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    Jim Thomas Live, Nov 20th--Lots of good stuff

    By Jim Thomas
    Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    mike: Can this team make a quick turnaround next season? It seems we're just a good pass rusher, middle linebacker (Witherspoon to the outside), speedy WR, and a healthy offensive line away from being competitive for the playoffs. With the state of the NFC West these days the Rams may only be a healthy O-line away from the division title.

    Jim Thomas: Sure they can make a quick turnaround. They're not that far away if they stay healthy. I would say OT, pass rusher, speedy WR, and safety help are at the top of the list (I'd put safety ahead of LB on the wish-list at this point.) Anyway, those are all big ifs, and that actually is a pretty big wish list. I think the Rams need to add some help on the interior line as well. They need a big offseason, and can't rely solely on the draft to get there.
    ------------------------
    Charlie Connors: Jim,

    Why couldn't Linehan protect Bulger better against the same team he played earlier in the season? I suspect we will seee much of the same again this weekend.

    CC

    Jim Thomas: It was disappointing that the Rams didn't do any better (in terms of sacks allowed) the second time around against SF. And it does make you wonder how they will do against a Seattle d-line that dominated the Rams last time around.

    P.S.--I'm in the middle of making a couple of phone calls, so I'll be in and out on the forum for the next half-hour or so. But my plan is to get to all the questions. Thanks. . . . .
    --------------------------
    Jimmy Joe: Since you started covering the NFL, what's been the biggest change. Has that been a favorable or unfavorable alteration?

    Jim Thomas: No doubt, it's been the advent of free agency and the salary cap in the early '90s. It has put a premium on front offices making smart personnel decisions and drafting well, but has also made it easier for bad teams to get better fast. It also has made it more difficult for dominant teams to maintain their dominance because their rosters are more prone to getting raided by other teams. (This has made what New England _ and to a lesser extent, Indianapolis _ have accomplished all the more remarkable.)
    Lastly, it has kept football writers a lot busier _ and football fans a lot more entertained _ in the offseason.
    ----------------------
    LongIslandRam: Jim,

    I noticed that Klopfenstein has gotten a lot of playing time as an H back lately. Why doesn't Bulger ever throw to him. He's been wide open at times. He appeared to be an excellent receiving prospect in college.

    Jim Thomas: Klop has fallen so far on the radar screen, I think he has to re-earn (I guess that's not a real word) Bulger's confidence. I too, have noticed that Klop has been open on some underneath routes. But Klop dropped some passes in the preseason, and has dropped some in practice this year. I think Klop has to regain confidence in himself before Bulger does, if that makes sense.
    ---------------------
    Drew: Jim -

    As always, thanks for the great forum. Any chance of having Stuessie and Goldberg back this week? If it is only Stussie, will he play guard or tackle? No disrespect to Leckey but I'd hate to see him go up against Rocky Bernard.

    Thanks Jim!

    Jim Thomas: Goldberg is on injured reserve. So he is out for the season. Steussie is back and it looks like he's starting, although I can't tell you at the moment whether it will be at guard or tackle.
    ----------------------
    jay l.: why wouldn't the rams sign adam timmerman to help maintain the o-line. barron, steussie, mccallum, timmerman, and brown wouldn't be so bad would they?

    Jim Thomas: I've answered this question several times _ the Rams obviously think he's finished. I thought Timmerman played pretty well last season. And as injury after injury has unfolded on the o-line this season, it's hard to believe that Timmerman couldn't have performed better than some of the players the Rams have been running in here.
    -----------------------
    RamsFan in Memphis: Since every team we play are rushing and blitzing like crazy, do we ever think about running a screen pass to get some pressure off Bulger.

    Jim Thomas: I'd like to see a couple more screens. Against SF, the Rams actually had a nice screen set up to Jackson in the first half _ it would have gone for a big gain, but Mr. Young got his hand up and deflected the pass.
    -------------------------
    Francisco Prado: Jim, longtime Rams fan from Vegas, enjoy STLtoday coverage of my beloved Rams. Keep up the good work! Overall what is the franchise record for the Rams in the regular season now that they got their 500 win? Also I believe they must re-sign O.J. Atogwe and Brandon Chillar to long term contracts after the season. Thank You!!

    Jim Thomas: In regular-season play, the Rams are 500-449-20.
    Including playoffs, the Rams are 519-473-20. (Which means, their playoff record is 19-24.)

    Chillar quietly has played pretty well in recent weeks, playing at a strongside LB position that isn't a glamor spot in this scheme. If they moved now, the Rams could get Chillar relatively cheaply. But the signals I've been getting at Rams Park is that any re-signings/extensions are on hold (while management ponders what to do with the coaching staff).
    While Chillar is schedule for unrestricted free agency, Atogwe is scheduled for restricted free agents (meaning the Rams could retain matching rights on him simply by making a one-year qualifying offer.)
    ---------------------
    bash-on: Nice job by Adam Carriker at defensive end this week. Could it be that the coaches wanted to see if this `experiment' could work as a prelude to drafting Glenn Dorsey, the defensive tackle out of LSU to fill the role inside? Carriker at Defensive end, Dorsey at at DT... awesome.

