Transcript of the weekly chat with Rams beat writer Jim Thomas ..
BY JIM THOMAS | Posted: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 4:40 pm
Ram Quixote: Gotta ask: What was the deal with the taunting penalty on Amendola? I've seen him spin the ball after catches before and nothing was called. Strange coincidence, but when he spun the ball, I was wondering what would happen if the spin went out of control and thought, "maybe he shouldn't do that or he'll cause a delay of game penalty."
But taunting? Outrageous.
Did you notice on his next catch he picked up the ball, ran over and handed it to the ref? I wonder if that was the ref who threw the flag?
Jim Thomas: I guess by the letter of the law, it was taunting. But if you're going to call taunting so close, then maybe you should've flagged the defender who rode Amendola several feet out of bounds for unceccessary roughness. To me, the officiating in the NFL is an inconsistent as ever.
How do you see the depth chart shaking out once all the receivers (especially Laurent Robinson) are healthy again? Has Gibson done enough to unseat Robinson as the #2? I realize the guys outside of Clayton and Amendola are probably interchangeable at this point, but how close does this look?:
3. Amendola (only "ahead" of Robinson because he's the slot receiver)
Jim Thomas: It's hard to disagree with your order at this point. But I don't know if there's any guarantee that Robinson will be healthy this week. Gibson has shown some quickness and separation skills. If he wants to stay in this league, however, he has to reduce the number of dropped passes.
howboutrams1: Jim, with the last two home victories, do you get a sense that Rams fan base is once again interested in Rams football and sell-outs will not be a problem?
Jim Thomas: Well the TV rating continue to be high, the highest levels we've seen since the start of the 2006 season. But there are still a lot of tickets left for the five remaining home games. When a team goes through a 6-44 stretch like the Rams did, I it takes more than a couple of victories to get fans back into the stands. But there's no doubt the team is progressing and much more interesting to watch. And for fans that haven't been do the dome in a while, the game-day atmosphere is much better.
aussie_ramfan: JT, must be nice to be following a decent side again.
will robinson come back in as the starter? Or has gibson done enough to keep the job? A split of the duty? Who at reciever would be "down" in that case?
Also, thoughts on Thad Lewis? Does he get a spot back on the 53-man roster after Hoomanawanui gets back and D. Johnson inevitably gets cut? Or is there someone else the rams are more likely to promote?
Jim Thomas: See earlier answer on wideouts.
As for Lewis, he may stay on the practice squad for a while because of all the injuries. Or at least until some of the injured guys start returning. And not just Hoomanawanui, but Bajema, Chamberlain, D. Scott, Robinson, and Ryan (migraines). And the Rams need more weeks like Sunday, where only one player (Kevin Dockery) was injured.
zvulunz: As good as clayton has been, we all know he will not be our #1 receiver for the next 5 years. What college receivers seem like suitable prospects for our team in this years draft, and if we will not draft one which wideouts heading to free agency look like they can be our long term solution?
Jim Thomas: I'm declaring a moratorium on draft talk at least until November.
golfnutbucket: Hello Jim,
Thanks for having these chats. I have a question about the "unsportsman like" penalty called on Amendola on Sunday. I was at the game and couldn't see anything that would warrant that call. Considering that was one of the worst officiating crews in the NFL, we didn't get an explanation (that I could hear) at the game. Can you explain what the call was and why?
Jim Thomas: See earlier answer. You're no longer supposed to spike the football after a catch. Amendola didn't spike it, he spun it on the ground _ like spinning a top _ and I guess by strict interpretation of the taunting rule, that is a flag.
rams fan since 1969: Hello how you doing today.Us old die hard Rams fans are so grateful as we can finally see the team is headed in the right direction.And there isnt a team really in the division playing better than us at this point.Before that it was pretty even.I prolly had to much caffienated tea.But it may be ugly but I could see us wining the div,7-9 could do it.They just have to continue to win the games they can win.And they just might upset a team or two along the way.But it just may happen.Seen a lot in all my yrs of watching the NFL.BTW not to be picky just curious why did Spags not kick the FG at the end of the game was he afraid to run the score up.Didnt Sam get sacked on that play.Why risk Sam getting hurt, the game was in hand at that point.We would have been up 23-3.We kicked a FG at the end of the Redskin game.I thought that was odd Spags not kicking the FG.Hope that thought process dont happen again.23-3 with 1 min an 10 secs your pretty safe.Thanks to respond.Have a good day.Sincerely Rams fan since 1969.
