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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Are the Rams really any better?

    By Mike Sando

    Jesper from Denmark graced the NFC West mailbag with a position-by-position evaluation of the St. Louis Rams. He thinks the team has gotten worse at several positions. He also thinks I've been a little too optimistic in my assessments of the team's prospects for 2010. I liked the clear, concise way Jesper presented his case. I'll pass along his thoughts and add my own.

    Quarterback


    Jesper: Marc Bulger is better than A.J. Feeley. Sam Bradford is a rookie who has not been described as very pro ready. Verdict: worse.

    Sando: The Rams' outlook at the position has improved, but you're right about the short-term prospects. I think the Rams would be foolish to open the regular season with Bradford at quarterback, even if Bradford looks better than Feeley during training camp. Bulger had five touchdowns, six interceptions and a 70.7 rating last season. I'm not expecting much better from the Rams at that position this season.

    Running back

    Jesper:
    Steven Jackson had more than 350 touches last season. He is coming off back surgery. It's hard to imagine him producing the same numbers, and there has been no attempt to get a decent backup. Verdict: At best the same/possibly worse.

    Sando: I see this position as a downgrade for sure simply because it's unrealistic to expect the same production from Jackson following back surgery. This position could turn into a big problem for the Rams if Jackson breaks down physically. However, there's a good chance Jackson will be a productive player this season, based on my conversations with ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell.

    Wide receiver

    Jesper: Laurent Robinson is back from injury, but can we really judge him from seeing him play 2.5 games last year? Can he even stay healthy? Avery's receptions and yardage went down in his second season and he has in no way lived up to his status as the first receiver drafted in 2008. Then you've got a bunch of no-names, and Mardy Gilyard, a rookie (how often do rookie receivers produce?). Verdict: same.

    Sando:
    This group could improve through better health. I agree that some of the guys appear prone to injuries. Brandon Gibson was a player you might have mentioned. Overall, though, it's not a stretch to say this group appears similar to last season. I would expect some improvement, though.

    Tight end


    Jesper:
    Randy McMichael left. He was no stud, but Daniel Fells is now the starter. Nobody in the world (outside of Rams fans) has ever heard of him. Verdict: worse.

    Sando:
    I don't think the Rams are losing anything by parting with McMichael because he dropped so many passes. Fells was the better receiving option last season. But neither would I say this position is improved. It's a wash.

    Offensive line

    Jesper:
    Jason Smith had a not-so-great rookie campaign and now he has been move back to the left side. Rodger Saffold is a rookie. Jacob Bell has not been a success. I think John Greco will be the right guard -- not so promising. Jason Brown is pretty good. Alex Barron might not have been an All-Pro, but he was solid and better short term than Saffold. Verdict: worse.

    Sando:
    The line will not be worse this season unless injuries overwhelm it again. The line fell apart in the second half of last season. I expect improvement from where the line finished last season, and the long-term prospects should be better with Saffold joining the group.

    Offense overall


    Jesper:
    The only new starters are rookies or players who have been promoted due to the departure of other players. Verdict: worse.

    Sando:
    The quarterback situation will dictate how much the offense improves or worsens. We both have serious concerns about the position in the short term, so it's fair to say the offense could be worse for a while. When I think of the 2009 Rams on offense, I think of a team that couldn't finish drives in the red zone. That was a reflection of the Rams' lack of playmakers. The team still lacks playmakers.

    Defensive end

    Jesper: Chris Long finished strong, but he will never be that great. just solid. Leonard Little is (probably) gone, and that makes 33-year-old James Hall the other end. Long gets double-teamed and Hall might sneak up on 3-4 sacks. Verdict: worse.

    Sando: The Rams drafted defensive ends in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. It's unrealistic to expect immediate contributions from those players. Long could be more effective spending more time on the left side, but I also have a hard time seeing him becoming an elite player. This group does not appear improved.