    Bash On Regardless

    Jim Thomas: I think it was more a case of trying to beef up the defensive front at times against a run-oriented San Francisco team. And also a response to a Rams defensive line that remains shorthanded at DE minus Leonard Litle. Believe me, like most NFL coaches everywhere, the Rams weren't looking ahead to next year. They were just trying to win a game, knowing full well their jobs could be on the line.
    ------------------
    George: If Shaw ends up letting Linehan go who do you think are likely candidates? The perfect fit for this Rams team is someone who has the experience and will be able to turn this thing around quickly. How about Marty Schottenheimer?

    Jim Thomas: I think Shaw wants to bring Linehan back. I don't think he wants to make a change after just two years. And I think another couple victories, with a minimum of embarrassing loses seals the deal for Linehan's return. I don't know what Shaw thinks of Schottenheimer. Obviously, we all know Marty's resume. He has a proven track record of regular-season success, and post-season failure.
    --------------------
    Graham from England: Jim

    Caught the Rams game live on TV over here on Sunday. Was Linehan really handing the game over to Haslett's defense at the end of the game when his offense was put into "prevent" mode. When was the last time a Ram defense was trusted with this?.(bet he doesn't do this against the Seahawks)

    Are we finally seeing the building of a defense that with fine tuning can become truly solid, or were the 49rs THAT bad on offense?

    Also, are the offensive line woes the reason our TE's have gone into hibernation, or are McMichael and Klop not up to the job?

    Keep up the good work Jim, this site helps me keep up to date with things at Rams Park even though I am 5000 miles away !!

    Jim Thomas: I do think the Rams are making strides defensively. I think the secondary and linebackers are playing well. The LBs have been playing pretty well for the last several weeks. The defensive front is playing well against the run. But the Achilles' heel has been the inability of the front four to get pressure on its own without the help of blitzing LBs or DBs. That's one reason why New Orleans and even San Francisco were able to get back into the games when Haslett did go to more of a "prevent" mode late. Without Leonard Little, I don't know how the Rams can address this deficiency. Maybe they should keep blitzing with the lead, even though that's a risky proposition that can lead to big plays.
    How's the weather in England?
    ---------------------------
    WG Jim: Hey, Jim,

    Has a team ever opened the season 0-8 and finished 8-8? Now that would be quite an accomplishment.

    Jim Thomas: Good question. Don't know if that's ever happened. Check back with me in three weeks on that one if the Rams are 5-8. Beating Seattle this week to get to 3-8 would be quite an accomplishment.
    ---------------------
    JC: Hi Jim,

    Bernie wrote last week that the Rams may use a 3-4 defensive alignment next season, provided Haslett returns. What's the thinking behind this move?

    Thanks.

    Jim Thomas: Haslett has a lot more experience over his coaching career running the 4-3 than the 3-4. With the 3-4 _ if you have the proper personnel, which the Rams really don't at this time _ you can do a lot schematically, and with movement, to keep opponents off-balance.
    --------------------------
    Brian: Jim,

    I am still a pessimist, but the last two games this team is actually playing with some spirit. Jackson is running really hard, wide receivers are blocking down field, make shift o-line looked pretty good against New Orleans.

    What happened to this team?

    Jim Thomas: They're a little healthier, playing with a little more energy, and I guess the law of averages must have caught up with them. I think it's just as hard to go 0-16 in this league as it is to go 16-0. But let's see what happens down the stretch. Four of the Rams' last six opponents currently are at .500 or better in Seattle (6-4), Green Bay (9-1), Pittsburgh (7-3), and Arizona (5-5).
    ----------------------
    Buzz: Jim,
    Bernie has written that Shaw is likely to hire a GM to oversee the draft ect. Does Tony Softli's background and inclinations qualify him for consideration? He has the advantage of understanding the Rams problems from the inside. Floyd Reese has been mentioned as a candidate. Who was at fault in his divorce from Jeff Fisher and the Titans? I think this is a relevant question because Shaw and Zygmunt wouldn't want to bring a conflict-prone person into the organization - not after the Mike Martz experience. Thanks.

    Jim Thomas: I think the feeling is that Softi still needs some seasoning. I think Floyd Reese is a name to watch as a candidate. I don't know who was at fault in Tennessee _ and yes it is a relvant question. Keep the name Tom Donahoe in mind, too. He has been an unpaid consultant with the Rams this year, and is a friend of Zygmunt's.
    ---------------------
    Brian: Jim,
    I don't see Adam Carriker making many tackles, but the Rams have been tough to run on, does he get "credit" for tieing up blockers and allowing others to make tackles? Is the future bright on the defensive line with Carriker and Ryan?

    Jim Thomas: For the last half-dozen games, Carriker's play has improved and he's just getting better and better. He was dominant in the early going in San Francisco at DT, getting penetration and eating up space inside. He holds the point of attack, tying up blockers, which is one reason why LBs Witherspoon and Tinoisamoa are playing so well. I think the future is bright with Carriker and Ryan. Although Ryan's overall tackling stats are still better than Carriker's, I think Carriker is playing better than Ryan at the moment.
    -------------------
    Todd: Hi Jim,
    I would like the Rams to get an OLine like the Patriots or Cowboys, so Marc could eat a sandwich, take a nap, and wait for someone to get open. Oh well would be nice.

    Anywho, what will the Offensive line look like come Sunday? Steussie in? Sorry Leckey's gotta go.