Jim Thomas: Actually, Spags said he wanted to make it more than a three-touchdown game. In other words, he wanted to score a touchdown. (A field goal would've made it 23-3, meaning the Seahawks could've won by scoring three TDs.) But really, this seems like over-analysis on the coach's part. Did he really think Seattle, even with Leon Washington returning kicks, was going to score three TDs in the 65 seconds that remained on the clock? I would have to think that the Seattle coaching staff wasn't too happy about this one and would like to get their evens at the end of the season when the teams meet Jan. 2 in Seattle.
zvulunz: With our 500. record and our less than mediocre division, what do you think are the chances that we can win the division this year? I say we have a 60% shot because of the fact that we already have the best QB in the division.
Jim Thomas: I'm not going to handicap it. And I've seen so many losses around here lately, as we all have, that I'm reserving the right to be skeptical. Let's see if the Rams can get to three wins. Obviously, the West seems to be there for the taking, however.
Back in April, the Rams drafted two undersized defensive ends in George Selvie and Eugene Sims. Against the Seahawks, both were playing a fair amount on run downs, Selvie at DT and Sims at RDE. Have they gotten bigger? Was this just an emergency move due to the injuries on the DL or do these two have a future? Have they beaten out Ah Your or is he injured?
Jim Thomas: Ah You is still dressing and still in the mix in pass-rush situations. But Selvie and Sims are starting to get worked into the rotation more. Selvie was in for 25 defensive plays against Seattle; Sims for 22. (Ah You was in for 10.) Sims to me has the most athleticism of the trio, and a nice burst off the line. But I don't know if he has the awareness of a Selvie, who may not be as athletic as Sims but still has a quick first step. I would say at this point Selvie is better on run downs than Sims.
robbewc: Jim, thanks for your thoughts and coverage of the Rams. How do you see the Rams stacking up against the Lions? Could this be a trap game since the Lions are 0-4 with three of their first four games on the road?
Also, the make up of this team is starting to shake out. What are the biggest needs in the 2011 draft?
Jim Thomas: Well, I'm just now starting to study the Lions, but they probably deserved to beat Chicago (remember the TD taken away from C. Johnson?) Played Green Bay tough last Sunday, and Philadelphia as well. Throw in the fact that they've also played Minnesota, and the Lions have faced a tougher schedule so far than St. Louis. They've also played three of four on the road, as opposed to the Rams playing three of four at home. In order to truly be considered an NFC West contender, the Rams must pick up a couple of wins on the road. The Rams haven't won on the road since last year's Nov. 1 triumph at Detroit (17-10) _ and Johnson didn't play in that one.
As for your second question, OK, I'll bend my Nov. draft moratorium just a bit. In no particular order (via draft or free agency)and subject to change as the season progresses: No. 1 wideout; backup running back; stud weakside linebacker; pass-rushing defensive end.
david: Jim, Thanks for your time. What is a likely timetable for the return of some of the Rams injured players? I think that Mike H. could be a big help to Bradford. Do you think that L. Robinson will take some of B. Gibsons playing time when he returns?
Jim Thomas: Some players will start working into the practice routine this week on a limited basis. (Some very limited, according to Spags).... -Bajema, Chamberlain, Hoomanawanui, Stewart. Chamberlain and Hoomanawanui told me a week or two ago that they are shooting for a return before the bye week, which would be Oct. 31 vs. Carolina.
bfulton: Given that the Rams are 4th in points allowed while AZ, SF and Sea are decidedly less than expected, are you ready to recalibrate that parade meter?
Jim Thomas: Nice that you remember. I'm still sticking with five victories at this point. (In our P-D preview section, I had the Rams at 2-2 after four games en route to a 4-12 finish.) However, if the Rams do defeat Detroit Sunday the parade meter will be kicked up to six games.
