By Bernie Miklasz
Saturday, Nov. 08 2008
Three downs and out on the Rams:

1. Head coach Jim Haslett is in a tough spot as the 2-6 Rams open the second
half of their season against the New York Jets on Sunday. If Rams ownership
bases Haslett's return in 2009 on wins and losses, he won't have a fair chance.
Not with this team's roster being chewed up by injuries. Not with the roster in
need of substantial rebuilding.

Here's what owner Chip Rosenbloom should be monitoring: Will the players
compete hard until the end for Haslett? Can Haslett get the most out of what he
has? Does Haslett foster unity and morale? Does his leadership remain strong in
adverse conditions? Does Haslett have a sound plan for improving the team?

2. The hobbled Steven Jackson won't play against the Jets. It's time to ask:
Are the Rams getting their money's worth from their star running back? Because
he's missed so much time because of injuries, Jackson ranks 17th in the NFL in
rushing this season, and he's 14th in rushing (and carries) since the start of
the 2007 season.

3. I worked up some numbers through STATS LLC to see what's working (and not
working) for quarterback Marc Bulger this season. Bulger has been one of the
league's better passers on first down, completing 63 percent with a QB rating
of 91.4. But he's been weakest on third down, completing 49 percent with a QB
rating of 65.3. Bulger has done well when throwing out of standard two-wideout
formations, completing 60.5 percent, and with a passer rating of 96.7, which
ranks seventh among starting NFL QBs in the category. But his passer rating is
more than 20 points lower (74.4) in three-wideout formations.

Bulger also has a poor 66.3 passer rating (and 11 sacks) in the shotgun
formation. He's been better without the shotgun, completing 60 percent and with
a rating of 88.1.

What, if anything, does this tell us? The Rams cannot be predictable. They can
help Bulger by being unpredictable. They must have Bulger throw more on
non-passing downs and try to catch the defense off guard by passing out of
running formations. If the defense senses that Bulger is preparing to pass, he
gets his tail kicked.
Pick: Jets 27, Rams 10. Running the ball against
the Jets' No. 4 rush defense will be a chore (to put it mildly). And the Jets
(29 sacks) know how to bust up a QB. ..