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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Rams Team Information How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?
    By Hal Schaeffer | June 9th, 2008

    The Rams are trying to get all they can out of last yearís number two draft pick, Brian Leonard, the running back out of Rutgers.

    Or maybe not.

    This in the face of some heavy criticism from Ramsí fans for making Leonard their pick in that spot in the first place. Just a glance at some of the blogging being done over at rabid fan sites such as DELETED LINKS TO OTHER SITES will give you a good idea of what the fans have been thinking about Leonard.

    There is a real division in the fansí opinion. Many Ram boosters believe that the pick was a wasted one, that the Rams had greater needs at that point in the draft than at running back. And that if the Rams really needed a running back that badly, there were better choices. This side of the opinion poll goes on to say that Leonard really didnít show much last year, making the selection seem that much worse. Leonard is criticized for being undersized, slow, and a poor blocker.

    Those who like Leonard point to his record at Rutgers, where he was at one time being touted as a Heisman candidate. He gained 2,775 yards, scored 45 TDís, and caught 207 passes in college. He was projected as a high round selection in the 2007 draft; in some quarters he was seen as a first-round pick, so his defenders say that taking him with their second choice was not a reach for the Rams. They agree that he may be hesitant at times with the ball, but they are quick to point out that that is a problem with the Ramsí star running back Steven Jackson as well.

    However, the most telling point that Leonardís fans make is that Leonard did not get a fair trial last year because of the multiple injuries that decimated the Ramsí offensive line. How could anyone run effectively behind a group of backups and street free agents, several of whom were playing out of position? Despite the ineffective blocking, Leonard did manage a 100-yard game against the Cardinals, so there has to be some real talent there.

    I believe that the last point illustrates what the Ramsí coaches believe, too, but their actions this year lead me to feel that they donít quite know what to do with Leonard. Frankly, I think they expected more from him last year, and he didnít deliver to their expectations. Oh, he had his moments, but his blocking was inconsistent, and he never quite got into the flow of the offense.

    This year, the coaches are trying to save their second round pick. And their reputations as talent evaluators.

    During the offseason, Leonard bulked up to about 234 pounds and had some cleanup surgery done on both shoulders. There is talk from the Rams that Leonard will be blocking more for Jackson, and that the added weight will help him be more effective in that role. He is also working out with the special teams, something that he didnít do last year. Is this because the special teams need his talents, or is it because the Rams need to keep Leonard busy so they can justify their selection? Is this the best use of his skills?

    I really donít know, but what bothers me is the fact that Leonardís role in the offense seems to be diminishing. I think the Rams want to make Antonio Pittman their first option behind Jackson, so they have to find other things for Leonard to do. If Pittman beats out Leonard for that spot, fine. But it seems to me that the decision has already been made, and that most of the talents that Leonard showed in college and that caused the Rams to draft him so high may be wasted.

    I like Brian Leonard a lot, and I have no problems with the Rams picking him second. Heís a terrific athlete and a great character guy and a potential locker room leader.

    I just hope the Rams use him to his full potential and not make another Travis Minor out of him.

    He seems to me to be a great fit for Al Saundersí offense. Iíd like to see what he can do running behind a solid offensive line for a change, and as an option in third-down passing situations.

    Letís see the guy get a fair evaluation.
    Last edited by AvengerRam; -06-09-2008 at 02:30 PM.


  2. #2
    RAMarkable is offline Registered User
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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post
    I just hope the Rams use him to his full potential ...
    And just how are the Rams supposed to do this? The guy is too slow and is not nimble enough to be an effective NFL quality RB and he's still too small to be a true lead blocking FB. So then the question remains: Just what is his "full" potential?
    Also, the fact that the coaches are planning on utilizing him on multiple STs is a huge red flag. Name another second round pick that covers kicks and punts as a major part of his job description.

    WHAT SAY YE?

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    Chris58's Avatar
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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post
    Rams Team Information How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?
    By Hal Schaeffer | June 9th, 2008

    But it seems to me that the decision has already been made, and that most of the talents that Leonard showed in college and that caused the Rams to draft him so high may be wasted.
    I agree that the decision has already been made. Why else would the Rams coaching staff have asked him to bulk up to 235 pounds and play special teams?

