St. Louis Rams Team Report
St. Louis Rams Team Report
On a team where there was monumental turnover from last season, coach Steve Spagnuolo often talked in the offseason about the process of building a roster.
Still, despite the numerous changes and jettisoning of veterans, there was some optimism that the team could improve from the 2-14 season in 2008. However, everyone knew, even if they wouldn't admit it, that the margin of error was slim, depth could be a factor and everything had to go just right, meaning the avoidance of injuries.
Unfortunately that didn't happen. One week into training camp, wide receiver Donnie Avery and defensive tackle Adam Carriker were injured in a scrimmage. Avery got off to a slow start and Carriker was lost for the season.
Quarterback Marc Bulger missed several weeks of training camp with a finger injury, and has missed games with a bruised rotator cuff and is currently out because of tibial plateau fracture in his leg.
Wide receiver Laurent Robinson was establishing himself as a go-to receiver when he suffered a broken fibula in the third game of the season.
After Sunday's loss to Seattle, Spagnuolo was asked if the team just isn't talented enough. Said Spagnuolo, "I would never say that because I believe in the guys we have there and we'll keep fighting. In this league, anybody can beat anybody on any given Sunday. Are we banged up? Yeah, but that's no excuse for losing and I don't think our guys would use that as an excuse."
No, players and coaches normally don't use that excuse, but this is a team more than just "banged up."
In addition to Carriker and Robinson, starters cornerback Bradley Fletcher, defensive tackle Gary Gibson and wide receiver Keenan Burton are on injured reserve. Burton became the starter after Robinson was injured, while Gibson took Carriker's starting spot.
Through 11 games, 10 starters had missed a total of 48 games. At least 25 games will be added to that from the five starters on injured reserve.
In preparations for last week's game against Seattle, five offensive players that opened the season as starters weren't practicing: Bulger, running back Steven Jackson, right tackle Jason Smith, right guard Richie Incognito and Robinson. Fullback Mike Karney was also out.
The Rams played the Seahawks without a true fullback, and during the game, center Jason Brown suffered a knee injury, leading to an offense that stalled in the first four possessions of the second half.
Just when some continuity was developing in the line, the departure of Brown resulted in Mark Setterstrom sliding from right guard to center and John Greco entering the game at right guard.
The Seahawks took advantage, and while the offense came to a grinding halt, Seattle built its halftime lead from 14-10 to 27-10.
Concluded Setterstrom, "We got into a situation where they could be aggressive. You know, they got ahead of us. But in reality, they weren't really doing anything different than what we had seen on film. They just were doing it more numerous times. ... Our quarterback got hit way too many times. We've got to clean that up."
SERIES HISTORY: 87th meeting. Bears lead, 49-34-3. The Bears have won the last two games played in 2006 and 2008, both in St. Louis. Prior to that, the Rams won four straight including games in 1998 and 2003 in Chicago. The last Bears win over the Rams in Chicago was in 1996.
—RB Steven Jackson had some pointed words for Seattle rookie LB Aaron Curry during a radio appearance Monday, the day after the teams played. In the season opener this season, Curry was fined $5,000 on a play for which there was no penalty.
QB Marc Bulger also got in Curry's face that game for questionable antics.
After Sunday's game, Curry said of Jackson, "I don't think he likes me. For some reason, half the stuff he says to me I can't remember. I just don't think he likes me. I guess it's the battle for respect and being a rookie; I just don't see myself backing down. The first time I played him he verbally assaulted me, but he's a good dude. I don't know what his intentions are, but I think it's like, who's going to lose their cool first and it isn't going to be me.
"I respect him as a running back, I respect him for how he runs the ball, but everyone has to understand that we're all grown men out here and nobody's going to back down from any human being. That's just not what I was taught."
Jackson said of Curry, "Some guys don't know how to be pros and I feel he has not learned that yet. Someone is over there not teaching him what it means to be a pro. It's all right to jaw-jack but unnecessary hits and taking shots at guys that are defenseless, or going after guys because they are high-profile guys and he is trying to make a name for himself, it's not professional."
During the game, Jackson had words for Curry, and said Monday, "You don't get your name based on that because you're going after another high-profile guy. You get your name and your status because of your work and your play in it. I'm just sitting there jaw-jacking a guy and letting him know that I'm not backing down. It's obvious I'm injured, it's obvious that I haven't practiced all week and if we want to go head-to-head for 60 or 70 plays in a row, I'm willing to do so. I'm not going to back down. I'm going to let him know there's a whole another monster, a whole another level in the NFL and this is not Wake Forest or the ACC."
Asked if Curry was trying to validate his selection as the fourth overall selection in the draft, Jackson said, "I don't see our rookie, No. 2 pick overall (Jason Smith), going out and doing that. It's easier to make a name in other ways than going out there jaw-jacking and trying to draw attention to yourself. It's a professional game and this is a livelihood and I don't intentionally go out there and trying to — I'm a pro about it. I would hope that he learns that."
