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    RamView, 8/30/2007: Rams 10, Chiefs 3 (Long)

    RamView, August 30, 2007
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Preseason Game #4: Rams 10, Chiefs 3

    A game expected to be meaningless was all that, and less, except possibly to family members and friends of Tim McGarigle, as the Ramsí offensive reserves proved less inept than the Chiefsí for a 10-3 win. Our national nightmare is over: the Governorís Cup has returned to St. Louis. Whenís the parade again?

    * QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick (12-18-105) took over for Gus Frerotte in the second quarter and played the whole way, leading to speculation that he was being ďshowcasedĒ for a trade. I donít see the value in that, though. Iíd much rather have Fitzpatrick third at QB than Brock Berlin. Itís possible the Rams could carry just two QBs, and open Fitzpatrickís spot up for an extra lineman, or to keep a player they think will get poached off waivers before reaching the practice squad. With Bulgerís injury history, Frerotteís age and Berlinís liabilities, Iíd rather keep Ryan around. He didnít showcase that much tonight anyway; a bunch of short passes and a nice 20-yard TD pass to Marques Hagans. Fitzpatrick had more opportunities to throw but took off running 7 times for 26 yards, sometimes deciding to run before even finishing his dropback on plays I doubt were designed runs. And how much can a Harvard education be worth when Fitzpatrick was too dumb to slide at the end of any of his runs, taking the licks instead? (Though he did hit a nifty spin move at the end of one to twist out a first down on 3rd-and-9 to set up the Hagans TD.) Right at the end of the first half, Ryan ran on 3rd-and-goal from the 4, when the correct play would have been to chuck the ball through the back of the end zone and stop the clock. The Rams had no timeouts left and with less than ten seconds on the ticking clock, that error cost the Rams a score. Letís go, Harvard! Frerotte (11-14-97) pretty much played catch with Dane Looker for a while and got out of there. Backup QBís one area the Rams have proven themselves quite solid in this preseason. Waiver bait: Brock Berlin.

    * RB: Fitzpatrick was the leading rusher. Brian Leonard (7-20) started and got stonewalled by several Chief blitzes before Madison Hedgecock came in to keep that extra guy from breaking across the line. Leonard promptly cut a run back for 9 behind a block from Hedgecock. Thatís a nice part of Leonardís skillset to see besides him slamming into the line for 2 yards ten times a game. Leonard also picked his way through traffic up the middle nicely a couple of times. Possibly most importantly, Leonard, and the Ramsí RB corps as a whole, did an excellent job of picking up blitzes, night and day from what I was seeing in training camp. Rich Alexis (6-23) got in but looked like a clone of Leonard. He ran hard, but without any wiggle. Travis Minorís (5-15) experience, elusiveness and receiving ability win him that spot from my POV. JD Washington (4-5) got some very late carries and made a nice tackle on kickoff coverage to coach Linehanís accolades. Waiver bait: Alexis, Washington (PS).

    * WR: Marques Hagans (4-53) led the Rams in receiving again, has 3 of the 4 (just 4?) Ram TDs this offseason, showed electrifying potential as a punt returner, and if he doesnít make this team, they should just ban preseason games forever. (Well, maybe even if he does.) Scott Linehan has previously said heíll keep six wideouts, so the point, as we say in Missouri, is "mute". Dane Looker (5-45) was the early featured receiver and cemented his spot with a nice performance. Dominique Thompson (4-35) looked good, too, though, making at least one nice grab. The receivers werenít always on the same page as Fitzpatrick, though. Besides all the times Fitzpatrick immediately took off running, Hagans failed to make a route adjustment on a 2nd-half blitz, and Thompson appeared to make a similar misplay. These guys did a nice job for August but Iím not sure we want to see too much of them in September if we donít have to. Waiver bait: Thompson, Shaine Smith (PS), Fred Gibson, Derek Stanley (PS), and TE Mark Anelli, though itís feasible theyíll try to prevent exposing Stanley to waivers. Looks like the Rams will indeed keep 4 TEs.