    Defensive tackle

    Jesper: Adam Carriker is gone, but he didn't play last year, anyway. Clifton Ryan is a little underrated, I think, and he is actually a pretty good player. Fred Robbins is old, but still an upgrade. Then you got Darell Scott and Chris Hovan in rotation. Verdict: same/better.

    Sando: I'm with you here. They'll be a little better, most likely, and that could help James Laurinaitis.

    Linebacke

    Jesper: Laurinaitis is a good linebacker, but who else was going to make the tackles last year? Three-fourths of his tackles came 5 yards down the field. Na'il Diggs is 32 years old and made fewer than 40 tackles last season (not that Paris Lenon was great). And then you got B***** or Mr. Irrelevant, David Vobora. Verdict: same.

    Sando: Laurinaitis should improve in his second season. Bobby Carpenter did get tagged with the "B*****" nickname while with the Dallas Cowboys and it's fair to question how much improvement he'll provide. The switch to a 4-3 could help him. Overall, though, this isn't an exciting unit.

    Cornerback


    Jesper: Ron Bartell had a bad year after his pretty good 2008 campaign. Bradley Flechter smashed his knee and we don't really know how good he will be coming back. That leaves us with Kevin Dockery, Justin King and rookie Jerome Murphy. Verdict: same/worse (depending on Fletcher).

    Sando: Murphy was an intriguing pick in the third round. I'm interested in seeing what he might offer. The group does not appear obviously improved and I'd agree with you regarding Fletcher as a key variable.

    Safety

    Jesper: Oshiomogho Atogwe is back, but he is also coming back from injury, and probably will be released next year, I suspect. James Butler had trouble in coverage, and might lose his job to newcomer Kevin Payne from the Chicago Bears (although Payne did not have a great 2009, either). Verdict: same (but with a little more depth).

    Sando: Atogwe's health is key. He had been durable until last season. It's fair to wonder if he'll hold up for a full season following surgery. I do like the depth better. Craig Dahl comes back with some experience. Overall, though, it's tough to say this group is improved significantly.

    Defense overall

    Oshiomogho Atogwe's health will be critical for St. Louis' secondary.
    Jesper: The Rams have new starters at DT, LB and maybe CB. But none of them are really big difference makers (Robbins is probably going to make the most difference). Verdict: same.

    Sando: That is fair. The Rams do not have a dynamic pass-rush threat and that is a concern. The run defense does have a chance to improve.

    Coaching

    Jesper: Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was not very impressive in his play-calling last season. Spagnuolo had a great defensive scheme in New York, but he does not have players to do the same thing in St. Louis.

    Sando: It's critical for the Rams to have the right coaches for Bradford. Shurmur has a solid NFL track record in this area. Quarterbacks coach Dick Curl, not so much.

    Schedule

    Jesper:
    The schedule is easier than last year -- on paper. When the season is over, we can look back and decide. There will always be teams who disappoint and surprise, so it's a little hard to judge right now (even though I have to agree that the first half of the season last year was brutal).

    Sando:
    I like the Rams' schedule early in the season and think it gives them a chance to win a couple games before the midway point. That would mark an improvement from last season.

    Final thoughts

    Jesper: Their will be injuries -- maybe not as much as last year, but there will be some. Who is going to step up if someone such as Laurinaitis, Long, Jason Smith or -- worst-case scenario, Jackson -- goes down? There is very little depth. I see a lot of potential, but only long term. What makes this year's team better than last year's version?

    Sando: No question, this season is all about looking toward a future that seemed a lot less promising when the roster was packed with aging and declining former stars. I wouldn't put much hope into this season. However, I also think it's tough to go 1-15. Lots of bad things have to happen. Those things did happen to the Rams last season. It's realistic, I think, for the Rams to suffer from fewer problems beyond their control in 2010. They could win a few games -- even with a roster that doesn't appear appreciably better overall.

    Always nice to hear from the "glass half empty" guys ..


