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  1. #1
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    St. Louis Rams have much work to do before 2009 season

    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Friday, Nov. 21 2008
    As of today, the Rams have 69 players and 18 coaches in their employ. How many
    of them will be around when the team assembles for training camp next July is
    anybody's guess.

    This much seems certain: With the Rams showing no sign of breaking out of the
    malaise that has led to 21 losses in 26 games since the start of the 2007
    season, the offseason upheaval figures to be extensive. And expensive.

    The landscape in the front office figures to change significantly, and coach
    Jim Haslett's fate and that of his staff will be determined over the next
    six weeks.

    Most intriguing, though, is how the roster will be overhauled in 2009. Not
    surprisingly, the Rams have many areas of need.

    First, they must resolve their plans for their 15 players who could become
    unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Included in that group are
    five starters: free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, cornerbacks Ron Bartell and
    Fakhir Brown, defensive tackle La'Roi Glover and center Nick Leckey.

    Other prospective UFAs include cornerbacks Jason Craft and Ricky Manning Jr.,
    wideout/returner Dante Hall, fullback Dan Kreider, wide receiver Dane Looker,
    offensive lineman Adam Goldberg and special-teams ace Gary Stills.

    Once the brass decides whom it wants to retain among that group and the others
    on the current roster, then the focus shifts toward free agency and the draft.
    If the Rams are going to start heading back up the ladder in '09, they will
    have to make some wise moves in both of those areas.

    Here's a look at the primary areas of need, listed in order of importance:

    OFFENSIVE TACKLE

    Seven-time Pro Bowler Orlando Pace is on the downside of a career that could
    land him in the Hall of Fame. Pace, 34, has been solid this season, but hardly
    sensational. He also is showing signs of wear and tear, and injuries have
    become an issue.

    Alex Barron, the team's first-round draft choice in 2005, is an average right
    tackle. His contract is up after the '09 season, and barring a breakout year,
    he's likely headed elsewhere.

    Goldberg is a valuable reserve, capable of playing every position on the line.
    And that's about the extent of it at tackle. Rookie John Greco, a third-round
    draft pick, was a tackle at Toledo, but the Rams are convinced he's better
    suited for guard.

    MIDDLE LINEBACKER

    For some time, Haslett was firm in his view that Will Witherspoon was the
    answer inside. And Witherspoon has put up good numbers, although his play has
    declined this year. Recently, it seems as if Haslett has concluded that at 6
    feet 1 and 240 pounds, Witherspoon isn't big enough to provide the run-stopping
    ability necessary in the middle.

    The Rams have gone through a number of middle linebackers since they let London
    Fletcher walk in 2002. If they can land a big man to play the middle,
    Witherspoon can move outside, where his speed will be a major benefit.

    STRONG SAFETY

    Corey Chavous has put together a solid 11-year career. At 32, he's still
    effective against the run, as well as one of the team's unchallenged leaders in
    the locker room. But Chavous has lost speed and struggles in coverage. Atogwe
    is one of the league's top young free safeties, but he needs a more
    well-rounded partner in the back end. Todd Johnson is a good backup. Eric
    Bassey has been playing mostly free safety.

    CORNERBACK

    Many question marks here. Will Tye Hill bounce back after a poor start to the
    season, followed by knee surgery? Will Brown be re-signed? How about Craft, who
    has been an effective nickel back? Will Jonathan Wade ever live up to his
    second-round-draftee status?

    Bartell has emerged as the team's best cover corner, and the Rams figure to go
    after him hard on a new contract. Also, rookie Justin King, who suffered a
    season-ending foot injury in the preseason, was impressive during camp.

    The Rams could be trolling for a starter, as well as depth, at cornerback.

    RUNNING BACK

    The potential shown by Antonio Pittman and even Kenneth Darby in brief
    appearances dropped this category down the list of priorities. Still, the Rams
    would like to find a big, bruising ball carrier that could spell Steven
    Jackson. NFL teams more and more are developing multiple-back game plans, and
    the Rams need to find someone who can handle eight to 10 carries with
    consistent efficiency.

    The future of former second-round pick Brian Leonard is uncertain; he's on
    injured reserve with another shoulder injury. Travis Minor is a fine
    special-teams performer and an adequate third-down back.

    DEFENSIVE TACKLE

    We're talking a wide-body here. The Rams have nice potential up front in Adam
    Carriker and Clifton Ryan. Unless he takes a minimum-salary deal, Glover isn't
    likely to be back.

    Teams increasingly are clogging up the middle with tackles who tip the scales
    at 330 or more. Of the Rams' current crew, Ryan is the heaviest, at 316. The
    Rams could use some depth here, too.

