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  • Martz looking to open up passing attack

    Martz looking to open up passing attack
    By John Clayton
    ESPN.com

    Macomb, Ill. -- The success of the Rams offense has naturally become its worst enemy. For five years, defenses have schemed to stop "The Show." Each year, more defenders hang back in zones. Cornerbacks developed tricks to slow down Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. First, it was the Cover 2 (zone).

    "We started calling it the Cover 2 Hold-em zone," Bruce said. And "hold-em" they did. Cornerbacks waited at the eight-yard area and grabbed Bruce's jersey so many times that he would come back to the huddle with his shoulder pads sticking out. That didn't stop Martz. He'd still send three-to-five receivers into coverages of seven or eight. Passing is the strength of the Rams no matter the strategies against them, and in five years, the Rams have finished no lower than third in the league.

    But things change. Offenses evolve. Guys get older. Bruce is now 31 and in his 11th year although he looks no worse for the wear. Holt has established himself as a Pro Bowler at the age of 27. Marshall Faulk is 31 and you're starting to hear speculation about him retiring because of a bad knee. And now, Kurt Warner is gone, and Marc Bulger is at the helm.

    The Rams Show may be getting older, but it's reloading to a certain degree. The other day, Martz incorporated some aggressive running drills in which backs hit holes hard and linebackers crashed into bodies to stop them. There is a new emphasis on trying to run the ball. No, this isn't Ground Chuck. The Rams remain a passing team, but Martz wants more physical, aggressive play from his offensive line to bring some changes in the coverages he sees.

    The idea is if the Rams can run the ball better, defenses won't keep an extra safety in deep coverage.

    "We need to run the football extremely well," Holt said. "I think Coach has a big emphasis on that this year. We need to establish the line of scrimmage. If we can dominate up front, maybe we will see eight in the box and get some one-on-ones for the receivers. I can count on one hand the number of times I see eight in the box against us in a game. If we are running the ball five and six yards a pop, teams might bring that eighth man in the box and make it easier for Marc Bulger."

    Despite making a playoff run with Bulger last season, the running offense grounded to a halt. Part of that was the health of Faulk, who fought through another year of knee troubles. Part of that was strategy. Backs ran the ball a little less than 23 times a game. That's a half sometimes for Ricky Williams, which is one of the reasons he's retired in Asian watching his NFL career go up in smoke.

    What Martz is stressing is more production from the running offense, which averaged only 3.6 yards a carry. That average needs to go up to anywhere from 4.5 to 5 yards a carry. Faulk's back. So is talented and relatively unused Lamar Gordon. Undrafted second-year player Arlen Harris offers some versatility. On top of that, the Rams used their first-round pick on a Ricky Williams-type back in Steven Jackson.

    "We have to run the ball better than we did a year ago," Martz said. "There are a lot of logical reasons to do it, but the mindset part of it is the most important. We will try to get that going, as we did in 1999 (the Rams ranked fifth in rushing that year). It's easy for us to throw the ball in some sense. We have guys who have a pretty good concept of what we do. We can always go back into that quickly."

    Talent-wise, the Rams can challenge the Vikings as being the deepest running team in football. Faulk and Jackson are first-rounders. Gordon is a third-rounder. And Martz loves Harris. "You watch him out there and I'm just as excited about him as the other guys," Martz said. That might translate into many more rushing attempts a game, but the idea is to be more physical and definitely more efficient.

    One concern, however, is Faulk. For the first time in 11 seasons, Faulk is beginning to realize his days as an every-down back are numbered. He's so valuable to this offense that it's not out of the question for him to play three or four more years. He's best route-runner out of the backfield during his era and will remain a force -- as long as his knee doesn't become a liability.

    "This is the first year I thought about if the body isn't acting right, what do I do?" Faulk said. "Do I fight through it or do I not play. I have to evaluate it after the season. I love football. It's in me. I was given a gift to play this game, the physical gift and the mental gift to understand."

    After last season, doctors found a way to prolong his career. During an arthroscopic procedure, they found arthritis wasn't the main problem. Instead, there was a little flap of cartilage causing some problems. They shaved off a flap of the cartilage, and the knee was fine.

    Martz understands he has to be smart in how he uses Faulk in practices and in games. So much of the offense is geared to Faulk breaking runs and making catches in traffic. Last year, he rushed for 818 yards and caught 45 passes for 290 yards despite missing five games. The coach is letting Faulk go day-to-day in practice when the knee feels right. So far, he's put the pads on a couple of times, and tried a few runs.

    "I just have to take care of myself and day to day let my body tell me," Faulk said. "I have to listen to it. It doesn't listen to me. I watched what I did the first day of practice and looked pretty good on film."

