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  1. #1
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    Cool St. Louis Rams 2004 Season Preview

    St. Louis Rams 2004 Season Preview

    From James Alder,
    Aug 14 2004

    QB Controversy No Longer an Issue

    The defending NFC West Champion St. Louis Rams decided it was time to cut ties with former two-time league MVP Kurt Warner because of a contract that made it prohibitive for them to keep him as a backup. In doing so, they also rid themselves of the quarterback controversy that has dogged this team since Warner’s fairy-tale career took on a tailspin that mirrored his meteoric rise just a few short years ago. And now that all questions about his starting QB have been erased, the mad scientist, head coach Mike Martz, can get back to work devising further ways to frustrate defensive coordinators. As in recent seasons, the Rams find themselves in the situation of having what promises to be one of the most potent offenses in the league. They also find themselves, once again, looking for answers on defense.zSB(3,3);if(!z336){var zIsb=document.getElementById("adsb");if(zIsb){"inline";"0px";"0px";}var zIss=document.getElementById("adss");if(zIss){"inline";"0px";"0px";}}

    Lovie Smith accepted a head coaching job in Chicago, so the responsibility of pulling the defensive squad together falls squarely on the shoulders of new defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, who promises to use much of the same system used last year with a little more man-to-man schemes thrown in. Potentially, he has a very good unit, but there are legitimate concerns with durability, depth, and experience at several positions.

    Now that Warner is in New York, the issues at quarterback appear to be settled. Starter Marc Bulger will no longer have to look over his shoulder to see if he is going to be replaced every time he makes a mistake, which should only add to his confidence. Bulger’s ability to make quick reads is a good fit for this offense, but he tends to force the ball at times. He must cut down on the 22 interceptions he threw last season if this team is to become a legitimate contender again.

    Backup Chris Chandler will be entering his 18th year in the league, and while he can be as effective as anyone throwing the ball, he has to have great protection to get the job done. He tends to hold onto the ball too long, which is why durability has become such an issue for him in recent years. Jeff Smoker, who slipped on draft day because of off-field issues, was added late in the daft and will likely be a developmental prospect in the No. 3 role.

    Running Backs
    When healthy, Marshall Faulk is still one of the best running backs in the league, but he’s had two knee surgeries in the last year and is 31-years old, which is why the Rams used their first-round pick in this year’s draft on Steven Jackson out or Oregon State.

    Lamar Gordon, who is recovering from ankle surgery, figured to be the backup this season, but his lack of receiving skills make him a poor fit for this offense, so Jackson will likely take the No. 2 role from Gordon simply because he fills their needs better. He has good size at 6-2 and 230 pounds, yet is still elusiveness enough to make defenders miss. He has mid 4.4 speed with a quick first step and a good burst through the hole. He displays good balance and power, runs low to the ground, and isn't afraid to take on would-be tacklers. He also picks up a lot of yards after initial contact and catches the ball effectively out of the backfield. Joey Goodspeed, who is likely to be little more than a situational blocker, will be the starter at fullback, with Arlen Harris providing depth behind both the fullback and running back positions.

    Wide Receiver/Tight End
    Starting wideouts Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt will once again make up one of the NFL’s most potent receiving duos. Holt is in his prime and is probably one of the top three or four receivers in the game. Bruce is on the down side of his career and may have lost a step, but he is still better than most No. 2 receivers in the league.

    Second-year player Shaun McDonald looks to be a nice fit in the slot and Kevin Curtis, also in his second season, will come in when the Rams run four-receiver sets. Dane Looker and Mike Furrey will battle for the job as the fifth receiver. Brandon Manumaleuna will start at tight end, but he is not much of a weapon and will probably not be utilized a whole lot in this offense. Offensive Line
    The Rams have a very solid group of veterans starting on the offensive line, assuming starting LT Orlando Pace is in camp by the start of the season and RT Kyle Turley’s surgically repaired back holds up.zSB(3,3);if(!z336){var zIsb=document.getElementById("adsb");if(zIsb){"inline";"0px";"0px";}var zIss=document.getElementById("adss");if(zIss){"inline";"0px";"0px";}}

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    Pace’s holdout has become an annual event, so it is probably not as big of a concern as Turley’s health, but should St. Louis be forced to use their bench, they are fortunate to have some depth at the tackle positions with Grant Williams and Scott Tercero, who could adequately step in for short periods of time. However, there could be problems if either are asked to start on a full-time basis.

    Andy McCollum moved from center to left guard last year, and he struggled at times, but the coaches are hoping he will become more consistent after a year at the position. Two-time Pro Bowler Adam Timmerman will continue to start at right guard while veteran Dave Wohlabaugh returns at center. Wohlabaugh is an intense player and should have a couple good seasons left in him, but he lacks bulk and isn’t overpowering.