  2. #2
    TheBritishRam's Avatar
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    Quarterback

    Jesper: Marc Bulger is better than A.J. Feeley. Sam Bradford is a rookie who has not been described as very pro ready. Verdict: worse.
    Firstly Bulger didn't start every game and I think, at the very least, Bradford will put in better performances than Boller and Null did last season. This position is only "worse" in the very short term.

    Running back

    Jesper:
    Steven Jackson had more than 350 touches last season. He is coming off back surgery. It's hard to imagine him producing the same numbers, and there has been no attempt to get a decent backup. Verdict: At best the same/possibly worse.
    He might have a point here, although I want to see what Ogbonnaya brings as a back-up.

    Wide receiver

    Jesper: Laurent Robinson is back from injury, but can we really judge him from seeing him play 2.5 games last year? Can he even stay healthy? Avery's receptions and yardage went down in his second season and he has in no way lived up to his status as the first receiver drafted in 2008. Then you've got a bunch of no-names, and Mardy Gilyard, a rookie (how often do rookie receivers produce?). Verdict: same.
    Surely the fact that Robinson is back instantly improves the WRs. Avery has had his first offseason where he doesn't have to learn a new playbook. Gibson will improve and hopefully Gilyard will bring a little something to the offense.

    Tight end

    Jesper: Randy McMichael left. He was no stud, but Daniel Fells is now the starter. Nobody in the world (outside of Rams fans) has ever heard of him. Verdict: worse.
    How is it worse?? McMichael was starting last year and Fells was still the best TE on the roster. This is at the very least same, if not better since there won't be so many drops.

    Offensive line

    Jesper: Jason Smith had a not-so-great rookie campaign and now he has been move back to the left side. Rodger Saffold is a rookie. Jacob Bell has not been a success. I think John Greco will be the right guard -- not so promising. Jason Brown is pretty good. Alex Barron might not have been an All-Pro, but he was solid and better short term than Saffold. Verdict: worse.
    Completely wrong evaluation here. Barron gave up more sacks on the line last year than anyone else and that's forgetting about all the penalties that he and Incognito gave up. Smith will be better in his second year. Bell played, imo, quite well last year. Didn't Colts coach Caldwell say the Rams had one of the best line interiors last year??

    Offense overall

    Jesper: The only new starters are rookies or players who have been promoted due to the departure of other players. Verdict: worse.
    Everyone, except rookies and FAs, will be in their second year in the offense. They'll be more accustomed to it and should be better. Without the penalty machines on the OL and Robinson back at WR I think the offense will be better, not by much, but it will be better.

    Defensive end

    Jesper: Chris Long finished strong, but he will never be that great. just solid. Leonard Little is (probably) gone, and that makes 33-year-old James Hall the other end. Long gets double-teamed and Hall might sneak up on 3-4 sacks. Verdict: worse.
    Chris Long did show improvement last year and will be even better when he lines up against RTs instead of LTs. Yes the loss of Little hurts the pass rush but I think Long will step it up.

    Defensive tackle

    Jesper: Adam Carriker is gone, but he didn't play last year, anyway. Clifton Ryan is a little underrated, I think, and he is actually a pretty good player. Fred Robbins is old, but still an upgrade. Then you got Darell Scott and Chris Hovan in rotation. Verdict: same/better.
    Finally something we can agree upon.

    Linebacker

    Jesper: Laurinaitis is a good linebacker, but who else was going to make the tackles last year? Three-fourths of his tackles came 5 yards down the field. Na'il Diggs is 32 years old and made fewer than 40 tackles last season (not that Paris Lenon was great). And then you got B***** or Mr. Irrelevant, David Vobora. Verdict: same.
    The outside linebacker situation is a bit of a question mark. It's hard to say how Carpenter will perform in a 4-3, Laurinaitis will have improved on his rookie season. So the LB core hinges on how well Carpenter plays at WLB, if he plays well, or at least better than Lenon, this area will have improved.

