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Bernie Bytes: Quick Hits On Rams

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  • Bernie Bytes: Quick Hits On Rams

    Bernie Bytes: Quick hits on Rams

    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    I'm happy to be back from vacation. (Well, actually I'm not.) But with so much going on these days, it's fun to dive right in with some quick-hit opinions on STL sports.

    For those who mewling over the Rams' decision to cut No. 3 quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, please permit me to run some names by you: Todd Bauman, Joey Harrington, Tyler Palko, Andre Woodson, Quinn Gray, Dan Orlovsky, Brett Ratliff, Ken Dorsey, Matt Flynn, Charlie Whitehurst, Stephen McGee, Luke McCown, J.T. O'Sullivan, Seneca Wallace, Jim Sorgi. What do the names on this list have in common? Answer: these are quarterbacks that finished among the top five annually in preseason passing since 2007. I like Lewis; he played very well this summer. But I also remember a lot of fans and media in our town swooning over Keith Null based on a few preseason games. Here's the deal: if Sam Bradford goes down with an injury, it won't matter. There's something to be said for having a veteran, coach-like backup to Bradford. And A.J. Feeley is that. But back to our list ... it tells us this: preseason games are frequently fool's gold.

    Yes, for those who asked ... I would have kept WR Donnie Avery. But seeing that (A) he wasn't claimed by another team, and (B) he indicated that he wanted a change in location, I'm not worked up about it. It's just not something that's causing a flare-up of my acid reflux.

    An observation on WRs and Rams GM Billy Devaney: he seems to be better at finding the hidden gems or trading for the wideouts than he is at drafting them. Devaney signed Danny Amendola off a practice squad, traded for Brandon Gibson, traded for Mark Clayton and took a chance on signing Danario Alexander. Devaney also signed street free agent WRDominique Curry, who has made the season-opening 53-man roster for the second consecutive season. Devaney (who was working for Jay Zygmunt and Scott Linehan at the time) invested a No. 2 draft choice in Avery. He spent a fourth-rounder on the Mardy Gilyard in 2010; Gilyard did little before getting released Saturday. And obviously it's too soon to know about the two WRs drafted this year, Austin Pettis and Greg Salas. But Pettis, a third-rounder, didn't do much in the four preseason games -- not that it mattered much. And it shouldn't. You don't draft a guy in the third round and then cut him after four preseason games -- especially in 2011, amid the chaos of a truncated offseason. Frankly I was surprised that so many people really believed that Pettis was in danger of getting cut.

    Drafting WRs isn't easy. It's become more and more of a crapshoot. Avery was the first wideout chosen in 2008. I really liked the pick at the time and won't pretend otherwise. It's easy to say now that the Rams screwed up by not takingDeSean Jackson, but in '08 Zygmunt and Linehan and Devaney were very public in their desire to add so-called character players, and Jackson made 'em nervous. And the Rams' contingent wasn't alone; six WRs were picked before D. Jackson in 2008. And the 2008 draft table is loaded with busts at the WR position. Jackson, so far, is the only star to emerge from that WR class. There were some decent picks. Guys that contribute including Mario Manningham, Pierre Garcon, Jordy Nelson, Earl Bennett, Early Ducet, etc. If you want to crack on Devaney and the Rams for missing on Avery, that's fair game. But this position continues to baffle most of the people that do the drafting.

    The 2011 Rams really are the product of GM Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo. If things go sour, there's no one else to blame. Only nine of the opening-day 53 players were Rams before the Devaney-Spags team took over in 2009. The opening 53 includes 15 players drafted by Devaney-Spags. And if you want to include the 2008 draft -- which was impacted by Devaney's influence-- the count would be 18 draft picks on the current roster.

    The Rams' signing of free-agent OLB Zac Diles and his subsequent release after never escaping third-string status ... confusing all the way around. I'm not really ripping the decision to sign Diles; I liked it at the time because of his athletic ability. And he was said to be an aggressive tackler. But in their final roster decisions, the Rams made it clear that they put a premium on players who could excel at specific roles, whether it be a WR (Curry) that shined on special teams or a couple of LBs that could be used in coverage on passing downs. And Spagnuolo was willing to sacrifice some athletic ability if it meant being able to fine-tune some of the more low-key but important working parts. And that's a sound approach for a team that expects to win a division in 2011.

