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    Thomas' chat 9-4-07

    bob tamalis: How serious is T. Holt's knee problem. What kind of preformance should we expect from him? Was the aquisition of Drew Bennett based on this injury?

    Jim Thomas: No, Bennett's signing was a response to Kevin Curtis' imminent departure. When the Rams became aware that Curtis was paying a visit to Minnesota on the first day of free agency, they went after Bennett hard. I don't know what to expect from Holt on Sunday. It's clear he's not 100 percent. And in my mind, I wonder why the Rams don't rest him at least once during the practice week now that we're in the regular season.
    By the way, Bennett sat out Tuesday's practice with a sore calf. (Apparently, it's been a nagging condition that he aggravated somewhat during Saturday's practice.) Bennett says it's just tight and indicated he should be fine for Carolina.


    flaram: Jim
    I am impressed with Hagans this fellow is exciting, do you see us finding ways to accesserize err- feed him the ball?


    Jim Thomas: First off, Hagans has to get on the field on game day. The Rams have 6 WRs, and probably will dress only 5. Dane Looker will be one of those five because of his skills as a holder for Jeff Wilkins.
    Once Hagans does get on the field, I think the Rams will find some uses for him as a "slash" player, because of his running ability and his past career (in college) as a quarterback. I asked Linehan about this, and Linehan did say he had a few "special" plays spinning around in his head.


    guy: thanks for your time jim

    what's the inside scoop on alston? he looks like a great safety prospect, but ill suited to play linebacker, he can tackle, is quick, is intelligent and can blitz, i expected him to be the second coming of john lynch and a real enforcer over the middle, especially on 3rd downs. was i dreaming, while i watched him in and around the ball all pre-season? are they trying to get him to sign for the practice squad?

    Jim Thomas: With only 8 DBs on the active roster (during the Fakhir Brown suspension), the Rams decided to keep two DBs on the practice squad (Josh Lay and Darius Vinett), so they did not try to sign Alston to the practice squad. Despite Alston's misteps, you can't coach speed. And I would've thought the Rams would've found some way to channel that speed into something worth keeping on the roster.


    flaram: Jim,
    The release of Alston was obviously the big suprise. Was his release due the the strong play by Culberson and Mcgargle or did this guy just not get it? Mentally?

    Jim Thomas: A little of both. The Rams had 3 young LB prospects and only 2 spots. All along, I thought Haslett liked McGarigle. He played his rear end off against KC. He really played his way onto the team. Culberson, I thought leveled off as the preseason progressed. Alston is very bright. Stanford guy, after all. But he did continue to make mistakes.


    Tom: 1) The loss of Todd Steussie was a cruel blow. Do you believe the Rams feel they can stand pat, or will they aggressively pursue a good replacement even if it costs a mid round pick in next years draft? If something were to happen to big O, I shudder to think what would become of our season. What is your view on this?

    2) The pickup of Pittman on the face of it appears to be an upgrade over our #3 rb if the criteria is strictly running skills/ability. However, Minor was brought on board for his special teams prowess perhaps as much as his ability to be a change of pace guy or 3rd down back. Does the acquisition of A.P. mean Minor is expendable, or even Hedgecock for that matter? I don't know much about Pittman beyond his obvious skills as a rb, is the guy a decent special teams player as well? Thanks in advance !!

    Jim Thomas: One of the curious things about the aftermath of the Steussie injury is that the Rams kept neither Jeremy Parquet or Ken Shackleford on their practice squad. Shack, remember, was an '07 draft pick (6th round), but he didn't look close to being ready to contribute and was hurt as well. Parquet, I thought, had a pulse. He was an all-NFL Europa player in the spring for what that's worth. The Rams really do need to find a third tackle, whether it happens this year or not, I'm sure it will be a priority for the clubs.
    As for Minor, his main value is special teams. So I think he's safe. I don't think Pittman is a threat to Hedgecock, either. Pittman has no experience on special teams _ to my knowledge, he wasn't a kick returner in college, either.


    flaram: Hi Jim,

    Do you see the wheels of a trade happening with the overstock of TEs (4) plus one FB, also seems like the same situation at DE (5)?