    To help the knee, Faulk came to camp at 214 pounds, more than 10 pounds lighter than last season when he was asked to be a little heavier for the pounding. However, Faulk also understands that because of the team's new philosophy and his health, the other backs might factor into the plans more.

    "I have to understand if I have to take a lesser role if that becomes an issue," Faulk said.

    It isn't the issue. Faulk's the starter. The Rams just have to be smart how they use him. One issue behind this team is Warner. This is Bulger's team now. It's really been his team for two years. While Warner was fighting injuries, Bulger compiled an 18-4 record while he was winning over his teammates with his accuracy and humble leadership.

    Bulger doesn't have the same bravado as Warner, who had a flair for dramatics by standing in the pocket taking a hit while releasing a big-time pass. Bulger's game is efficiency. He's quiet. His game is more of the Trent Green-style than Warner's. It worked well enough for the Rams to invest a four-year, $19 million contract that included a $9 million signing bonus.

    "I feel like it's my team now," Bulger said. "It's not that much different than before, but last year was a learning experience. When you first start playing as the quarterback, you have to earn the players' respect. I'm not a rah-rah guy. I lead by example. Once you have been with these guys, they learn to trust you. They have some confidence in me."

    With Faulk, Holt, Bruce, Adam Timmerman and Orlando Pace, Bulger doesn't have to go outside of his comfort zone to be a leader. The Rams have plenty of offensive leaders. They've been in the forefront of NFL offenses for the past five years. The big difference from last summer is that Bulger is working with the first team during training camp. Warner did that last season. Now, Bulger has a whole summer to work on his efficiency running the offense.

    "Last year, I knew where guys specifically were supposed to be and I threw to the area they were supposed to be at," Bulger said. "Now, I can be more conscious to get the ball at 18 or 12 yards in specific routes."

    Though he isn't the most mobile quarterback and his deep balls are a little in question, Bulger's game is accuracy.

    "Chris Miller was the most accurate quarterback I've worked with, but Marc is the next best," Bruce said. "We just need to make the game easier for him. Running the ball is one of the things that will help. They may get us more eight in the box, and if that happens, we can get more plays on the outside in the passing game."

    The league's new edict for officials to penalize illegal contact against cornerbacks who mug Bruce and Holt should open things up even more. Warner's gone. Faulk is aging. But "The Show" goes on.

    Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: Martz looking to open up passing attack

    Combine this...
    The league's new edict for officials to penalize illegal contact against cornerbacks who mug Bruce and Holt should open things up even more.
    with some of this...
    There is a new emphasis on trying to run the ball.
    and an extra dose of...
    "Last year, I knew where guys specifically were supposed to be and I threw to the area they were supposed to be at," Bulger said. "Now, I can be more conscious to get the ball at 18 or 12 yards in specific routes."
    roll in a hefty amount of run-stopping D, and we should end up with...
    "The Show" goes on.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Martz looking to open up passing attack

      “Cornerbacks developed TRICKS to slow down Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.”
      TRahahah? Trihihihohoho… Trickekeke. Trickssasahaha. TRICKS! NOW THEY ARE CALLING THEM TRICKS? This clown needs to plug in the tape of Superbowl XXXVI.

      Try:
      Cornerbacks around the league saw Superbowl XXXVI. Cornerbacks saw with their own eyes what was OK for teams to do against the Rams because cheating err TRICKS was the only way that they had a prayer of winning. They realized that when there is as wide of a gap in talent such as the Rams offense compared to the Patsies defense officials will allow holding, face guarding, err… face slugging I should say and tackling out of bounds. Oh, ya they also learned the TRICK of hitting, mugging and holding receivers past 5 yards down field. They learned these cute TRICKS watching the superbowl and it was all because the Rams receivers might catch the ball and make a touchdown, which would have been unfair to the Patriot’s. When one team so out classes another then cornerbacks are not the only ones who have cute little TRICKS. Even given all of the shenanigans listed above it was still not enough to hand the Patriots their scripted trophy. NFL Officials had to reach into their own bag of TRICKS as well. You remember as 100 million people looked on and on the final drive, the Patriot ball carrier was tackled in bounds. Officials had no choice but to TRICK us into believing that he got out of bounds otherwise they would have been hard pressed to stick to there TRICKY ending. 100 million people sat there and saw it as all perfectly normal because it had to be destiny! Well if it was destiny then their real MVP was Bin Laden. I mean after all, it only makes since that if there is no Bin Laden there is no need to make the Patriots the ward of the NFL. No need to play TRICKS on the Rams. If there is no destiny then there is no need for officials to play TRICKS on the Raiders. You remember how they TRICKED everyone into thinking that Brady threw an incomplete pass. Hell that one was so blatant it even TRICKED Brady! But the Raiders got the ball which once again was not fair to the Patriots so they TRICKED everyone into believing that play fell under the quarterback tuck rule gleefully handing the ball and the win to the Patriots. Let's not forget the Final dirty TRICK of watching the time run off the clock at the end of the game. Has a Kicker ever had a hang time of 7 seconds before that Field Goal TRICK? err.. Kick? Of course we should just join the masses and say golly that was dumb luck, or golly that was destiny however I for one have seen the tape too many times now and I am not so sure that the Rams themselves were not part of some concocted Patriotic scheme. The Rams defense looks as if they were reading from a script on that final drive. (“OK we have to let them into FG range now. It says so right here in the script”.) What sounds more believable?
      A.) How great Brady played and how he so deserved that MVP trophy he was awarded. Brady belongs in a higher league after that MVP performance. That was probably the greatest team ever to step onto a superbowl gridiron but the Rams tricked us into believing that they were the better team OR
      B.) We have been had.