    Yes, I think the Rams can beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The Eagles will be a much better team later in the season. Right now they're trying to firm up a lot of areas. The offensive line is in transition, there's a young front seven on defense, and new defensive coordinator (Juan Castillo) calling the shots even though he's never worked on the defensive side of the ball before. It's a clear opportunity for the Rams to take advantage of the situation. Who will shadow Eagles QB Michael Vick? I don't know, but I guess we can expect the baseball Cardinals to complain about it.

    That's all I have for now.

    Thanks for reading ...


Related Topics


  • MauiRam
    Gordon: Rams use all means possible to find receivers ..
    by MauiRam
    Tuesday, September 6, 2011 11:55 am

    The NFL Draft is just one team-building vehicle. Keep this in mind when assessing the Rams overhaul for 2012.

    Free agency is a major tool for fortifying the roster. Trading is another solid option. The well-run teams fill holes via the waiver wire, making roster adjustments on the fly.

    Good general managers raid practice squads and find talent among the ranks of unemployed players rotating through their facilities during weekly cattle calls.

    Alert GMs even find gems among the lowest personnel form, the ďstreet free agentsĒ that arrive at training camp as the longest of longshots.

    Fans zero in on the draft because it is on TV. The NFL has turned the event into a marathon of speculative analysis.

    But there are many ways to upgrade a team, as Rams general manager Billy Devaney has proved over the past few years.

    So what if a street free agent like Danario Alexander bumps notable draft picks like Donnie Avery and Mardy Gilyard out of jobs at the final preseason cutdown?

    The idea is to build the best team by all means possible. This is a 12-month process, since GMs never really quit looking for players.

    The Rams wide receiver scenario offers a classic example of ďall means necessary."

    Devaney plucked Danny Amendola off the Eagles practice squad. Many fans ridiculed his ascension to the lead receiver role here last season -Ė given his humble beginnings -- but Amendola can play. Nobody drafted him coming out of Texas Tech, but his lack of pedigree means nothing now.

    The Rams won a Super Bowl with undrafted players leading the way on both sides of the ball.

    Brandon Gibson came to the Rams from the Eagles with a fifth-round pick for linebacker Will Witherspoon. Fans continued to pile on this trade well into last season, until Gibson emerged as a viable target for Sam Bradford. Gibsonís stellar preseason work eased concerns about his 2010 inconsistency and earned him a front-line role starting this season.

    So what if two of the top three Rams receivers are Philly castoffs? Their performance matters, not their origin.

    Mark Clayton arrived from the Ravens for an inconsequential draft pick and starred last season before suffering a catastrophic knee injury. As the preseason wound down, the Rams re-signed him and put him on the Physically Unable to Perform shelf.

    His success with Bradford last season suggests he will provide a big second-half lift this season.

    Alexander went undrafted last year because of his oft-repaired knee. The Rams expected to hold him out of action last season, but he worked his way into the lineup and flashed big-time potential. The Rams suggested he undergo a sixth procedure on his bad knee this summer, but he played on to earn a job....
    -09-07-2011, 11:53 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Bernie: Pressure Is On Rams In Having No. 1 Pick
    by r8rh8rmike
    Pressure is on Rams in having No. 1 pick

    Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz

    When your team suffers through a 1-15 season, it isn't fun. There is no joy. The beatings wipe the smile away. But the NFL system is supposed to deliver relief. And an instant remedy can arrive through the draft. For the losers, the draft is set up to provide salvation.

    The Rams will have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which begins on the evening of April 22. The d-day will be here before we know it. And if the Rams choose the right guy, he'll help transform the franchise, and in a dramatic way. But if the Rams blow it and select the wrong player, the team will remain stuck on the league's underside. More years will be wasted and lost.

    The pressure on general manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo is enormous. You see, this isn't just a question of hitting the lotto on that No. 1 pick. There's much more at stake than that. This draft could alter the future of the franchise, on and off the field. This draft could impact the job security of Devaney and Spagnuolo, who are working hard to overcome the football crimes and misdemeanors committed by the previous Rams' regime.

    Moreover, Devaney and Spagnuolo will probably be working for a new boss, Shad Khan. And the boss didn't hire them. The boss doesn't even know them. But the boss certainly will be monitoring his football factory the way he supervises his auto-parts factories. Given his success, Khan seems like the kind of person who expects positive results.

    The Rams, 6-42 over the last three seasons, are about to enter a critical transition phase. If he clears the league's background and financial checks and is voted into the league, Khan will take over as the Rams' new majority owner in a few months.

