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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    SI Team Preview: St. Louis Rams

    Sports Illustrated Team Preview: St. Louis Rams
    2nd in NFC West
    Nunyo Demasiao
    Issue date: September 4, 2006

    The Greatest Show on Turf is sticking closer to earth as a new coach puts a renewed emphasis on rushing and defense

    THE BELIEF
    While the Rams retain much of the arsenal from the pass-crazy offense of former coach Mike Martz, rookie head man Scott Linehan will balance the attack, clearing the lanes for talented tailback Steven Jackson. The bigger change, however, will come on defense, where St. Louis hired former Saints coach Jim Haslett as coordinator and spent most of its $100 million in off-season acquisitions. It is potentially the Rams' best defense since the 2001 season -- the last time they reached the Super Bowl.

    THE REALITY
    Though Linehan doesn't have an alliterative moniker like Mad Mike Martz -- "I'm too boring a guy to have a nickname," he says -- he has overseen explosive, pass-oriented systems in Miami and Minnesota as an offensive coordinator. Guiding the attack for the fifth season is the NFL's most underappreciated quarterback, Marc Bulger, whose career passer rating of 90.6 is sixth best in NFL history. Problem is, he has injured his throwing shoulder three times since 2004 -- an occupational hazard when you throw as many as 62 times in a game, as Bulger did against the Giants last year.

    Now Bulger will lean heavily on Jackson, who has a dazzling blend of speed and power. Plus, Linehan's emphasis on short, quick passes should help. And for a backup, St. Louis acquired 13-year vet Gus Frerotte, who won nine of 15 starts last season in Miami and also played for Linehan in Minnesota. The No. 1 wideout is still Torry Holt, who last year became the first player in NFL history to have six straight seasons of 1,300 or more receiving yards.

    Breakout Player: Steven Jackson
    He was the giddiest player in training camp. With coach Mike Martz and running back Marshall Faulk gone, the third-year veteran will finally have an expanded role. Last year Jackson rushed for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns, but his 254 carries were the fewest among the NFL's top 15 rushers, and he groused about his lack of touches. He's capable of sprinting outside, but he really flourishes between the tackles. Now -- coming off rib and hip injuries last season -- he must prove that he's durable enough to handle the extra work.
    Before the Rams challenge for a wild-card berth, however, they have to remake a defense that ranked 30th in the league. They did that in a single season once before: In 2000 they allowed a franchise-worst 29.4 points per game, then hired Lovie Smith to be the coordinator and gave up only 17.0 a year later. (Smith is now the Bears' coach.) Haslett, a former linebacker who brings aggressive schemes, will have at least six new starters to engineer similar improvement. The key addition will be Will Witherspoon, an athletic linebacker who is strong against the run and pass. He was overshadowed in Carolina by linebacker Dan Morgan and defensive end Julius Peppers, but he has an opportunity to draw attention while making the transition from the weakside to the middle.

    Defensive tackle La'Roi Glover, who went to his sixth Pro Bowl last season, with the Cowboys, will bolster the run defense and complement Leonard Little (912 sacks) on the pass rush. The secondary, which yielded the third-most passing touchdowns in the league, also has to tighten the screws. Free-agent signee Corey Chavous, a cerebral safety with the Vikings, should be better on pass coverage than heavy-hitting Adam Archuleta, who left for the Redskins.

    Says Witherspoon, "We're not going to be guys who say, 'Hey, we know the offense is going to score 50, so as long as we hold [the other side] to 48, we're good.'"

    The attack under Linehan won't get close to 50 as often as it used to, which perhaps makes him Martz Lite. It's not much of a moniker, but that doesn't matter. It's the defense that must make a name for itself if the Rams are to return to the playoffs.

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  2. #2
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    Re: SI Team Preview: St. Louis Rams

    Before the Rams challenge for a wild-card berth
    WILD CARD!?!? :x

    I say let go for the gusto and TAKE THE DIVISION OUTRIGHT! :l :l

    RnD

    GO RAMS!!:r

  3. #3
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    Re: SI Team Preview: St. Louis Rams

    All of the pundit have all but given the division to Seattly. Hopefully, we'll have something to say about that.
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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: SI Team Preview: St. Louis Rams

    Quote Originally Posted by SFCRamFan View Post
    All of the pundit have all but given the division to Seattly. Hopefully, we'll have something to say about that.
    I don't think they're going to sweep the NFC West again, but I see no significant reason why you can't still consider them the frontrunner for the division title. The ***** are, well, the *****. Arizona has made some improvements but James is a waste of money without a better offensive line. And the Rams have talent but I'm concerned about their ability to get it done on both lines. Realistically I don't think you can blame the "analysts" and "pundits" for inking Seattle in at the top of the West.

  5. #5
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    Re: SI Team Preview: St. Louis Rams

    All of the pundit have all but given the division to Seattly. Hopefully, we'll have something to say about that.
    Ahhh...no. Actually, Seattle are the division champs because they won the division. Until someone takes the division back from them, they will remain the division champs.
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    Re: SI Team Preview: St. Louis Rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    I don't think they're going to sweep the NFC West again, but I see no significant reason why you can't still consider them the frontrunner for the division title. The ***** are, well, the *****. Arizona has made some improvements but James is a waste of money without a better offensive line. And the Rams have talent but I'm concerned about their ability to get it done on both lines. Realistically I don't think you can blame the "analysts" and "pundits" for inking Seattle in at the top of the West.
    I think SEA is in for a post SB loss hangover this season. If we are able to take control early I think we have a good chance to win the division.
    JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS


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