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    RamView, 8/31/2006: Dolphins 29, Rams 9 (Long and Bizarre)

    RamView, August 31, 2006
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Preseason Game #4: Dolphins 29, Rams 9

    Editor’s note: Since tonight’s game was so pointless, the only starter on either team was the kicker, Mike has also decided to consider himself a starter and take the week off, too, turning RamView over to an elite celebrity panel. Oh, it’ll be weird, but the information’s in there. Read on if you dare…

    Position by position:
    * QB, by Will (no relation to Stanley) Shakepeare: To QB or not to QB, that is the question: whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings of Dave Ragone and the arrows of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Nothing can come of nothing, which is what Ragone did. Nothing. 0-for-7. Like Falstaff, Ragone showed a kind of alacrity in sinking. The world was Miami’s oyster after a ten-minute TD drive right after intermission, which Ragone followed with a three-and-out. His passes flew up, his receivers remained below. After two more drives and three more incompletions, it was the winter of Dave’s discontent. Something was rotten in the state of Florida – the pass Ragone threw badly and Deke Cooper – smiling, damned villain! – returned for a TD. What a piece of work is Ragone! He came right back out and gave the ball away again – et tu, Jack Hunt? – leading to a last Miami FG, and very likely, the unkindest cut of all for the Rams’ fourth-stringer. Ryan Fitzpatrick started and wasn’t great (7-14-94), but the quality of mercy is not strain’d. He had several long sideline incompletions, but by the pricking of my thumbs, he makes better throws there now. He held the ball too long against Miami blitzes, so the course of the Rams never did run smooth enough for a TD. Ryan looks best throwing on the run, seeing his nice 14-yard pass to Dominique Thompson off a roll right in the 2nd. All that glisters is not gold, but Fitzpatrick’s modest two FG drives look like that when weighed against Ragone’s performance in Act Two. Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow.

    * RB, by Dennis Miller: This game was about as meaningful as a North Korean news conference, but let’s see what we can get. After last week’s blitz pickups weren’t any better than Poland’s in 1939, the Rams were a little better at it tonight, especially Moe Williams, but not perfect. The problem for Moe (6 rushes, 11 yards, long of 6) is that he’s running like he’s got Rosie O’Donnell and the old Star Jones on his back. That opens the door for Fred Russell (7-25), who’s shorter than Robin Williams’ attention span, but continues to make nice, elusive runs. He’s the gazelle in the Rams’ RB corral full of bulls. Tony Fisher locked down the #2 job with a nice combination of power running and patient, elusive running. He’s shown he’ll follow his blockers, and willingly drive the pile, but if his blitz pickups don’t improve, cha-cha, Marc Bulger will end up in worse shape than Evel Kneivel jumping the fountain at Caesar’s Palace. John David Washington ran twice for just one yard, hmm, seems like there should be some kind of movie reference I could make here… Oh, well. That’s the RB summary, and I am out of here…

    * WR, by Mike Martz: Football is a game of speed and attitude, and Dane Looker showed a lot of that tonight, with my favorite play, a 10-yard reverse, and some good teams plays. Shaun McDonald had an 18-yard catch, a real Max Q play against a blitz, and Joe Klopfenstein, who I understand plays a position called “tight end”, followed that a couple of plays later with a 15-yard screen pass. Some guys struggled – Taylor Stubblefield had a nice catch but also a drop, and Clinton Solomon dropped Ragone’s first pass, or he would have been 1-7. Dave Ragone – he’s the best. The Rams only completed seven passes, but the top four receivers, including Isaac and Torry (both out) barely played, so shoot, they can fix that. See you October 1!

    * Offensive line, by the late John Facenda: Woe is he who goes against the charge of the oncoming lineman. Mark Setterstrom butted heads with Dolphin defenders on screen passes and pull blocks like a golden Ram ascending a mountaintop. But not only linemen are proud warriors. Joel Klopfenstein blocked well on an early screen to Tony Fisher. Moe Williams picked up several blitzes in the first quarter. When burdened strictly with that task, the Ram RBs fared well. But when also asked to be a receiver on a play, Fisher and Williams too frequently failed to deflect the raging fire of the Miami blitz from its target, causing the play to fail. A sack ended their first drive when Fisher barely brushed a blitzer. Miami forced a second Ram FG when Ben Noll and Blaine Saipaia couldn’t handle the rolling thunder. That and Fitzpatrick’s third sack could be called coverage sacks, but not the single sack of Ragone, a sack and fumble created by a Jack Hunt blitz that Dominique Byrd did nothing to stop. On this night on the soggy tundra of Dolphins Stadium, neither team really won the line of scrimmage, and the Rams improved some defending against the blitz. But the autumn wind is a raider – Pillaging just for fun – And if Denver knocks the Rams around – They’ll laugh when we start 0-and-1.