    No one knows what to expect of Khan, but I'm assuming the man didn't plunk down hundreds of millions of dollars to travel to St. Louis to watch the Rams embarrass him. I'm going to go ahead and assume that Khan isn't fond of writing checks worth tens of millions of dollars for premium draft picks who turn into underachieving busts.

    I'm also going to take it for granted that Khan doesn't want to see thousands of empty seats for home games at the Edward Jones Dome in 2010. And if the Rams can't find a way to motivate a depressed and disgusted fan base, selling tickets will be a formidable challenge.

    The Rams cannot afford to fail.

    In theory, the No. 1 overall pick should provide easy pickings. You have the choice of the lot. No other team can block you or snatch the player you covet. There's no excuse, really, for messing it up. If the 2010 draft goes wrong, it can't be blamed on Jay Zygmunt, Scott Linehan or other ghosts at Rams Park.

    But this is tricky.

    Defensive tackle appeared...
    -02-19-2010, 06:00 PM
  • Rambos
    Devaney comments regarding the current 53 on the roster and the decision
    by Rambos
    Sept. 04, 2011 3:31 p.m. - by Ron Clements - Devaney wanted experience behind Bradford
    GM Billy Devaney said keeping an experienced backup behind QB Sam Bradford was a factor that favored 11-year veteran A.J. Feeley over second-year player Thaddeus Lewis. Devaney said the team hoped Lewis would clear waivers so he could be signed to the practice squad, but he was claimed by the Browns. Rams RapidReports

    Sept. 04, 2011 3:28 p.m. - by Ron Clements - Devaney: There's more than just football at stake
    Anybody who follows football knows that cutdown day is tough on coaches and players. As GM Billy Devaney said, there's a human side that has nothing to do with winning games. “Some are more difficult because you’ve been with guys, but every one you make is tough," he said. "You’ve got young guys whose dreams have been shattered. You’ve got veteran guys with families involved. Every one has its own story, and none of them are easy.” Rams RapidReports

    Sept. 04, 2011 3:26 p.m. - by Ron Clements - GM: If Rams cuts are claimed quickly, that says something
    GM Billy Devaney said having released players quickly claimed by other teams “is kind of an indication” that the team has upgraded the talent on its roster. “Every time you make a change and put somebody out there, you have to expect to lose them,” Devaney said. Rams RapidReports

    Sept. 04, 2011 3:24 p.m. - by Ron Clements - GM: this year's cuts were hardest of his 4 years with team
    GM Billy Devaney said this year’s cuts were the most difficult of his four years with the team and “it’s not even close.” “It’s good for the players that get claimed – they’re on a 53-man roster,” Devaney said. “When they left the building, we hoped they go on to have great careers.” Rams RapidReports

    Sept. 04, 2011 3:23 p.m. - by Ron Clements - Devaney: LB Williams 'has chance to be a really good player'
    GM Billy Devaney on rookie LB Jabara Williams, a seventh-round pick from Stephen F. Austin: “Williams, from Day One, showed that he’s bigger than people thought. He’s really athletic and picked things up quickly. He’s a tough guy, smart and we thought in the future has a chance to be a really good player.” Rams RapidReports

    Sept. 04, 2011 3:22 p.m. - by Ron Clements - Devaney expects bigger things from second-year DE Sims
    GM Billy Devaney on second-year DE Eugene Sims: “He has gotten bigger since last year. Like any normal second-year player, he’s got to step up from his rookie year. We really think Eugene can help us in a lot of ways this year.” Rams RapidReports

    Sept. 04, 2011 3:21 p.m. - by Ron Clements - Devaney: Won't compare WR Alexander to waived Avery
    GM Billy Devaney would not compare WR Danario Alexander to Donnie Avery, who was...
    -09-04-2011, 06:24 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams' Talent Upgrade Is Showing
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams' talent upgrade is showing

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    August 13, 2011 -- Rams quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is tackled by Indianapolis defensive tackle DeMario Pressley during a preseason game between the St. Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts. (Chris Lee / [email protected])
    It hasn't been the case for years, but suddenly Rams leftovers are appetizing to other NFL teams.

    Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis (Cleveland Browns), wide receiver Mardy Gilyard (New York Jets) and defensive end George Selvie (Carolina Panthers) were claimed on waivers by other teams Sunday after being released a day earlier by St. Louis.

    In addition, two veterans who were knocked out of the Rams' heated linebacker competition also found new homes. Na'il Diggs, who was released Aug. 29, signed Saturday with San Diego. Zac Diles, who was released Saturday, signed Sunday with Tampa Bay.

