Nickís Mailbag: August 14, 2008
(All opinions expressed are those of Senior Writer Nick Wagoner and do not necessarily reflect the view of the St. Louis Rams)
With Justin King out for the season, do you see the Rams trading for Lito Sheppard or another corner?
NW: Dave, itís not out of the realm of possibility that the team could make a move on another corner. Thereís no doubt the secondary is banged up right now. However, the loss of King isnít such a blow that the Rams would feel the need to make a major move on a player the caliber of Sheppard. That type of move would mean they are looking for a starter and would have to pay a premium price. King was at best going to be the No. 4 corner. The Rams could add someone to provide depth after the cuts, though, depending on how comfortable they feel with Jonathan Wade in the fourth spot.
Is a .500 season likely? The consensus seems to have the Rams finish at 6 or 7 wins.
NW: I touched on this some in last weekís mailbag but the fact remains that predicting what is going to happen in the NFL is a crapshoot. A look at the Ramsí first eight games would indicate itís going to be a really tough stretch but reality says you donít know anything until the games start. Last season, we all looked at the schedule and thought playing the Browns at home would be a check mark in the victory column. They won 10 games and had one of the best offenses in the league. I think itís a safe bet that at least one of those teams the Rams play in the first half of the season will finish far below what the pundits say and at least one team they play in the second half or the Rams themselves will be far better than expected. Thatís the nature of the league.
Jacob Haaning, Denmark
How close do you think the battle between Culberson and Draft is, and could you list a few pros and con's going with Culberson?
Do you know if, or think that, the Rams are in any way pursuing the opportunity of playing a game in Europe in maybe 2010?
NW: Good question, Jacob. Draft has been slowed by a back injury, giving Culberson ample opportunities to prove himself. To me, Culberson had a very solid training camp and has put himself in position to land the starting gig. But you canít count out a veteran the caliber of Draft. This battle will continue through the preseason. As for Culberson, some of the pros: he is quite stout as a tackler and isnít afraid to take on blockers, heís a better athlete than he gets credit for and he has the desire to learn. Cons: heís inexperienced with just one game playing defense in the league, he hasnít been playing linebacker that long and that can lead to mental mistakes.
As for playing a game in Europe, I donít really have a good answer for you. I donít believe that the teams have much say in who gets to go and who doesnít. Iím almost certain the league decides that. How much behind the scenes politicking leads to that Iím not really sure.
Nick, Thanks for taking our questions. Which of the undrafted guys or unknown free-agents do you think have a chance to make it?
NW: There are a couple of undrafted guys that I have taken a liking to, though one has lost steam in recent days. Linebacker Marc Magro really showed up early in camp and had a strong performance in the scrimmage. Heís tapered off some and struggled against Tennessee. He could bounce back with a good performance in the remaining preseason games but might be a practice squad candidate. I am a big fan of young running back Lance Ball out of Maryland. Heís short and stocky but he takes on all tacklers and has a nice burst. There might not be room for him on the active roster but he would seem to merit a practice squad spot, especially if he does well in the rest of the exhibition season. Another one with a shot at the roster is fullback Russ Weil. Heís competing with Dan Kreider for that spot, though itís not guarantee either will land a roster spot. Weil needs to prove himself as a solid blocker and do well on special teams to make it.
Nick, thanks for keeping us informed! You do a great job. One thing bothers me, however. The most recent example: (and I believe you are giving us the "party line" when you say this) "Gradkowski is not as accurate as Berlin." But elsewhere, I read that he completed a better percentage in the scrimmage (including a touchdown!) than Berlin! Can you clarify this? Thanks very much.
NW: Byron, Iím not sure where the company line thing comes from but it even says right at the top that all opinions expressed are mine and mine alone. In this case, Iím not even sure what you mean. Scott Linehan has stated numerous times that itís a competition for the third quarterback spot. Neither he nor any other coach has tipped their hand in any way toward Berlin or Gradkowski for the job. Iím not sure what reports youíre reading but all I have to go on is my own two eyes. When comparing the two, Gradkowski is the better athlete and provides the added element of mobility. Berlin is more accurate and both have strong arms. I canít speak for anyone else but Iím guessing youíd get a similar scouting report from anyone else who watched every single minute of every single practice in this yearís training camp. By the way, did you see Berlin against the Titans?
How is Marques Hagans chances for making the team and if he has another preseason like last year would that equate to playing time or is he in a no win situation?
NW: Hagans is in a dogfight right now. As it stands, it appears the receiving corps will look something like this: Torry Holt, Drew Bennett, Dante Hall, Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton. That likely leaves one spot for a receiver to come from a group that includes Hagans, Derek Stanley, Dane Looker and Reche Caldwell. Hagans struggled with some nagging injuries early in camp and fell behind some. Looker and Stanley had fantastic camps, especially Looker. Caldwell stepped his game up during the Tennessee week. Hagans will need a strong showing in the rest of the preseason to get another shot.
Do you think Alex Barron is a bust? I mean how can the coaches get this man to concentrate?
NW: Simply put, no. My definition of a bust doesnít include someone who has started 43 games at tackle and been one of the few bedrocks on a banged up offensive line. Say what you want about Barron but his dependability factor is much higher than many of the linemen on the team and around the league. He plays healthy, he plays hurt, and he simply plays every single week. Could he be better as far as performance? No doubt about it. The coaches have gone to great lengths to get him past his presnap penalty issues. If Barron can solve that issue and come to play on every down, he can still be a very good player in this league.
Re: Nickís Mailbag: August 14, 2008
Always enjoy reading these. Let's hope for the best for Barron this season.
Re: Nickís Mailbag: August 14, 2008
As much as I hear about Posters wanting to replace Barron he looks like the best thing we have at RT.
Re: Nickís Mailbag: August 14, 2008
Take away those false start Penalties and Alex Barron would be among the Best in the leauge.