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The Good and The Bad

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  • The Good and The Bad

    With the Rams' first preseason game only days away, I thought it a good time to take a look at what the Rams put on the table this season - from two perspectives. Feel free to add your opinions and even new categories while trying to include both the possible positive and negative aspects of each.

    Quarterbacks
    GOOD: Marc Bulger can relax now, knowing that the job is his. He's had a full offseason to prepare with the team as the sure-fire starter, and will therefore show more confidence and production with the team behind him. Chris Chandler is the perfect backup; not durable enough to challenge for the starting job, but is an accurate, smart, veteran passer. Jeff Smoker is young, talented, is over his past troubles and could be the quarterback of the future.

    BAD: Marc Bulger was too inconsistent last year to prove he is really worthy of leading the Rams' passing attack. His decision-making and read progressions are questionable, and his long ball is awful. The team is on his shoulders now, and it will be too much for him to handle. Chris Chandler is old and entering a new offense, and he's known for being a statue in the pocket - something that isn't encouraging knowing that he's been severely injury-prone. Jeff Smoker is too young and unproven right now, and with his legal history in mind, he could only have a negative impact.

    Running Backs
    GOOD: Doctors found something previously undiscovered in Marshall Faulk's knee, fixed it, and he'll now be able to play like the old Marshall instead of an old Marshall. He provides the team with great leadership and knowledge and can carry this offense. Steven Jackson was considered the best back in the NFL Draft. He can run over, around, and through would-be tacklers and is a great receiver. He will be a workhorse in the near future for the Rams, and will be able to give Faulk a rest every now and then this season. Lamar Gordon and Arlen Harris provide great depth, as both are experienced in this offense. Joey Goodspeed emerged from the plethora of fullbacks the Rams brought in last season and will be a dependable lead blocker. Arlen Harris could even see time at fullback as the Robert Holcombe-type.

    BAD: Marshall Faulk isn't getting any younger, and he showed that last season. He had to have surgery on that knee again and could be even more prone to injuries after losing weight this offseason. Steven Jackson is too young to step into this offense right now as an unproven rookie, and his head will be swimming trying to learn Martz's playbook. Lamar Gordon is injury prone and inconsistent as a backup; there's no way the team could rely on him if injuries occur. The only thing Arlen Harris can give the team is three yards and a cloud of dust. Martz as usual ignores the fullbacks, and as a result the Rams really have none worth noting.

    Receivers
    GOOD: Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are the best tandem at wide receiver in the league. Bruce is a seasoned veteran and is great at running routes, meaning he can always find a way to get open. Torry Holt is the go-to guy and showed great chemistry with Marc Bulger. Dane Looker filled Ricky Proehl's shoes easily, proving to be a dependable third-down receiver who makes plays when they're most needed. Kevin Curtis is back to full speed and catches everything in sight. He'll make Rams fans forget about Az Hakim. Shaun McDonald has tons of potential as well, and Mike Furrey cemented his spot on the team, stepping up when injuries occured and had a solid season. Brandon Manumaleuna is a huge tight end with soft hands who can use his size as an advantage in the blocking game.

    BAD: Isaac Bruce is getting older and slower as the years go by. Torry Holt will find it hard to get open as he'll be double- and triple-teamed. You can't depend on a receiver to carry an offense. Kevin Curtis is coming off injury and has yet to live up to the hype. Shaun McDonald disappointed many with his average play last season. Dane Looker is a boring receiver who cannot break a big play. Ditto Mike Furrey. Brandon Manumaleuna was vastly overpaid by the front office to stay on the team, especially after a season of missed blocks and below-average production as a receiver.

    Offensive Line
    GOOD: Orlando Pace is a perennial Pro Bowler and one of the best left tackles in the NFL. Kyle Turley had a good season at right tackle and will improve with more time in the Rams offense, as will Dave Wohlabaugh, who was near Pro Bowl level with Cleveland. Adam Timmerman was re-signed in the offseason and is a rock on the right side of the line. Andy McCollum is a hard-nosed, blue collar lineman who, as their former center, has knowledge and experience in the Rams offense. Grant Williams could start for many teams in the league and has experience starting for the Rams during training camp for two straight years. He's great insurance in case of injury. Andy King has stood out during practices and gives great depth for the Rams at guard.

