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    MFranke's Avatar
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    RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    RamView, August 7, 2007
    Team Scrimmage Report from Lindenwood College


    Hey, St. Louis may have figured out it's time for some football. A capacity crowd of 7,000 watched tonight as the Rams locked horns with one another in the closest atmosphere to a live game they've seen so far this preseason. The problem is, I'm not really sure exactly what we all learned tonight. The Rams might have answers right now to a couple of their myriad issues, but there are still an awful lot of questions left blank thus far on their 2009 NFL entrance exam.

    Position by position:

    * QB: Marc Bulger looked solid enough, though I'm not ready to proclaim he's “back” like they just did on the 10 o'clock news. The short passing game clicked and Bulger especially made some nice throws into tight spaces. He found Keenan Burton and Donnie Avery downfield a couple of times and is still working really well with Randy McMichael. He was picked off from the goal line by Quincy Butler on an attempted out route to Laurent Robinson. Butler really jumped that route, so I'm not sure if Bulger's throw was the problem there. At least I hope not. That wasn't Bulger's only INT, though; Craig Dahl picked off a deep throw to end the offense's first two-minute drill. Nobody inspired much confidence behind Bulger. Kyle Boller was under pretty good pressure much of the scrimmage and chucked a couple of INTs – one a dumb throw into double coverage, another 10 yards past the nearest receiver and right to the deep safety, I think Dahl again. The TE cut off his route early on that second INT, though, and I'll bet he wasn't supposed to. At least in Boller's mind. I actually started worrying about Boller before the scrimmage started; I don't think he made a single good throw to the sideline in warmups. Brock Berlin lost the snap from center on his first play, really bad timing since the Rams were starting that drive at their goal line. Keith Null didn't show a lot of zing on his deep throws, and he badly missed on a timing route into the end zone during goal line drills, but he drilled a pass into the end zone the next play for a TD on what had to be his best throw of camp so far. Null also showed off a pretty nice play-fake. They're doing well enough by-and-large with the short passing game, but there were a lot of misses deep.

    * RB: Very limited action for Steven Jackson – 3-4 snaps – and Kenneth Darby, and on just about any sweep, the refs were blowing the whistle before the back could get out and turn the corner, making it hard again to figure how well many running plays actually would have fared. Samkon Gado started at fullback; I do not believe Mike Karney played. Gado's RB3 ahead of Antonio Pittman, but Pittman showed some of the nice footwork and elusiveness that makes him worth keeping around. Chris Ogbannaya and Null collided on one attempted handoff and had a lengthy discussion on the field over who was at fault. It's going to be hard for me to get a good feel for the progress of the running game until real, live competition starts next week.

    * Receivers: Keenan Burton's in the mix for star of the night. He made a couple of nice downfield catches and also caught the one short TD pass I can remember Bulger throwing. Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson also had nice outings, and my confidence increased tonight about the Rams entering the regular season with those as the top three receivers. Derek Stanley is 4th at WR, based on tonight's substitution pattern. Tim Carter made a nice play to haul in an underthrown deep ball from Null. Eric Butler had two TD catches at TE but also had the worst drop of the night and may have been the TE who helped cause one of Boller's INTs. Especially with Burton turning in some consistently good performances, WR is starting to look like an area the Rams are getting shored up.

    * Offensive line: Definitely a step backwards tonight for first-round pick Jason Smith, eaten up by Victor Adeyanju and taken to school by Leonard Little. There was a three-play sequence late in scrimmage where Smith probably would have given up three straight sacks. Looked to me like he was dropping too deep too fast, and with bad balance, and his man would just drive him straight back to the QB. Smith saw some snaps on the first unit, but I'm gonna have to slow down my expectations on him, though his potential is undeniable. What's also undeniable? Alex Barron's ability to false start, which he did on a simulated third-and-short to a chorus of thousands of boos. The line had a second false start, but with an unidentified perpetrator. I'm thinking 70 again. And, grrrr. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

    * Defensive line/LB: The first-string defense started a little slowly but can pretty much be said to have won the night. Leonard Little pwned Jason Smith the series they got to face off, beating him three straight times. The first time he appeared to stun Smith with his punch and rushed right through him. Victor Adeyanju also made some inroads against Smith during the night. Boller can thank God for red jerseys when he gets home, because Cliff Ryan would have obliterated him on a rollout pass that blew up. Nice range from Ryan. Chris Long got a couple of pressures from his end and also spent a curious amount of time working with the twos. C.J. Ah You put on quite a bit of effective pressure in scrub action. And in the oh-crap-here-we-go-again category, Adam Carriker left early with a leg injury I could not determine and did not return. The line got the QBs to rush a lot of throws and had a lot of shots at sacks without doing a lot of blitzing, so it was a successful night for them. Some good linebacking going on as well. Chris Draft flashed in a bunch of times to stuff runs. He also ranks as one of the stars of the night. James Laurinaitis spent the whole night with the second unit and Draft is not giving his position up without a fight. I'm catching up with the Larry Grant bandwagon. He's around the ball a lot. K.C. Asiodu got a moment of glory by picking off a Berlin pass, though the referee's whistle brought a premature end to his return to the house. Dominic Douglas made a couple of nice plays, though he got one pass defense mainly because Null (or Berlin) didn't get enough on a deep throw and hit him in the back with it.

