back to form. Which is great news for us.

    Everything is going positive for us. And I'm lovin every second of it.

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    Re: Haslett leading reversal for Rams

    Quote Originally Posted by rammiser View Post
    The question is where does Drew Bennett fit in when he comes back? I don't want to see Avery taken out of the starting lineup. So what do they do when Bennett is healthy?
    In the Saunders offense, Drew Bennett at best is the revival of Ricky Proehl. At worst, Marc Boerigter or Todd Yoder.
    "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: Haslett leading reversal for Rams

    Im excited to see Chris Long is doing well.
    :ramlogo:

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    Re: Haslett leading reversal for Rams

    Veteran quarterbacks change plays regularly, but Bulger hasn't had time to get fully acquainted with first-year offensive coordinator Al Saunders. Instead of shifting to an unbalanced formation, as the play called for the Rams to do, Bulger told his teammates to line up that way from the beginning and catch the Cowboys off-balance with a quick count. Haslett pointed to the sequence as an example of Bulger asserting himself.

    "I think he is stepping up and saying, 'This is my offense, I can do some things with it and I'm taking over,' " Haslett said. "It's the first time I've seen him do it."
    This should not be glossed over. I understand Bulger's type "B" personality as I too am a "B". So for him to as Haslett says "take over" the offense is a huge step towards solidifying this offense and moving it up the ladder.
    "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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