      ________________________________________
      I have to vent at least once a year about that game please forgive me.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Martz looking to open up passing attack

        Originally posted by HUbison
        Combine this...

        with some of this...

        and an extra dose of...

        roll in a hefty amount of run-stopping D, and we should end up with...

        With apologies to ELP ... the rest of the quote might go like this

        "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. We're so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside. Stand behind the glass, the single plate of glass. Be careful as you pass, move along, move along. Come inside the show's about to start. Guaranteed to blow you're head apart. You've got to see the show. It's a dynamo. You've got to see the show ... it's rock 'n roll."

        Comment

        Related Topics

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        • RamWraith
          Stuck in the middle
          by RamWraith
          Rams can light it up, but they're not super
          By John Powers, Globe Staff | November 5, 2004

          The last time we saw the guys in the horned helmets, they were standing numbly in Nawlins while their star-spangled rivals carried Adam Vinatieri off the Superdome floor. The Patriots have earned another set of championship rings since then and strung together a 21-game winning streak. And the St. Louis Rams have gone on a jolting carnival ride that still hasn't quite leveled off.

          Since they lost to New England on the final play of Super Bowl XXXVI 2 1/2 years ago, the Rams have gone 7-9 (after starting 0-5) and 12-4, losing to Carolina (remember them?) in double overtime in the playoffs. Now, they're 4-3 and coming off an embarrassing loss to the league's worst team.

          So, whatever happened to the "Greatest Show On Turf"?

          "I don't know what you would call us now, but we are still pretty good on offense," said Marc Bulger, who'll be calling signals for his shoulder-padded track team when St. Louis hosts the Patriots Sunday afternoon.

          The Rams now may be merely "The Really Good Show," as Bulger acknowledges, but they still have enough flash and dash to dazzle a banged-up New England secondary. "St. Louis is explosive whenever you play them," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "First week or 10th week."

          The Rams can also be implosive, having given up 34 points to Atlanta, 28 to New Orleans, 27 to Seattle, and a shocking 31 to a Miami bunch that has averaged barely a dozen a game. Which is why the Rams aren't talking about any Patriotic payback this weekend. They're just trying to stay on top of the NFC West and make the playoffs.

          "Payback really isn't an issue with me," said Rams coach Mike Martz. "We are just trying to keep our head above water, so I just don't look at it like that. If we were better, then maybe I would consider that."

          The Rams are in transition now, somewhere between where they were three years ago and where they'd like to be again. "We are trying to get back there," said Martz. "We are not there. We are a fairly good team. I think we will eventually be a real good team, but we are a ways away from being there."

          Two games -- the crazy victory over the Seahawks and the inexplicable loss to the Dolphins -- tell the tale of a team betwixt.

          St. Louis, trailing, 27-10, at Seattle with fewer than six minutes to play, coolly ran off 23 points, tying the game with eight seconds left in regulation and winning in overtime on a 52-yard pass from Bulger to Shaun McDonald. "That really sums up how explosive they are," said Belichick, "and how many points they can score in a hurry."

          The Rams can also give up a lot in a hurry -- 17 in the fourth quarter to the Dolphins, who...
          -11-05-2004, 05:21 PM
        • RamWraith
          Some Balzer stuff :-)
          by RamWraith
          ***** It was always a weak theory. It's just like the "Martz was outcoached in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots because he didn't run Faulk enough" theory. It gets said by analysts immediately after it happens and then gets repeated and repeated so many times that it becomes accepted as fact.