    BAD: Orlando Pace has yet to sign a long-term deal, and his chemistry with the team is in jeopardy. Kyle Turley has gone AWOL after injuring his back - leading some to fear that it's career-threatening. The middle of the line last season played horribly considering the experience at the positions. Andy McCollum, Adam Timmerman, and Dave Wohlabaugh are all getting old and obviously getting worse. They couldn't run block at all and provided shaky pass blocking at best. This is a transplanted group who haven't gelled and don't look like they're going to.

    Defensive Line
    GOOD: Leonard Little is a great playmaker at left end. He's in the quarterback's face nearly every passing play, forces fumbles, and always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. Damione Lewis is finally healthy and will be able to showcase his first-round talent. Ryan Pickett can plug the gaps and will stuff the run. Bryce Fisher showed good potential last year despite having limited playing time and will step up at right end. Anthony Hargrove is an exciting rookie with tenacity and pass-rushing skills who is developing quickly. Tyoka Jackson is a team captain for a reason. He gives good leadership and can play both end and tackle, as can Sean Moran.

    BAD: Leonard Little is in trouble with the law again and his future status with the team is shaky. This will hinder his production on the field, and the Rams will be left with no pass rush. Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett have not lived up to their potential and continue to disappoint season after season, for one excuse or another. The Rams' only playmaker in the middle last season, Brian Young, left in the offseason, and Jimmy Kennedy will be out with an injury for quite some time. Tyoka Jackson is getting older and is not a full-time player. There are only question marks at the right defensive end spot with Grant Wistrom's departure, leaving unproven Bryce Fisher, rookie Anthony Hargrove, and bust Erik Flowers to try to fill his shoes.

    Linebackers
    GOOD: The group known as T3 (Tommy, Thomas, and Tinoisamoa) are returning intact for a second season together. They're fast, quick to the gaps, and fiery. Tommy Polley, the veteran of this young group, is always around the ball and excels in both pass and run coverage. Robert Thomas switched to the middle last year, his natural position, and will only get better. Pisa Tinoisamoa is a fireball on the field, lighting up runners and receivers and showing up to play on every down. He'll bring his energy and enthusiasm to the Rams' defense for years to come. Justin Smith, Trev Faulk, and Brandon Chillar inject even more youth into this group and will fight it out with others during training camp to provide the depth.

    BAD: Injuries, injuries, injuries. The Rams' linebackers are too small by NFL standards and, because of that, are often injured. Tommy Polley and Robert Thomas have already shown they're injury prone in their short careers, and Tinoisamoa is just as risky. Their small size also allows opposing offensive lines to dominate. The injuries only pose a bigger problem when it's revealed that the Rams have no depth. The Rams brought in a bunch of new and inexperienced linebackers for depth, which will only lead to chaos if - or, when - injuries occur.

    Secondary
    GOOD: Aeneas Williams is the unquestionable leader of this defense. He hasn't shown signs of slowing down at all, and will be given even more opportunities to make plays being at free safety for another year. Adam Archuleta is counting down the days to his first Pro Bowl. He's a crushing run-stopper and has gotten better each year at defending the pass. Jerametrius Butler and Travis Fisher are both young, lightning-quick cornerbacks who surprised some with their dependability last season. Kevin Garrett is in a similar mold and is coming back from injury. His play on special teams was outstanding, and he'll get more playing time as a possible nickel cornerback. DeJuan Groce could also step into that role after a solid showing in 2003. Jason Shivers is a great late-round talent, and Justin Lucas has impressed many coaches and players during training camp.

    BAD: Aeneas Williams is getting closer and closer to retirement as the days go by. Adam Archuleta cannot defend the pass. Jerametrius Butler and Travis Fisher are too small at cornerback, especially with the NFL starting to lean toward bigger, stronger receivers. Rich Coady has been injured yet again, and the Rams' depth is once again unproven and inexperienced. There is still no player who has stepped up into the role of nickel cornerback, and Williams often had to cover that hole last season.

    Special Teams
    GOOD: Jeff Wilkins bailed this team out of many situations last year and showed he can be consistent. Sean Landeta is a proven veteran as a punter. Chris Massey is as reliable as long-snappers can get. DeJuan Groce has shown electrifying moves as a returner in college, and will be able to step up into that role for the Rams after settling down in his second year.