    Jim Thomas: As I mentioned in an earlier post, a lot depends on the health of the centers. If McCollum and Romberg are both ready to go, maybe McCollum switches to guard, which allows the Rams to put Steussie at right tackle. We'll see how they line up when the practice week starts Wednesday.
    By the way, Steussie officially signed on Tuesday, with WR Travis Taylor cut to make room for Steussie on the 53-man roster.
    ----------------------
    JerseyRamFan: Hey Jim,

    Woo Hoo! Two in a row! A lot of people and media alike, are calling Sunday's game against the ***** "Ugly". But I beg to differ. It seems to any spectator that a defensive game is ugly, just as any defensive baseball game is boring.

    I mean the ***** held Steven Jackson to under 100 yds rushing and Bulger had only 155 yds passing. The Rams held the ***** to only 32 combined rushing yds and 231 yds passing. By the way, wasn't this the team that anyone could run on? Now two weeks in a row their opponent has been held to under 50 yds total rushing.

    Now that being said, there seems to be many fans out there in "Blogville" that are disappointed in the Rams little win streak. They feel that A.) This only hurts their draft selection. And B.) This could mean that Linehan might return next year.

    As for A.) Even though it may hurt their draft position, I still think ending your season on a high note is far more important that your draft position. Even if it meant going 8-8 and not make the playoffs. Players should play to win period!

    And as for B.) Even though I am still not 100% sold on Linehan yet, I do believe getting a new Head Coach, which means new coordinators, staff, a filtering of personnel etc. That it could easily set the Rams back another two to three years before you see any progress.

    I really would like to see one more year, and see what Linehan can do with a healthy team and more importantly a healthy offensive line. If anything, this year has given Linehan a boatload of experience in a very short time. What he does with this experience is yet to be seen. What's your take?

    Jim Thomas: The idea is to try to win games. Draft position is immaterial. What is there to suggest that the Rams would know what to do with a high pick anyway?
    As for Sunday's game, I fall into the category that believes it was ugly. It was more a case of inept offense than superior defense. But as my game story pointed out, the Rams have lost plenty of these ugly games in recent years, including one earlier in the season to the *****.
    -------------------
    BigDude: Jim,
    You continue to build up Atogwe like he is a quality player. You use stats that paint him in a favorable light without actually looking deeper into his play. Last week, the only example you cited of him being a thumper is a hit on a defenseless receiver in the Saints game. A true hard hitting safety takes on a runner head on a crushes him. Atogwe OFTEN gets run over by both running backs and receivers. The constant references by you, and other reporters, to his abilty to force fumbles is aggravating because it is usually done in the context of OJ being a hard hitter. The truth is that all of his forced fumbles have come after he has let a runner get by him because of misreads or bad angles.

    The forced fumbles come when he gets behind the runner and punches the ball out. He has done that a handful of times in three seasons, not that impressive really. Yet noone ever mentions the numerous times where he gets beaten and then dragged for 5 to 10 yards because he is too busy trying to strip the runner instead of trying to tackle him. He just isn't a good safety. He is better than Rich Coady and I think the Rams need to address the pass rush and cut Chavous before dealing with Atogwe, but to suggest that Atogwe is a strong contributor to the Rams defense just isn't seeing things for as they are.

    Jim Thomas: Big Dude--I've never said, written or intimated that he is a superstar. But he's not the problem, either. I guess we just agree to disagree on this one. Again, I'm basing my conclusions on watching the game in the press box, watching game tape, talking with coaches. What are your conclusions based on?
    -----------------------
    Bryan: I know the Rams have not scheduled ticket promotions this season because they did not think they needed them. Why have they not changed their mind and offered some sort of discount to have the Seattle and Atlanta games sold out and on TV? Is it an NFL league decision because of revenue sharing of gate sales? If the Blues can offer discounts mid season, why can't the Rams?

    Jim Thomas: Very good questions, Bryan. The Rams don't seem to be very creative in terms of advertising or tickets sales.
    --------------------------
    Billy C: I am encouraged to see John (Shaw) fired up . Glad hes awake now . John is a smart man who is good when he gets mad . Hes just not mad often enough / stay mad John . Be proactive . Believe me some coaches will be gone next season / possibly half . If Scott keeps that fire burning and the players with him , he will be here in 08 . If he leads like at New Orleans , I want him with us .

    The draft (what draft) has been a bust for us . Yes we got some good players but face it , most of our picks were not good (Im being kind) . Only 4 Pro Bowlers players draften since we left LA for SL . Of the 2000 to 2003 drafts only 2 guys are still here on the tean (come on) . Hire a GM from outside / let Jay take care of negotiating contracts & the cap . We are not a 2&8 team / ya our record is but We are not .
    We are going to make changes We are going to improve Management & Coaching . Keep Ike / he has 2 or 3 solid years left in him .

    But more than yards & TDs , the Reverend "Is The Rams" Ike is all the class you could ever ask for and the best role model for all our guys . So please Do Not Let Him Go . Fans believe me there will be BIG changes comming . Dont give up on Us /its time to go to work . Believe...... Billy C Old School Ram Fan

    Jim Thomas: Well, Shaw should be fired up. Even with the injuries, this team should be better than 2-8. And if the sight of thousands of empty seats in the Edward Jones Dome isn't a wakeup call, I don't know what is.
    There's no doubt strong drafting should be the backbone of any team, but I think the Rams needs to make some strong free-agent moves as well. And I was disappointed that Shaw seemed to downplay free agency in his interview with Bernie.
    -----------------------
    Mike: Does Steussie's return move Barron back to the right side or does Steussie take over for Leckey? If Romberg returns it would seem best to have Steussie play tackle. With a healthy Jackson and a repaired Oline this Sunday's game against the 'Hawks could turn into a shootout. Wishful thinking?