    * Offensive line: There was a significant injury this evening, as Todd Steussie will be lost for 6-8 weeks with a broken foot. Thatís a very unfortunate turn of events, because it makes Adam Goldberg the main backup at both tackles, and he had a very rough night at LT. The one sack of Frerotte came off of him and he was getting beat all night. Andy McCollum started at center, Claude Terrell at LG and Milford Brown at RG, and between the two guards and Goldberg, it was like nobody wanted that last available o-line spot or two. I thought Brown got pushed back too much, but Terrell didnít help his case with a couple of false starts. Dustin Fry got some time at center, and needs more. He held his ground fine, but his shotgun snaps werenít good. One was bad enough to mess up an inside handoff to Minor that would have had some promise. Jim Hanifan charged the late sack of Fitzpatrick to Ken Shackleford. Too bad thatís the first time Iíve gotten to mention Shack, or Fry, this preseason. Jeremy Parquet might have had a shot to stick in the wake of Steussieís injury, but I wasnít seeing very good technique over there at RT. He was just trying to shove everybody instead of keeping his feet moving, and the results werenít good. Waiver bait: Brown, Parquet, Drew Strojny, Fry (PS), Shackleford (PS).

    * Defensive line/LB: The expected main event of Eric Moore vs. Trevor Johnson was instead overshadowed by the Tim McGarigle Show. If you can make a team in one preseason game, McGarigle probably did it tonight. He was all over the place. He was good against the run and stuffed a Derrick Ross run in the 3rd. He made the gameís key defensive play in the 2nd, reading Jeff Terrell and making a nice play to pick off an eminently stupid pass at the one-yard line. How much is a Princeton education worth, anyway, with Terrell making dumb plays like that? Iíd send my kid to Northwestern. McGarigle has certainly made it a contest with Quentin Culberson, who had a half-sack and a good special teams tackle but a quieter night overall. Jon Alston was also very active but seemed to be the main culprit and out of position on Kolby Smithís 55-yard run in the 2nd. Didnít help that Tim Sandidge was completely buried on the play. There were a couple of sequences of sloppy tackling; I think Alston was guilty of some of that. As for Moore v. Johnson, I think Johnson won it. Mooreís the pass-rusher, but Johnson was the one with two late sacks, and a forced fumble on the gameís last play. Johnson added a tackle-for-loss and chased down a Michael Bennett 9-yard run from behind. Moore shared a sack with Culberson, and impressively, did it without his helmet. Are the Rams looking for a guy to be a spot pass-rush specialist, or an all-around player who can fill in if Leonard Little gets hurt? Mooreís the former; Johnsonís the latter. I think Johnsonís played better overall; Iíll take him. Good games by several other linemen: Victor Adeyanju was really hitting people; Claude Wroten stuffed a Smith run; Cliff Ryan had a couple of good run stops, including a shutdown of Smith on a 4th-and-1. The Rams allowed just 93 yards on 27 carries if I may take the obnoxious liberty of omitting the Smith 55-yard run. The line put on fair pass pressure at best, with the bulk of the sacks not coming till late, but they get some slack in light of KCís proclivity for the quick slant pattern. Waiver bait: Moore, Sandidge, Keith Jackson (PS), Jamal Brooks, Raonall Smith, and though I hate to do it, Culberson (PS). McGarigleís had more time in the system.

    * Secondary: Watch here where I give the other team credit. Well, discredit, really. The Chief QBs, especially with Damon Huard not playing, (did Casey Printers get cut? His absence cost me about eight jokes) are terrible, and are not much of a test for a secondary. KC threw for just 132 yards. Terrell completed 15 passes, but it felt like the Ram DBs got beat by the dreaded quick slant about 100 times. Nobody could defend the feared quick slant; Darius Vinnett got beat by it; Jonathan Wade got beat by it; Lenny Walls got beat by it; even Unca Fakhir Brown couldnít handle the Chiefsí indefensible slant-passing game. Somewhere along the line, a Ram needed to bump a Chief off his pattern, but it didnít seem to happen. Josh Lay might have gotten beat by it, too, but I recall him best for a couple of good plays, including a knockdown of a long pass to the end zone in the 4th. But Vinnett, whoís been running ahead of Lay, sealed his spot on the team for me with his coverage of the gameís last punt with his picture-perfect drop of Justin Phinisee for a loss at the end of a 48-yard kick. Waiver bait: Lay (PS), Andre Kirkland.