    Cornerback

    Jesper: Ron Bartell had a bad year after his pretty good 2008 campaign. Bradley Flechter smashed his knee and we don't really know how good he will be coming back. That leaves us with Kevin Dockery, Justin King and rookie Jerome Murphy. Verdict: same/worse (depending on Fletcher).
    I don't understand this bit. Bartell played badly last year and Fletcher was injured so he rights them off for this season?? Bartell won't be playing injured, Fletcher has been cleared to play and will improve on his rookie year, Wade has gone and the depth has improved. This area has got better.

    Safety

    Jesper: Oshiomogho Atogwe is back, but he is also coming back from injury, and probably will be released next year, I suspect. James Butler had trouble in coverage, and might lose his job to newcomer Kevin Payne from the Chicago Bears (although Payne did not have a great 2009, either). Verdict: same (but with a little more depth).
    Hard to argue here.

    Defense overall

    Jesper: The Rams have new starters at DT, LB and maybe CB. But none of them are really big difference makers (Robbins is probably going to make the most difference). Verdict: same.
    I think the defense will become automatically better if the offense can stay on the field more, simple as that.

    Coaching

    Jesper: Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was not very impressive in his play-calling last season. Spagnuolo had a great defensive scheme in New York, but he does not have players to do the same thing in St. Louis.
    Everyone seems to forget that they were all rookies too. I'm sure they'll have learnt a lot last year and will be ready to do better in 2010.

    With an easier schedule, a second year in Spags system and a new class of rookies I think the 2010 Rams will be considerably better than the 2009 version but, then again, I guess I'm a bit more of an optimist than our friend Jesper here.
    Last edited by TheBritishRam; -07-28-2010 at 01:31 PM.

  3. #3
    Nick_Weasel's Avatar
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    Jesper two-steps throughout that entire article. What I mean by that is that when he evaluates RB, he says 'worse' because it's hard to expect the same productivity as last season. But when he evaluates WR, he says they're no good so 'same.' So he keeps changing the criterion by which he's measuring each group to ensure we get fails across the board. He flips between measuring them relative to last year's performance and measuring them on an objective scale to fit his story.

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    GolfnRAMFAN is offline Registered User
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    Well, this is certainly upbeat...

  5. #5
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    I don't suppose this "Jesper" is on the board at all, is he? That way I could de-rep him.
    I believe!

  6. #6
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    Winning 2 games this season is an improvement over last season. The question is how hard will it be to win 2 or more games? Only time will tell.

  7. #7
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    Is Jesper partially ********?

  8. #8
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    I enjoyed the article and I felt that most of the criticism was pretty valid. God knows I never try to be mister popular and instead focus on speaking my mind, so with that being said. On paper, going into 2011 season. The Rams are the worst team in the NFL. But, the one thing analyst always neglect to factor in is the chemistry and morale of the players on a team. You can have one of the most talented rosters out there, but if those players aren't giving 100% it's not going to translate into wins.

    This Rams team seems to be filled with a lot of young guys that have a lot of up side and do have a lot to prove. I think we will see a far greater effort from this team of players that we have seen in years. I think the overall depth has improved greatly and I believe that will also be a factor as the season goes on and the injuries begin to add up.

    Combine greater effort, with what should be a healthier and deeper team and a much easier schedule then last years. This should all equate to an overall better record, which in turn will result in a slightly more positive outlook from the analyst next year.
    Last edited by mikhal5569; -07-28-2010 at 04:02 PM.

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    TylerBishop is offline Registered User
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    I thought he wasn't always honest in his better/worse/same categorizations, but it is food for thought.

  10. #10
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    Can't argue with their reasoning which is why I think we will go 1-15 again (2-14 at best which is still an improvement), I still don't understand why we did not find a back up RB and make a more dedicated attempt to find a real #1 WR (not to mention our TE issues.

    Our defense will be improved atleast as far as the front 7 is concerned, but the secondary has alot of questions & injury concerns so we'll have to wait & see how that works, still 2-14 is a realistic ideal until we see how things look in the pre-season.