Darren: When Devaney and then Spags were hired was that done with Mr. Kroenke's approval? How much involvement did Mr. Kroenke have in these hires? I love the hires and I'd like to think Mr. Kroenke loves the hires too and plans to stick with them. They've certainly proved to be worthy of their jobs.
Jim Thomas: As the 40 percent owner, Kroenke didn't have the final say on hires, but his input was sought on all major moves. And he was part of the Spagnuolo interview process before Spags was hired as head coach. I haven't talked to Kroenke since my Q&A with him prior to the season opener (except for a brief hello after the Washington game), but I'm sure he's pleased with what's taken place the past two weeks.
Jake - Jefferson City: Jim,
While Laurinaitis appears to be playing at a near pro-bowl level (his coverage skills have improved very noticeably this year), I find Bradley Fletcher to be another fascinating player to watch. What are the coaches saying about his play this year, because based on what I have seen in 4 games, I tell my non-Rams fans this guy is the next budding star you have not yet heard of?
Also, how often do the DB's work on the jugs? My only issue with the D this year is the number of dropped INT's.
Jim Thomas: I too think Laurinaitis' coverage skills have improved so far this year.
Fletcher's progress has been impressive, in part because when he was injured at the end of October 2009 - in the Colts' game - it didn't seem likely that he'd be ready by the start of the regular season. Spagnuolo was saying Monday, I think, that sometimes even now when the coaches look at film there are times when he doesn't appear to be 100 percent healthy yet. But the biggest improvement I've seen so far in Fletcher is his ball skills. He's much more aware of where the ball is. He has two INTs already, remember, Rams corners didn't have a single INT over the ENTIRE 2009 season.
As for the dropped INTs, it is kind of maddening. Atogwe works regularly on the JUGs. I've seen Bartell staying late after practice as well to work on catching the football. I'm sure there have been others, but those two come to mind.
Andrew from Toronto: Hi Jim,
Thanks for taking our questions. I am pleased that we are simplifying our play calling on defence and I love we how we played on offence. You guys made some great comments on how the vets and the younger players are communicating with each other and there is a sense of real excitement. That is how we won the super bowl back in '99.
My question is a simple one. I see the Jets cut two w.r. Should we look at either of them especially Patrick Turner (big guy)? What do you think?
Jim Thomas: Haven't heard about anything regarding the Jets receivers but am checking on it.
bfulton: Mark Clayton is 12th in receiving yards and tied for 15th in receptions. Only 3 teams have two WRs that have more receptions and only 1 team have two recievers that have more yards. Should we start thinking that the Rams already have their #1 WR?
Jim Thomas: Clayton has been something. (Check out my blog on him I just posted this morning.) I don't know if he's a true No. 1, but he's definitely someone the Rams should think about re-signing after this season.
andy tash: Two questions:
1) What was with the short kick by Josh Brown at the beginning of the 2nd half of Sunday's game? Was it planned or did he flub it?
2) What was with the last 4 downs at the end of the game? Did coach Spagnuolo just not want to run up the score? I think there would have been many positives if we had scored.
Jim Thomas: 1.) Didn't ask anyone, but I'm sure it was planned. A squib quick to keep Washington in check.
2.) Actually, he wanted to score another touchdown. (See earlier answer on this.)
Do you think Spags is getting better at game management?
Jim Thomas: Yes, but I still wouldn've liked to have seen one more offensive play before the field goal at the end of the first half.
nevadariverranch: Jim, I want to give a big thumbs up to Billy Devaney. He trades for Mark Clayton at the last second and becomes our best reciever, drafts laurintas, fletcher, Smith, Saffold, Bradford, brings in Robbins and all the sudden this team is competing again. There is still work to be done, but all in all Well done Billy!
Jim Thomas: Point well taken. Devaney has taken heat for the WR and RB situations. But the Clayton trade is shaping up as a nice coup, and I think Robbins so far has played better than expected. As for the 2010 draft, I think the early returns have been better than even the Rams were expecting.
