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  • Rams: Things to Watch

    Rams things to watch

    Sunday, Aug. 22 2004

    QUARTERBACK - Mike Martz would like to play Marc Bulger the entire first half. But that depends on game circumstances and the performance of the offensive line. With only six pass attempts and one series in the exhibition opener against Chicago, Bulger needs the work.

    RUNNING BACK - Marshall Faulk will make his exhibition debut and could play the entire first half. Steven Jackson, who was very impressive in practice late in the week after resting his knee a couple of days, will play a lot. Joey Goodspeed has a tight hamstring, so Chris Massey could play at lot at FB.

    WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END - Shaun McDonald appears to have moved up to the No. 4 WR spot, ahead of Mike Furrey and Kevin Curtis. Curtis missed most of the past week with shin splits but returned to practice late in the week. At TE, Cam Cleeland (hamstring) is close to returning. He is OK after Saturday's car accident but probably will sit out this one.

    OFFENSIVE LINE - The probable starting five: LT Grant Williams (despite a sprained ankle); LG Chris Dishman; C Andy McCollum; RG Adam Timmerman; RT Scott Tercero. Recently un-retired Tom Nutten is a few weeks away from being ready to play.

    DEFENSIVE LINE - Anthony Hargrove is back at defensive end after a brief experiment at DT. Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis played well against Chicago, but tonight they step up in class because KC has one of the NFL's best offensive lines. Can Bryce Fisher and Erik Flowers keep up the good work at right defensive end?

    LINEBACKER - After being moved ahead of Tommy Polley on the depth chart at strongside LB, Tony Newson (hamstring) may not play tonight. But rookie Brandon Chillar may start ahead of Polley. This is an important game for bubble LBs Jeremy Loyd, Justin Smith and Brandon Spoon.

    SECONDARY - There is some concern about playing starting CBs Jerametrius Butler and Travis Fisher for an extended period, because of tight hamstrings. With DeJuan Groce (knee) sitting out, Dwight Anderson has a chance to play a lot in his bid for the fifth CB spot on the final roster.

    SPECIAL TEAMS - The coverage units were solid against Chicago until a couple of breakdowns late in the game cost the Rams on the punt-return and kickoff-coverage units. If Dante Hall gets his hands on the ball tonight for KC, the coverage units will get the supreme test.

    - Jim Thomas

  • #2
    Re: Rams: Things to Watch

    1. Special Teams is the main focus for me tonight, especially on the kickoff coverage unit.

    2. Can the Front Four get pressure on the KC QB with that stellar O line?

    3. Will Thomas be able to stop the run like he did against Chicago?

    4. Kevin Garrett sounds like he will get the opportunity to really showcase himself tonight.

    5. Who will step up as the KR?

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    • RamWraith
      Rams-Bears: Things To Watch
      by RamWraith
      08/11/2004
      QUARTERBACK: Marc Bulger experienced some arm soreness - aka "camp arm" - last week. But after resting his arm for a day, Bulger says it now feels great. He has been very sharp thus far in camp, but figures to play only a couple of series tonight. Look for rookie Jeff Smoker to get a lot of work.


      RUNNING BACK: With Marshall Faulk sitting this one out, and Lamar Gordon recovering from ankle surgery, Arlen Harris, first-round draft pick Steven Jackson and undrafted rookie Dusty McGrorty will handle the rushing chores.


      WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce figure to have cameo appearances only. Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald, both 2003 draft picks, must continue their good work so far in camp to make a dent on the depth chart.


      OFFENSIVE LINE: Dave Wohlabaugh's hip injury has forced Andy McCollum back to center, so the left guard spot could be Andy King's to lose. Good showings by Grant Williams, Scott Tercero and Greg Randall would help ease concern about the tackle position.


      DEFENSIVE LINE: DT Damione Lewis is off to a good start. Can he transfer that into game conditions? DT Ryan Pickett is healthy but heavy and still is getting into shape. Rookie Anthony Hargrove has been slowed lately by ankle and knee injuries but has been impressive to date.


      LINEBACKER: There is spirited competition for three or four backup spots behind starters Tommy Polley, Robert Thomas and Pisa Tinoisamoa. At the moment, Trev Faulk, Jeremy Loyd, Tony Newsom, Justin Smith and rookie Brandon Chillar are closely bunched.


