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  1. #1
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    Rams offense: Failure to launch

    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Wednesday, Sep. 26 2007

    Few could have predicted the Rams would start the season 0-3. That in itself is
    surprising.

    But when you consider the fact that the team is 0-3 largely because of inept
    offense, well, that goes beyond surprising and into the realm of shocking.

    The Rams have scored only 32 points in three games, the fifth-lowest total over
    any three-game span since the team moved to St. Louis in 1995.

    This season, only three NFL teams have scored fewer points. The Rams rank 25th
    in total offense, 22nd in rushing offense, 20th in passing offense and 32nd in
    red-zone offense.

    How can this be?

    The Rams entered the season with five Pro Bowlers among their 11 starters on
    offense. The offseason additions of tight end Randy McMichael and wide receiver
    Drew Bennett were supposed to add even more options, and more flexibility to
    the attack.

    In Bennett, McMichael, running back Steven Jackson and wide receivers Isaac
    Bruce and Torry Holt, the Rams had five players who caught 46 or more passes
    last season. That quintet

    combined for 365 catches last season, more than all but three entire NFL teams.

    For all of those reasons, and more, this was supposed to be the most potent
    offense in St. Louis since the days of the Greatest Show on Turf. Instead, it
    has been a train wreck. There are many reasons. And because of a rash of
    injuries, there's no easy way out.

    SAFETY FIRST

    The starting offensive unit failed to score a touchdown during the 2006
    exhibition season, with new head coach Scott Linehan showing little interest in
    playing his regulars largely because of a fear of injury. The lack of
    offensive production carried over to the regular season, with the Rams scoring
    no more than 18 points in any of their first three regular season games.

    Fast forward to 2007. Once again, the Rams' starting offensive unit failed to
    score a TD during the preseason. Once again, Linehan barely played his
    regulars. Jackson, in fact, didn't have a single carry in exhibition play. Both
    Linehan and offensive coordinator Greg Olson expressed confidence that
    everything would be all right, playing down comparisons to the '06 struggles.
    "Things are different this year," they said.

    But three games into the 2007 regular season, the Rams haven't scored more than
    16 points in any game.

    Olson did issue a cautionary note at the end of the preseason, saying that if
    the Rams struggled again offensively in the early going, it might be time to
    reconsider the team's approach to playing regulars in the preseason.

    We'll see what happens next August.

    INJURY BUG

    All teams must play through injuries over the course of the season. It's part
    of football. But the Rams have had more than their share in the early going of
    '07. By midway through the season opener, three of the top six offensive
    lineman were injured. It became four of six when guard Mark Setterstrom
    suffered a season-ending knee injury against Tampa Bay.

    Bulger is playing with two broken ribs. Jackson has what sources have described
    as a 40 percent tear of the groin muscle, an injury that will sideline him a
    minimum of two weeks.

    Bennett missed the opener with a quadriceps injury. Bruce missed much of the
    Tampa Bay game after absorbing a blow to the head. Holt entered the season at
    less than 100 percent because of offseason knee surgery. McMichael suffered a
    strained hamstring Sept. 16 against San Francisco but has kept playing.

    GAME PLANNING

    The injury situation on the offensive line, coupled with Bulger's rib injury,
    caused Linehan and Olson to "dummy down" the game plan against Tampa. But that
    only raised questions about why backup Gus Frerotte didn't start against the
    Bucs if Bulger was in such pain.

    Even before most of the injuries hit, the Rams had a very conservative game
    plan in the opener against Carolina. Only in the San Francisco game in Week 2
    did the coaches open up the offense. The result was nearly 400 yards of total
    offense, and seven pass plays of 20 or more yards. But largely because of
    turnovers, the team still managed only 16 points. And Bulger paid a price for
    some of those deep throws, getting hit on 13 plays, including six sacks.

    The Rams made a greater commitment to running the ball against Tampa Bay, and
    succeeded to some degree with Jackson gaining 115 yards, albeit on 30 carries.
    But the passing game was practically in mothballs. The longest pass play of the
    game was 18 yards to Holt.

    Afterward, more than one Bucs player expressed surprise that the Rams didn't
    take more downfield shots. A columnist for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times
    sarcastically awarded Linehan a game ball for taking the Rams receivers out of
    the game.

    While agreeing that the Rams must find a happy medium between fully using all
    their targets in the passing game, and getting the running game established,
    Olson added: "It still comes down to making sure your quarterback is protected."

    RED-ZONE WOES

    In 21 red-zone plays, the Rams have gained a mere 30 yards. Running the ball
    effectively in the red zone is a key to scoring TDs, but the Rams have gained
    only 12 yards on 11 red-zone carries. Five of those carries, including four by
    Jackson, resulted in negative yardage.

    Games are often won or lost inside the 20. The Rams have been woeful in close
    this season, scoring only two TDs on eight trips inside the red zone. They've
    turned over the ball twice in the red zone.

    "That's been our nemesis all season," Olson said. "It's gotta be corrected and
    it will get corrected."

    That's proving easier said than done in what so far is a lost season.

    RAM-BLINGS

    Offensive lineman Jeremy Parquet has been signed to Setterstrom's roster spot.
    Parquet, who was with the Rams in training camp, can play guard and tackle.

    Seven street free agents worked out Tuesday for the Rams, but none was signed:
    WRs Bryan Gilmore and Bethel Johnson; C Nick Leckey; OT Chad Mustard; OG Kendal
    Jacox; and RBs Justin Vincent and Shaud Williams.


  2. #2
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Rams offense: Failure to launch

    McMichael suffered a strained hamstring Sept. 16 against San Francisco but has kept playing.
    There's another name that can be added to our walking wounded.
    ClanRam ModCast: Episode Four
    Rams Discussion Right at Your Fingertips!



  3. #3
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Rams offense: Failure to launch

    The Mayo Clinic RAMS.

  4. #4
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Re: Rams offense: Failure to launch

    The strength and conditioning coach strikes again! He must be a friend of Linehan's.

  5. #5
    serkicker32 Guest

    Re: Rams offense: Failure to launch

    I'm not sure I completely agree with this article. I do not think that the coaches could do much different than they are already doing, minus letting Marc recover from his broken ribs. Also, it is really hard to have an effective rushing attack when your offensive line keeps getting shuffled around. I do agree with the preseason and the injury bug parts though.

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