Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Justin Morehead, Seneca, Mo.: I know you have said that the Rams Should draft a linebacker, but what about a defensive end? Two got away w/ Wistrom and Fisher. So do you think that the Rams would consider drafting Mario Williams if he is still on the board? I think our two major concerns are the D-line and the secondary, what is your opinion?
NW: Justin, I have advocated linebackers, but that is only because I feel this is a draft deep in that area and by the time the Rams pick, the best available defender will likely be a linebacker. The main thing I would trumpet is finding the best available defensive player, regardless of position. With that in mind, I am open to any player at an defensive position. As you could probably tell by my top 20 players from last night, I think very highly of Mario Williams. I believe he would be the No. 1 pick in most years and is a real difference maker waiting to happen. Should the Rams have a shot to get Williams or Hawk, I would hope they would take it. I still think Anthony Hargrove has plenty of potential and he started to show it at the end of the season, but you can never pass on a guy like Williams. Hargrove will get his shot, but depending on the type of schemes Jim Haslett wants to run, things could be changing. I think the main concern is the defense in general. There are problems across the board. Hiring Haslett was a big step in the right direction, but there is plenty of work to be done in the draft and free agency.
LeRoy Gray, Orlando, Fla.:Even though it is obvious the Rams need to address their defensive problems, do you think it would be wise for them to go after a solid TE like Vernon Davis or Leonard Pope in the first round to give this team a much needed improvement in that position. We have all seen in San Diego, Pittsburgh, etc. how a solid TE can improve the offense both in the passing and running game. From what I know about Linehan, which isn't much, I believe the TE is very important in his offensive scheme. A great TE would fit in perfect with a 3-step drop and max-protect offense. Or, considering there aren't a whole lot of great candidates for DB, do you think we should concentrate on Ryans, Greenway, or Carpenter to beef up a very weak LB corp?
NW: : I agree completely that the tight end spot could use an upgrade, but considering the holes on defense, it just doesn't make a ton of sense to grab one of those studs at the position. I love Davis and Pope. Personally, I think Pope might actually be the better fit in this system because he is better at the point of attack, but Davis' athleticism is hard to resist. If, say, the top five or six defenders are gone, maybe then you turn your attention in that direction. But the need is too great. This is a deep class at tight end, running back and linebacker. It seems to me that you could still get an excellent tight end in the second or third round. In addition to Davis and Pope, you have Marcedes Lewis, Dominique Byrd and Anthony Fasano, among others. I think Byrd could be a real sleeper for some lucky team. He didn't get much attention at USC, but he has a game that falls somewhere between Pope and Davis. Keep an eye on him.
Ron Laccabue, Tarzana, Calif.: Any word on how Marc Bulger's shoulder is doing?
NW: As the season wore down, Marc was throwing again and taking his time in coming back. I have no doubt that Marc will be ready to go by the time the mini camps roll around. He is taking his time in rehabbing this time so as not to aggravate anything, but had the Rams been able to make the playoffs, he probably would have been able to play. He will be fine and should be happy to know that he will have some better protection schemes that will keep his shoulder healthy next year.
Mike Leandro, Salinas, Calif.: If the rams traded their spot in the draft order, say 5 to 10 selections down, do you think they could get an additional 2nd round pick?
NW: Mike, it's hard to say what you could get for the 11th pick in the draft. Every team in the league has a value chart that tells you what you should be able to get in terms of picks or players for a certain pick in each round. In this case, it wouldn't be out of the question to garner a second rounder to move down 10 spots or so. One thing that could alter that, though, is the availability of a top quarterback. Many times when a draft has a top three or four quarterbacks available, a team will be looking to move up and give up whatever it takes to get their guy. It happens with other positions too, but quarterback seems to be the one where this happens the most. For instance, let's say Jay Cutler is there at No. 11 and a quarterback-needy team calls the Rams, they would probably be willing to make the move. Another second rounder for the Rams would be big in my mind. Let's say the Rams would move to No. 20 and get a second-round pick, then you have a first and two second rounders. Two defenders and a tight end out of the first two rounds would be a thing of beauty. Of course, this is all hypothetical, but it's fun to play the what if game sometimes.
