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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Spagnuolo takes a back-to-basics approach

    Columnist Jeff Gordon
    STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
    03/12/2009

    On one level, National Football League teams are highly sophisticated operations.

    State-of-the-art technology helps scouts and coaches analyze player weaknesses and identify opponent tendencies. Massive football staffs work 24/7 to seek every possible advantage through analysis and preparation.

    Bleary-eyed players spend hour after hour in meetings, enduring exhaustive video reviews of the previous game and studying elaborate plans for the game ahead.

    Some operations take on a military persona, stressing secrecy and security. Some team complexes remain on lockdown, to keep outsiders (especially media types) in the dark about what happens in the inner sanctum.

    But on another level, professional football boils down to simple blocking and tackling. Teams that consistently block and tackle well win games.

    Teams that fail to block and tackle -- like the recent-vintage Rams -- lose.

    The Rams won a Super Bowl championship with the “Greatest Show on Turf,” a highly skilled team which used cutting-edge offensive tactics. Mastermind Mike Martz prided himself on strategic subterfuge, using exotic personnel groupings and constant motion to keep defenses off-guard.

    In the end, though, the Rams won because they blocked and tackled well. (See Mike Jones, “The Tackle.”)

    And now, new Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is guiding the Rams back to those basics. On both sides of the ball, he is striving to make this team sturdy again.

    NFL offenses must be able to run before they can pass. They must become sound before they get tricky.

    This is why Spagnuolo is putting a premium on blocking. To that end, the Rams signed free-agent fullback Mike Karney.

    He was brought in to do one thing: Block for Steven Jackson. Yeah, he is not a bad pass catcher. In one game, he did score three touchdowns for the Saints.

    But Spagnuolo wanted a power-blocking fullback for this team. He didn’t want to make do with a hybrid back (Brian Leonard) or a tight end pretending to be a fullback (Richard Owens). He wanted a real fullback willing and able to blast holes in opposing defensive fronts.

    “When you want to line up and knock somebody back, it’s good to have a fullback who can do that,” Spagnuolo said Wednesday at Rams Park.

    “I know what my position is all about, I know what it stands for,” Karney said. “I know what my approach is, my mindset is and I know I’m here to block and get it done for our offense in any way, shape or form. That’s run blocking, that’s picking up blitzes, that’s whatever that may be. That’s what I’m here to do.”

    In New Orleans, Karney became expendable because the Saints have evolved into a passing-oriented team. The Saints, like many teams, have diminished the role of the pure blocking fullback in their offense.

    “The game is changing,” Karney said. “Some teams are getting away from it, but I’ve always said, look at the top five rushing teams and they all had a lead fullback. All five top rushing teams this year were in the playoffs.

    “So it’s there and coach Spagnuolo understands that. He understands that you have to run the football. You have to have two backs. You have to have that traditional fullback. I appreciate that.

    “I remember telling my wife when I was still in New Orleans, when coach got the job here, I said there is going to be a fullback there. I know his track record. I know where he has been, I know what he wants.”

    Going forward, Spagnuolo will continue to look for blockers and tacklers. Look for the Rams to add linebackers and offensive tackles through all available means, especially the coming NFL Draft.

    Will they take one of the big offensive tackles with the second overall pick? Will they take linebacker Aaron Curry?

    Might the Rams switch up and go for explosive receiver Michael Crabtree to give the offense more flash and dash?

    All that remains to be seen. Step by step, Spagnuolo is striving to build a new culture -– a program, really -– based on sound, hard-nosed play.

    He wants this team to be able to line up and knock people back. At its core, pro football is no more complicated than that.


  2. #2
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    Re: Spagnuolo takes a back-to-basics approach

    Good article. He seems to be gathering up players who share this mindset, which is good. Excited to see how we work with this.

  3. #3
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    Re: Spagnuolo takes a back-to-basics approach

    Can't wait to see of SJ can hit the hole, I know he has not had many holes to run through. Will SJ stop the dancing and hit the hole?

  4. #4
    BEER's Avatar
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    Re: Spagnuolo takes a back-to-basics approach

    It's starting to sound better than it did in the first half. I hope i keeps up.

  5. #5
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    Re: Spagnuolo takes a back-to-basics approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos View Post
    Can't wait to see of SJ can hit the hole, I know he has not had many holes to run through. Will SJ stop the dancing and hit the hole?
    lol, gosh I have to get my head out of the gutter, it's the immaturity in me.


    Very good article though, I really like how Spagnuolo is grabbing the bull by the horns and doing what he does.
    RamsFan16

  6. #6
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    Re: Spagnuolo takes a back-to-basics approach

    Boils down to fundamental differences in the philosophy for much of the past, which was to dazzle them with bs, to the new philosphy, which appears to be just line up and beat the guy across from you and don't beat yourself.

    Works for me.

  7. #7
    Rambos's Avatar
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    Re: Spagnuolo takes a back-to-basics approach

    lol, gosh I have to get my head out of the gutter, it's the immaturity in me.
    To be 19 again lol.

  8. #8
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    Re: Spagnuolo takes a back-to-basics approach

    Back to basics!

    Master the basics and then get creative.

  9. #9
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    Re: Spagnuolo takes a back-to-basics approach

    Quote Originally Posted by FB Karney
    look at the top five rushing teams and they all had a lead fullback. All five top rushing teams this year were in the playoffs.
    1. Giants - NFC-E Champs - FB Madison Hedgecock
    2. Falcons - NFC-Wildcard - FB Ovie Mughelli
    3. Panthers - NFC-S Champs - FB Brad Hoover
    4. Ravens - AFC-Wildcard - FB Lorenzo Neal
    5. Vikings - NFC-N Champs - FB Naufahu Tahi
    "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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    Re: Spagnuolo takes a back-to-basics approach

    “The game is changing,” Karney said. “Some teams are getting away from it, but I’ve always said, look at the top five rushing teams and they all had a lead fullback. All five top rushing teams this year were in the playoffs.
    Well no kidding, teams that run the ball the most are usually the leagues best teams because they are usually winning games, and therefor running the ball in the second half and playing conservatively with a lead.
    Last edited by BrewCityBuck; -03-13-2009 at 07:36 PM.

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