Smitty: How valid does this sound: Rams finish the year at 10-6 with the losses coming against San Diego, Denver, Atlanta, and New Orleans.
Jim Thomas: Geez. I'm staying off the Kool-Aid for a while.
j_thrasher: Jim, Thanks always to you and "The Post" for taking the time on this forum. In the giddy euphoria of back-to-back wins, this upcoming game qualifies as another really big contest for this Rams team. A win in Detroit goes a long way to putting the Rams on the playoff map, and hopefully gives the team some confidence they can win some games on the road going forward. I know the Rams know this will be a very tough game with a team poised to break through, and that has been hanging tough through the first quarter of their schedule with some good teams.
Our defense has been rock solid this year, but the defensive tackle position is really thin with only three healthy players at this point in the season. We have read the ongoing accounts on Clifton Ryan and his migraine issues. From a fan's perspective this seems to be a serious head/concussion injury. I know the Rams have looked at some big guys the past couple of weeks, but does an available player at D-tackle look to be in the offing for the team, and if not who switches into the middle should another interior player get dinged and misses some time? I'll take your answer off the air.
Jim Thomas: The last time we talked to Ryan, which was nearly two weeks ago, he was pretty adamant that it wasn't a head/concussion injury. Spagnuolo sounded fairly optimistic Monday that Ryan could return to practice this week. We'll see. We're still a few weeks away, I think, from Darell Scott (high ankle sprain) returning. Right now, Jermelle Cudjo, who played a fair amount Sunday (about 2 dozen plays) is the only backup.
nevadariverranch: Jim, have I lost my mind or is Sam Bradford already the best QB in the NFC West?
Jim Thomas: Trending that way.
It's funny that the effect of winning is that it suddenly raises expectations. While Detroit & Tampa probably have a big red circle around the Rams game as a "must win;" suddenly I think fans see a chance for the Rams to be 5-3 going into the bye week. Is that unreasonable to expect that?
Jim Thomas: Let's see if the Rams can win a road game at Detroit.
tom: Bradford is doing great but lets look at the defence , 17 pts max per game in 4 games. Yes they gave up alot of big plays have been fantastic in the red zone. WE need to give them alot of credit,what do you think?
Jim Thomas: Yeah, it has been impressive. So far the play of the defense has been greater than the sum of its parts, if that makes sense.
NotMyHome: Clear the streets, strike up the band, start decorating the floats, inflate the over-sized helium-filled Snoopy….I think there’s going to be a parade! Should I go ahead and mark my place on the parade route?
Jim Thomas: Wow. If you're referring to the Parade Meter, I guess you're expecting five victories then? (Or more.)
I have heard a lot of great situational stats on the Ram's Defense, but where do they rank overall? Do you feel they are a legit defense or is it just weak teams?
By the way Richie Incognito looks pretty good for the Dolphins. I only watched the first half, but Gruden says he looked like a beast(of course I think Gruden likes everybody)
Jim Thomas: The Rams are 23rd in total defense, 20th in rushing defense, and 21st in passing defense _ all of those categories rank teams according to average yards allowed. In terms of what the Rams have faced, Arizona is currently ranked 31st (ouch!) in total offense, Oakland is 9th, Washington 17th, and Seattle 28th. This week's opponent, Detroit, is ranked 15th in total offense.
In terms of scoring defense, the Rams are fourth (13.0 points per game), trailing Pittsburgh (12.5) and Kansas City and Minnesota (both at 12.7).
Ben Spann: Jim,
I think when Illinois Mike comes back that the offense will take another step. What do you think.
Jim Thomas: Well, if Oh-oh picks up where he left off, the Rams will have two pass-catching threats at TE in he and Fells.
I know he is only 4 games into his career, but I am wondering if what the word around the league is on Sam Bradford? Would you compare him with the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys? Or is he more of the Matt Ryan Joe Flacco type? No disrespect to Flacco or Ryan, I believe they are good but I don't beleive they are perennial all pro's. Thanks for the time.