    Jim Thomas: I think Barron stays on the left side. As for Steussie, I think he plays right guard, unless both McCollum and Romberg are healthy. In that case, maybe McCollum goes to guard with Steussie at right tackle. We'll see how they line up at practice Wednesday.
    Seattle seems like they're picking up momentum. Obviously, the Rams are going to have to score more than 13 points _ probably double that _ to win this one.
    ------------------------
    Black Nailed: With Aaron Walker out for the year, the Rams need a new tight end. So my question is,

    What about Boo Williams?

    Jim Thomas: Actually, Klopfenstein has been doing OK as a blocking tight end these past two games without Walker. As for Boo Williams, I don't think he's in the league any more.

    P.S. _ Are you an auto mechanic.
    ----------------------
    RESPECT: Hey Jim,

    Ok, we win 2 games, this is a good thing. hopefully the people come out and support our guys during the last 2 home games because their gonna need it (i got 1 ticket). Playoff talk is far-fetched, but, not improbable, yet, in the NFC West im still not sold on Seattle and Arizona. I know its premature but lets escape from reality for a second and say- the Rams run the table and Seattle ends up 6-9 with Arizona and the Rams @ 7-8. this would mean that the Rams split with 9ners, 'Hawks, and hopefully the Birds= 6 conference wins. if the Hawks win 8 games they win automatically with more conference w's, if the birds win just 7 by week 16 as do the Rams, this lead to a showdown in the desert, Mark against Kurt for the division title. can you write it up any better than that?

    Jim Thomas: Sorry to rain on your parade, but I think it's more likely that the Seahawks beat the Rams this Sunday, thus eliminating the Rams from NFC West title consideration _ on Nov. 25!!! _ than the Rams and Arizona both battling for the division title at 7-8 on Dec. 30. Seattle doesn't have a team on its remaining schedule that currently has a winning record. On the other hand, they have four games remaining on the road, where they are only 1-3 this season. I thought a key in Seattle coming back to the Rams in the standings was a loss at home to Chicago this past Sunday, and that didn't happen.
    ----------------------
    Joe: The only time SF got a pass rush was when we were in obvious passing downs. So the OL play wasn't as bad as it seemed IMO. I saw that we played Carriker at DE quit a bit and he seemed to do well. If we go to a 3-4, like Bernie mentioned, with Carriker, Ryan, Wroten/Adeyanju on the line, what would our LB crew look like? Would Little be game for the move to OLB and would Pisa be able to rush the passer? If not, what are his cap salaries for the remainder of his contract?

    Jim Thomas: I haven't looked at the tape yet. I hope to tonight. But the o-line play apparently was bad enough that a change will take place this week on the right side. At this stage in his career, it would be tough to expect Little to make a smooth transition to OLB. Particularly when it came to coverage responsibilities. Also, DE James Hall would be somewhat lost in the 3-4. He's probably not big enough to man the outside end position. The Rams would need at least a couple of more LBs to play the 3-4 on a full-time basis. And under that system, I would assume you'd move Witherspoon outside. Who then are the inside backers? Pisa? Chillar (he's unrestricted after this season)? There's a lot. As to your last question, Pisa is playing well and will not be cut.

    Later: Jim,

    Mark Bulger's win and loss numbers have really taken a turn for the worst over the past few years. And, I don't blame him at all. He is a steady, solid quarterback!

    What was his record, starting games, before and including the 12 - 4 season that we lost to Carolina in the playoffs? And what has it been since with the past three horrific years.

    Again, I think he is one of the top 5 to 10 quarterbacks in the league but this fall, from my perspective, parallels the drop in the talent (and coaching) pool.

    Jim Thomas: Including playoff games, Bulger's record as a starter in St. Louis is 39-32.
    The Rams were 18-5 with Bulger as the starter in '02 and '03; since then, his record as a starter is 21-27.
    ----------------------
    JK: How realistic is it that Shaw steps up and hires a legit GM at the end of the season. If Armey is not assuming all the GM resposibilities than who is? The position of GM is "sort of" improtant and might need an individual fully dedicated to it. While that piece made Shaw look like he means business, it also made him look like he doesn't have a clue on how to run this one.

    Jim Thomas: I assume you mean Softli and not Armey, since Armey no longer is with the team. It would be a major change if Shaw indeed hired a true GM, a person who really had final say on personnel matters. The Rams haven't done busy this way _ not really _ since Shaw and Zygmunt have been around. I don't know that Bernie's piece made Shaw look clueness. He just hasn't made up his mind yet. And there are no easy solutions to what ails the Rams.
    -------------------------
    JK: If the Rams stick with Linehan in '08, based on 2nd half improvement and injuries, how far will this organization be set back if he comes out and has a mediocre 2008? If he returns next year doesn’t the expectation level become playoffs or fired? Additionally, how does this alter his philosophy or approach to pre-season & general player handling?

    Jim Thomas: Very good questions. Let's say Linehan comes back in '08, things don't go well, and he's fired after '08. It means, Holt, Little, Pace, Bruce (if he comes back in '08 ) are all a year closer to the end of their careers. And it's another year where fans would become further alienated and continue to stay away.

