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  1. #1
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    Rams On The Rise ...

    Rams are better, but hope to avoid heat
    John Czarnecki /
    Posted: 2 hours ago

    It has been a long hot summer in St. Louis some practices have been moved indoors to escape the 100-degree temperatures but the really hot speculation says that the Rams may have enough offense to ruin Seattle's bid for a fourth straight NFC West championship.
    "Now don't go picking us to win this thing," Rams coach Scott Linehan joked with me. "That could be bad luck for us."

    When you think about it, Linehan's rise through the NFL this will be his second season as coach of the Rams has been pretty remarkable, but totally deserved. A former college quarterback and protege of Dennis Erickson, Linehan was hired by former Minnesota coach Mike Tice off the college campus. Once he was named offensive coordinator, Linehan had the Vikings atop the offensive charts. He performed similar turnaround miracles in one season in Miami and last year, the Rams' Steven Jackson led the league with 2,224 combined yards. Linehan's 44th birthday comes in Week 3, after two critical home games against Carolina and upstart San Francisco.

    After developing under innovative and all-out-gambling Mike Martz, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger didn't mind taking a step back last season with Linehan. Reducing turnovers and protecting the football became Linehan's battle cry.

    Bulger, the face of this franchise made happily secure by a new deal worth $31 million over the next three seasons, was more impressed that Linehan adapted his play-calling vernacular to what the quarterback and veteran receivers Torry Holt and Ike Bruce were familiar with under Martz.

    "He really checked his ego at the door," Bulger said of Linehan. "He made the transition very comfortable for all of us veterans. He didn't have to do that, but he also understood that the core of his players had successful seasons in the past and he understood that changing all of our verbiage (play calls) didn't make a lot of sense."

    Bulger isn't about to rip Martz, the coach who took him off Jim Haslett's hands in New Orleans and made him one of the NFL's very best. It's sort of ironic that Haslett, who never understood what Martz saw in Bulger, is now the defensive coordinator in St. Louis.

    "The best way to put it is that they are two completely different coaches," Bulger said of Martz and Linehan. "Scott probably mixes and matches a lot differently. He also likes to run a little more. But then we have a horse in No. 39. We're going to go as far as he goes this season."

    Jackson's upright running style reminds some old-timers of Eric Dickerson, but the similarities end right there. Dickerson was knocked out by a teammate in camp one summer and that ended his pass catching days. Jackson, however, has thrived as a receiver, catching 90 passes last year, a club record at running back. And while pure speed and acceleration were Dickerson's trademark, Jackson may be 15 pounds heavier and more of a punishing runner.

    Not only is Bulger excited about Jackson, but his offensive line is returning to form. Orlando Pace, his blindside protector, successfully tested his surgically repaired left arm in the first preseason game after being reluctant to extend it much during camp. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson is pleased with Pace's progress. Meanwhile, there is a competitive battled between Brett Romberg and Andy McCollum for starting center. The loser will simply provide more depth to the line.

    The Rams were active in this off-season, giving Bulger two interesting weapons. Dante Hall, the ex-Chief, will add some game-breaking flair, but ex-Titan Drew Bennett gives him a great route runner and a reliable third-down receiver, an ideal option to the speed of Holt and Bruce. Believe me, Bruce is like Joey Galloway; these two old-timers haven't slowed down.

    The best news for the Rams is that they apparently hit big-time with their top two draft picks. Adam Carriker, their top pick, played very well and called his first preseason game "not much (of a) difference from practice. I felt really comfortable out there." Carriker's first tackle was against Minnesota's first pick Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma. It felt good, Carriker said, "because he ran us quite a bit while at Nebraska."

    Carriker, who is extremely smart, has been working at defensive tackle. He was a 3-4 end at Nebraska, so he is familiar with taking on double teams.

    Then there is Brian Leonard, the all-purpose back, who will give Jackson a blow and probably be used as a fullback and a receiver. "This guy is such a team player," Linehan said. "He was the man at Rutgers and he took a step back in order for Rice to be a star there last season. Not too many players would do something like that, but it tells me the kind of character he has."

    Skeptics would suggest that this is the pros and that was college and that Leonard might want more than six to eight touches a game this season. Still, the Rams have a positive running option behind Jackson.

    The defense, especially the secondary, could be the team's Achilles heel. Starting cornerback Fakhir Brown will serve a four-game suspension at the start of the season and Tye Hill is a little cornerback. The Rams need bigger cornerbacks Lenny Walls and rookie Jonathan Wade to develop quickly. They really like ex-Lion James Hall opposite Leonard Little, who has 42 sacks over the last three seasons and never receives enough credit for his run-stopping ability.

    Inside, Claude Wroten is pushing 12-year vet La'Roi Glover for playing time and that's a good thing. It will give the Rams a solid rotation opposite Carriker. "I think he's a much-improved player from a year ago," Linehan said of Wroten. "He always shows up in the pass game. He's got a great get-off, and he's a penetrating defensive tackle. Where he's got to continue to improve and he has improved is playing the run."

    There is also a chance that ex-Panther Chris Draft could push linebacker Will Witherspoon out of the middle and move him to the weakside or Will position. Yes, the Rams have pretty decent depth in the front seven now, especially if Carriker can develop into a dominating force.

    There are some players from west Texas and Louisiana on the roster. They know what it's like to deal with the heat. Going indoors is no treat because the team doesn't turn on the air-conditioning. Consequently, the air remains stale and muggy.

    "It definitely has been hot," Carriker said. "But we're going to play at Tampa and Dallas (in September), so we've got to get used to the elements. If you're not used to the heat, it's going to kill you when you have to play in it."

    Linehan says the same thing. Those 100-degree days have been great for conditioning his team. "Hey, we have a chance, but it's way too early to be putting us in the playoffs," Linehan said.

  2. #2
    Guam rammer's Avatar
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    Re: Rams On The Rise ...

    Provided we stay healthy at key positions, we're putting you in the playoffs coach.

  3. #3
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    Re: Rams On The Rise ...

    Playoffs or Bust!

  4. #4
    blood85 Guest

    Re: Rams On The Rise ...

    Rams 2 turnovers are hurting them against the Chargers. Score is 14-3 right now.

  5. #5
    blood85 Guest

    Re: Rams On The Rise ...

    Chargers ahead in beginning of 3rd.

  6. #6
    LA Rammer's Avatar
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    Re: Rams On The Rise ...

    Chargers win, but still pre-season. No LT and No SJ. In regular season could be a close one provided we can stop the run and good special teams play.

    Chargers were able to improve from last week, but the Seahawks, man they look sloppy vs. the Pack.

    Lets hope this poor run "d" gets taken care of before game 1.

    It's Jim not Chris

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