      SECONDARY: DeJuan Groce probably will start tonight in place of Travis Fisher (ankle) at right corner. Groce and Kevin Garrett are off to good starts in camp. Rich Coady, Justin Lucas and rookie Jason Shivers are jockeying for depth-chart position at safety.


      SPECIAL TEAMS: It appears that Harris and Jackson will get the first cracks at returning kickoffs, with McDonald, Groce and Brian Sump all possibilities on punt returns.
      -08-12-2004, 05:41 AM
    • Nick
      Rams-Redskins: Things to Watch
      by Nick
      Rams-Redskins: Things To Watch
      Thursday, Aug. 26 2004

      QUARTERBACK: For whatever reason, Marc Bulger wasn't poised in the pocket against Kansas City. Yes, there were some protection issues. Yes, his receivers missed some hot reads. But he needs to do better against pressure, particularly against the blitz. For example, his INT returned for a touchdown was a hurried, off-balance throw against a double-safety blitz.

      RUNNING BACK: Marshall Faulk plays again but doesn't figure to get much more work than Monday night, when he had seven touches. Can Steven Jackson keep it up? He's averaging 4.3 yards per carry and 63 yards per game in exhibition play. Arlen Harris missed a blitz pickup against the Chiefs that led to a second quarter sack. FB Joey Goodspeed (hamstring) is expected to return after sitting out against KC.

      WIDE RECEIVER-TIGHT END: Some of the younger receivers need to focus more. Shaun McDonald and Dane Looker missed hot reads on Chiefs blitzes that led to botched pass plays. If TE Brandon Manumaleuna had held his block on KC linebacker Scott Fujita, Bulger might have thrown a first-quarter TD pass to Isaac Bruce. Instead, Bulger was hit and the ball was slightly overthrown. Cam Cleeland (hamstring) should make his exhibition debut.

      OFFENSIVE LINE: Nobody's saying it was perfect, but this group's play wasn't as bad as some observers think against Kansas City. As mentioned above, many of the pass protection problems were caused by breakdowns at other positions, or simply sub par execution by Bulger. LT Grant Williams' ankle is doing better; RG Adam Timmerman's status is uncertain because of a shoulder problem; Tom Nutten makes his preseason debut, one week after coming out of retirement.

      DEFENSIVE LINE: Opposing rushers have averaged 130 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry against the Rams this preseason, so this unit needs to improve. The backup spots at DT behind starters Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis are still in flux. Bernard Holsey, Kevin Aldridge and Brian Howard are competing there for one or two spots.

      LINEBACKER: After starting against KC, Brandon Chillar stayed with the starting unit this week, ahead of Tommy Polley and Tony Newson. Early roster cuts have left only eight LBs on the roster. The Rams will keep six or seven, so it's time for bubble players Brandon Spoon and Jeremy Loyd to make a move.

      SECONDARY: Kevin Garrett gets the start at CB in place of injured Travis Fisher. Veteran Tom Knight figures to see some time at corner, too, after spending most of the preseason at safety. This is an important game for Knight, as well as young corners Dwight Anderson and Corey Yates.

      SPECIAL TEAMS: For many players backing up at various positions on offense and defense, their work tonight on coverage and return units could decide whether they stick with the Rams. McDonald and the punt return unit have...
      -08-26-2004, 11:57 PM
    • RamWraith
      10 Questions (and a few answers) about the Rams
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Friday, Aug. 27 2004

      On the eve of training camp, the Post-Dispatch posed 10 questions concerning
      the 2004 Rams. One month later, we reassess those questions:


      1. Can Faulk still run (and catch)?

      He was basically a spectator early in training camp. But Marshall Faulk has
      gotten a lot of practice work over the past two weeks, and some exhibition-game
      time as well. He is rounding into form, but even Faulk isn't sure what to
      expect. The early results have been fairly encouraging. Nonetheless, it might
      be a few weeks into the regular season before Faulk has a read on his right
      knee and how it might hold up over a 16-game schedule.

