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  1. #1
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    Rams still have plenty of issues

    Rams still have plenty of issues

    Columnist Jeff Gordon
    (E-mail a "Letter to Gordo")By Jeff Gordon
    STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
    09/04/2009


    Yes, the Rams managed to win the Governor’s Cup on Thursday night and make St. Louis proud. They beat the hapless Kansas City Chiefs 17-9 to finish the preseason with a 3-1 record.

    But the Rams still have a great deal of work to do.

    Several issues arose as they tested their depth against the Chiefs depth Thursday night. The most glaring came on the defensive side of the ball, where the Rams blew assignments and missed tackles.

    That resulted in numerous big Chiefs plays at the Edward Jones Dome:

    -- Chiefs running back Larry Johnson slicing through a gaping hole, shaking off an open-field tackle and rambling 41 yards with the ball.

    -- Tight end Sean Ryan bursting through a seam in the Rams secondary to catch a 40-yard pass right down the middle of the field.

    -- Somebody named Dantrelle Savage ping-ponging through the Rams defense for a huge 71-yard run. (And to think the Rams believed they had him trapped inside the Chiefs 5.)

    -- Third quarterback Tyler Thigpen throwing up a fair catch ball and Ashley Lelie pulling it in for a 43-yard again against safety David Roach, who had a long night.

    -- Somebody named Jackie Battle took a swing pass and rambled 25 yards with it -– and came THISCLOSE to taking it the distance.

    The Rams defense forced turnovers and made big stops, too. They were rock solid on third down. They held firm in the red zone and limited the Chiefs to field goals.

    “I thought the mindset and approach was really good,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “The turnovers again are helpful in winning a football game.”

    Still, all those big gainers will give the coaches plenty to go over as the Rams prepare to start the real season. The Rams won’t win many real games while allowing 170 yards rushing.

    Here are a few other observations:

    -- With Tye Hill gone, cornerback Cord Parks made his pitch for a roster spot -– and he did it asserting himself as a kick returner. Might he make the final cut as a special teamer?

    -- Also, cornerback Quincy “Tye who?” Butler picked off another preseason pass and ran it back for the score. Ladies and gentlemen, this is how you play your way onto a football team.

    -- Also, cornerback Justin King made an acrobatic fourth-quarter interception, validating his ascension into the nickel back role. Later, though, he suffered a knee injury that could cloud the job competition at this position.

    -- Defensive tackle Adam Carriker got hurt again. This time it was his shoulder. This was probably not a great career development for him. The Rams have a LOT of defensive tackles to choose from and Carriker already was battling for a spot.

    -- Offensive tackle Jason Smith had a few glitches in pass blocking again. On one of them, quarterback Kyle Boller had to bust a move to avoid getting creamed. But the kid is a worker, so it is too soon to be concerned about his transition from a spread collegiate offense to a West Coast scheme in the NFL.

    -- Wide receiver Ronald Curry seemed to solidify his spot in the Rams offense by taking the ball downfield for post-reception yardage. He looks to be an excellent pick-up by GM Billy Devaney.

    -- Until he threw an interception in his own zone late in the first half, quarterback Brock Berlin was solid. Overall, he was 9 of 17 for 97 yards and a touchdown (to tight end Daniel Fells, with a nice throw through red zone traffic). Berlin’s numbers would have been even bigger had Derek Stanley not dropped a would-be TD pass as two defenders collided going for the ball.

    -- Rookie quarterback Keith Null coughed up a fumble on an ugly-looking broken play. But as time started to run out on his employment bid, he finally completed some downfield passes to move the chains. Was that enough to keep him around?

    -- Running back Samkon Gado got the start and got eight touches. His highlight: Taking a direct snap from center in the “Wildcat” formation and hitting a hole for 5 yards. Unfortunately, he left the game early with a rib injury -– further clouding the running back scenario.

    -- Fellow running backs Kenneth Darby, Antonio Pittman and Chris Ogbonnaya each made their case for continuing employment. But the Rams can’t keep everybody, unless the team can get Ogbonnaya on the practice squad.

    (Also, Devaney will monitor the marketplace. Several veteran backs could become available as teams make their final cuts.)

    -- The run blocking needs to get a LOT better. The Rams finished with 76 yards on the ground with just 2.4 yards per carry. They need to get their starting group together and generate some push.

    -- Defensive end Victor Adeyanju isn’t known for his pass-rushing skills, but he earned one sack and delivered a second big QB hit. He is known as a stout run stuffer, but he got penetration in this game.

    -- Defensive end C.J. Ah You also had an active game. On balance, the Rams defensive line depth held up well during this preseason.

    -- Defensive end Eric Moore suffered a hand injury, which was an unfortunate ending to a strong preseason. The competition for jobs at that position has been intense.

    So now come the cuts. About half of them will be easy and injuries could pick off a few more spots. The last eight to 10 roster decisions will be difficult, which tells you that Devaney did a good job assembling a deep training camp.

    Now the coaching staff must finalize the opening 53-man roster, clean up some issues, build on the progress and prepare for the real games.

    “The challenge is going to get tougher,” Spagnuolo said. “We know the mountain is going to get a lot tougher when we tee it up next week. Everybody has to step it up a notch, that's what the NFL is all about.”

    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  2. #2
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    Re: Rams still have plenty of issues

    I'm afraid we've seen what our running game is going to face each and every week. Teams are loading up the box and our o-line isn't beating them. Smith gave up some horrible pass protection plays but he ALWAYS had energy and played hard. Personally, I'm giving him a pass for 8+ games to learn the position. I love how after plays (good or bad) he is running to help his teammates up and running back to the huddle.

    Jacob Bell was horrible last night IMO. Not playing together as a squad is going to bite them in Seattle.

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    Re: Rams still have plenty of issues

    Maybe Carriker has got to go. Do we have any decent bodies to replace him?

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    Re: Rams still have plenty of issues

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottD413 View Post
    Maybe Carriker has got to go. Do we have any decent bodies to replace him?
    We brought in Darrell Scott, Gary Gibson and Hollis Thomas this offseason, so a lot of bodies have been added, but none are as talented as Carriker is supposed to be. But, that's a big supposed to be. Gibson has the starting job at the moment, so even though he's being written off by most on this site, he's a lock to make the roster in my book. I think we were looking at keeping 5 DT's but now with Carriker a possible IR candidate keeping 4 makes more sense. Those four would be Ryan, Scott, Gibson and Thomas with AC going on IR.

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