    Honestly, I like Leonard, the man; but I'm not sure he can be a productive NFL back. Granted, injuries to him and the line didn't help, but the coaches know what their eyes see on the field.

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    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    I have nothing against Leonard. In the right system, he could probably be a fairly productive NFL player.

    But, truth be told, the Rams should not have spent a second round pick on him. Backup RBs can be had in later rounds, and the Rams had many more pressing needs.

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    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris58 View Post
    I agree that the decision has already been made. Why else would the Rams coaching staff have asked him to bulk up to 235 pounds and play special teams?

    Honestly, I like Leonard, the man; but I'm not sure he can be a productive NFL back. Granted, injuries to him and the line didn't help, but the coaches know what their eyes see on the field.
    Whatever decision is made, it would best be made after Brian has a chance to show what he can do behind a healthy O-line. Can he be an effective NFL player? Right now nobody really knows .. Hopefully he'll get some reps in pre-season games with the first team. The guy has good hands and could be a real threat as a receiver. He certainly deserves a shot to showcase his skills behind a healthy 1st string O-line .. And yes .. he'll certainly need to prove he can lead block and pass-protect at the NFL level. I'd rather reserve judgement until after he gets his fair share of reps ...

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    I'd rather reserve judgement until after he gets his fair share of reps ...
    I agree but I don't think he will get them, from the sound of things.

    The most improved players this spring on offense, in coach Scott Linehanís estimation, might come as a surprise to some: tight end Joe Klopfenstein and running back Antonio Pittman.

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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    Ok, hold on. Didn't we all stroke ourselves over the Long pick this year and lash out at others for any criticism they made of the Rams pick by saying there's no way to grade the draft until 2 or 3 years have gone by? Isn't this said by the pundits that a player needs 2-3 years to become acclimated to the NFL and to get an opportunity to really show what they can do?

    I'm not even a big Brian Leonard fan, but any controversy is premature. So Leonard got one year in, was thrown to the wolves when Jackson and the O-line went down, and all of a sudden the pick was bad? I'm a huge Pittman fan; i think he's the type of young back Rams need to back up SJ and I love the fact that BL is getting stiff competition for the # 2 spot. It's a good thing. BL was picked high because he was so versatile. So Pittman can be #2 and BL can be a versatile back and might as well help on spec'l teams while he's at it.

    If we're gonna force others to hold off on grading how well the Rams did in this year's draft for 2 to 3 years, then let's hold off on grading last year's too. This will be his 2nd year and we'll have plenty of time to crucify him later. Besides, he's not slow... he clocked 4.49 at the combine.

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    renrawtruk is offline Registered User
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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    Picking Leonard #2 is similar to the Trung Candidate pick....

    Kind of a "luxury" pick that a mediocre team couldn't afford. I definitely don't want to see him as the starter if Jackson goes down.


    There were plenty of back-up running backs to pick up in free agency for the same price tag as a second round pick, and not have to use the pick.

    What happened to Steven Davis? Did he retire? He was doing a good job as a back-up, plus what happened to that guy who was the #3 guy who got injured? I think it was the guy from the Packers? He looked solid in pre-season 2 years ago.

    And what, we still don't have a fullback after all these fullbacks/TE's?

  9. #9
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    Quote Originally Posted by renrawtruk View Post
    Picking Leonard #2 is similar to the Trung Candidate pick....
    This may be your prediction, but as of now it certainly has not been born out. Candidate was a bust, but at least he had the chance to prove it. Leonard played behind a spit and chewing gum line in his rookie year and took a beating over the course of the season. Let's at least give him a chance behind a healthy line. (How many other backs got 100yds against Arizona last year??)

    Quote Originally Posted by renrawtruk View Post
    Kind of a "luxury" pick that a mediocre team couldn't afford. I definitely don't want to see him as the starter if Jackson goes down.
    Whether we should have used a #2 pick on him is a now a moot point. We did - he's ours - like the pick or not. Since he's ours and we did use a #2 it seems prudent to try and get the most out of him as is possible ..