    ThNK Shane

    Jim Thomas: Well, it's hard for me to see the Rams keeping 5 DEs for an entire season. But what could happen is that when Brown comes off the suspended list after four games, one of the DEs goes. As for the 4 TES/1 FB, I think if Conwell's healthy, he will replace one of those guys. As much as the Rams use TEs, I don't think 4's too many, particularly with only 1 TE. (Last year, the Rams kept 3TEs and 2FBs. Keep in mind, too, that Byrd probably is a suspension waiting to happen due to his two legal issues.


    John: What is your biggest concern about the 07 Rams?

    Besides the obvious key players, where would a bad injury hurt the team the most? Another way of asking this question is where are we weakest in depth?

    Jim Thomas: My biggest concerns are relatively unchanged from the start of camp. Are the Rams good enough defensively, particularly against the run? Are the Rams good enough on special teams? I think Dante Hall will be a clear upgrade _ he's not the Dante Hall of a few years ago, but he's still much better than what the Rams have been trotting out lately. The coverage units, however, remain a concern to me. I'm going to have to see it to believe it in terms of coverage.
    Obviously, the Rams can't get one of their starting OTs hurt. For the first month of the season, minus Fakhir Brown, they cannot afford any injuries at cornerback.


    bubbaramfan: TY Mr. Thomas for taking our questions.
    I've been keeping a close eye on the Safeties play during training camp and pre-season. They seem soft against the run and not very fast. Do you think Todd Johnson has a chance to start over Corey Chavous, and do you think the Rams are looking for help at Safety? I see this position as a real liability. Is Jerome Carter making any progress?

    Jim Thomas: Chavous is a solid player, and a great leader, but obviously he's nearing the end as he enters his 10th NFL season. Carter looks a lot bigger to me this season _ he looks almost big enough to play LB. But he was fast enough to run down KC's Kolby Smith from behind on that 55-yard run. Still, Todd Johnson and Carter strike me more as strong safeties. I'm not sure if the Rams have a true free safety backing up Atogwe. Johnson, I think, would be a very solid box safety _ playing run defense _ I'm not sure he runs well enough to start over Chavous. I rate the Rams as a C+ at safety right now; the grade goes up if Atogwe continues to progress like he did over the second half of last season.


    Matt Moran: Hi Jim,

    One of my favorite Rams to watch during the preseason was Jon Alston. You wrote a nice article on him last week and placed him in the "safe and sound" category prior to cut-down day. Please help me understand how Alston did not make the final roster. What more did he need to do? Did the Rams really waive him to make room for a 4th tight end?

    Thank you,
    Matt Moran
    Portland, OR

    Jim Thomas: As I mentioned in an earlier post, every year I seem to miss one "safe & sound" and Alston was my miss this year. I'm surprised. He and his agent both thought the Rams were joking when they told him he was cut. McGarigle played his rear end off against KC, and Alston made one 55-yard mistake too many against Kolby Smith. The Rams waived Alston to make room for McGarigle and LB Quinton Culberson. They were able to keep a fourth TE because they kept only 1 FB.


    Richard: Dear Jim

    I have a few questions 1) Did the rams do enough on the defense for them to be considered better.
    2) the cut of Jon Alston was curious to me do you think he hadnt progressed enough.
    3) The depth on the Rams seems like it has improved greatly do you agree.

    Thank you


    Jim Thomas: 1.) I think the Rams are better defensively, but I remain skeptical as to whether they have improved enough to make this a playoff team.
    2.) I thought Alston had made plenty of progess. Apparently, he made too many mistakes to satisfy the coaching staff.
    3.) I do think the depth is better at many _ but not all _ positions. For what's it's worth, the Rams' best work in the preseason came when their No. 2 offense was on the field, which to me is an indication of pretty good depth.