    BAD: Jeff Wilkins is on one year, off the next. You can never guess what you're going to get. Sean Landeta is the oldest player in the NFL - enough said. The Rams' return situation has been in pieces since the departures of Az Hakim and Tony Horne. Nobody has stepped up, and they're still not sure who will be used. Don't expect much.

  • #2
    Re: The Good and The Bad

    Great read Jake.

    Reborn

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: The Good and The Bad

      Excellent post, Jake.

      Only one question? Now that we know the good and the bad, who is "the ugly?"

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: The Good and The Bad

        Only one question? Now that we know the good and the bad, who is "the ugly?"
        Martz?

        Reborn

        Comment

        Related Topics

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        • Nick
          ESPN Scouts Inc: Rams Team Summary
          by Nick
          Training camps start late this year, with the first rookies not due to report until July 27. But Insider will keep the NFL fires burning all month with complete training camp previews of each team. Scouts, Inc., has sized up every roster and checks in with position-by-position breakdowns.



          Quarterbacks
          In terms of overall talent of the unit, the Rams are clearly not as deep with Marc Bulger and newcomer Chris Chandler than they were with Bulger and Kurt Warner. However, with coach Mike Martz and the Rams' organization finally putting an end to its quarterback soap opera, the team as a whole is much better off.

          This is finally Bulger's team, and often times that confidence of knowing that you don't have to look over your shoulder every time you make a mistake can be invaluable for a quarterback. Bulger has proved that he can be effective as a starter. He is still young and has the upside to develop into an even better player with more experience in the future. However, in order for Bulger to take his game to the next level he must cut down on his mistakes, force fewer passes if his primary target is not open, and become more consistent with his deep ball. For as many good things as he did in '03, throwing as many interceptions (22) as touchdowns is unacceptable. That type of carelessness with the football will prevent the Rams from making a serious run at another Super Bowl, which is why so much time and effort in the offseason and preseason is being spent on building Bulger's confidence and working with him to limit his mistakes.

          Chandler will be 38 years old in October and is nearing the end of his string quickly. He obviously has great starting experience and has proved in the last couple of seasons that he can step in for the short term and move an offense. He also is intelligent and has a history of picking things up quickly, so he should be ready to run the offense this season if needed.

          However, his skills are on a heavy decline and, as a result of his age and durability problems, he no longer can be trusted as a multiple game starter if necessitated by injury. Chandler was signed to be Bulger's backup in '04, but the Rams need to make sure they find a replacement for Chandler -- whether it's rookie Jeff Smoker or another veteran addition -- in '05, because Chandler is just a decent backup at this point and he's on a steep decline.

          Smoker, who slipped on draft day because of a substance-abuse problem in college, was a great find for coach Mike Martz that late in the draft. Smoker has dealt with his problems and showed a lot of courage by returning to his team and re-assuming the leadership role. He has the physical tools of a third-round quarterback and could wind up becoming Bulger's backup by '05.



          Running backs
          Marshall Faulk is still one of the elite weapons at the position when he is fully healthy,...
          -07-26-2004, 10:10 AM
        • RamWraith
          Overview from ESPN
          by RamWraith
          Monday, July 26, 2004


          Scouts, Inc.
          Chat with Scouts, Inc., at 2 p.m. EST today!
          Training camps start late this year, with the first rookies not due to report
          until July 27. But Insider will keep the NFL fires burning all month with
          complete training camp previews of each team. Scouts, Inc., has sized up every
          roster and checks in with position-by-position breakdowns.
          Quarterbacks
          In terms of overall talent of the unit, the Rams are clearly not as deep with
          Marc Bulger and newcomer Chris Chandler than they were with Bulger and Kurt
          Warner. However, with coach Mike Martz and the Rams' organization finally
          putting an end to its quarterback soap opera, the team as a whole is much better
          off.