    * Special teams: A much-needed turnaround on special teams tonight, as kickoff coverage was good and punt coverage excelled. The punt defenders held their lanes, beat the Chiefs down the field, broke down properly and tackled securely, all sights to see. Kevin Lovell hit a 36-yard FG, with Donnie Jones holding, and has had a very nice preseason. That stupid pop-up kickoff in the 3rd wasnít his idea. Jones averaged 42.6 a punt, but for a guy with a 5-year contract, has to do better at pinning the opponent in their end than he did. He ďpinnedĒ KC at the 17 with a 30-yard punt in the 1st and plonked a 48-yarder in the end zone. Iím sure the Rams expect better than that from Jones, though Iím not, necessarily. Waiver bait: Lovell.

    * Coaching/discipline: The game plans were more vanilla than the Osmonds performing a medley of Anne Murray's greatest hits, so there really isn't much to say. Greg Olson seemed to put Hedgecock in to combat KC's early run blitzing. Whether or not that was the intent, it worked well. I didnít see Jim Haslett calling for much of anything in the way of blitzing. Special teams coverage was markedly better than the last two weeks, and it was fun to see coach Linehan step out on the field and glad-hand the guys who made good plays. Linehan reinforces the commitment to special teams with gestures like that. The pop-up kick by Lovell after the TD in the 3rd was a terrible idea, though, giving KC field position across the 30. Kick it deep! The only regulars at any position to see action were Hedgecock and Donnie Jones. Though I donít know how Steussie broke his foot, that injury validates Linehanís no-starters approach from my seat. If that had been Alex Barron, thereíd be a lot of frowning and scowling in Rams Nation this morning. (To Raiders fans who wish to protest the use of ďNationĒ, Iíd like to introduce you to Bill Simmons.)

    * Waiver bait: My 22 projected cuts for Saturday are at the end of each positional rundown. (PS), as you can guess, means Iím targeting a player for the practice squad. There will be a need to pick up a third tackle to replace Steussie and play better there than Goldberg. That could cost one of the other o-linemen a spot, or it could cost Vinnett, who Iím mainly keeping as an extra DB while Unca Fakhir is suspended, or I guess itís possible Steussie could be IRíed. A high majority of this round of cuts appears to be straightforward, so nothing I suggest is going to break any radical ground or anything.

    * Upon further review: I usually think Mike Carey is the league's most overrated official, but he called tonight's game almost exactly the way youíd hope for a game to be called. Carey stayed on top of the offensive line holding calls, and the crew let the DBs play, a drastic change from the kid-gloves approach the Morelli crew took with Oakland's receivers last week. Fred Gibson made a catch they originally called incomplete but overturned after review; that's about the only hiccup I thought they had. Very nice job.

    * Cheers: The best block all night wasn't by a Chief or a Ram. It was by a receiver, #3 of the University City team, on the poor sap who was trying to catch #2 of U.City downfield during the halftime youth football show. #3 just flattened the poor kid and laid on top of him. #2 went on to score the long TD. That kid WR threw a better block there than Randy Moss ever has. Decent crowd again; far from the reported sellout, but I'd say still 40,000, maybe 45K. The Chief fans were fine except for that disgusting moment where they yell "Cheeefs" over "brave" at the end of the national anthem. Do they do that to proclaim theyíre not brave? The military guy of the week got a huge pop from the KC-enhanced crowd, so itís not a question of patriotism. Why vandalize the national anthem? It doesnít make KCís look like good fans; it makes them look like disrespectful hoosiers. And since when does the radio broadcast run a couple of plays behind whatís actually happening on the field? Because that is very, as we say in Missouri, "disorientating".

    * Whoís next?: OK, with all this nonsense out of the way, itís time for some REAL football, and the Rams will be in for a real tussle for the September 9th home opener with the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have pulled off more than their share of upsets in the Dome over the years. Ask any of us who are still cursing Jason Sehorn after that í03 double-OT playoff game, for instance. If you were hoping for an opponent that would be star-struck for its road opener, sorry, Carolinaís (4-4 on the road last year) not that team.