  11. #11
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    I think Jesper makes some fair points but misses on a couple as well. It's hard for some fans to take off the cheerleader uniform at this point in the year, but you simply can't expect everything to go right for every aspect of your team. Failing to find a legitimate back-up for Steven Jackson may have been the worst mistake this offseason, because if Jackson goes down, this team will really be in trouble. But I think they've made some slight immediate improvements in areas like DT, OLB, CB, and WR (simply because the unit is healthy), so they should be able to find some more success than they did in 2009.
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  12. #12
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    Quote Originally Posted by mikhal5569 View Post
    I enjoyed the article and I felt that most of the criticism was pretty valid. God knows I never try to be mister popular and instead focus on speaking my mind, so with that being said. On paper, going into 2011 season. The Rams are the worst team in the NFL. But, the one thing analyst always neglect to factor in is the chemistry and morale of the players on a team. You can have one of the most talented rosters out there, but if those players aren't giving 100% it's not going to translate into wins.

    This Rams team seems to be filled with a lot of young guys that have a lot of up side and do have a lot to prove. I think we will see a far greater effort from this team of players that we have seen in years. I think the overall depth has improved greatly and I believe that will also be a factor as the season goes on and the injuries begin to add up.

    Combine greater effort, with what should be a healthier and deeper team and a much easier schedule then last years. This should all equate to an overall better record, which in turn will result in a slightly more positive outlook from the analyst next year.
    Conversely, we had the same chemistry and morale last year, and had one win to show for it. Let's not start banking on it now.

  13. #13
    VegasRam's Avatar
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    This year the books here in Vegas put every game of the season up on the board. I think it was a few weeks ago. I listen to sports radio here in Vegas, and there's an hour show daily where they discuss betting, from soccer to horse racing.

    Point is (I'm getting there) is the Rams opened at 5 1/2 game win total, and a TON of money came in on the under. So much so, that the big books added 1 point to the spreads for EACH game of the season, and dropped the total to 5.

    For you non-bettors, this is VERY significant, for three reasons.

    1. A half point move on the win total three weeks prior to pre-season is HUGE.

    2. The public is usually wrong, and by usually, I mean over 85% of the time.

    3. The public, (and incidentally, the "wise-guy" money doesn't come in until just prior to the regular season), who only listen to the ESPINheads, only see 6 wins in three years, (and not a new regime in place after thirty years of dysfunction and decay), and are betting accordingly.

    When it went to 5, I immediately put a C-note on the over, (5 pushing) and will be betting with the spread all season.

    You might say so?, they had us at 4 wins last saeson, but even a diehard Ram hater would concede we had NO luck last year, and a more than average amount of injuries to significant players.

    Rams are winning 6 games minimum guys - take it to the bank.
    Last edited by VegasRam; -07-28-2010 at 06:41 PM.
    "the Heart Lies and the Head Plays Tricks with us, but the Eyes See True".

  14. #14
    molar_pistol is offline Registered User
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    no reason to be too upset over this, he has some good points there. we're going to be relying on rookies and improved young guys to get any better, and none of that is set in stone yet.

  15. #15
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    Re: Are the Rams really any better?

    I read this story before it was posted here and it got me thinking. My thoughts on this?

    Well, looking at the paper, w/o breaking it down line by line, I'd have to say the Rams are "marginally" better in talent. They still do not have enough playmakers to do much this year, but they did add some depth with veterans and the young talent they picked up in the draft is an improvement.

    But there are several keys to having a better year even w/o a major overhaul of personnel. These are the key reasons that they should expect to win more game even w/o adding talent.

    #1. A weaker schedule this year then last.
    #2. The group has a year under their belt to better grasp the offensive and defensive schemes.
    #3. Health. Is it possible for a team to suffer the amount of injuries the Rams have the past two years, again?
    #4. If these guys have any sense of pride, the humilation of a 1-15 season should be enough motivation in itself to fire them up this season.

    So, based on just the keys above and the law of averages, the Rams should be better this year even though player-to-player comparisions to last year might not agree.
    Faithful Rams fan since 1968

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