          BulgerThis is finally Bulger's team, and often times that confidence of knowing
          that you don't have to look over your shoulder every time you make a mistake can
          be invaluable for a quarterback. Bulger has proved that he can be effective as a
          starter. He is still young and has the upside to develop into an even better
          player with more experience in the future.
          However, in order for Bulger to take his game to the next level he must cut down
          on his mistakes, force fewer passes if his primary target is not open, and
          become more consistent with his deep ball. For as many good things as he did in
          '03, throwing as many interceptions (22) as touchdowns is unacceptable. That
          type of carelessness with the football will prevent the Rams from making a
          serious run at another Super Bowl, which is why so much time and effort in the
          offseason and preseason is being spent on building Bulger's confidence and
          working with him to limit his mistakes.
          Chandler will be 38 years old in October and is nearing the end of his string
          quickly. He obviously has great starting experience and has proved in the last
          couple of seasons that he can step in for the short term and move an offense. He
          also is intelligent and has a history of picking things up quickly, so he should
          be ready to run the offense this season if needed.
          However, his skills are on a heavy decline and, as a result of his age and
          durability problems, he no longer can be trusted as a multiple game starter if
          necessitated by injury. Chandler was signed to be Bulger's backup in '04, but
          the Rams need to make sure they find a replacement for Chandler -- whether it's
          rookie Jeff Smoker or another veteran addition -- in '05, because Chandler is
          just a decent backup at this point and he's on a steep decline.
          Smoker, who slipped on draft day because of a substance-abuse problem in
          college, was a great find for coach Mike Martz that late in the draft. Smoker
          has dealt with his problems and showed a lot of courage by returning to his team
          ...
          -07-27-2004, 06:26 AM
        • RamDez
          Inside Slant
          by RamDez
          Things are different for Dane Looker as training camp approaches.

          Once hailed as "Little Ricky" because of his style of play is similar to former Rams receiver Ricky Proehl, Looker accepts the compliments, but wants to be his own man.

          That was tough for a while, as he struggled to make an NFL roster. He was an undrafted free agent in the Rams' 2000 training camp, and was opening some eyes when he was surprisingly traded to the Patriots on Aug. 7 that year.

          He made New England's roster, but ended the season on injured reserve and was then released on July 31 because of a hamstring injury. Looker was right back with the Rams for three weeks, but he wasn't healthy enough to make an impact. Out of football for the rest of the year, he re-signed with the Rams in February and excelled in NFL Europe, but the numbers game caught up to him again.

          Released on Sept. 2, he spent most of the season on the practice squad until being added to the active roster for the final three games of the season.

          Last year turned out to be his coming-out party. Making the roster also resulted in him being the holder for kicker Jeff Wilkins. Wilkins wanted him all along after the departure of, you guessed it, Proehl, but there was no guarantee Looker would make the roster.

          He helped Wilkins tie a league record with 39 field goals and offensively was third on the team with 47 receptions for 495 yards and three touchdowns. More important, 27 of his catches, including 18 on third down, were first-down plays.

          Despite his success, Looker takes nothing for granted.

          "We've got some good receivers on this team, so I'm going to have to improve on what I did last year and play better," he said. "Nothing's a guarantee."

          Coach Mike Martz loves his work ethic and competitiveness.

          "Dane was terrific last year, and looking at him out here, he just picked up where he left off," Martz said during the offseason.

          NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

          —The Rams report to training camp in Macomb, Ill., on July 27 with the first practice scheduled for the next day. They will be in camp until Aug. 20, three days before a Monday night game in Kansas City.

          The Chicago Bears, coached by former Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, will visit Rams camp for three days from Aug. 5-7. There will be one practice the first day, two the second and then a scrimmage on Aug. 7.

          Said coach Mike Martz, "Having a scrimmage there at the stadium on Saturday morning makes it exciting for everybody. It gives us a chance to look at a lot of our young players under competitive situations, and the same for the Bears. The most important aspect of it is after seven or eight days (of camp), you get a chance to look at your players in a different environment against other...
          -07-19-2004, 01:08 PM
        • RamWraith
          Inside Slant
          by RamWraith
          When training camp opened, the biggest question facing the Rams was how they would get through training camp with an unsettled situation on the offensive line, given the unknown status of tackles Kyle Turley and Orlando Pace and center Dave Wohlabaugh.

          Turley was recovering from offseason back surgery, while Wohlabaugh had surgery on his hip in the offseason. The Rams knew Pace would likely not be in camp as the team's unsigned franchise player, so how the line would be deployed because of the Turley and Wohlabaugh injuries was an issue.

          It turned out to be even bigger than expected when Wohlabaugh never made it onto the field and was released and Turley aggravated his back during the first few days of camp. Turley was placed on injured reserve in the cutdown to 65 players.