    I'm not sure if '08 becomes a playoff-or-bust type of deal, but it will be pretty darn close to that. I think having an '08 season should alter Linehan's approach. On the one hand, you have to be who you are. Linehan can't suddenly try to be somebody he's not. On the other hand, Linehan and his staff _ however it's constituted in '08 _ must have a much greater sense of urgency. They must get out of the box quicker offensively _ much quicker in '08. They can't really worry about the future, or long-range planning.
    ---------------------------
    Pick 25: Looking ahead to Sunday, I'm hoping the players and coaches treat this game as they did the Saints game. I mean, we're 0-4 at home!

    Clearly, Linehan prefers to treat each game the same, but facing a Division rival at home must get the juices flowing. I wonder if that kind of feeling, like the "bounce" of last week shows. Or will show, once they get back to practice.

    So far, Linehan's team hasn't beaten a winning team, including last year. This is the time for them to start.

    Jim Thomas: Amen.
    ------------------------
    Marcelo A Frustrated So Cal Rams fan: Marcelo, a frustrated So. Cal Rams fan. Jim, Do you believe Linehan will win just enough games to save his job, and do you think he has the leadership qualities (as a head coach) to win championships in the NFL? When Mark Bulger was asked last Sunday what went wrong with the Rams offense in the second half of the Niner’s game, he replied diplomatically “I don’t want to say we were playing conservative,” oh yes you did Mark and that’s exactly what happened. Linehan’s game plans can become so insipid, melba toast, predictable.

    He gets a humble lead and retreats into the safety of predictability, sucks his thumb and employs his prevent offense, playing not to lose. That’s what he did in the second half of Sunday’s game, and it nearly cost the Rams half of their victories this year! If he continues calling plays like this (and you know he will, this is how he thinks) he will perpetuate mediocrity at best, or worse, long ugly streaks of football misery (e.g., last year’s four consecutive losses, or this year’s 0 for September and October). That would be bad enough but the other thing he might accomplish with his banal play calling is kill Mark Bulger! Mark is a nice guy, he’s young, he doesn’t deserve to die.

    Yes, I understand that half of our offensive line are guys who were selling beer and peanuts in the stands last week, but the Niners pass rush is feebleness personified. Linehan is so timid, so afraid to be creative that the pathetic Niner’s defense could tee off on Bulger as if he were a talking dummy. In the second half the San Francisco d-line looked liked the second coming of the Fearsome Foursome, with Bryant “Geriatric” Young looking like the incarnation of Deacon Jones – I think he’s a couple of years older than the venerable Deac. Please!! Is Linehan the beneficiary of Mark Buger’s life insurance policy? We may have crossed the line from simple ineptitude to attempted murder this season. I think this needs to be investigated.

    I realize Linehan is a nice person. Woop-tee-doo! My pharmacist, a timid, really conservative, extremely organized man who loves football is a nice guy too and we get along swimmingly! Why, because he knows he belongs behind a hermetically clean enclosure and not on the sideline wearing a coach’s headset. Maybe it’s time Scott Linehan move on to a job that suites his skills best, a job where he doesn’t have to inspire or be creative, but simply dispense prescribed amounts of little things, and keep an area clean and tidy. He would be so good at that!

    Perhaps wearing a nice white lab coat and counting pills would suite his disposition better than pretending to be a head coach and collapsing my Rams into oblivion! You watch, this really nice guy will win just enough games to keep his job (because John Shaw is a bean counter and doesn’t know his elbow from a football), and next year we’ll have to suffer through yet another dismal collapse. Let’s get a pool going, which month (or two) will Linehan completely fail to inspire and prepare the Rams in 2008? Your guess is as good as mine.

    Jim Thomas: Geez, from reading your post I would have thought the Rams had lost the past two games. They WON the games, Marcelo. Did you notice? And had the Rams gone bombs away downfield with the lead against San Francisco, how many times do you think Bulger would've gotten sacked behind that pass blocking? Ten times? Twelve times? The Rams have finally gotten some two-score leads here the last three games (I throw Cleveland into the mix).

    They must learn how to finish better. They must execute what's called the 4-minute offense better (the opposite of the 2-minute drill). But closing out games includes the defense as well as the offense. The defense gave up fewer than 100 yards through three quarters against both New Orleans and San Francisco, and didn't execute the "prevent" very well in either game.
    -------------------------
    Louis: I was at the game on sunday (long drive from So Cal)and was amazed at how many Ram fans were there!
    It's nice to see some things start to click!

    Jim Thomas: The Rams still have a fairly loyal fans base in Southern Cal. Without a team to cheer for in the L.A. area they have stuck with the Rams. It always is cool to see them tucked into that one corner of the stadium where the Rams come out of the visitors tunnel.
    --------------------------
    Murat from PA: Hello Jim;

    I know there are games to be played but based on their performance so far this year, whose jobs on the Rams roster, do you think, are in danger?

    Thanks.

    Jim Thomas: A new coach, of course, changes everything.
    Start with the veterans. Glover and Bruce, for example, are entering the final year of their contracts, fairly lucrative contracts. Do the Rams bring them back? Leonard Little is due a $7M-plus roster bonus _ what happens there. The Rams don't have a lengthy list of unrestricted free agents. But what do they do with Chillar, Romberg, and McCollum (all UFAs). Now that Steussie's back, do they want him back in '08. What about TE? Does Byrd come back? Klopfenstein? Walker? There's a lot to mull over.
    -----------------------------
    J.D.: jim,
    I heard something on sunday that blew my mind. They stated on during the rams game that we have not allowed a 100yd rusher all season! Is that True and if so what would you say is the reason behind it and is our defensive line that much better?