    Kevin Harvick: Jim,
    I'm rather excited we picked up Pittman out of Ohio State, as he's a proven commodity (college, at least) that we obviously got for "bargain" dollars instead of using a draft pick, but why on earth would the Saints let him go? I think we upgraded in the process, but I'm rather amazed, and very curious as to why he was waived. Any thoughts or info you could relate? Think he'll be a special teams player, at least initially until he gets to know the offense, or no?

    Jim Thomas: For one, there's not a better 1-2 tandem in the league than Deuce and Bush, don't you agree? For another, he got outplayed by Pierre Thomas of Illinois in the preseason. Thirdly, he gave up two sacks in the Cincy preseason game _ getting Jamie Martin hammered on one of them. All of the Saints media that I talked to or in some cases read, seemed surprised by the cut as well. I think it's debatable how much Pittman can contribute on special teams. At Ohio State, he was a star, and wasn't asked to play special teams. Also, how will he adjust to not getting any action early at RB after being the man at Ohio State?


    deondre: do you think the rams will still get simeon rice

    Jim Thomas: Obviously, you saw what happened. I guess it was that "off the chain" Broncos uniform that did it _ that and $3M guaranteed, plus incentives.


    Gus: Hey Jim,

    Will the Rams add another proven Off.Tackle since Steussie went down? im not comfortable with Goldberg as a OT starter if Barron or Pace get injured. Thanks for answering and thanks for doing a Rams chat!!

    Jim Thomas: Hey, I'm happy to do the chat. Sorry I got on a little late today, the Rams practiced today, so I was delayed for a bit.
    The Rams looked for a tackle on the waiver wire but didn't see anyone who could block and chew gum at the same time. As long as Barron or Pace stay healthy, they're all right. But it looks like they'll have to work a trade if they want someone with a pulse. To my knowledge, that's not in the works right now.


    JR Criswell: The Rams keeping two kickers or they looking to deal one?

    Jim Thomas: If you mean two place-kickers, no. They cut Kevin "Sparky" Lovell over the weekend, leaving just Wilkins.


    Tom Liberto: Who will replace Todd Steussie now that he is injured for 8-10 weeks?

    Jim Thomas: Adam Goldberg is the backup LT, and Milford Brown is the backup RT. Goldberg has some experience at tackle, Brown has very little. He told us today in the locker room that other than a few reps in camp, and part of one game a couple years ago with the Houston Texans, he hasn't played tackle since his high school days.


    Scott from So. Cal: Good am Jim -

    Any news on Rice ?

    Looks like he is probably heading to Denver.

    Jim Thomas: Obviously, you saw what happened there.


    Joe Cacciatore: I've read that Tory is 70-80% and that his knee may not be 100% this year. What is the latest on how he is doing.

    Jim Thomas: This one concerns me. Torry got a fair amount of work in practice Tuesday, but didn't do everything. It's obvious he won't be 100 percent for Carolina. He looks OK, I guess, is the best I can say.


    Buzz: Jim,
    I was a little shocked that the Rams gave up on LB Jon Alston so soon. Did he make too many mistakes, or was he another Combine Wonder who just can't play football, or both? Thanks.

    Jim Thomas: Hey, I was surprised too. Every year I have one or two "safe and sounds" in my countdown to cutdown series that don't make the team, and this year it was Alston. Although I remember, the day I wrote the "countdown" story on Alston I asked LB coach Rick Venturi about him and Venturi was very positive. This was before the KC game was played, however. As fast as he is, and as hard a hitter as he seemed to be, I would have kept him. I think the Rams could've gotten Culberson on the practice squad.


    Johd D.: Hi Jim
    What happened to Jon Alston? Why he cut?

    Jim Thomas: From everything I've been able to gather, too many mistakes. Plus McGarigle probably played himself on the roster with a very good showing against Kansas City.