          I call it the "pat" analysis, because it doesn't require any deeper thought or real analysis, which is needed in a game that has many elements to it. Didn't go for it? Lack of confidence in the quarterback. Didn't beat New England? Faulk didn't run enough. As if that was all there was to it. There are always many variables involved, and usually never just one reason for explanation.

          ***** (Poster) I feel like I'm being pushed into a corner here. Let me ask a simple question. Is Bulger needing to work on the deep passes or not. From what I have heard, he does. If this is not true, then the reports I have heard are bogus.


          (Howard) It would be good to read entire posts. No one has said he doesn't need to work on it. My point was directed at those who believe him getting a lot better at it is the key to the Rams offense achieving. As I mentioned, it was one of the best passing offenses in the league last year without a lot of success on deep throws. However, Bulger wasn't much worse than most quarterbacks in that regard. In Warner's good years, he wasn't much better at the deep ball than Bulger was last year. And how about the one to Holt against Carolina that Holt failed to catch?

          We're talking, at most, about 1 pass per game, on average. And the rest of my post noted that what's important is for the defense to know the Rams will try the long pass, and that in itself affects the way they play.

          *****is is really amusing. Chandler's deep ball is looking better at this point? In one minicamp? Some people saying this haven't even seen him!

          This stuff about the deep ball is so overblown. Sure, it would be great if some were hit. But the problems last year on 14 long passes sure didn't prevent the Rams passing offense from being one of the best in the NFL in a year when the ground game wasn't very good. Heck, it's as if everyone forgets that Holt led the NFL in receptions and yards!

          Bulger was near the top of the league in percentage and yards. The bottom line is that defenses respect the deep pass because they know the Rams will try it. That opens up other things in the passing game.
          -06-06-2004, 05:44 PM
        • RamWraith
          It's come to pass: Martz discovers a running game
          by RamWraith
          By Bryan Burwell
          Of the Post-Dispatch
          10/04/2004

          Just before he walked out of the cramped visitors' locker room inside Monster Park Sunday night with a much-needed victory in his pocket, Marc Bulger paused for a moment to recognize the obvious. Something extra had happened on that perfectly manicured grass field of old Candlestick Park, something even more substantial than a mere victory over the pitiful *****.

          "I think we got a little credibility back," Bulger said.

          With a national television audience watching - and probably anticipating (perhaps even hoping for) a big, fat embarrassing Rams meltdown - the Rams had reclaimed no small measure of personal, professional and local pride. The pro football world is filled with all sorts of buttoned-down, less adventurous folks would have liked nothing more than to have seen Bulger's audacious boss Mike Martz get a little comeuppance on national TV.

          But within a blink of an eye, the Rams ruined all those plans. They took complete control of the night, broke out to an emphatic 24-0 first-half lead and gave the unbeaten Seahawks something substantial to ponder as they prepare for next weekend's big showdown in Seattle.

          At last tossing aside his pass-happy, run-thin philosophy, Martz put together the sort of well-balanced, clock-controlling attack that might be able to put the 2-2 Rams back into serious contention against Seattle (3-0) in the NFC West.

          The Rams did everything a good and smart football team is supposed to do in plundering the *****. Martz pragmatically used every one of his offensive weapons of mass destruction. He called running plays when the ***** were looking for passes. He called passes when they were stacking up to stop the run. Instead of fast and furious, he gave us choice blend. Instead of stubborn insistence on guns blazing, he chose a more surgical approach.

          But I'm a pessimist by nature. And even as I kept watching Marshall Faulk galloping all over Monster Park, a little voice in my head kept whispering:

          "How long will this last?"

          We've been to this party too many times before. We all know that just as often as he takes two steps forward, he's just as likely to take three steps back with a few one-dimensional air shows like he did against the Falcons and Saints.

          So again, that's why I keep hearing that little voice.

          "How long will this last?"

          So as a public service, I think it is important that we again bombard Mad (or is it Methodical?) Mike with some valuable numbers to look at in case he gets that predictable urge to stray from running the ball, particularly when some manic defensive coordinator plots out endless strategies to take Faulk out of the game.

          Remember Mike, statistics don't lie. Putting the ball in Faulk's hands is still the surest...
          -10-05-2004, 01:32 PM
        • RamDez
          Deep Thoughts: Rams never stopped looking long
          by RamDez
          Deep Thoughts: Rams never stopped looking long
          By Jim Thomas

          Of the Post-Dispatch
          10/21/2004



          Things haven't reached 2000 levels, when the Rams dialed long distance at epic levels and every game was a track meet. They completed 13 passes of 50 yards or more that season, and averaged almost a first down (9.36 yards) on every passing attempt.