    Jim Thomas: Yes it's true. The Rams are only one of three teams that have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. The others are Dallas and Baltimore. Now, the Rams still rank 19th overall in run defense, so we don't need a parade just yet. But the improvement is noticeable, and it begins with the two rookie DTs _ Carriker and Ryan. They have been tough to budge in the middle, and teams are finding it more difficult to run up the middle on St. Louis. The play of the DTs in turn make the LBs more effective. Plus Pisa is rounding into form after being slowed by injuries the past two seasons.
    -------------------------
    Bill Fleming: Jim,

    Bernies conversation with John Shaw....Do you agree that taking the final choice away from the coach will solve the personnel problem? What are Free Agents, ours and others?

    Jim Thomas: Don't think it's as simple as that. And I think Shaw is totally downplaying Zygmunt's influence on free-agent signings.
    To the best of my knowledge, here's the Rams' list of unrestricted and restricted free agents for '08:

    RFA: Atogwe, Carter
    UFA: M. Brown, Chillar, Goldberg, Gorin, Tr. Johnson, Leckey, McCollum, Minor, Romberg, Smith, Steussie, Walker.
    From our friends at Pro Football Weekly, here are some of the top prospective free agents (keep in mind, many will be re-signed or given franchise tags before the start of the free agency period in March):

    LBs--Terrell Suggs, Lance Briggs.
    OG--Alan Faneca.
    RB--Michael Tuner
    CBs--Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel
    S--Bob Sanders
    DT--Albert "The Headsmasher" Haynesworth
    WR--Randy Moss
    TE--Dallas Clark
    ---------------------
    Steve: once again, jim, thanks for your time. pardon my ignorance, but i am not familiar with the selection process to the pro bowl. in baseball, every team is represented. i don't think this is the case in the nfl, eh? either way, is there a ram worthy of the pro bowl? i guess i would send witherspoon if every team had to be represented. your thoughts?

    Jim Thomas: Unlike baseball, every NFL team does not have to be represented in the Pro Bowl. For example, since the move to St. Louis, the Rams had no one in the Pro Bowl in '95, '97, and '98. I would say Witherspoon and P Donnie Jones are the only Rams deserving, and San Francisco P Andy Lee had a better day than Jones Sunday at Monster Park and moved ahead of him in gross punting.
    -------------------------
    john: since sb 36 our oline has been so-so to really awful
    meanwhile the patriots oline is like a brick wall every
    year- they pass almost every down and still no one can
    get in bradys face- are any of those guys due for free
    agency and could we steal one of them?
    how long can we expect steussie to hold up after being
    out so long?

    Jim Thomas: No Patriots offensive line starters are scheduled for unrestricted free agency.
    As for Steussie, I think it's asking a lot to ask him to step into the starting lineup (after missing nearly 3 months) and start this Sunday after three days of practice. I talked to Steussie to today and will write about him for Wednesday's paper. He feels fresh,is in excellent shape, and is excited to go. Of course at nearly age 37 (he turns 37 on Dec. 1) he's also more prone to injury.
    -----------------------
    Valhalla: Jim-
    I just saw that the Redskins released G Rick DeMulling and I seem to remember this was a guy who performed well in the past. ANy chance you can drop some hints @ Rams Park to pick this guy up, it isn't as if the Rams guard position is solid at present.

    Jim Thomas: The Rams see the transaction wire every day.
    --------------------------
    Amy {Marc Bulger Fan}: If Oline can get themselfs together this week and give Marc the protection and time to throw what's to say the Rams can't beat the Seahawks this Sunday?

    Jim Thomas: That's a big if, particularly considering the pass protection problems Seattle the first time the teams meet. But the Seahawks are 20th in pass defense. It's important to establish the running game to keep Seattle off-balance and guessing.
    -------------------------
    Mike: A C- for the offensive line? What game were you watching? With or without the injuries, this unit is PATHETIC. False start no heart Barron is a bust. This organization fails to realize the success or failure of the offense begins with this unit...and it absolutely STINKS.

    I appreciate your being available for these chats but...
    your evaluations are just like the rest of this team and organization....SOFT.

    How many sacks does it take to get an "F"? 10? 20? 50?

    Jim Thomas: Grow up, Mike. I also watch the game a little more closely than you do. Did you notice that Brian Leonard was responsible for one sack and another hard hit on Bulger? Are you aware that Leonard does not play on the offensive line? Also, did you notice Bruce and Holt running free on routes like they did the first time the teams met? You do realize, don't you, that when receivers aren't open, the quarterback has nowhere to throw the ball? That's called a "coverage" sack, Mike. Are you aware, Mike, that sometimes the quarterback holds onto the ball too long, leading to sacks?