    Dave: Jim,

    Thanks for being on and answering questions. Like most Rams fans I feel very confident in the offense and am not worried about that side of the ball. However, the defense really scares me, in particular, Brandon Chillar at SLB. I've read that we shouldn't be worried about him because he's a perfect fit for Haslett's SLB. What does that mean? Chillar is rarely able to get off blocks whether it be straight up or a cut block. He's big but doesn't seem overly athletic. What am I missing here?

    Jim Thomas: Chillar actually played better last year _ and was more productive _ when he was playing less. He did not play in the nickel package a year ago, as he did as a rookie in '05. He has some liabilities in coverage, so I think the Rams are using him more wisely. Is he a star? No. As for perfect fit, I don't know. I just know, the Haslett defense _ or so I'm told _ doesn't ask for a lot out of the strongside LB. It's designed to have the middle 'backer and weakside 'backer make all the plays.


    sam: Not sure if you have answered this or if is a dumb Q.
    Is ankiel in the rookie of the year running? doubt he has enough at bats but really wondered if pitching carrer would count? thanks, either way he is my rookie of the year.

    Jim Thomas: Pls. send this to the Chatmeister at 1 p.m. Wednesday.


    Art Pineda: Well the Rams go after Simon Rice or will they just let Denver sign him?
    What is the plan to stop the run/
    Why did the Rams cut Alston?

    Jim Thomas: You saw what happened with Rice.
    The Rams are very pleased with Carriker and Ryan (backing up Carriker). And RE James Hall is better against the run than anything the Rams had their last year.
    Alston made too many mistakes.


    donsods: OK Jim, I only have one more question (I promise...for this week). The keeping of an extra running back (Rich Alexis)seemed odd. The claiming off of waivers of Pittman seemed even odder. Why are the Rams keeping so many backs and what does Pittman bring to the table? Barring injury to Jackson or Leonard, will he ever see the field?

    Jim Thomas: Lots of teams keep four RBs, although the Rams opened last season with only three. But since they kept only one FB this year (they opened '06 with 2), they could keep an extra RB. Pittman is an intriguing back. A very productive college back playing for a big-time program (Ohio State). Doesn't fumble. More of a straight-line runner, not much wiggle. Needs to work on pass protection and pass catching. I do concede that barring injury, it doesn't look like he will see the field much. But I think he was worth a look. The Rams, I know, liked him a lot coming out of college.


    donsods: JIM, I know it is early, but can give a quick rating of the 2 drafts under the Linehan era? I know the 07 draft is different becuase of Softi. It seems to me in reading the STL Post coverage that you and your colleagues are more excitied about this year's class with the No. 1 pick (Carriker)being a starter and the next top 3 getting real playing time.

    Jim Thomas: I think it takes two to three years to get any kind of reading on a draft class, so it is early. But. . . .in '06, Setterstrom and Hill look like they will be solid NFL starters; jury still out on Wroten and Byrd _ talented, but could be coach killers in part due to off-field issues. . . .McGarigle could be a good special teamer and backup. . . .Klop a little bit of a disappointment to me. Looks a little stiff. As for '07, so far Carriker has made a very impressive transition to DT, but let's see what happens now that the real games start. . . .I think B. Leonard will be a valuable role player. . . .I think Wade had a lot of potential at DB, but may not be ready to contribute much more than special teams this year. . . .Clifton Ryan will be a decent backup. . . .Stanley (now on practice squad) has some potential. . . .Dustin Fry (practice squad) didn't show me much on the practice field during camp.


    donsods: LONG LIVE HAGANS! I was really impressed with Marques Hagans this preseason. He seemed to have the extra ability to make defenders miss after the catch. I didn't chart it or anything like that, but it seemed to me that he was the Rams best receiver for yards after the catch..or at least yards after the first touch. Will Linehan & Olsen actually use him as a weapon this year or will he be completely entombed to the 6th receiver spot?

