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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Rams need to focus on the future

    By Bryan Burwell
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    12/17/2006


    OAKLAND, calif. In a more perfect world, whenever the conversation rolls around to the franchise's future, the men in charge of the Rams would love to contain that "future" to a closer proximity. The future would be a discussion of a December playoff push, or a January postseason run, or better yet, an early February trip to the Super Bowl.

    The future would be strictly short term and full of instant gratification. Yet these are tougher, less perfect times for this franchise, and the only future that must be considered now is one involving rebuilding and restructuring. The future for the Rams begins Sunday in McAfee Coliseum against the 2-11 Oakland Raiders, a game that in so many ways should be the beginning of an intense audition process for some of the young guns on this struggling 5-8 team.

    For the remaining three games of this difficult season, I hope Scott Linehan decides to do what he hinted all week: it's time to play some of the kids who have been languishing on the sidelines.

    It's time to see if any of the youth can play well enough to help lead the Rams out of this mediocrity they've been stuck in for the past few seasons.



    It is happening out of simple necessity because of mounting injuries to so many veterans. But it has to be done. It's time to find out if Richie Incognito is going to be a devastating run blocker as a guard, or if he's better suited to be a center. It's time to find out if third-round draft pick Jon Alston could be a nasty run stuffing, ballhawking safety and special-teams beast, another ordinary, undersized outside linebacker or a legit starter on the outside who knows how to play disciplined ball.



    Linehan has hinted all week that he will reshuffle the offensive line once again because of injuries, benching ironman veteran guard Adam Timmerman, giving Incognito a shot at guard, and, just as important, giving backup free-agent center Brent Romberg a chance to prove he can be a reliable and intelligent leader at the heart of the offensive line.

    This team should not be thinking about the playoffs anymore. It's a silly, short-term dream that has little substance. Linehan should be working on the recovery plan that will answer some of the questions about the existing personnel and provide the college scouting department with answers to the sort of talent for which they should be scouring the country to fill the other obvious gaps.

    This is the time of the year when the coaches and player personnel department should be spending an abundance of time getting acquainted with each other. This is the time when talent evaluation should take a front seat. By the end of that last game on New Year's Eve in Minnesota, there should be no questions among the coaches and talent evaluators about who on this existing roster can play ball, who can't and what position they should be playing.

    After redshirting Alston for 13 weeks, Linehan was gushing about him this week. "He's really been showing me some things the last two weeks," the coach said. "We played him some at safety last week on (practice) team, and that's why I've been waiting for flashes. He was flashing a lot on plays, and breaking on balls. I'm kind of tossing around moving him to safety. He really has a lot of the characteristics to possibly be one of those guys, those box safeties who basically play like linebackers. He's got the speed and range, and really has some ball-skill ability, too. That might be something we explore more."

    The exploration shouldn't stop there. Plenty of other questions should be answered in the remaining three games, including this rather intriguing query: Who's your best young tight end?

    We've seen second-round draft pick Joe Klopfenstein play all season, and the only thing I can say is. 'Yawn.' There's nothing terribly impressive at this point. He's a proficient athlete, but not a dazzling one. Nineteen catches and one touchdown is not exactly a guy who's busted out as a rookie. So let's find out if third-round pick Dominique Byrd can do something more than win a bar fight. Let's see if the talented receiver who played for Southern California last season can do the same fascinating things at this level.

    There have been several positives discovered in this rebuilding season, such as the coming out party of Steven Jackson, the certification that Marc Bulger can play in any system, that Will Witherspoon and Leonard Little can anchor this defense for several more years. But there's a reason the Rams have lost eight of their past nine games; there's a lot more that is wrong with this team than right.

    That's why it's time to begin the process of looking to the future.


  2. #2
    Fat Pang's Avatar
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    Re: Rams need to focus on the future

    Very sensible article, especially the part about forgetting about the playoffs.

  3. #3
    Country's Avatar
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    Re: Rams need to focus on the future

    There is a lot of truth to what is being said.

    Alston at safety is a great idea.

  4. #4
    tomahawk247's Avatar
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    Re: Rams need to focus on the future

    i disagree with playing Byrd ahead of Klop, if anything Klop should just have the ball thrown his way more.

  5. #5
    PARamfan's Avatar
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    Re: Rams need to focus on the future

    Quote Originally Posted by tomahawk247 View Post
    i disagree with playing Byrd ahead of Klop, if anything Klop should just have the ball thrown his way more.
    I agree I think it was halfway through the season that they just started to throw the ball to Klop.The last couple games he's made plays when called upon.

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