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Thread: Martin ready--Wagoner
By Nick Wagoner
When the Rams lost quarterback Marc Bulger to a shoulder injury against San Francisco last year, St. Louis turned the reins over to veteran Chris Chandler.
Chandler was brought in the offseason because of his vast experience and leadership. But after a solid debut against the ***** in Bulger’s stead, Chandler fell out of favor because of a deluge of turnovers against Carolina and Arizona that led to a pair of embarrassing losses.
The Rams brought in an old reliable face in Jamie Martin, who had already spent most of his career in St. Louis. Martin would be ready to play sooner than any of the other players available because of his expansive knowledge of the system. That seemed to make plenty of sense.
With Chandler gone in the offseason, the Rams decided to bring Martin back. After Monday night’s Bulger shoulder sprain redux, Martin is now likely to face the task of filling his shoes.
Bulger was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Tuesday afternoon that would reveal the extent of his shoulder injury, but he called the injury similar to the one he suffered last season that kept him out for a pair of games.
With that in mind, it appears Martin will be the starter for the next two games, barring some surprisingly good news on the Bulger front.
“I don’t want to assume anything yet,” coach Joe Vitt said. “I think it’s a hypothetical situation, but I will say this. Jamie Martin was born and raised in this system. He knows this system as good as anybody.”
Nobody is doubting Martin’s experience or knowledge of the system. Rather, some worry about his ability to perform as a starter, a role he has rarely dealt with in his career.
In his nearly three quarters of play against the Colts, Martin was 17-of-21 for 134 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for a rating of 69.5. Martin’s completion percentage was excellent, but he struggled to get the ball down the field, usually settling for checkdowns and screens. That worked OK, but it isn’t the type of offense the Rams are used to.
Still, most of the Rams insist that the playbook won’t have to be scaled down because of Martin’s presence.
“I don’t think so,” left tackle Orlando Pace said. “We were still calling the same type of plays that we were when Marc was in there so I don’t think it’s scaled down at all.”
Martin isn’t even sure if he is going to be the starter yet, but he knows he must get ready as if he will be.
“Yea, who knows? I prepare like it is anyway,” Martin said. “I have to come to work and get ready.”
If Bulger is gone for a few weeks, the Rams will have to bump rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick to the backup job. Fitzpatrick has been inactive as the team’s third quarterback for the first six games, but has made quite an impression on the coaching staff.
It seems certain that Martin will start if Bulger is out, but Vitt said it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Fitzpatrick to be involved in some way.
“I think he is going to be a hell of a player for a long time,” Vitt said. “I think with a kid like that because he has some great physical skills and he is on his game mentally, maybe you go into a game with a package for him. Maybe a little boot package and move the pocket, a couple dropbacks, maybe some misdirection runs because of his athleticism, shave it down for him. Those are options.”
MIXED SIGNALS: Even after losing Bulger in the second quarter, the Rams still had a 17-0 lead. With the Colts driving on the possession after Bulger’s interception, cornerback Corey Ivy seemingly caused and recovered a fumble at the Rams’ 5 yard line.
Ivy tripped running back Edgerrin James, who coughed the ball up as he flipped over Ivy. Ivy alertly fell on the ball and one of the referees signaled that it was the Rams’ ball. But after a melee in the pile, a different referee ruled that it belonged to Indianapolis.
“It’s a fumble,” Vitt said. “That’s what I saw. They said that their player recovered it. Obviously I think there was some miscommunication with the officiating crew there. One signaled that we had it and the other signaled that we didn’t have it. Then they were letting their team kind of line up at the line of scrimmage quickly and they were still discussing the play. That’s why we took a timeout. We wanted to get an explanation and get our defense lined up.”
The play might not have been make or break as far as the outcome of the game, but it certainly changed the outlook for the first half. If the Rams had been given the ball, they had a chance to eat up the clock and perhaps end the first half with at least the 17-point edge.
“Those are the kinds of plays you have to make if you are going to beat a good football team on the road and we didn’t do it,” Vitt said.
MARTZ FEELING BETTER: Coach Mike Martz returned home from an undisclosed local hospital late last week and watched the Rams’ 45-28 loss to the Colts on Monday night.
Vitt and Martz spoke Tuesday afternoon and Vitt provided an update on his friend’s condition.
“He’s doing good,” Vitt said. “He’s doing a little bit better. He’s bleeding for us right now. He feels for us. I didn’t ask him (how hard it was to watch the game). I could tell by his voice it wasn’t easy.”
Martz, of course, is recovering from an acute bacterial infection in a heart valve that is believed to be endocarditis.
LITTLE LOSES BROTHER: Defensive end Leonard Little was informed of the shooting and death of younger brother Jermaine, 24, after Monday night’s game.
Jermaine Little was fatally shot during a quarrel at a friend’s house in Harriman, Tenn.
“We had to inform him of that after the game last night,” Vitt said. “It was hard. It was tough. He rode back on the plane with us. We put him up next to Bill (Kollar) and the coaching staff so he could mourn. Then we put him on a plane at 7:30 this morning to be with his family.”
Little’s return date is uncertain.
FURREY FARES WELL: Mike Furrey made an impressive debut in his first start as the free safety Monday night.
Furrey made three tackles in unofficial pressbox statistics and was seemingly in place on most passing downs as the Rams allowed no passes longer than 20 yards and that one came on a catch and run by James.
As per usual, Furrey also made a difference on special teams, coming up with a fumble recovery on the Rams’ kickoff after their first touchdown. Furrey absolutely obliterated return man Dominic Rhodes, who appeared to have the ball recovered and landed on it himself.
By all accounts, Furrey fared well in his first week as the replacement for since-released starter Michael Hawthorne.
“He had a lot of poise,” Vitt said. “He played with some real good anticipation. He broke well to the ball and he made some nice tackles in the open field. It was a nice start for Mike against a real good opponent.”
HITS AND BITS: Blaine Saipaia continues to play nearly every position on the field, even showing up as a defensive lineman in the Rams’ goal line sets…Vitt confirmed Tuesday that there is a good chance for offensive lineman Richie Incognito to begin practice this week…On further review, Vitt didn’t believe there was anything dirty about linebacker David Thornton’s hit on Bulger.