    Jim Thomas: If you asked me who the Rams preseason MVP was, I would say Hagans or Gus Frerotte. He's the poster kid for what hard work and a year on the practice squad can do. Right now, I'd say Hagans begins the season as a game day inactive (barring injury). But we'll see. Keep in mind, as good as he looked, he did almost all of his work against second_ and third-team defenses.


    donsods: OK--I was looking at the Rams roster and their cuts this weekend. Like everybody else, I surprised about Alston, but did the Rams really need another athletic defender who can't keep his assigments straight? That was the biggest problem last year. My question is about Chris Massey--does he play any other role on the team other than long snapper?

    Jim Thomas: There was a time when Massey was an emergency fullback. In fact, he played a couple of games there in '02 _ starting against Seattle because of a rash of injuries at the position. He also played some FB against Oakland _ in Bulger's first start at QB _ and knocked Bill Romanowski into next Tuesday one play. Massey was tough but limited at FB, according to former Rams RB coach Wilbert Montgomery. The Rams don't play him there any more because they don't want his fingers or hands to get hurt. In their mind, he's that valuable as a long snapper.


    Colorado Springs: Why Antonio Pittman? We're set at running back. Why not claim Quentin Moses or a defensive back instead?

    Jim Thomas: Are the Rams really set at running back? Are you convinced that Brian Leonard could carry the load at RB if Steven Jackson was injured and out for four games? Even if the Rams were interested in Moses, he would have went to Arizona anyway under the waiver claim system because the Cardinals had a worse record last year than St. Louis. As for DB, believe me, the Rams were looking on the waiver wire for help there. But nothing materialized.


    Mike: The Rams have periodically worn the blue pants or white pants, which I think are much better looking than the gold. I met Dave Wohlobaugh (sp?) and he said that when they wore the blue pants against the Giants in the season opener a few years ago (I was at the game - Warner's concussion and end of his era in St. Louis) they lost and the owner was so mad, swore they'd never wear them again. I did notice they worn them last year I believe (and lost), so I'm wondering if they will ever switch. I think blue pants with the blue jerseys for home would make them look like bad asses!!!

    Jim Thomas: I would like to see the Rams mix it up as well. Why have all those different possibilities if you're not going to use them? But remember, you have to tell the league well in advance if you want to do something different with the unis, and Georgia gets final say. She did not, for example, like the white-on-white unis, or so I was told by a former Rams coach whose nickname was "Mad Mike."


    Rams4Life: Hey Jim

    Why do the rams all get more Off players instead of Def when they know Def will determine if they go to the playffs or not and what going on wit Brown appeal did they even know he appealed

    Jim Thomas: Pittman was just too good to pass. And he's cheap. All the Rams inherit is the base salaries on his Saints contract _ they aren't stuck with his signing bonus, that stays with the Saints. Pittman's scheduled to make $285K this year, $370K next year, and $460K in 2009 _ all are minimum salaries for a player in his first, second, and third years. I too wonder if the Rams have done enough to address their defense. But I don't think Rice was worth $3M guaranteed, plus incentives.
    I'm not sure if Rams management knew about Brown's appeal. Those things are usually confidential. I do think Brown's agent let him down by not explaining to Brown that the appeal process had already been exhausted. It made Brown look stupid.


    george smith: Is there a particular reason why Linehan kept a guy like Byrd for his potential yet gives up on Alston? And also with the addition of Pittman is there a greater chance of playing Leonard at fullback and releasing Hedgecock?