Jim Thomas: Bradford is starting to draw some praise. I heard Billick and Mora talking him up last night on the NFL Network Coaches Show. I think Bradford is generally regarding as having more talent than Ryan or Flacco.
springpatchfan: Jim... After the win over the Redskins, much was written about Stan K. congratulating each player during a post game visit to the locker room. Was he equally visible to the coaches and players last Sunday?
Jim Thomas: I didn't see Stan in the locker room Sunday, so I'm not sure he was there.
stlou: Hi Jim - what do you think of the OT play so far? Especially J. Smith, who the "experts" in Rams Talk like to call a bust. One last question, OG, isn't it time to let Greco start at guard? I just don't think Goldberg is getting much of a push. Thanks -
Jim Thomas: I'd say the OT tackle hasn't been bad. Edge rushers are still breaking through from time to time on both sides. But there really haven't been any disasters. I could be wrong, but I don't think Greco played as much against Seattle as he did the week before against Washington.
arnezzi: It looks like the back 7 kept the play in front of them vs. Seattle - very little YAC. Do you agree?
Jim Thomas: Yep. Better tackling I think there were only three or four missed tackles by the entire defense last week.
RAMphetamine: I think our front-7 on defense will make Jim Schwartz pay if he decides to put Stafford back behind center this week. Seattle's O-line is far from anything special, but Detroit's is far from anything better.
Jim Thomas: Yeah, and Shaun Hill is looking pretty comfortable at QB (although he has thrown 7 picks).
steve: what's the latest on donnie avery?
Jim Thomas: As I tweeed on Saturday, Avery underwent knee surgery Friday. It's not unusual these days for a few weeks to pass between the injury and the surgery. Partly, I think, because players do what amounts to some pre-surgery rehab.
pat: Its way early, but it seems that next year the Rams are going to need to pick up a running back to share the load with Jackson and a better receiver than what we have.
What guys are viable as far as drafting or trading for those positions in 2011? Is it better to trade/draft one position versus the other?
Jim Thomas: I think those are still primary needs. I'm really not qualified to say which players are draft possibilities at this time. Devaney wants to build through the draft. But if you add a couple of defensive needs which I mentioned earlier (weakside LB and pass-rushing DE), I think maybe one of those four you might try to fill via free agency.
I keep thinking back to the blocked field goal at the end of the half against the Redskins. That one felt like it would be the nail in the coffin, the final, crushing moment when the season would go from predictably tough to unbearably awful. I can't give the team enough credit for the way it fought back and refused to let the season get away completely.
In looking at the turnaround, I come back to five things:
1. Bradford: a young, super-talented QB who does not get rattled and is quietly improving.
2. Mark Clayton: a hard working, legit starting WR who fell out of the sky and has done all we could hope for.
3. Jackson and Darby: one won't ever quit -- one waited and waited and then proved he can make plays.
4. Fred Robbins -- the unquestioned leader and mentor of a young defense.
5. The entire defense -- young, some big talent gaps, but with a head coach starting to validate his reputation on that side of the ball, just maybe ;-)
Jim Thomas: Can't disagree with your points. I think the play of the corners (Bartell and Fletcher) has been key as well as the pass-rushing by James Hall. And even with his drops, I think Brandon Gibsonn has provided a little bit of a spark as well. He is getting open.
Bud Insky: hey Jim, what are you doing? What's going on? What do you think of the Packers this year?
Jim Thomas: I'm finishing up the Tuesday chat. Sorry I got delayed for a while. You remind me of a guy who's pretty nosy. The Packers are pretty good, but you probably knew that already.
Watching this defense in the first four games has been absolutely THRILLING! Can we expect to see them keep this up when playing better teams, or will we see what happened last year when they were allowing around 27.3 PPG?
Jim Thomas: Not sure what the future holds, but I don't think we'll see 27 ppg.
Scotty_Ba: Hi Jim,
How long should we torture our friends that broke their legs jumping off the Ram's bandwagon? They sure want in on my tickets again now. Last few years I was begging people to go. This is fun to watch..
Also, I see this team gaining confidence every week I'm just worried if they suffer a setback how do you think they will respond I really do think they believe they can beat anybody now.