          Those factors resulted in frequent shuffling on the line in camp. Andy King began as the left guard, but lost that job after the first exhibition game and was replaced by Chris Dishman. Dishman had decided to retire before coach Mike Martz convinced him to sign, and he reported at 375 pounds.

          Grant Williams, who would be the right tackle as Turley's replacement, was forced to play on the left side throughout most of camp because of Pace's absence. Scott Tercero got a lot of work at tackle, even though most in the organization believe his best position is guard. Greg Randall, who was with the Texans last season, was signed when it became apparent Turley wouldn't be available.

          Guard Tom Nutten, who played for the Rams during their Super Bowl seasons, but left for the Jets last year and then retired, was brought back a few days before the third exhibition game against Washington and injured his toe on his second play.

          That's the type of summer it's been for a team that has deep offensive talent, but knows it could go for naught if the line doesn't come together.

          Complicating things even more was Pace's decision to stay away for the entire preseason. Last year, as the franchise player, he reported and signed 12 days before the season opener and was able to play in the exhibition finale.

          Not this time. Pace remained unsigned when the Rams played the Raiders Sept. 2, and for the first time, Martz voiced frustration with the situation.

          Asked about Pace not being with the team, Martz said, "To be honest with you I don't think about it. This is our football team right now, I would just assume he's not coming in. That's his decision, and we're moving on.

          "You can't let one player, no matter how good he is, or how good of a person he is, hold a team hostage waiting for him to come in. We have to move on, and get ready for Sept. 12th."

          For line coach John Matsko, he has to get this group ready.

          "Each year's different," Matsko said. "The challenge this year was to bring a bunch of guys...
          -09-02-2004, 12:34 PM
        • RamDez
          Rams Position Analysis
          by RamDez
          Rams Position Analysis
          By Jim Thomas
          Of the Post-Dispatch
          Saturday, Sep. 11 2004

          QUARTERBACKS

          Starter: Marc Bulger.
          Reserves: Chris Chandler, Jeff Smoker.

          For the first time in his career, Bulger enters an NFL regular season as a
          starting quarterback. He actually got a lot less work in exhibition games this
          preseason as opposed to his previous three campaigns with the club. After
          averaging 75 throws in the 2001, '02, and '03 preseasons, he threw only 36
          times this preseason.

          After a rocky game against Kansas City, and a few erratic tosses against
          Washington, Bulger closed strong against the Redskins and looked sharp in his
          only series against Oakland. He must cut down on his interceptions, improve his
          deep touch and avoid rushing through his reads. If he does that, he will make
          the jump from a good NFL quarterback to an elite one.

          Veteran Chris Chandler outplayed Bulger in the preseason, with a 97.9 passer
          rating and a 65.9 completion percentage, easing concerns about his ability to
          be an effective QB at age 38. He looks like a good fit for this offense, and
          can still zing the deep ball.

          The third QB, rookie Jeff Smoker, isn't close to being ready to play in an NFL
          game.

          The Stat: Bulger's .818 winning percentage (18-4) is the best among
          active NFL quarterbacks with a minimum of 10 regular-season starts.



          RUNNING BACKS

          Starters: Marshall Faulk (RB), Joey Goodspeed (FB).
          Reserves: Steven Jackson (RB), Arlen Harris (RB/FB), Chris Massey
          (FB), Stephen Trejo (FB/TE).

          Faulk says he feels better entering this season than he has in a few years. But
          who knows how his right knee will hold up in this, his 11th NFL season? Faulk
          doesn't have the burst he displayed three years ago. But his vision,
          intelligence, pass-receiving skills, and competitive fire appear to be as good
          as ever. It's unrealistic to think he can get 20-25 touches a game and hold up
          for most, or all, of a 16-game season. That's where rookie Steven Jackson comes
          in.

          Jackson led the NFL in rushing during the preseason with 323 yards, and is a
          good pass catcher. How he handles a regular-season game plan remains to be
          seen. The same goes for his blitz pickup and pass-blocking in general, an area
          in which Faulk excels.

          Slowed for part of the preseason with a hamstring injury, Joey Goodspeed has
          shown that he can at least be a competent fullback. He's a willing blocker,
          with decent pass-catching skills.

          Although no game breaker, Arlen Harris can do a solid job running the ball and
          also may be used at fullback in certain formations. Once again, Chris Massey is
          a good insurance policy...
          -09-12-2004, 02:03 AM
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