    Did you also notice that the Rams ran the ball effectively against the *****. Steven Jackson had 100 yards until some losses at the end of the game when the Rams were sittng on the football. You do know, Mike, that one of the jobs of the offensive line is to block on running plays. Don't you? All this goes into the grade. Sounds like your football IQ is a little soft.
    -------------------------
    chawksfan: Jim,

    Seattle fan here, but no venomous prose -- just legit football question. I expected a lot more from the 2007 Rams. Where do they turn to improve in 08? Seems like the cast on offense is pretty set with Bulger, Jackson, Holt, etc. likely all in place for a while longer. Is there young talent on the D that hasnt yet blossomed? How do they change this coming off-season to become relevant again in the division?

    Jim Thomas: One _ they need better health. When four of your top six offensive linemen were out of jobs at one time or another, you know things are desperate up front. Two, the skill position players are getting older _ Bruce in particular, and Holt as well. Holt also has been hobbled by a knee issue all year long. The defensive play is improving, but there are few difference makers on that side of the ball. The Rams need an excellent offseason to get things squared away.
    -----------------------
    Graham from England: Jim

    In reply to your question, its raining as usual

    Jim Thomas: I guess that's better than snow.
    --------------------------
    Johnny: I need a clear cut answer. Does Linehan keep his Job? I was pulling for him to turn things around and was able to blame it all on injuries, but the play this week was horrendous once again. Yea, we pulled through with a victory, but have the Rams really beaten anyone decent since the Linehan regime started. His game strategies seems smart, but it hasn't transferred over on Sundays. The players aren't responding to him. I'm pretty gracious and would normally give a coach 3 years, but I can't take another year of the St. Louis Lambs!

    Jim Thomas: A couple of more wins should do it.
    ----------------------------
    JK: Any chance in the off-season shuffle the Rams will seek a new “dome entertainment” coordinator? The Dome atmosphere needs to acquire an edge in some manner. The audience is captive and the sights and sounds can be 100% manipulated. I’d start with the re-vamping of the music, which gets no one fired up, players or fans. Enough with the bubble-gum 80’s tunes.

    The introductions also should be more of a “grabber” maybe allow the player who got the game ball the week before to pick the song the team comes out to and lead them out. Also, we need more affiliation with our mascot. That could take some thinking, but whoever is hired will have eight months. Finally, build some traditions with the fan base, chants, cheers, whatever. The dome could be dangerous again if we could get someone on the controls who isn’t stuck in the 80’s and cares.

    Jim Thomas: Believe it or not, Georgia (yes, THAT Georgia) has a lot to say about game day entertainment _ and I use the word loosely _ and songs. That marketing firm that the Rams spent all that money on, also has had a lot of input. How about a mascot? A pep band? Better use of commercials during timeouts? Anything. I couldn't agree more. When the Greatest Show on Turf was going strong, who cared? None of this mattered. But in these lean times, and in the long run, the total entertainment experience matters.
    --------------------------
    Rich: Hi Jim,
    We all know what Mark Bulger can do on the field with protection, but what do you think of him off the field and in the locker room? I've been concerned with the eye-rolling and, last year, taking shots at O-linemen in the press and then with calling this a "really bad team" after their first win. Do you think he's the inspiring sort of player like a Favre or Manning that his teammates fight hard for?

    Jim Thomas: What do YOU call a 1-8 team? Incredible? Bulger was just stating the obvious.
    Last year, he was "taking shots" at more than just the offensive linemen. The Rams, by the way, went 3-1 after those "shots," losing only to the eventual NFC champion Bears during that stretch.
    You obviously saw the eye-rolling. But did you see Bulger slam his helmet to the ground in disgust after throwing an interception against Dallas.
    To me, having a quarterback playing in pain with two broken ribs would be pretty inspiring. There are a million times Bulger could have laid his linemen out with criticism and hasn't.

    I see a player who cares deeply about winning. I also see Manning chewing out his players on the field, during games, just about every time he gets hit.
    ------------------------
    Fred C.: Jim,

    A long time Rams fan. I heard rumors of the Rams leaving St. Louis? Any truth to that?

    Jim Thomas: No truth.

    That's it for today. See you next week.


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    Re: Jim Thomas Live, Nov 20th--Lots of good stuff

    Pulled what I thought were the most interesting ones out for the lazy people...

    Francisco Prado: Jim, longtime Rams fan from Vegas, enjoy STLtoday coverage of my beloved Rams. Keep up the good work! Overall what is the franchise record for the Rams in the regular season now that they got their 500 win? Also I believe they must re-sign O.J. Atogwe and Brandon Chillar to long term contracts after the season. Thank You!!

    Jim Thomas: In regular-season play, the Rams are 500-449-20.
    Including playoffs, the Rams are 519-473-20. (Which means, their playoff record is 19-24.)

    Chillar quietly has played pretty well in recent weeks, playing at a strongside LB position that isn't a glamor spot in this scheme. If they moved now, the Rams could get Chillar relatively cheaply. But the signals I've been getting at Rams Park is that any re-signings/extensions are on hold (while management ponders what to do with the coaching staff).
    While Chillar is schedule for unrestricted free agency, Atogwe is scheduled for restricted free agents (meaning the Rams could retain matching rights on him simply by making a one-year qualifying offer.)
    George: If Shaw ends up letting Linehan go who do you think are likely candidates? The perfect fit for this Rams team is someone who has the experience and will be able to turn this thing around quickly. How about Marty Schottenheimer?