    Back in the days when the team was going 1-15, 2-14, etc., getting cut by the Rams might be a career dead-end. Apparently, times are changing and the talent level on the roster is increasing.

    "Well, yeah, that is a little bit different, isn't it?" general manager Billy Devaney said. "I guess that is kind of an indication (of better talent). We wish that wasn't the case on a couple of those guys."

    That was particularly true with Lewis, whom the Rams hoped to sneak onto their practice squad once he cleared waivers. But the Browns, coached by former Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, had other ideas.

    "We were hoping he wasn't claimed, but we fully understood that he played good enough in the preseason where I know he opened some people's eyes," Devaney said. "And Pat's certainly familiar with him in Cleveland."

    After completing 23 of 32 passes, Lewis finished the preseason with a better completion percentage than starter Sam Bradford (71.9 percent to 57.4) and was only slightly behind Bradford in passer rating (96.6 to 97.1). Granted, Lewis was facing second- and third-stringers, but he did rally the Rams to a last-second victory against Tennessee and put 17 points on the board in the second half against Jacksonville.

    The Browns liked Lewis enough that they decided to go with a third quarterback behind starter Colt McCoy and backup Seneca Wallace.

    "We probably weren't going to go in that direction," Browns general manager Tom Heckert told reporters in Cleveland. "We probably were going to stick with two. Pat coached him. We talked about him last year. He's a very talented kid. He's very accurate."

    It was never clear in St. Louis whether Lewis was competing with A.J. Feeley for the No. 2 spot or simply trying to convince the Rams through his play to keep three quarterbacks. But on a two-quarterback roster, Feeley's...
    -09-05-2011, 01:44 PM
  • MauiRam
    Bernie .. The Rams are getting younger ..
    by MauiRam
    The Ramsí release of starting linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa underscored the dramatic nature of the Ramsí roster shakeup thatís occured this offseason.
    Of the players who were listed on the roster or on injured reserve for the 16th and final game of the Ramsí 2008 season, 21 are gone.

    And the Rams have gotten a lot younger during this weeding process.

    Counting those who finished last season on IR, the Rams have subsequently released, traded or declined to re-sign 15 players who were age 30 or older.

    Thatís right, 15 thirtysomethings are gone from 2008.

    That list includes Torry Holt, Orlando Pace, Drew Bennett, Trent Green, La Roi Glover, Fakhir Brown, Corey Chavous and Jonathan Craft. Several full-time starters were part of that group.

    As the 2009 roster sits right now, the Rams have only six players age 30 or over: QB Marc Bulger; DEs James Hall and Leonard Little; LB Chris Draft; S Todd Johnson; and K Josh Brown. Two others ó snapper Chris Massey and TE Randy McMichael Ė will turn 30 during the 2009 season.

    Thatís why Tinoisamoa was let go. He was decent enough, but wasnít going to get any better. He was limited by size. GM Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo would rather see what some of the young LBs could do, whether it be Larry Grant, Chris Chamberlain or David Vobora.

    I think the Rams could get even younger before the 2009 regular-season opener. The Rams lack depth at DE, so Little and Hall appear to be safe. The same with Draft at LB. But obviously Devaney and Spagnuolo are on the lookout for younger plug-ins and upgrades at the position. All positions, actually. They want to freshen up this roster, and make it faster and stronger and more energetic.

    Some younger veterans arenít locks to be playing for the Rams in Ď09. TE Joe Klopfenstein is a longshot to make it to the opener, and at some point CB Tye Hill, the former No. 1 draft pick, will have to show that he can stay healthy and make plays.

    If he has another poor season, Bulger could be a salary-cap casualty after Ď09.

    If you are a Ram age 30 or older or in your late 20s, watch out Ö the bosses are probably looking to replace you unless youíre playing very well and on a consistent basis.

    And this needed to be done. When a team has lost 27 of its last 32 games, a good scrubbing and aggressive housecleaning is in order. I donít believe Iím not overstating the Devaney-Spags desire to go with the youngbloods. A perfect example is the wide receiver position. The Rams are going with the kids. Theyíve had no interest, so far, in signing one of the elder-statesmen WR who could tutor their young receivers. The Ramsí three top wideouts on the depth chart right now ó Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson and Keenan Burton ó have combined for 19 NFL starts and 103 NFL receptions in their careers.

    Thatís why I think itís...
    -05-12-2009, 01:34 AM