    Defensive Line
    The Rams could find themselves in a bit of a bind at defensive end if Leonard Little’s felony drunk driving charge causes him to miss time this season. He is an effective pass rusher who creates turnovers and big plays, but if he misses significant time, St. Louis will likely have to resort to a platoon system to fill in for him. Sean Moran, who came over as an unrestricted free agent from the Bills, will probably receive the majority of the playing time at right end, filling the hole left by Grant Wistrom, who signed with the division-rival Seahawks during the off-season. And a group that includes rookie Tony Hargrove, Tyoka Jackson, and Bryce Fisher will battle for playing time in the rotation.

    Ryan Pickett will start at the nose tackle position, and Damione Lewis will play the one-gap, but this unit suffered a big blow with the loss of last year’s first-round draft pick Jimmy Kennedy, who suffered a broken leg in traininng camp and could be lost for the season. Although he struggled as a rookie, coaches had high hopes for the youngster this year, and he was being counted on to play a significant role in a three-man rotation at tackle. Bernard Holsey, who came over from the Redskins will probably take his place in the rotation, but if Little is forced out of action, he could be placed into service at end on running downs as well.

    The starting linebacking squad is among the most athletic in the league and is the strength of this defense, however, there is little depth on the bench. Robert Thomas will start in the middle, with Pisa Tinoisamoa on the weak side and Tommy Polley at the Sam position. Thomas is a solid player with the potential to be one of the best middle linebackers in the league, but he is undersized, has trouble shedding blockers, and is a durability risk. On the outside, Polley is a solid player with sideline-to-sideline speed, but he can be inconsistent when teams run at him and he, also, carries durability concerns. He is at his best when he is attacking and has the potential to be a playmaker if he can stay healthy. Tinoisamoa had a very nice rookie season and he should continue to get better with improved technique and experience. He is a playmaker with great burst and closing speed, and he also possesses good coverage skills. Rookie fourth-rounder Brandon Chillar will compete with second-year players Jeremy Loyd and Brandon Spoon for backup duties.

    St. Louis could be faced with some serious concerns in the secondary, where they lack a true shut-down corner and experienced depth. Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler are adequate starters, but neither matches up well with most teams’ No. 1 receivers and would struggle if forced into a heavier man-to-man package. Second-year players DeJuan Groce and Kevin Garrett will play in nickel and dime situations, giving the Rams a very inexperienced group that could possibly be exploited by opposing offenses.

    The safety position appears to be more stable with Adam Archuleta returning at strong safety and veteran Aneas Williams back at the free safety position. Archuleta has good speed and agility, and he’s solid against the run. He has also improved his coverage skills since entering the league in 2001.zSB(3,3);if(!z336){var zIsb=document.getElementById("adsb");if(zIsb){"inline";"0px";"0px";}var zIss=document.getElementById("adss");if(zIss){"inline";"0px";"0px";}}

    Williams brings 13 years of experience to the secondary, and although he is obviously on the downside of his career, he is always in position and rarely makes mistakes.

    The Rams still have the weapons to compete for the division crown, but there are some serious concerns on defense. If Leonard Little is lost for a significant period of time, it could have a seriously adverse affect on the pass rush, which could further expose an inexperienced secondary. If Little misses time, someone will have to step up to match his production or this unit will likely struggle. Defensive tackle is also a big concern with a couple guys that have never fully lived up to their potential and another whose season may already be over.

    Offensively, I don’t think they will miss a beat, and I believe the offensive line will not be a problem even if they are forced to accommodate Turley’s injury for a short period. Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk should cause match-up problems when the Rams line them up together in the backfield and the receiving corps could have a bit of a renaissance with the young guys legitimizing the No. 3 and 4 roles again and Marc Bulger fully gaining control of the QB duties. Overall, I believe the Rams will compete for the division, but defensive problems will allow the Seahawks to take the crown from them. They could very well pull out a wild-card berth and make some noise in the playoffs, however, and could be legitimate contenders if the defense holds together.

  2. #2
    general counsel Guest

    Re: St. Louis Rams 2004 Season Preview

    If we stay healthy and can stop the run, we are going to win the super bowl.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel

  3. #3
    evil disco man's Avatar
    evil disco man is offline Pro Bowl Ram
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    Re: St. Louis Rams 2004 Season Preview

    They also find themselves, once again, looking for answers on defense.
    I'm sick of hearing this crap after the way they performed last year. They're questionable against the run and have a new coordinator, but it's not like the defense is a glaring weakness.
    Dane Looker and Mike Furrey will battle for the job as the fifth receiver.
    I believe Mike Furrey is all by himself at the #6 spot.
    The Rams could find themselves in a bit of a bind at defensive end if Leonard Little’s felony drunk driving charge causes him to miss time this season.
    He won't this season.
    Sean Moran, who came over as an unrestricted free agent from the Bills, will probably receive the majority of the playing time at right end
    He came from the Whiners and isn't even competing for the opening at right end.

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