    * Defensive line/LB, by Gregg (TMQ) Easterbrook: A who-dat gentleman if TMQ ever saw one, Brandon Green charged into the Dolphin backfield on the game's first play and kept doing it most of the night. Brian Howard, similarly a who-dat gentleman, made his case for continued employment by tripping up Cleo Lemon to force Miami's 2nd FG, plugging a run for a 6-yard loss in the 4th, and following that with a sack. Glamour stat that it is, sacks aren't always that important. Howard received a sack merely for running Lemon out of bounds. Jamal Brooks received a sack for merely tapping Joey Harrington, who was already on the ground because his own lineman had tripped him. It's easy to sack someone when he's already been knocked to the ground. Brooks' blitz to blow up a screen later in the game was a bigger-impact play, but does not go on a stat sheet. Another glamour stat is the interception, which is important, but no more so than the forced fumble. Yet nfl.com (TMQ's former employer) does not even offer forced fumbles as an individual statistic! So Brooks gets a glamour stat for recovering a fumble that ended Miami's first drive, but Dexter Coakley gets little for forcing the fumble! Similarly in the third, Mike Goolsby got the glamour stat for recovering a fumble forced by Deandre Eiland's major hit and Victor Adeyanju's swipe at the ball! Forcing fumbles is at least as important as recovering them, and relies less on the luck factor; NFL.com should report it as an official stat. Les Mouflons will be more than happy not to see missed tackles as an official stat, though. Dontrell Willis usually has to be in town for Miami to see this much whiffing. Raonall Smith and Jerome Carter made poor plays on Derek Hagan’s 18-yard catch on 2nd-and-13 in the 1st. The very next play, who-dat Green and veteran Dexter Coakley failed badly to tackle Wes Welker, yielding 13 more yards. Miami went on to its first FG. Miami’s next FG drive was kicked off by terrible tackling by Coakley (who did make some good plays as well) and Jamal Brooks. Gerald Riggs Jr. turns a short pass into a 17 yard gain. Miami took the game over with an epic 18-play drive coming out of halftime. Jon Alston made a couple of good run stops, but Riggs broke off a 20-yarder when Alston got screened out by a crossing receiver and Tim McGarigle picked the wrong hole. Miami failed to convert a 3rd-and-12, but the Rams gave them a second chance by accepting a ten-yard penalty. Naturally, not only did Miami take one play to get those yards back, Matthew Rice stupidly roughed QB Cleo Lemon to hand the Marine Mammals a fresh set of downs. Green and the tastefully-named Mike Goolsby then made Kay-Jay Harris look untacklable for 12, and coverage breakdowns led to a Marcus Vick TD. Though TMQ spotted some good run clogging by Claude Wroten, and noted some big rush and downfield support by who-dat Tim Sandidge, the DEs, especially Rice on Harris’ last long run, didn’t stop the run well, and the Ram LBs tackled downright poorly, as if they were watching the Miami cheerleaders instead of the game. Hey! an excuse to print a picture of a Miami cheerleader! Next week: Can enough missed tackles have a measurable effect on the time-space continuum?

    * Secondary, by the McLaughlin Group: (John) Issue One – The Rams' nickelback: Who should it be? What say you, Pat Buchanan? (Pat) Tye Hill is a threat to the way of American life. He made terrible plays on Derek Hagan's 18-yard catch and Wes Welker's 13-yard catch the next play on Miami's first FG drive. You call that defense? He blew tackles downfield all night. (Eleanor) I JUST THINK - (Tony) Let's all take a breath here. Hill is a rookie, and he made some nice run stops. He got Sammy Morris for a loss in the 1st to force a 3-and-out. (Eleanor) I WANT TO SAY – (Lawrence) Was Jerametrius Butler any better, though? Wasn't this guy supposed to be nearly a Pro Bowler a couple of seasons ago? Tonight he couldn't tackle anybody, he let guys like Fred Gibson and Marcus Freaking Vick make catches in front of him, he can't defend Kelly Campbell without committing DPI? (Eleanor) CAN I JUST – (John) I agree, Butler also had a rough night, but he did break up a TD pass late in the first half. My prediction: Butler by a hair. What about Issue Two - the safeties… Tony Blankley? (Tony) Well, not a couple of weeks ago, we were all having great fun at Dwaine Carpenter's expense, but he has emerged as a reliable ally. On a night where everybody tackled poorly, he saved the Rams quite a bit of damage. (John) Yes, he forced Miami's first FG by defending a pass, and he saved the Rams a TD on KJ Harris' 18-yard run in the 4th. Patrick, what about Ron Bartell? (Pat) Ron Bartell is a threat to our basic freedoms. We got a good long look at him tonight. (Eleanor) BUT – (Pat) and he stunk. On Miami's first TD drive, he was useless on a WR screen, terrible tackling, then he and Goolsby just let Vick stand in the end zone for the TD! (Eleanor) BUT I – (John) I want to hear from Lawrence. Lawrence? (Lawrence) Bartell didn't tackle well, and didn't look like he knew what he was doing in coverage. Simple as that. (John) I predict doom for Bartell. (Eleanor) You guys hate me, don't you? (All) YES! (John) Happy Labor Day… Byeeee-Bye!