          But the deep ball is creeping back into the St. Louis offense. Shaun McDonald caught a 52-yard touchdown pass to defeat Seattle 33-27 in overtime on Oct. 10.

          Torry Holt opened the scoring Monday night against Tampa Bay with another 52-yarder, and then closed things out with a 36-yard TD catch in a 28-21 victory.

          Through six games this season, the Rams have connected on eight pass plays of 30 or more yards, which is twice as many as they had at this point in '03. Quarterback Marc Bulger is averaging 8.01 yards per passing attempt, nearly 1 yard higher than the team average in both the '02 and '03 campaigns.

          "Marc's throwing the deep ball like he had in the past," coach Mike Martz said. "For a while there, he wasn't throwing it as well. I think he is just very confident right now about throwing the deep ball. Very confident."

          Martz has regarded Trent Green, the former Ram now with Kansas City, as one of the best deep passers around. Martz felt Bulger displayed a similar touch in 2002, when he got seven starts in place of an injured Kurt Warner.

          But that touch wasn't always there in 2003, when Bulger started from Week 2 through the rest of the season. "He was a little tentative with the deep ball," Martz said. "You get a guy running down the field, and he didn't want to miss him."

          As a result, Martz said the Rams placed extra emphasis on throwing deep in practice during minicamps and training camp. Getting a full offseason and preseason to throw with the top receivers didn't hurt, either, in terms of timing and chemistry. Bulger didn't do that entering the '03 season because Warner was the starter.

          Is Bulger throwing the long ball better this season?

          "Maybe," Bulger said. "For me, I haven't done anything different. But we're hitting them. That's all that matters, I guess."

          As to why that's the case, it could be the extra practice repetitions. Or greater familiarity with his receivers. Or simply the kinds of coverages the Rams are seeing in games. It's probably all of the above.

          "We have a lot of deep balls called throughout a game," Bulger said. "But you only get that certain look you want maybe once out of every five times you call a deep ball. We've been fortunate with some of the coverages we've (gotten), and that's probably just a good job of game planning."

          Bulger also points out that there's a lot more to throwing
          ...
          -10-23-2004, 02:52 AM
        • RamWraith
          The swagger is back with the St. Louis Rams
          by RamWraith
          ST. LOUIS -- The swagger is back with the St. Louis Rams. Much like a couple of years ago, Rams offensive downs aren't just plays. They are shows. The pace is quick. The routes are imaginative. Overall, the old confidence has returned.

          Inside Rams camp
          RamsHow's the health of safety Adam Archuleta? Which newcomer should have a big impact in the front 7? Those are just a couple of the things John Clayton touches on in his observations from Rams camp.
          . Inside Rams camp
          "You need three or four receivers [for this offense] and we have four solid receivers now," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "We brought back [tight end] Roland Williams, and he was with the team when we were the greatest show on turf. He still thinks it's that way. We had to go through a couple of rough years, and you hate to let that persona down."

          Training camp practices opened with that old flair the Rams had in their Super Bowl years (1999, 2001 seasons). Practice passes never hit the turf. Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald snatch passes out of the air and try to zip past corners. Running back Steven Jackson explodes through the line of scrimmage and then uses his 230-pound body to "shake-and-bake" a linebacker. A thin Marshall Faulk runs routes with renewed quickness.

          " When this offense is working well, we can move down the field so quickly teams don't have time to catch up. Normally in those situations, defenses try to get safe. Coach Martz is the best when teams start getting safety because he starts attacking them."
          -QB Marc Bulger

          Coach Mike Martz says the Rams' swagger is just confidence. Fans love it. Opponents view it as arrogance and hate it. Rams players say their confidence is a byproduct of having fun, and the fun is back because the Rams' offense has reloaded.

          "I was just saying it this morning that it was like it was when I came in during my first year," Holt said. "Then, we had a great mix of veterans with some young guys coming in to help. It's the same way now. As long as the guys up front on the offensive line hold, we have that swagger. The coaches have the swagger. Practices are fun. We are going out there and we are seeing the ability to click and jell at a high pace."

          Returning to the 500-point-a-year level of 1999-2001 might be tough, but the Rams make a case they are ready to make a run. Curtis and McDonald have evolved into significant role players who augment the 90-catch skills of Holt and Bruce. Each has three years of experience in the offense. Curtis offers blistering speed that inside corners can't match. McDonald isn't Az-Zahir Hakim, but he offers a little bit of the shiftiness and run-after-the catch ability.

          But the single most exciting addition to the offense this year is Jackson. This isn't the dreadlocked rookie who looked lost in...
          -08-01-2005, 01:59 PM
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