    DEFENSIVE END

    Rookie Chris Long, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, is a keeper. Although
    he's hardly a finished product, Long has made steady progress throughout the
    season. Leonard Little remains the team's best pass rusher. But he's 34, and
    he's been dealing with injuries for a couple of seasons.

    James Hall has had a strong year, and Victor Adeyanju has stepped up his play
    despite injuries to both hands. Eric Moore has displayed some rush skills.

    The Rams will be looking for Little's eventual successor, someone who can get
    to the quarterback consistently but also can man-up against the run.

    QUARTERBACK

    Marc Bulger is under contract a big contract through 2010, and he figures
    to be the starter until then. Even at 38, Trent Green is a solid backup. But
    it's time for the Rams to bring in a young quarterback and develop him for the
    future. If the Rams can identify that guy and give him a couple of years to
    learn the system and study under the two veterans, they'll enhance their future
    at the game's most vital position.

    CENTER

    Although undersized, Nick Leckey has put together a good season. He's kept
    Brett Romberg, the starter at the end of the '07 season, on the bench, even
    after Romberg recovered from a broken hand. But at 302 pounds (maybe), Leckey
    gets shoved around too much by those massive defensive tackles. Leckey has
    earned a shot to stay, but he might need to move to guard if the Rams bring in
    a bigger man to snap the ball.

    FULLBACK

    This is somewhat of a dying position in the NFL, but teams still covet big
    bruisers who can lead-block in short-yardage situations like Madison
    Hedgecock, who was released inexplicably last year. Dan Kreider is filling that
    role this year, but he's been less than impressive.

    The Rams will be looking for a specialist to fill the breach, but they won't
    need to spend much here.
    St. Louis Rams' Richie Incognito says Chicago Bears fans likely to outcheer Rams fans at Edward Jones Dome
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Friday, Nov. 21 2008
    Here we go again. Two years ago, when the Rams last played host to Chicago,
    running back Steven Jackson chided Rams fans for selling their tickets to Bears
    fans. He said he was embarrassed by all the Bears fans in the Edward Jones Dome
    and said it was so loud, the Rams had to use a silent count on offense.

    With the Bears coming to town for a noon kickoff Sunday, it's Richie
    Incognito's turn to criticize the hometown fans.

    "It seems like our fans aren't coming to the game, so it's fun when the other
    fans come in and start hooting and hollering you know what I mean?" Incognito
    said Thursday. "At least someone is in the dome yelling. We don't worry about
    noise. (Bears fans) can be as loud as they want. We deal with noise on the
    road; we deal with noise at home."

    Incognito returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday's workout
    with a sore shoulder. He likely will start Sunday against the Bears in a
    sold-out dome that is expected to include many Chicago fans.

    "We know how our fans feel about us, that's fine," Incognito said. "It's nice
    to have the other fans here. At least they cheer. Our fans get in their seats,
    they don't know how to cheer, when to cheer. We get the other team's fans
    coming in, and they cheer real nice for us. It provides for a good football
    atmosphere having the Chicago fans down here."

    As for Rams fans not having much to cheer for, lately ...

    "They're waiting for something to cheer about, exactly," Incognito said. "We
    didn't give them much to cheer about."


  2. #2
    Truth's Avatar
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    Re: St. Louis Rams have much work to do before 2009 season

    Interesting. IMHO, the order should be more like this,

    1. OT - I agree we need to take care of this right away. No QB will be able to
    function while flat on their back all the time.
    2. DT - We need a big guy in the middle now. There has been no pressure up the
    middle, nor have we been able to stop the run. This would take a lot of
    pressure off the LBs and DBs.
    3. MLB- I'm still pissed we didn't keep London Fletcher (don't even get me started).
    4. SS- We need to be faster and meaner here. Oh yah, this guy should be able to
    tackle as well.
    5. C- Lots of big DTs on the other side. We need a big guy in the middle to run the
    line and move some bodies.
    6. CB- Quick, fast, smart, punishing (someone like Antoine Winfield)
    7. DE- Little is getting old. Long will be good. We need more pressure from the
    outside.
    8. QB- I agree with Coats. Marc's salary keeps him where he is. But, we need to start
    looking forward here.
    9. RB- Someone to spell Jackson, or fill in for the other half of the season when
    Jackson is injurred.
    10. FB- Oh yeah, we had one of those. Now where did we put him? Ooops...


    Just my thoughts. There are plenty of valid arguments to change the order.
    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!!

  3. #3
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    Re: St. Louis Rams have much work to do before 2009 season

    #1. I heard a Pittsberg fan say the other day that the steelers poor start this season was the direct result of not having Dan Kreider. He was that important to that team. Who knows?