Bill Chapman, Grass Valley, Calif.: I am very concerned about the high energy aerial attack the rams have had since Mike Martz was an offensive coordinator. Should we anticipate a radical change in offensive philosophy? Are the days gone when we see Tory Holt put up 1,300 yards and 100 catches? Are we going to see Steven Jackson carrying the ball much more and perhaps gaining 1,400 - 1,700 yards behind a powerful Rams offensive line?
NW: It's understandable why you would worry about this, but I don't see anything changing with the production of the offense, except perhaps, I can see Jackson becoming more involved and Bulger not getting hit as much. It's important to remember that Scott Linehan knows a thing or two about offense and has had some success in this league. Heck, if it weren't for the Rams, his Vikings' offenses would be the gold standard of the past 10 years for offense int he NFL. It's not like Coach Linehan will be putting the wishbone in or something like that. I think Torry will continue to produce and I imagine Jackson will get more opportunities in a more balanced offense. Linehan is more open to max protection/multiple tight end sets and that should help Bulger keep his uniform clean.
Ervin Mucaj, Oakland City, Ind.: I know some think Bulger can get it done when healthy, but though we're Rams fans...we have to admit that in comparison to league Qb level he has to rank very low, I don't think he could have gone in round 2 in this draft if he just came out this year. So, is it possible to move for Culpeper, or perhaps trade Bulger to the Jetts or Dolphins and move up the draft for one of the top 2 guys?
NW: Ervin, not to pick on you, because you aren't the only one who has emailed me something along these lines, but I have to completely disagree with you. Why should we admit something that simply isn't true? Marc Bulger is one of the better quarterbacks in the league right now and, if he can stay healthy (see above), he should be able to elevate to the top five to seven signal callers in the league. The numbers would argue against you in this case. When Marc went down this year, he was on pace for a record-breaking season and led the league in passer rating. With the Rams' right tackle spot in shambles before this season, he stood in the pocket and delivered time and again while taking vicious hits. He is a leader, he is tough, he is accurate and he is smart. Why would you want to send him away for a guy who is coming off a horrible season and a worse injury in Culpepper? Why would you want to trade a proven commodity who has a relatively cheap cap number for an unknown draft pick that may or may not work out? I agree, Bulger right now wouldn't go in round 2 of this year's draft, he'd go No. 1. The Rams have plenty of problems, on defense or the offensive line, but Marc Bulger isn't one of them.
Todd Fleming, St. Peters, Mo.: Will Linehan allow Bulger to call audibles from the line of scrimage and if so do you think Bulger can be successful at it, because Bulger wasn't allowed or able to do that under Martz?
NW: Todd, another interesting question from you. It's hard to tell right now just how much freedom coach Linehan will allow Bulger. From a logical standpoint, though, I would have to say that it isn't likely for Marc to have free reign on the offense at the line of scrimmage, at least not right away. Keep in mind, this system will be new to Marc just like everyone else. It takes most quarterbacks three years to truly grasp a system. With that in mind, it's hard to imagine Marc will have that type of authority, but he might start to get more of it as his grasp of the offense and comfort level increase. As I said above, this system is different, but not dramatically different, so it might not take as long to find that comfort. Bulger is a smart guy and if he is given that leeway, I believe he will handle it just fine.
Thanks for all of the questions this week. We will be headed to the combine in a few weeks, so prepare for plenty of coverage from there and maybe even a special combine edition of the mailbag. Enjoy the Super Bowl everyone.
Re: Wagoner's Mailbag
Man ! all I have to do is come here to find out "WHATS UP" as usual you have taken the time as do a few here that get the info thats cool , Thanks for your time and all those who take the time to get the info on this broad ...
I believe that we might have the right guys at for this year and next but we would need to look next year not this year (only my opinion) the secondary and linebackers are the places we should look for , Its my opinion that the D line had very little discipline and the scheme did not put our best players on the field at all times ... We have seen the D line played very well at times (Very few) so they are capable of doing the job as most here know its a combination and scheme and players that make the difference , I really don't think we had that going in to this last year for alot of reasons ... The linebackers are just as important as the front line in stoping the run ... with the right direction I believe we will see the difference hopefully