    * Secondary: Jonathan Wade had the hit of the night, sticking Robinson to prevent conversion of a short-yardage down, but he got beat downfield a couple of other times. Ram QBs didn't even try to go after Ron Bartell. I hoped to get a better look at Bartell tonight but he was in zone a few yards off the line anytime I remembered to look. Quincy Butler “flashed” with a very nice INT of Bulger near the offense's goal line, jumping the route perfectly and beating Robinson to the spot. I'm catching up with that bandwagon now, too. Bradley Fletcher looked good the few times the passing game went his way, though watching him try to play gunner on one punt still makes me wonder how much he'll contribute to special teams. The secondary as a whole is noticeably stronger against the run. O.J. Atogwe slashed in a couple of times to stuff runs, though on the starting defense's first play in goal line drills, he bit HARD on a play fake and left TE Butler all alone in the end zone for an easy TD. Cord Parks had a nice pass breakup, catching up to an underthrown bomb from Null after getting beaten deep by his man (Brooks, I think; possibly Curry). Beyond getting beat constantly by the underneath drag route, the secondary played well. They're well-organized and didn't blow any assignments. They supported well against the run. Ram QBs had a fair share of trouble finding receivers, and the defense picked off a bunch of passes, at least 5 or 6. Hmm, any possibility the Rams have a defensive-minded coach now? It's still up in the air to me how the CBs shake out behind Bartell, though, because I don't think Tye Hill has done much to separate himself from the rest of the pack.

    * Special teams: Return specialist auditions continue to be a veritable cattle call. Returning punts at one time or another tonight: Stanley, Curry, Avery, Parks. Kickoffs: Darby, Gado, Carter, and Jarrett Byers. Burton may have returned punts as well. And little's settled here in my mind. Stanley didn't look right out there. He dropped a couple and had to sprint backward 15-20 yards a couple of times to track punts down. I hope he was setting up way too short on purpose. Otherwise, it's Donnie Freaking Jones, for crying out loud, drop back deep. Jones boomed consistent 55-60 yarders before the scrimmage,but his protection allowed too much pressure right up the middle during the scrimmage and he had to rush some punts that came up shorter than his usual standard, and nothing the various Ram returners could really bring back. Josh Brown hit a 50-yard FG to close out a successful 2:00 drill and was hitting from 60 prior to the scrimmage.

    * Coaching/discipline: Steve Spagnuolo observed much of the scrimmage from deep in the Ram backfield. I thought I saw him chew Barron out a little after his false start but that may have been wishful thinking on my part. Not many offensive wrinkles again tonight. There were a few fake end-arounds, and on the opening play, Jackson motioned out of his backfield position to the left slot before an inside handoff to Gado at FB. The secondary appeared to pick Jackson up well. Pat Shurmur appears determined to roll out the QB more than we're accustomed to here, though Boller's the main one I've seen rolling out to date. I'm late bringing this up, but Shurmur is an inverse Al Saunders in that this offense is really working the middle of the field, thank God. And the underneath drag route was there any time the offense wanted it. The Ram D will have to get that tightened up.

    * Cheers: Great crowd tonight! Lindenwood's stadium was filled to capacity on a beautiful summer night with a warm southerly breeze blowing. Announced attendance was 7,000, and I won't argue with the estimate for a change. Stadium capacity is 6,000 and there were plenty of people in the standing areas. The shady west side of the stadium was almost completely filled more than a half hour before the scrimmage was scheduled to start. Lindenwood has a very nice facility (with FieldTurf), and would be a perfect place for the Rams to work out should they decide to have future preseasons outside of Rams Park.

    * Who’s next?: Just Sunday practices from here on out for yours truly. This Sunday'll be my last opportunity to see the team in person before it starts playing live opponents Friday night in New York. The Rams continue to show some pep defensively and look more and more like they'll survive at WR. But there is still a lot of challenge ahead for the team to address by the start of the 2009 season.

    -- Mike


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    Azul e Oro is online now Registered User
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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    Thanks. great read. Good grief, I hope Carriker is ok. And we are back at that old perennial conundrum; is one player really doing well/badly or is it a reflection of their counterpart/unit or just an anomaly?

    Some fans ,apparently, find it exasperating. I find it an intriguing puzzle.

    Overall, the thing I like most is Spags' style.For example, he's shown all the support in the world for Bulger yet openly puts pressure on the guy by confessing,essentially, that he was eavesdropping on his huddle. No one & nothing above scrutiny/ reproach .