    * Special teams: Hi, gang, Larry King here… I've always enjoyed following the Rams. That Georgia Frontiere is one classy lady… Why do they call them "special teams"? What's so special about them? The kicking?... Jeff Wilkins kicked three FGs, but Olindo Mare must be better, since he kicked 5… Speaking of kicks, there is no greater entertainment spectacle anywhere than the Radio City Rockettes… The Rams' kick-returning situation couldn't really be decided because stupid Mare booted everything into the end zone in the first half. One kick return apiece for Marques Hagans, Brad Pyatt, Fred Russell and… Tony Palmer… That Palmer is truly an underrated kick returner… Mark my words, Mark Russell will go down in history as America's greatest humorist… Kick coverage was good thanks to Dane Looker, who made two tackles and drew a penalty. Miami didn't really get good field position after a kick all night… Which reminds me, the prune danish is still the most underrated comfort food… Gotta go, I think I just got married again…

    * Coaching/discipline, by President George W. Bush: I'm humbled to be here today to comment on the strategery of Coach Scott Linehan and the St. Louis Rams. I wish the Rams would have won, since that no-good Nick Saban wouldn't even have lunch with me. Remember, Saban: either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. My good friend Coach Linehan didn't really go nucular on the Dolphins tonight. Almost all preseason, the Ram offense has been as vanilla as Karl Rove. But Miami misunderestimated that Dane Looker on his 10-yard reverse in the first series. A well-Texecuted play. The screen to Klopfenstein was also a very nice call, the kind of thing they'll have to do to keep defenses honest this year. Linehan left every starter on the bench tonight, so I guess it's "Mission Accomplished" where they're concerned.
    I remember calling Rams Park last year and saying, Marmie, you're doing a heck of a job. But Jim Haslett is Rams Nation's secretary of defense now. What happened to Rummy? Oh, ok. Where was I? The Ram defense was a little troubling tonight. There were a lot of missed tackles and players overrunning plays. He tried to smoke the Dolphin QBs out with blitzes but 2 of the Rams' 3 sacks were basically accidents, and guys like Cleo Lemon got time to attack a Ram secondary playing as soft as Marmie's guys played last year. That must not stand. If the Rams are to blitz successfully, the secondary must not tire, it must not falter, it must not fail. It certainly must not play nine yards off receivers like Derek Hagan on third downs or blow assignments that let evildoers like Marcus Vick score TDs. Good night, and God bless America. I'd be happy to come back anytime, unless the highways on the Internets become more few.

    * Waiver bait, by Chris Berman: Here are RamView's 22 projected cuts for the 53-man roster deadline, and PS doesn't mean I love you, it means practice squad: 1. QB Dave Ragone from – Louisville!; 2. Not Mo' Better Blues for JD Washington; 3. Or Moe Better Blues for Moe Williams, nyuk nyuk! Russell and Hedgecock make the roster as special teams contributors; 4. TE Jerome (Bootsy) Collins; 5. TE Alex (Sherlock) Holmes; 6. WR Brandon (Stuck in the) Middleton; 7. WR Clinton (Song Of) Solomon; 8. WR Taylor (Razor) Stubblefield (PS); 9. WR Dominique the headless Thompson gunner; 10. G Ben (Grassy) Noll; 11. G Tony Palmer pilot (PS); 12. C Irish Dominic O'Raiola (PS); 13. T Drew (Minne) Strojny; 14. Blaine (Collective) Saipaia, I’m guessing Turner is more important because he backs up center; 15. LB Mike (Ghosts and) Goolsby; 16. LB Tim McGarigle with Listerine (PS); 17. DE Matthew (Fried) Rice (PS); 18. DT Tim (Peanut Butter) Sandidge (PS); 19. CB Ron (Will Soon Be Working Behind A) Bartell; 20. S Deandre (No Man Is An) Eiland. Carpenter won his spot, Carter barely makes it; 21. KR Brad (American) Pyatt; and 22. P Andy (Bride and) Groom. Hagans makes the roster but will be inactive a lot while fielding plenty of kicks in practice. Where he… could… go… all… the…


    * Upon further review, by Martin Kilcoyne, tonight's TV play-by-play announcer: Man, that Ed Hochuli sure is ripped. When the NFL issued the new referee uniforms, he should have asked them to make him a sleeveless version. You could have really seen the definition of his biceps when he called that face mask Victor Adeyanju didn't actually commit in the 3rd. Miami sure did a lot of holding on some of their longer runs, but Hochuli probably let that go, knowing he could pull the linemen apart with one flex of his mighty arms. Should I really be this obsessed with a 56-year-old man's physique? Oh, Miami just scored…