    The best way to beat Carolina is to make Jake Delhomme beat you. Jake doesnít get sacked a lot but throws a lot of interceptions. Pressure him; heíll beat the Panther offense for you. Delhomme has one of the gameís premier targets in Steve Smith, but very little to go with the all-pro WR. The youthful Ram secondary shouldnít be outclassed here. You especially force Delhomme to beat you by stopping the run. Not surprisingly, the Panthers were 7-1 last year when they outrushed their opponent, 1-7 otherwise. In Carolina last year, though, the Panthers made like the bulls in Pamplona, while the Ram defense made like the guys in the silly scarves, to the tune of 242(!) yards. DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams will kill you with cutbacks. The revamped Ram d-line ought to be able to hold its own against Carolinaís average-at-best offensive line, but itíll be up to the Rams back seven to provide the solid run support that forces the game onto Delhommeís shoulders and gives the Rams their best chance to win. Pisa had his worst game of Ď06 against Carolina; his much-improved health should be a big help.

    The two keys of the Ramsí debacle last year were Orlando Pace and Scott Linehan. Pace was hurt, and Todd Steussie and Adam Goldberg were awful against Mike Rucker on the right side. Linehan was calling plays, and did an awful job, 41 passes vs. 8 runs in a game that was within reach most of the day. As a result, we donít really know how Steven Jackson may fare against Carolina. Odds are itíll be tough sledding against the leagueís #11 run defense. Marc Bulger wonít find the going any easier if forced to pass; Carolina brings the #4 pass defense and was sixth in the NFL in sacks last year. The Rams are going to need solid work from Pace and Alex Barron, who actually fared pretty well against Julius Peppers, to avoid the hammerfest Marc experienced in Carolina last year. Between the 7 sacks, his receivers bringing butter instead of hands, and Linehan steadfastly refusing to call any passes downfield, Bulger and the Ram offense had their worst game of í06, losing 15-0. Plenty should be different this time, though Torry Holtís lingering recovery from knee surgery leaves reason to worry. If the well-rested Jackson can tee off against the Panther defense early, heíll loosen them up for Bulger and himself later down the line. If Carolina owns the line of scrimmage again, though, look out.

    In a sport with so few regular season games, there are few feelings better than the ones you get when you start 1-0, and few worse than when you start 0-1. Every sports broadcast will tell you the relative merit of getting off to a good start on a teamís playoff and Super Bowl prospects. Starting with back-to-back home games, itís especially important for the Rams to come out of the gates strong. Itís also important because they havenít put their best foot forward in the preseason. The 2007 Rams bandwagon is ready to start rolling. Will it roll ahead smoothly or start sailing downhill? Next Sunday we start getting some of our much-anticipated answers.

    -- Mike
    Game stats from nfl.com


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    MFranke's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 8/30/2007: Rams 10, Chiefs 3 (Long)

    Quick update: the Rams have put Steussie on the PUP list, and are talking about working Milford Brown some at tackle. So if Brown was in any actual danger of being cut, I believe the roster move with Steussie saved a slot for him.

    --Mike

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    Re: RamView, 8/30/2007: Rams 10, Chiefs 3 (Long)

    thanks again for the writeup mike. If i understand the rule correctly, Steussie wont count against the 53 man roster and we can wait 6 weeks before deciding whether to put him on IR. We have up to three weeks to put him on the active roster once he starts to practice.

    Is that your understanding of the rule, i am a bit shaky on this one, i have read a bunch of contradictory stuff.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


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    MFranke's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 8/30/2007: Rams 10, Chiefs 3 (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by general counsel View Post
    thanks again for the writeup mike. If i understand the rule correctly, Steussie wont count against the 53 man roster and we can wait 6 weeks before deciding whether to put him on IR. We have up to three weeks to put him on the active roster once he starts to practice.

    Is that your understanding of the rule, i am a bit shaky on this one, i have read a bunch of contradictory stuff.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel
    GC: sounds fine to the best of my knowledge. You know more about it than me.
    I believe the actual transaction will be to place Steussie on "reserve-physically unable to perform".

    --Mike

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