Jim Thomas: I'd wait until the bye week.
John: I didn't notice Chauncey Washington last game? Did he even suit up or play any downs?
Jim Thomas: He played some special teams.
Pujols1.5: Thanks for doing these chats JT,
1.) Just wondering what the atmosphere is like in the press box.
2.) Are the Rams starting to exceed your expectations?
3.) Should we expect to see Ryan back in the mix this week?
4.) Is Robinson on the chopping block yet?
Jim Thomas: 1.) We always have fun.
2.) Maybe, but I did think they'd be 2-2 at this point.
3.) Spags seems optimistic, but he's seemed optimistic before.
4.) Not that I'm aware of, especially with just four other wideouts on the active roster.
GoneGator: Hi Jim. After covering training camp, are you surprised at how well the team is doing, and how much Bradford has stepped up? Also, I feel that barring any "Titanic-type collapses", Spags has earned his job for next year. I don't think enough has been said about how well the Rams are playing with "what they have" on the roster. Thanks!
Jim Thomas: Reserving judgment. Let's revisit those topics in a month.
Roland: Since we could use a big receiver, that would compliment Clayton, I am wondering how Donario Alexander is coming along, and if he might get to play this season?
Jim Thomas: I still think it's possible Alexander could be on the active roster before all is said and done. It's not like I'm watching every rep he gets in practice, but I think he's moving around a little better on the practice field.
Dave C: 18 games into his Ram's career....what grade would you give the Mike Karney signing? Do you feel he was worth the money ?
Jim Thomas: I don't think that Karney is the player he was a few years ago. With rare exception, there are only so many hits in a fullback's body, and he's playing with a thumb injury at the moment. But he still gets after it, Jackson loves the guys which I think is important. And it's not like the Rams invested a ton of money to sign him.
PC: Would you rather have no SJax39 for two weeks and then get him back at 100%. Or have Sjax at 50-75% for several weeks?
He claims he there couldn't have been an additional set back my playing. That may be true but he could be making the recovery time longer by continuing to play no?
I bet if the Rams had a legit 1B running back (sorry Darby), SJax wouldn't have seen the field.
Jim Thomas: Interesting question. I'm not sure of the answer. Jackson wanted to be out there, and I'm not sure the Rams beat Seattle without him.
Peter from Crestwood: Hello and thanks for taking my question:
Up to this point in the season what has been the biggest:
area where improvement is needed?
Jim Thomas: I'll stick with the WR corps. Biggest surprise _ Mark Clayton. Biggest disappointment _ Laurent Robinson (yes, I know he's injured.)
Tim: What is Mark Clayton's contract status? I've read he is a FA at season's end. If so, do the Rams resign him? I sure hope so
On a related note, it's telling how much the Rams need a #1 receiver. Don't get me wrong. Clayton has been incredible but imagine if he lined up against the opponent's #2 corner/safety (as he's probably best suited to do). Then Amendola/Gibson/Gilyard/et al could get better much better match ups against safeties & LBs. Plus playmaking TEs Fells/Ho Ho ... plus SJax. That's almost pick your poison.
Jim Thomas: His contract is up after this season, and he's scheduled to be unrestricted.
Dan: What is the rookie record for wins? Touchdowns thrown?
Jim Thomas: Peyton Manning threw 26 TD passes in 1998 _ that's the record for a rookie. Bradford currently is on pace for 24 TD passes. Don't know about rookie record for most wins by a rookie QB. Most recently, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and the Jets' Mark Sanchez reached the AFC title game as rookies.
Eric (La Rams Fan): Hey Jim, Do you think the FO will still try to get VJAX before the trade deadline if we are still competing for the division?
Jim Thomas: I think the price ($$$$) would have to come down.
ncdc: You mention that the Rams need a stud WLB...what happened to Grant? All I heard all pre-season is what a surprise he was!
Jim Thomas: He's been playing OK, but hasn't really made some of the impact plays we saw in camp and in the preseason. I wonder, too, if he has the ideal range to play WLB. With that, I've got to go. Talk to you all next week.