    I think that, in part, is why things seem to be seesawing so much. This coaching staff seems to me to not be taking the " oh, we know from tape what they do well so let's build around it" approach but more "let's make no assumptions that can't be proven under as realistic conditions as can be safely managed, get all the weaknesses out in the open now, & work them out."
    Last edited by Azul e Oro; -08-08-2009 at 04:08 AM.

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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    Thanks, Mike. As always.
    "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

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    RamOfDenmark is offline Registered User
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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    Always a good read, especially when you haven't got a chance to see the scrimmages yourself.

    I especially like the news of Burton starting to make some plays, I still hope that he can surprise people this year. We may not have as bad a group of receivers as you'd think on paper.

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    Tony Banks's Avatar
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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    I was there too and it was nice to see such a turn out. Lots of Rams fans. We had a couple of guys sitting a few rows ahead of us, one had a Josh Brown jersey, the other had a Donnie Jones jersey. Nice touch! Spags got a nice hand as he came on the field too. Overall, a great time. Let's turn this thing around!
    :1:

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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    On the topic of Jason Smith getting pwned... he is going against a healthy Leonard Little. Let's not forget that LL is one of the most dominant pass rushers in the NFL when healthy, lets give the kid a break. Also I love hearing about Victor Ayendeju doing well- I'm still standing by my early predictions, he will be our Justin Tuck type of difference maker on the d line. So imho don't get worried that our rook is struggling, he is going against two of the best in the bigs.

    Also, great article. Thanks for giving us some in person insight.

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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    great to see our recievers take a step foward hopefully that can continue. glad to hear spags chew out barron spags needs to do whatever it take to make barron know when to move and when not to.

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    MFranke's Avatar
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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    Quote Originally Posted by C-Mob 71 View Post
    On the topic of Jason Smith getting pwned... he is going against a healthy Leonard Little. Let's not forget that LL is one of the most dominant pass rushers in the NFL when healthy, lets give the kid a break. Also I love hearing about Victor Ayendeju doing well- I'm still standing by my early predictions, he will be our Justin Tuck type of difference maker on the d line. So imho don't get worried that our rook is struggling, he is going against two of the best in the bigs.

    Also, great article. Thanks for giving us some in person insight.
    Don't get me wrong; I'm still totally aboard Jason Smith's bandwagon & agree with your points. Just wanted to take my foot off the gas pedal a little bit from last week. Still think he's the opening day RT.

    --Mike

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    MFranke's Avatar
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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Banks View Post
    I was there too and it was nice to see such a turn out. Lots of Rams fans. We had a couple of guys sitting a few rows ahead of us, one had a Josh Brown jersey, the other had a Donnie Jones jersey. Nice touch! Spags got a nice hand as he came on the field too. Overall, a great time. Let's turn this thing around!
    I got into the stadium right behind those guys! They should get extra awesome points for those jerseys.

    --Mike

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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    Leonard Little or no... it sounds like we might need to shelter the kid a little bit when the season starts by leaving a back in for protection on the right side, or at least to chip the defender. Definitely sounds like he's not ready for the left side yet either. Barron's at least proven himself over there before.

    Thanks for the report, I can't wait to see them next friday night!

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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    Quote Originally Posted by C-Mob 71 View Post
    On the topic of Jason Smith getting pwned... he is going against a healthy Leonard Little. Let's not forget that LL is one of the most dominant pass rushers in the NFL when healthy, lets give the kid a break.
    Here's a hypothetical situation: if the guy in your avatar had looked so overwhelmed at the start of his NFL career, would you have been pleased?

    Smith is the second overall pick in the 2009 draft; if he can't adjust quickly, it's not looking promising.

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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    It's only a week into training camp, so let's not condemn Jason Smith to bustville quite yet. Let's at least let him get some gelling time with his line mates in the preseason first before we really rate him. I know I'll be looking intently at that right side in the Jets game myself.

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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    Thanks for the report! Always a good read.

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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    Quote Originally Posted by MFranke View Post
    Don't get me wrong; I'm still totally aboard Jason Smith's bandwagon & agree with your points. Just wanted to take my foot off the gas pedal a little bit from last week. Still think he's the opening day RT.

    --Mike
    I think we are all underestimating the difficulty of that transition for Jason Smith. It's still quite early, he'll be fine, along with James Laurinitis. I'm curious about Foster if he's going to catch on and surprise us?


    Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams

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    Re: RamView scrimmage report: 8/7/2009

    Man. Good read. I am confident in our receiver group, I'll be wearing my Avery jersey on friday!

    I'm not shocked one bit about Barron...

    If he continues to screw us over with false starts, bench him, move Smith to the left and start Goldberg on the right.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    Devaney, if you care about this team... fire the offensive coordinator!!!!

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