      At least the Rams appear to have an emerging alternative in rookie Steven
      Jackson. Jackson has displayed surprising cutback ability for a 230-pounder,
      with the power to drag tacklers for an extra yard or two. He has above-average
      ability as a pass-catcher, and is a willing blocker on blitz pickup. He must
      keep mistakes to a minimum, however.


      2. How will Bulger fare as the man at quarterback?

      Bulger seems to have the complete confidence of his teammates. With rare
      exceptions he has thrown the ball well on the practice field - be it in Macomb
      or back at Rams Park.

      He misfired on a few passes against the Kansas City blitz in the second
      preseason game. With the Rams' offensive line in a state of transition, rest
      assured that Arizona (Sept. 12) and Atlanta (Sept. 19) took note. The
      Cardinals, Falcons and other early-season Rams opponents are polishing up their
      blitz packages as we speak.

      A quick start by Bulger in September will keep the pressure off and the Kurt
      Warner zealots quiet.


      3. What's my line?

      The early returns on Bryce Fisher and Erik Flowers at right defensive end have
      been encouraging, fueling optimism that they can adequately replace Grant
      Wistrom. Rookie Anthony Hargrove has shown flashes of his considerable athletic
      talent on the practice field, but has yet to transfer that into games. He
      remains raw and unpolished. His development was hampered by missed camp time
      for a knee and ankle injury, plus a trip to Florida to tend to his family after
      Hurricane Charley.

      The foot injury to Jimmy Kennedy was unfortunate, given the amount of offseason
      work he put in to prepare for this season. His absence makes the defensive
      tackle depth very questionable at this point. Veteran Bernard Holsey is not yet
      up to full speed following offseason surgery to repair a torn quadriceps
      tendon. Brian Howard and Kevin Aldridge have had ups and downs as they contend
      for a backup...
      -08-29-2004, 08:34 AM
    • 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
    • Nick
      Rams Inside Slant
      by Nick
      Inside Slant

      Schizophrenic might be the best word to describe the Rams' .500 season. They were 8-8 in the regular season and 9-9 overall after splitting two playoff games.

      At times, the Rams looked like a better-than-.500 team, at least at home. But on the road, save for wins over Seattle and San Francisco, they struggled in all phases of the game.

      It was a five-game road losing streak by an average of 20 points a game that put the Rams at 6-8 and apparently out of the playoffs. But two home wins over Philadelphia and the Jets salvaged the year and created hope for 2005.

      "I'm excited by the way we ended the season, overall, and the direction this team is going," coach Mike Martz said. "We're not very far away. We're making progress."

      That progress will have to continue in key areas, and young players will have to show they can produce on the road against good teams for it to occur.

      "It wasn't a happy (season)," defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy said. "It wasn't a great one. We finished at .500. I'm happy with the character, though. Watching the guys fight when they had to fight. Watching the guys come together as a unit.

      "It ended bad, but you know what? A lot of good things came out of this season. Hopefully we can continue building from the effort that we had at the end of the year and go forward for next year."

      Said wide receiver Torry Holt, "That was a very disappointing way to go out after what we've been through the last three weeks and how we fought to get in. To have an opportunity to get into the playoffs and win a playoff game it's good for us. I'm not going to say it's great. But it's good for us.

      "For the younger guys, that was their first time getting a taste of what the playoffs are about. Now they know what it's about. So they know what to expect going into next year, and how important it is to play hard every single snap in order to move on."

      The Rams have numerous salary issues to confront in the offseason. Tackle Orlando Pace is an unrestricted free agent for the third season in a row, and the team has said it would like to sign him to a long term deal. Pace fired agent Carl Poston in September and has yet to hire new representation.

      Wide receiver Isaac Bruce counts a team-high $9.34 million against the cap, and his deal is likely to be extended and restructured. Running back Marshall Faulk counts $7.5 million and has a $5.75 million base salary, which is high for a player likely to split time with Steven Jackson. The future of tackle Kyle Turley is in limbo, and his cap hit is $5.57 million.

      The defense needs playmakers and better tacklers, especially at linebacker. Martz needs to put a higher premium on special teams, considering he's had three coaches in five years and the units...
      -01-22-2005, 12:40 PM
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