    * Cheers, by H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger: They were two of a kind, the just-retired NFL wide receiver and the sports director of a Fox affiliate in St. Louis. Ricky had been a football and baseball star at Hillsborough High in New Jersey, in a town where George Washington once drilled his troops. He moved on to Wake Forest, a Baptist school that once nicknamed its teams the Deacons before impishly adding "Demon" to that sobriquet in the fateful year of 1941. Martin made his way out of an adolescence of Saint Louis toasted ravioli and thin-crust pizza to a plumb assignment in the hamlet of Rhinelander, Wisconsin… What's that? I'm talking about everything except the game? So what, that's what they did the whole second half! They barely even showed down and distance after halftime! Oh, and watch Friday Night Lights this fall on NBC…

    * Who’s next? by Mike, written before he got bored to DEATH by a preseason football game: Remember who hosted the AFC Championship last year? The Super Bowl champ Steelers? No, remember, they were a six seed. The almost-went-undefeated Colts? <CHOKE> <GAG> Um, no. Correct answer, of course, is the Denver Broncos, who the Rams were unlucky enough to draw (YET AGAIN) this year as their season-opening opponent. The Broncos come to the Dome with last year's #2 rushing offense and #2 rushing defense, and gee, thanks for the easy Homecoming opponent, NFL. The Broncos are a solid team in just about every area and are a prime candidate to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLI. If the Rams are going to beat or stay with the Broncos, they'll need to succeed at a not-so-revolutionary strategy: Make them pass.

    The best way to make the Broncos pass will be to jump out to an early lead. An early hot hand hasn't been Marc Bulger's MO, but he'd better be ready for once next Sunday. The Rams don't figure to run well against that #2 run defense, so Game 1 of the Linehan Era may look a lot like Game Every of the Martz Era as a result. Throwing a lot could work against Denver if only because the Broncos don't get a lot of sacks. They had just 28 last year, no one player had more than 4, and they lost their best pass rusher, Trevor
    Pryce, to the Ravens. With 4 sacks by safety John Lynch, and 3 apiece from superb LBs Al Wilson and Ian Gold, it will be critical for the Rams to protect successfully against the blitz. But who do you attack if you can do that? Champ Bailey had 8 INTs last year, and Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth are two of the league's best young corners. I say, attack Lynch. He's old and has always been an Archuletaesque liability against the pass. Run your TEs at him all day long and make him try to cover. It'll be interesting to see what a Ram passing game with a TE actually in it looks like, if nothing else. Also, put a bug in the ref's ear so Lynch doesn't get away with his penchant for the dirty hit.

    The Rams need to grab that early lead to discourage Denver from running. Because they can run. Their offensive line and RB coaching have been among the league's best for a long time. As if to prove anybody can run in their system, they came into tonight with rookie FA Mike Bell as their #1 RB. Tatum Bell is currently the backup. One thing to note is that both Bells have had fumbling problems, so get a hand in there, D! Forcing a turnover would be a great way to get Denver off their game. Jake Plummer is coming
    off a career-best season, with 18 TDs vs. just 7 interceptions. He has a solid, though I think slow, receiving corps in Javon Walker and Rod Smith. The Broncos love to throw to their stable of TEs, especially in the red zone. They also love to roll Plummer out. Plummer did so much rolling in their preseason game against Tennessee, Titans had to be treated on the sidelines for motion sickness. The Rams have to be able to defend that, or Opening Day will look a lot like that preseason game: 35-10, Denver. The Rams are more than likely going to have to blitz Plummer to get to him; Denver gave up just 23 sacks in 2005. And that will call for a near-mistake-free game from a Ram secondary which, though improving, has had its share of mix-ups in the preseason.

    But remember that AFC Championship. Pittsburgh passed its way to an early lead, then blitzed Plummer into playing like the mistake-prone QB he's been most of his career: two fumbles and two INTs in that game. Rams DC Jim Haslett comes to the Rams (via the Saints) from that very Pittsburgh blitzing
    profile. And Rams HC/playcaller Scott Linehan was the Dolphin OC when Miami stunned the Broncos last Opening Day. (Pass/run balance was 36/27 until Miami went solely to the run up 27-10 midway through the 4th). The Ram coaches know how to beat the Broncos. Can they script an upset for Opening Day? We're all eager to see how that script plays out.

    -- Mike (and a cast of thousands)
    Game stats from nfl.com


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    Re: RamView, 8/31/2006: Dolphins 29, Rams 9 (Long and Bizarre)

    Some of the nicknames on the cut list are great, but i cant believe anyone seriously believes that ron bartell is going to get cut.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


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