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It's time for Rams to focus on next QB ..
Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
I don't know how Steven Jackson is doing it. When getting ready to play the Rams, opposing defenses have six days to conspire and scheme and concentrate on one goal: stopping No. 39.
Defenses are ganging up on Jackson, wanting him to feel a lot of pain in exchange for those yards. But he endures. He will not surrender. Through eight games, Jackson is tied for second in the NFL in rushing, and he's second in combined rushing-receiving yards. Considering what he's up against, that's pretty amazing.
I don't know if we can fully comprehend the difficulty of being a targeted running back on a bad football team. Jackson is getting it done in an offense that cannot throw the ball with any consistency. Without the threat of an aggressive downfield passing attack, Jackson won't be able to hold the dogs off forever. Those eight-man fronts will eventually grind him down.
And that must change.
Unless the Rams get serious about developing a new quarterback and upgrading the skill level at wide receiver, Jackson will limp away to an early retirement. He'll be pummeled into a premature breakdown.
Jackson is a franchise piece. But without adding a franchise quarterback, the Rams will waste the remaining prime years of his career.
As I've written before, I have no interest in a futile and foolish Marc Bulger vs. Kyle Boller debate. They are not the future. And while I understand why fans want to see rookie Keith Null, it would be irresponsible to start him. Null played small-college ball, ran a spread offense, doesn't receive practice reps and hasn't had much time to learn a pro-style offense. Why set up the kid to fail? Besides: Null was OK in the preseason, but let's not get carried away.
The Rams should invest a premium 2010 draft pick in the quarterback position and get on with the future. There's no guarantee that Sam Bradford, Tony Pike, Jimmy Clausen, Jake Locker, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy or any other top QB prospect will turn into a franchise-altering starter in St. Louis.
And though we've seen rookie quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco immediately step in and thrive, a growth period is the norm. And that maturation process can be difficult. I took a look at some Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and their early struggles were profound.
Terry Bradshaw completed 38 percent of his passes and threw six TDs and 24 interceptions as a Pittsburgh rookie. John Elway completed 47 percent with seven TDs and 14 interceptions as a Denver rookie. In his first two seasons in Dallas, Troy Aikman passed for 20 TDs and 36 interceptions. In his first three seasons in San Diego, Dan Fouts completed 49 percent of his throws, with 15 TDs and 33 interceptions. And there are many other examples.
The Rams can't be afraid to draft a quarterback early. They can't worry about the possibility of a young QB going bust. They have to identify someone they believe in, get him in here and school him up. And as this massive roster reconstruction evolves, the Rams will have a building block in place to link with Jackson and an improving offensive line.
Besides, can a rookie quarterback fare any worse than Bulger? At least the rookie will have potential, and a bigger arm. Since the start of the 2007 season, Bulger ranks 39th among NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage, 42nd in yards per attempt and 40th in passer rating. The Rams can't continue this way. They can't delude themselves into thinking Bulger will turn his career around.
Bulger doesn't have quality receivers, and that hurts him. But the O-line has reduced the sack rate this season. And Bulger (or any quarterback) should benefit from the presence of Jackson in the backfield. With defenses stacked to stop the run, it should open up space for the passing game.
And Bulger has had chances to make plays. Bulger has completed only six of 20 in the red zone this season. And in fourth quarters of close games when the Rams are winning or losing by seven points or fewer Bulger has completed 10 of 27. And you wonder why the Rams have scored only six touchdowns on offense this season? They can't do it with Jackson alone.
Sunday in Detroit, Bulger bailed out on a scramble that would have produced a first down. Rather than take a hit from a defensive back, Bulger went into a slide to avoid contact and came up a yard short. I'm sorry, but when a team has lost 17 consecutive games and teammates are scrapping and battling to end the streak, it doesn't look good when the quarterback, the leader, slides to safety.
I realize Bulger has taken a lot of hits. He's been sacked more times (237) than any other NFL quarterback since the start of the 2003 season. I have some empathy for him.
But this point needs to be made: If Bulger has reached the stage where it's a health risk to fight for a yard and a first down, then he shouldn't be playing.
In more ways than one, the Bulger slide was a cry for help.
-11-03-2009 #2Registered User
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Re: It's time for Rams to focus on next QB ..
Peter King on Bulger today:
THANKS FOR READING IN SERBIA. From Oliver Zlatkovic of Belgrade, Serbia: "Regards from Serbia (yes, we're reading your column, although due to the time difference it's more of a 'Monday Afternoon Quarterback' over here.) I'm a Rams fan, and my question relates to your opinion of the future of the Rams: Can Marc Bulger reinvent himself and be the QB that management thought he would when they awarded him with long-term contract, or should we watch college games to see the new Rams starting QB next year? If the latter, does Steven Jackson have time to wait for the Rams rebuilding process, since he will be approaching 30 by the time the new QB fully establishes himself?''
So good of you to write, Oliver, and to read the column. Thanks. Tough call for the Rams because they have so many holes to fill. Let me take you back to last April, when I was in St. Louis reporting on the Rams before the draft. They were seriously considering taking USC quarterback Mark Sanchez with their first-round pick. But they decided to take the tackle, Jason Smith, and try to build up a bad offensive line before picking a quarterback.
The only way Bulger has a chance to be the quarterback long-term in St. Louis is to have a very good, very durable season, and he hasn't so far. It's up to him, really. In the second half of the season, if he can stay on the field and perform better than he has in the last couple of years -- and I understand it's not his fault -- the Rams will put off drafting a young quarterback. But I don't think that's going to happen.
Re: It's time for Rams to focus on next QB ..
We aren't very good at judging talent, and we end up tying up a huge percent of our salary cap on these very high draft picks who don't pan out, and we have no money to retain good players from previous years or to acquire free agents. Look at all the players we've released that are now playing for other teams and are better than anyone on the Rams at their positions. Bruce, Holt, Pace, Warner, Curtis, and London Fletcher. We would be a lot smarter trading the high picks for more lower picks at non-inflated prices. But nobody wants the high very expensive picks so will not trade with us. Instead, we should consider just letting the number one pick time out, and start at the beginning of the second round. Does anyone have a better idea for getting off this treadmill?ZGare
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