    #2. We're not so thin at DB anymore. I thought Ricky Manning played pretty good D while he was in those few games. I think he'll keep Wade on the pine. Maybe a leader will emerge from this maturing group.

    #3. I think time is ripe for Haslett to go with Brian Leonard at safety. Why has no one else jumped on board this redicullously ingenious idea. He's fast, smart and he, Haslett and the organization are desparate. When I'm shown to be correct I promise not to glote, a word bypassed through the recent years by the word taunt, which I will do. But in good taste. Which I guess IS to glote. So there.
    Last edited by live4ramin; -11-21-2008 at 05:10 PM. Reason: disorginized mind.
    "The horror"

  4. #4
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    Re: St. Louis Rams have much work to do before 2009 season

    Quote Originally Posted by live4ramin View Post
    #3. I think time is ripe for Haslett to go with Brian Leonard at safety. Why has no one else jumped on board this redicullously ingenious idea. He's fast, smart and he, Haslett and the organization are desparate. When I'm shown to be correct I promise not to glote, a word bypassed through the recent years by the word taunt, which I will do. But in good taste. Which I guess IS to glote. So there.
    Brian Leonard at safety? We don't even know if he can tackle, make reads, play man coverage, and all the other vital talent you need to play a safety. Converting a RB/FB hybrid to a safety? Doesn'ty sound right to me.

  5. #5
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    Re: St. Louis Rams have much work to do before 2009 season

    No, who we need to move to safety is Richie Incognito! This kid will bring the toughness and mean streak we need in our secondary

  6. #6
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    Re: St. Louis Rams have much work to do before 2009 season

    If there were an order I'd put it in...

    1. OT - This is the first. If none of the top prospects are available, we should really go for Maualuga or Lauranitis.

    2. MLB - I believe that Witherspoon will emerge as a great linebacker in the league when he is moved back out. His speed is good for the out side linebacker positions. Besides we need a big guy who will hit people in the mouths everytime they get near him. Maualuga or Lauranitis is the perfect pick for us if our OT player isn't selected.

    3. C - Don't even get me started here. I know Leckey has been playing his heart out, but his size isn't good. Besides he isn't that good. Time to go into the free agency with this position.

    4. SS- Chavous has been playing his heart out as well. A reason why he's got the captain badge on his chest. However, players are faster, stronger and smarter now. His time is up. He's had a good career, but we need to find his replacement.
    5. C- Lots of big DTs on the other side. We need a big guy in the middle to run the
    line and move some bodies.

    6. FB- It was a tough choice here. I wanted to claim a CB here. But we need a FB. I really doubt Kreider is the answer, and I'm almost guaranteed that Brian Leonard isn't. We had a true FB here a couple years ago. We decided to let him go and he helped pave the way to become a champion.

    7. DE- I will have to admit. Leonard Little is getting old. He's still a great player don't get me wrong! James Hall is also a good option but is getting old as well. Victor Adeyanju is a decent option, but with our four player rotation, I think we should add one more for the aging vets.

    8. QB- Bulger will remain the starter. Easily for two more years. But we do need to think of the future.

    9. CB- We have Bartell and Manning. They are probably the best ones. We also have Fakhir Brown, Jason Craft, Tye Hill, Jon Wade, Justin King. Before King got hurt, it was said that he was pretty impressive. Now, this isn't the most pressing need, but it is a need regardless.

    10. RB - I know, we need a good running back incase Jackson goes out again. But I think Pittman has been doing a decent job filling in for Jackson. So it is not the greatest need for us, if its a need at all...

  7. #7
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    Re: St. Louis Rams have much work to do before 2009 season

    Quote Originally Posted by C-Mob 71 View Post
    No, who we need to move to safety is Richie Incognito! This kid will bring the toughness and mean streak we need in our secondary
    Yeah, he could cuss'em a blue streak as they go by, kick his helmet at them and go back to the huddle and say he's sorry just like when he's on offense.
    "The horror"

  8. #8
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    Re: St. Louis Rams have much work to do before 2009 season

    Quote Originally Posted by RockinRam View Post
    Brian Leonard at safety? We don't even know if he can tackle, make reads, play man coverage, and all the other vital talent you need to play a safety. Converting a RB/FB hybrid to a safety? Doesn'ty sound right to me.
    Alright! I've got one deciple. Now the rest of you CLANpersons jump on board too and help get the word to Haslett (and maybe Leonard also).

    I just want it confirmed Leonard can't tackle. He's bigger and faster than Archelleta and you guys pissed your pants over him. Lets get him a shot.
    "The horror"

  9. #9
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    Re: St. Louis Rams have much work to do before 2009 season

    Why not put Brian Leonard at safety? And then we can also hire Michael Vick and have him play defensive end and rack up 30 sacks a year. We would have the all Madden defense!

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