    Jim Thomas: Good question. I think the Rams feel that Byrd is closer to reaching his potential than Alston. Despite all the conspiracy theories about Alston getting in a sideline disagreement with a coach _ I didn't see it _ multipled sources at Rams Park have told me that Alston was cut because he kept making mistakes in terms of gap discipline and run fits. Haslett is under a lot of pressure this year to have an improved defense. And those long runs, like the 55-yarder by Kolby Smith in the Governor's Cup game, are precisely the ones that Haslett wants to get rid of. (It was Alston who missed a gap assignment on that one.)
    As for Pittman, first off, it will take him a while to get a working knoweldge of the offense. Leonard has shown himself to be pretty solid at blitz pickup, so you could see him at fullback on passing downs. But as a lead blocker, plowing the road for Jackson, at 226 pounds, I don't think so. I think Hedgecock is in more trouble, if Conwell's knee is healthy enough to play in two or three weeks.


    Mark "the Ram" Byrd: Jim, with Fahkir Brown suspended, and an inexperienced secondary featuring Tye Hill, and Ron Bartell, will the Rams use more zone coverage against Steve Smith and the Panthers?

    Jim Thomas: Don't think so. And that's partly based on what I saw in practice. Both Tye Hill and Ron Bartell are much bestter suited for man than zone. Bartell in particular. When he struggled in the preseason _ like those two play against Minnesota _ he was in "off" coverage, playing off the wide receivers. I really do think, however, they have to shade someone on Smith's said. I'll be curious to see, also, if the Rams have Hill shadow Smith (since he's smaller and quicker than Bartell), or keep Hill at left corner and Bartell on the right.


    Dave Pietrowski: This is really simple, if the Rams have substantialy improved at DT they will make the playoffs, if not they will not. Go Rams Go Adam C. and Go Claude W.

    Jim Thomas: I agree, but would added special teams to the mix as well. I think if the Rams are even decent on defense and special teams _ by that, I mean middle of the pack _ they should make the playoffs. If not, more mediocrity, despite lots of talent on offense.


    Jon: Jim
    As happy as I am to see the Rams grab some great (cheap) talent as Pittman, I am wondering why there has been no movement on bolstering our defense or getting some OL backup at tackle. Perhaps some special team work?

    Is there simply something I am missing here? Or do the coaches know something that most Rams fans seem to be missing? Can you let me in on anything? Or could our current leaders be just as offense happy as our not too recent leaders were?

    Jim Thomas: I asked Linehan over the weekend if there was anybody out there at OT who could block and chew gum over the weekend. He shook his head, no. I think any tackle worth his salt will not be exposed on the market. On Tuesday in practice, Goldberg worked at left tackle and Milford Brown worked at RT. The Rams made a run at Simeon Rice. But at 33, with a bum shoulder, do you think the guy is worth $3M guaranteed, plus another $1M in incentives? Also the Rams couldn't and didn't promise he would be a starter. How could they with $3M plus invested in James Hall each of the next two years. Saying that, I do wonder if the Rams have done enough to help the defense. I guess we'll find out starting Sunday.


    John: I realize that the defensive line bears a lot of the blame for the breakdowns against other team's rushing attacks last year, but where does the linbacking corps come in? Chillar seems a bit of a reach as an NFL starter and with Witherspoon arguably playing out of position (why?) and the absence of a true run-stuffing MLB the linebackers seem to be a big question mark again. If this year proves to be rough again will they consider moving Witherspoon back outside?

    Jim Thomas: I thought Chillar improved to the point last year where he showed he belonged in the league. (Not that I'm saying he's LT or anything). But he's scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the end of this year, and unless he has a breakout year, I doubt the Rams re-sign him. As for Witherspoon, the Rams seem committed to having him in the middle. But keep this in mind: if something happens to Pisa, I can see them moving Witherspoon inside and putting Draft in the middle.

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    Re: Thomas' chat 9-4-07

    GREAT reading! Thanks for bringing this over here, Wraith.

    All along, I thought Haslett liked McGarigle.
    :r As do I. But I also agree with Thomas' reply on the "could have" of putting Culberson on practice squad and keeping Alston on the roster. Nevertheless, it must have been a mighty close call, and difficult!

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    Re: Thomas' chat 9-4-07

    Haslett liking McGarigle could be a curse. Haslett liked Jimmy Kennedy before the season started last year.

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