Nick's Mailbag: June 3
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Richard Layne

Nick, with the end of the 2009 NFL Draft and the upcoming 2009 Rams Training Camp around mid-July, will the Rams signed any unsigned free agents that can help the team for the upcoming 2009 season for offense or defense or both and do the Rams have anyone in particular in mind? Also, when will the Rams start signing their draft picks from the 2009 NFL Draft?

NW: Iím going to stick with the usual response here based on everything Iíve been told in recent weeks and months. The Rams will continue to explore any and all possible ways to upgrade the roster and that includes keeping tabs on current free agents and ones that might shake loose as we get into training camp. Donít expect anything earth-shattering, though.

Draft picks donít usually start signing until July. Itís starting to trend toward that happening sooner around the league this year so itís possible some of the lower-round guys might ink earlier than anticipated.

Justin Stine

Lots of reports coming out about the Rams being very interested in Michael Vick if he gets reinstated. What are you hearing from people in the organization? Seems like he could help us out, but with all the problems with ownership right now it seems like a headache we don't need.

NW: Once again, itís just not likely. I know there are reports out there that say the contrary but itís a long shot at absolute best.

Bryan Sipes

With the recent news about the Rams being up for sale what will that mean for the team? And if they do sell where could they go? Also does Spags have something in his contract where he could leave is the team is relocated? Also I head Deuce McAllister is interested in signing with the team. What is the news on that? Thank you for all the good info for a Ram fan in New Mexico.

NW: Obviously, a lot of questions this week about the potential sale of the team. Not going to get too far into it in this space but none of this should come as a surprise to anyone who has paid attention to this from the beginning. The team is focused on winning games. Spagnuolo said it on Tuesday and thereís no reason for anyone to worry about anything other than that right now because itís not a 2009 issue. No reasons to speculate on any hypotheticals that may occur because right now that all it is: hypothetical.

Have heard nothing on Deuce McAlister and Iíd be surprised, given his age and injury history, if he was a consideration.

John Ricotta

Nick, how much do you think the additions of Karney and Jason Smith will improve the Rams running game and SJack? Also, are you concerned about SJack staying healthy? And what do you project SJackís stats being in 09?

NW: You always have to be concerned about a running back staying healthy because of the nature of the position. Iím not any more concerned with Jackson being healthy than any other running back because itís hard to be 100 percent playing that spot for the duration of a season.

The additions of Karney, Jason Smith and Jason Brown should do wonders to get Jackson back to that level he played at in 2006. Remember, that was the last time he played behind a true blocking fullback. As many of my readers know, I donít get into specific predictions or projections because itís so hard to guess on any of that stuff. I will just say that given the blocking help, a run-oriented offense and his limitless skill set, the sky is the limit for Jackson if he is healthy all season.

Aaron Storniola

Okay, Nick here's my topic that people may not talk about much...but I'm gonna....What is up with the RAMS schedule??? Good GOD!!!! What is the NFL thinking??? We have one of the toughest schedules I've seen in years!!! I thought when you werenít a very good team the NFL takes it some what easy on you?? I guess not...except for the ***** twice and Detroit are we even gonna stand a chance to win another game?? I've been a RAM fan all my life so I don't want you to think I'm drinking haterade but I'm calling it like I see it. Itís unfair...ram fans it's gonna be a long year...nick make me see the light!!!!

NW: Whoa, Aaron, letís just relax. First of all, itís June right now. A lot will happen to change and shape how you see the schedule in the coming weeks and months. The way the NFL schedule works is this: Every season you play six games against divisional opponents with a home and home against each one. After that, everything is done on a rotational basis as far as which divisions you play. This year, the Rams happened to be in line for the AFC South and the NFC North. If one of those divisions just so happens to be strong (which the AFC South could well be), then it makes it tougher but itís the luck of the draw. That accounts for 14 of your 16 games. The other two games also come on a rotational basis but factors in where you finished in your division and where the potential opponents finish in their division. For this year, after finishing at the bottom of the NFC West, the Rams got the last place team in the NFC East (Washington) and the last place team in the NFC South (New Orleans). Unfortunately for the Rams, the Saints happened to be an 8-8 team last year and just so happened to finish last in a strong division.

Now, all of that said, itís important to remember that the way things look on paper are nothing compared to the way things really are. The example I always like to use is Cleveland. Two years ago, the Browns were expected to be one of the worst teams in the league. Instead, they finished 10-6 and had one of the leagueís most productive offenses. So, based on that year, many thought Cleveland would be the breakout team of 2008 and they struggled on the way to one of the worst records in the league. Itís hard to say how this schedule will play out but I will guarantee this: there will be at least one team on the Ramsí schedule expected to struggle that will have a winning season and there will be at least one team expected to win big that will struggle. Hope that helps you at least see the potential for the light.