—For the second straight week, the Rams will have just two healthy quarterbacks available to play: starter Kyle Boller and rookie Keith Null. A sixth-round pick from West Texas A&M, Null's initial time with the team was spent getting accustomed to taking snaps from center since his college days were spent in the spread offense.
Said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, "You're seeing more and more college quarterbacks that are coming from systems where they're exclusively in the shotgun. So the fundamentals of taking a snap, dropping back and throwing really was the first challenge."
Of his frequent work with quarterbacks coach Richard Curl, Null said, "He was constantly working me with getting my feet set and getting back fast enough, all the drop stuff. I wouldn't say I'm there yet, but I'm a lot closer than I was."
As for the speed of the game, and having played some in the preseason, Null said, "It was a challenge at the beginning. I think that I've gotten a pretty good feel for it, although I haven't been thrown into the fire yet."
He believes he's ready if needed. "If they call on me, I'll be ready," Null said.
Shurmur likes what he's seen from Null. "He's a natural thrower, he's got great skill and ability, and he's working extremely hard." Shurmur said. "I think he's got a lot of the attributes you're looking for in a quarterback."
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 — Number of turnovers by QB Kyle Boller in 14 quarters of play this season. Four of the turnovers were returned for touchdowns, and two of the other three came in the red zone. The other was from the opponent's (Seattle) 23-yard line and came on a pass into the end zone.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You never know if they're ready until you put them out there and see. He's done everything we've asked him, being a third-string quarterback. He's in tune, I know that, with everything that's going on." — Coach Steve Spagnuolo on rookie QB Keith Null.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—OT Jason Smith did not practice Wednesday and has yet to take another neurological exam that is necessary to clear him for practice and games. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Smith won't take the test again "until he feels better," basically saying he couldn't pass the test at this time.
—RG Richie Incognito returned to practice Wednesday after missing four games because of a foot injury suffered against Indianapolis on Oct. 25. Officially listed as limited on the injury report, Incognito took most of the reps with the first unit at right guard. Incognito said that barring any setbacks he expects to play Sunday against Chicago.
—RB Steven Jackson did not practice Wednesday, but could some time on the field Thursday or Friday.
—FB Mike Karney did not practice Wednesday although coach Steve Spagnuolo said he is feeling better this week, "but we are talking about the neck so you have to be careful."
—C Jason Brown missed what he says was the first practice of his college or pro career. Brown injured his right knee late in the second quarter of Sunday's game against Seattle. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said it's possible Brown would practice Thursday. "He wanted to practice," Spagnuolo said. "But the doctors felt it was wise to tread lightly today." Brown rode the exercise bike during practice wearing his helmet.
—LB James Laurinaitis was reported as limited in practice Wednesday, but he was able to participate in most of the snaps. "He's battling issues with both shoulders," coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "but that's pretty normal for a MIKE linebacker."
GAME PLAN: The Rams hope to have C Jason Brown back Sunday to continue the stability being built on the offensive line. The Rams couldn't handle the Seahawks pressure in the second half Sunday after Brown was injured, necessitating two changes in the line. With Brown back, depending on RB Steven Jackson's health, they should be able to move the ball on the Bears.
Defensively, the Rams have actually been solid against top quarterbacks this season, and they will have another challenge against Jay Cutler. Stopping the run has been an issue, but the Bears have not run the ball effectively this season. Surely, they will try to change that this week.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams DLE Leonard Little vs. Bears RT Chris Williams/Kevin Shaffer. Cutler has been sacked 24 times and thrown 20 interceptions this season. Williams will be trying to keep the still-speedy Little away from his quarterback, although he might end up at left tackle with Orlando Pace bothered by a groin injury. If Williams moves, Kevin Shaffer will be the right tackle.
Rams RB Steven Jackson vs. Bears run defense. The Bears have allowed 125.6 yards rushing per game and 4.3 per attempt, so they will be hard-pressed to contain Jackson. A big key will be how healthy Jackson is after playing last week with a sore back, but still rushing for 89 yards.
INJURY IMPACT: RG Richie Incognito expects to return to the lineup after missing four games, while RT Jason Smith seems unlikely to play this week as he continues to experience post-concussion symptoms. More will probably be known Thursday regarding the potential availability of center Jason Brown (knee).
Re: St. Louis Rams Team Report
Curry doing alot of barking for someone who has not done alot.
RB Steven Jackson had some pointed words for Seattle rookie LB Aaron Curry during a radio appearance Monday, the day after the teams played. In the season opener this season, Curry was fined $5,000 on a play for which there was no penalty.
QB Marc Bulger also got in Curry's face that game for questionable antics.