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Loss of Faulk would raise heat on Bulger

PFW asks associate editor Jeff Reynolds for his take on the NFLís hottest topics.

Faulkís retirement could greatly impact quarterback

Rams RB Marshall Faulk, who has 767 career receptions, is contemplating retirement because of chronic knee problems. If Faulk hangs up his cleats, St. Louis must find a capable replacement to back up starting RB Steven Jackson ó QB Marc Bulgerís health likely depends on it.

PFW: How could losing Faulk impact Bulger?

Reynolds: Former head coach Mike Martz, the mastermind of the Ramsí offense since 1999, was so reliant on Marshall Faulk that he labeled him the teamís best pass blocker and its best offensive coach. And that was when Martz was still employed in St. Louis. Faulk made life easier for Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger on every down. His scholarly approach to the playbook and workmanlike effort in practice sessions ensured heíd very, very rarely not be where he was supposed to be. Bulger has said that, during his first season as a starting quarterback, it was Faulk who helped line up the offense on certain plays. Bulger has enough experience now ó 44 regular-season starts between 2002 and í05 ó that heís not in need of much on-field direction. But he does need the sure blocking and receiving of a running back, whether heís wearing No. 28 or otherwise. Bulger has proven susceptible to injury, especially to his thin upper body, and canít take many direct hits. Heís not built to withstand a pounding. Unfortunately for Bulger, the Ramsí offensive line isnít built to prevent one. He has been sacked 67 times in the past 22 starts. Jackson can be fingered for several of the 26 sacks Bulger took in í05. Heís only average in pass protection, doesnít recognize blitzes and especially stunts quickly enough and struggles to step and slide to slow down a defensive back coming off the weak side of a formation.

During Bulgerís tenure, Faulk caught 219 passes (Bulger completed 987 passes in the past four seasons). Tony Fisher wonít duplicate that production, or even come close, but he is an incredibly reliable and underrated third-down receiver. His blocking is better than average. Fisher wonít make something out of nothing catching the ball in the flat, but the Rams arenít concerned with replacing Faulkís flash-and-dash ability, rather keeping Bulger upright for a full season. He has averaged 11 starts per season since replacing Warner in 2002. For the Rams to be considered serious contenders, Bulger has to be available all season.