Chris Roy

Hi nick, thanks for all the great work. I'm concerned about the ram's defensive tackles lack of beef. NFL network likes the nose tackles to be at least 340lbs. and up. Sometimes they are referred to as power pigs and I believe the rams donít quite add up in that department. It all starts inside and our past history stopping the run has been abysmal. Please, I would love your comment.

NW: Thereís no doubt that it helps to have some beef up front, especially in the middle, to stop the run. A healthy Adam Carriker is a good place to start, though. While Clifton Ryan isnít as big as some of those other prototypical nose tackles, heís still pretty big and Carriker is bigger than many three-technique tackles. The Rams want to get bigger across the board and that includes the defensive tackle spot but stopping the run is about more than just having some sloppy bodies in the middle of the defensive line.

Bob Arena

Do you think the Rams will go after Greg Ellis if Dallas lets him go??

NW: As you probably know by now, the Cowboys did release Ellis earlier this week. No word on the Ramsí possible interest. Rumor mill says Cincinnati is particularly interested in him.

Eugene Bard

Do you think James Laurinaitis will eventually be the starting MLB?

NW: Thatís a strong possibility.

Eddie Perez

Hey Nick! Greetings from So Cal. Love the Mailbag!

My question is: since many defensive-minded head coaches are calling the plays, I was wondering if Coach Spags will do the same? Rex Ryan is doing it in New York, so are Lovie Smith and Wade Phillips. I think our defense would do great with Coach Spags play-calling. Your thoughts?

NW: As it stands now, Spagnuolo will have plenty of input into the defense but coordinator Ken Flajole will call the defense. Make no mistake, though, that will be a collaborative effort come Sundays.

Joe Rosasco

Hey Nick,

Thank you for all your hard work keeping us Rams fans updated. I've tried before without success to get a question answered by you--hopefully this will get through. As a long time Rams fan, I have watched other teams build a solid franchise starting with a strong offensive and defensive line. It seems like every year for the past several years the Rams have been very small and ineffective on both sides of the ball. Do you think Chris Long is big enough and strong enough to become an effective pass rusher--these offensive lines he is going up against are getting bigger every year? Thanks for your time!

NW: Iíve written a number of times that I believe Chris Long is going to be a good player in this league and possibly a great one. He certainly has the size to handle his position. Heís no smaller than many defensive ends around the league. In fact, heís awfully close to the league average in height and weight for his position.

Tiger Johnson

I really want to know if we will be getting a vet at receiver. Not needing to be a superstar, more like a teacher on the field. Also is Grant really showing off or is that just OTA talk. Really would be nice to find a diamond in the rough.

NW: No word on any additions at receiver. Iím not sure what type of wide out people are looking for at this point. Names like DJ Hackett and some that I get in this space every week arenít a major upgrade in terms of talent. For instance, would you rather see what a young guy like a Keenan Burton can do with the opportunity knowing he might have some growing pains but has plenty of potential to be a good player? Or would you rather have a guy like a Hackett who has been in the league a while but you know exactly what youíre getting and what youíre getting is nothing special?

Iím assuming you mean Horace Gant, not Grant though itís an easy mistake to make. Gant is an impressive looking player in terms of his size and athleticism. I donít know what you mean by showing off but heís in the mix with a bunch of young receivers who could be fighting for a roster spot or two come training camp.

Barry Catrett

Hi Nick,
I've been a Rams fan for 35 yrs. My question has to do with the Sam LB. Is there a chance that the Rams may look at another SLB like Marcus Washington? Thanks for your time and answering my question.

NW: Again, the Rams will explore all options at every position. Itís not terribly likely they are going to bring in another linebacker at that spot but hereís the thing: when you get into training camp, things like injuries happen or guys donít show up with the pads and the spotlight on. That means tweaks can and will be made all the way up until the final cuts.

Jack Fenton

Hey Nick, any news floating around about any possible free agent signings any time soon? Thanks.

NW: Nothing specific or noteworthy.


What position needs the biggest upgrade or players to come through this season for the rams?

NW: You could make the argument that every position needs to improve for the Rams in 2009 with the possible exception of punter. If you want specifics, itís telling that the Rams spent a lot of time and money this offseason to upgrade the offensive line. So itís safe to say thatís one area the Rams are hoping to see drastic improvement.