    Jim Thomas: I think Shaw wants to bring Linehan back. I don't think he wants to make a change after just two years. And I think another couple victories, with a minimum of embarrassing loses seals the deal for Linehan's return. I don't know what Shaw thinks of Schottenheimer. Obviously, we all know Marty's resume. He has a proven track record of regular-season success, and post-season failure.
    JC: Hi Jim,

    Bernie wrote last week that the Rams may use a 3-4 defensive alignment next season, provided Haslett returns. What's the thinking behind this move?

    Thanks.

    Jim Thomas: Haslett has a lot more experience over his coaching career running the 4-3 than the 3-4. With the 3-4 _ if you have the proper personnel, which the Rams really don't at this time _ you can do a lot schematically, and with movement, to keep opponents off-balance.
    Brian: Jim,
    I don't see Adam Carriker making many tackles, but the Rams have been tough to run on, does he get "credit" for tieing up blockers and allowing others to make tackles? Is the future bright on the defensive line with Carriker and Ryan?

    Jim Thomas: For the last half-dozen games, Carriker's play has improved and he's just getting better and better. He was dominant in the early going in San Francisco at DT, getting penetration and eating up space inside. He holds the point of attack, tying up blockers, which is one reason why LBs Witherspoon and Tinoisamoa are playing so well. I think the future is bright with Carriker and Ryan. Although Ryan's overall tackling stats are still better than Carriker's, I think Carriker is playing better than Ryan at the moment.
    Mike: Does Steussie's return move Barron back to the right side or does Steussie take over for Leckey? If Romberg returns it would seem best to have Steussie play tackle. With a healthy Jackson and a repaired Oline this Sunday's game against the 'Hawks could turn into a shootout. Wishful thinking?

    Jim Thomas: I think Barron stays on the left side. As for Steussie, I think he plays right guard, unless both McCollum and Romberg are healthy. In that case, maybe McCollum goes to guard with Steussie at right tackle. We'll see how they line up at practice Wednesday.
    Seattle seems like they're picking up momentum. Obviously, the Rams are going to have to score more than 13 points _ probably double that _ to win this one.
    Black Nailed: With Aaron Walker out for the year, the Rams need a new tight end. So my question is,

    What about Boo Williams?

    Jim Thomas: Actually, Klopfenstein has been doing OK as a blocking tight end these past two games without Walker. As for Boo Williams, I don't think he's in the league any more.
    JK: If the Rams stick with Linehan in '08, based on 2nd half improvement and injuries, how far will this organization be set back if he comes out and has a mediocre 2008? If he returns next year doesn’t the expectation level become playoffs or fired? Additionally, how does this alter his philosophy or approach to pre-season & general player handling?

    Jim Thomas: Very good questions. Let's say Linehan comes back in '08, things don't go well, and he's fired after '08. It means, Holt, Little, Pace, Bruce (if he comes back in '08 ) are all a year closer to the end of their careers. And it's another year where fans would become further alienated and continue to stay away.

    I'm not sure if '08 becomes a playoff-or-bust type of deal, but it will be pretty darn close to that. I think having an '08 season should alter Linehan's approach. On the one hand, you have to be who you are. Linehan can't suddenly try to be somebody he's not. On the other hand, Linehan and his staff _ however it's constituted in '08 _ must have a much greater sense of urgency. They must get out of the box quicker offensively _ much quicker in '08. They can't really worry about the future, or long-range planning.
    Bill Fleming: Jim,

    Bernies conversation with John Shaw....Do you agree that taking the final choice away from the coach will solve the personnel problem? What are Free Agents, ours and others?

    Jim Thomas: Don't think it's as simple as that. And I think Shaw is totally downplaying Zygmunt's influence on free-agent signings.
    To the best of my knowledge, here's the Rams' list of unrestricted and restricted free agents for '08:

    RFA: Atogwe, Carter
    UFA: M. Brown, Chillar, Goldberg, Gorin, Tr. Johnson, Leckey, McCollum, Minor, Romberg, Smith, Steussie, Walker.
    From our friends at Pro Football Weekly, here are some of the top prospective free agents (keep in mind, many will be re-signed or given franchise tags before the start of the free agency period in March):

    LBs--Terrell Suggs, Lance Briggs.
    OG--Alan Faneca.
    RB--Michael Tuner
    CBs--Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel
    S--Bob Sanders
    DT--Albert "The Headsmasher" Haynesworth
    WR--Randy Moss
    TE--Dallas Clark
    Rich: Hi Jim,
    We all know what Mark Bulger can do on the field with protection, but what do you think of him off the field and in the locker room? I've been concerned with the eye-rolling and, last year, taking shots at O-linemen in the press and then with calling this a "really bad team" after their first win. Do you think he's the inspiring sort of player like a Favre or Manning that his teammates fight hard for?

    Jim Thomas: What do YOU call a 1-8 team? Incredible? Bulger was just stating the obvious.
    Last year, he was "taking shots" at more than just the offensive linemen. The Rams, by the way, went 3-1 after those "shots," losing only to the eventual NFC champion Bears during that stretch.
    You obviously saw the eye-rolling. But did you see Bulger slam his helmet to the ground in disgust after throwing an interception against Dallas.
    To me, having a quarterback playing in pain with two broken ribs would be pretty inspiring. There are a million times Bulger could have laid his linemen out with criticism and hasn't.

    I see a player who cares deeply about winning. I also see Manning chewing out his players on the field, during games, just about every time he gets hit.
    ClanRam ModCast: Episode Four
    Rams Discussion Right at Your Fingertips!



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