    Quote Originally Posted by renrawtruk View Post
    There were plenty of back-up running backs to pick up in free agency for the same price tag as a second round pick, and not have to use the pick.
    So what? That was then, and now is now. Brian is our guy and hopefully the coaching staff (Al and crew) can develop whatever potential he has. Hopefully he'll get plenty of reps in preseason and show something.

    Quote Originally Posted by renrawtruk View Post
    What happened to Steven Davis? Did he retire? He was doing a good job as a back-up, plus what happened to that guy who was the #3 guy who got injured? I think it was the guy from the Packers? He looked solid in pre- season 2 years ago.
    Stephen's knees just plain couldn't take it anymore. The heart was willing, but the body wasn't listening ..

    Quote Originally Posted by renrawtruk View Post
    And what, we still don't have a fullback after all these fullbacks/TE's?
    Yes we do .. you just don't like him

  10. #10
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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    Honestly, I'm more concerned about Leonard's blocking than what he could do with the ball in his hands. That diving at people's feet thing wasn't slowing defenders down much at all. Maybe the shoulders were holding him back, but if he can't lead block in the running game and pick up the blitz in the passing game, it will be hard to justify getting him on the field.

    My impression was that he was always intended to be a versatile fullback who could fill in as a feature back if necessary. If that's the case, having him put on weight is consistent with the original plan. In no way do I see it as an indication of any kind as to who will be Jackson's primary backup.

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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    Quote Originally Posted by RAMarkable View Post
    And just how are the Rams supposed to do this? The guy is too slow and is not nimble enough to be an effective NFL quality RB and he's still too small to be a true lead blocking FB. So then the question remains: Just what is his "full" potential?
    Also, the fact that the coaches are planning on utilizing him on multiple STs is a huge red flag. Name another second round pick that covers kicks and punts as a major part of his job description.

    WHAT SAY YE?
    exactly.......He's a great character guy. Positive force in the locker room. But he was a waste of a high 2nd round pick. I was stunned when we picked him. Not the 1st time I was shocked at Rams' draft day selections though.

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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    I like Brian Leonard. Now that he's expected to start 16 games at fullback, adding weight was not a bad idea. He has decent hands and if he improves on blocking he will become a solid starter for the Rams. Just wondering, but who was available when we drafted him? any bigger names?

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    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldenfleece View Post
    Honestly, I'm more concerned about Leonard's blocking than what he could do with the ball in his hands. That diving at people's feet thing wasn't slowing defenders down much at all. Maybe the shoulders were holding him back, but if he can't lead block in the running game and pick up the blitz in the passing game, it will be hard to justify getting him on the field.
    Exactly! If he can learn to lead block and be effective in pass protection then he will fulfill the "versatile" role the Rams envisioned for him. However, if Leonard can't cut it as a blocker/pass-protector, opposing teams won't have to guess as much as to how he'll be used, which likely would restrict him to a far more limited role. I believe if healthy he'll be able to acquire those skills as his work ethic and willingness to do whatever his team wants of him should pull him through in the end. Perhaps not early in the regular season, but I believe he will do it.

    I don't see him as Jackson's backup, rather as a blocking back/running back/ receiver with very good speed. He must be able to block to be truly effective though, and I'm sure he knows it. If Brian does master his blocking duties and Jackson were to go down, I'm all for Pittman being the #2 running back. Brian is an additional weapon. Keep both guys on the field -- another player who opposing Ds would have to account for.

    One more thing: Some folks think he was drafted too high .. whatever .. We spent the pick and he's a Ram. Crying over spilled milk won't get us our pick back. Best we get every ounce of talent we can out of him. I can't see judging him either way until he has another year under his belt, not to mention that he'll be learning his second offense in as many years ...

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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    That's going to be a difficult transition, from Rb to Fb. Was a fulltime FB in college?

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    Re: How about a fair evaluation for Brian Leonard?

    Once again, see if the dude can tackle. Let him play both sides on special teams and groom him to play safety. He'll find the ball. He's smart, a great athelete and a leader.
    "The horror"

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