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Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

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  • Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
    Friday, Aug. 27 2004

    I like the Rams, and their fans, so I'm going to do everyone a favor:

    I predict the 2004 Rams will finish 9-7 and miss the NFC playoffs.

    And that's optimistic. A record of 8-8 is more realistic.

    That's good news for observant readers who undoubtedly will recall that I
    joined most residents of Western civilization in picking the Cardinals to
    finish third in the National League Central this season, behind the Cubs and
    the Astros.

    So I figure a doom-and-gloom forecast is the least I can do for the Rams, who
    have provided such entertaining and (mostly) fulfilling football for the town
    and their fans since 1999. During this special five-year run, which represents
    the golden era of NFL football in St. Louis, the Rams won 70 percent of their
    regular-season games. They averaged 30 points per game. They made the playoffs
    four times. They reached two Super Bowls, winning one. They produced MVPs in
    quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk. It really was The
    Greatest Show on Turf.

    Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and that's especially true in the
    NFL, where the finest teams are eventually devoured by the jaws of the league
    salary cap. With so many free-agent defections, it's difficult to stay on top.

    The Rams managed to build to winning form through solid drafts and expert
    salary-cap management by Jay Zygmunt. But there's been slippage. The Rams won
    12 games last season, but five victories came by six points or fewer and could
    have gone either way. Shockingly, their defense was slapped around during a
    home playoff loss to Carolina, allowing 216 yards rushing at 5.3 yards per
    carry. The offense finished ninth in total yards; that was down from the norm.

    Drafts that once kept this team stocked and poised to compete have resulted in
    too many recent misses. The Rams invested a lot of premium picks in their
    defensive line and haven't received the anticipated impact.

    Warner is gone, Faulk has slowed, and there are disturbing signs of
    deterioration. Two starters on the offensive line (Kyle Turley and Dave
    Wohlabaugh) are victims of injuries, and this jerry-rigged O-line will be
    pressed to match last season's mediocre output of 3.6 yards per rushing
    attempt. The defensive line is precariously thin. When the interior lines are a
    team's most alarming areas of concern, major problems are likely.

    When they were The Greatest Show, the Rams featured dominant performers at
    multiple key positions. That's no longer the case. Scanning one scouting
    service, I saw some eye-opening rankings. Marc Bulger was the 12th-rated QB.
    Faulk was dropped to the No. 12 spot among halfbacks. Only one receiver (Torry
    Holt) was listed among the league's top 20 wideouts. Orlando Pace was tabbed as
    one of the NFL's premier offensive tackles, and guard Adam Timmerman was given
    a good grade, but other residents of the current line were relegated to
    back-of-the-pack status. And the Rams' tight ends and fullbacks were graded at
    the bottom.

    On defense, Leonard Little scored as the No. 7 defensive end, but the other
    D-linemen were slotted far down the list. The Rams' highest-rated linebacker
    (Tommy Polley) was No. 25 at his position, and he's slumping. The Rams'
    starting cornerbacks (Jerametrius Butler, injured Travis Fisher) didn't crack
    the top 35. Adam Archuleta is viewed as a top 10 safety. Aeneas Williams,
    surprisingly, was left out of the top 25.

    We can quibble with some rankings; certainly, Williams is worthy of more
    respect, as is wide receiver Isaac Bruce. But clearly, there's been a decline
    in the overall talent. Just glance at the Rams' roster . . . realistically, how
    many positions still qualify for elite status? When compared to other groups
    around the NFL, the Rams are well above average at only two spots - wide
    receiver and safety.

    Now, here's the important question: Can the Rams close this widening talent gap
    during the course of the season? It's possible, but they face what appears to
    be a brutally tough non-division schedule.

    There is an upside, however. The offensive line could exceed expectations.
    Maybe Faulk's legs can generate a few more thrilling Sundays. Perhaps rookie
    running back Steven Jackson can make up for any O-line weakness by powering for
    tough yards, on his own. If Bulger gets time to throw, he can choose from
    several attractive targets. And if Bulger gets back to what he used to do so
    beautifully - deliver with a quick release, show accuracy downfield and dump
    the ball to avoid sacks and interceptions - then he'll claim a place among the
    league's best QBs.

    A young defense, led by its promising linebackers and corners, can blossom and
    make a positive difference. The Rams should get good production from their
    committee of defensive right ends. And maybe this is the year that defensive
    tackles Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett finally bust out.

    But if the Rams are to hold off rising Seattle for first place in the NFC West,
    or contend for a wild-card playoff spot, they must overachieve. They'll have to
    play above their projected talent level.

    And that's exactly what we were saying about the Cardinals' starting pitching
    before the 2004 season. So it can be done. There's hope

  • #2
    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

    Bernie is entitled to his opinion, but his reasoning is extremely flawed. First, he puts too much emphasis on the Carolina game - that's one game! He never even gives consideration to the possibility that the Rams just had an off day in certain areas.

    He also places great emphasis on the rankings of some unnamed scouting service. Please. Rankings at positions change constantly. Besides, just how many players do you think the Patriots have ranked in the top 10 at their position? Probably fewer than the Rams.

    I really think Bernie hopes the Rams will flop. He seems to find more to write about when things are bad than when they are good.


    • #3
      Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

      I was listening to KFNS the other day, and a member of the media said it best (can't remember who, maybe Kevin Slaten): "When they lose, it makes our job a lot easier." I'm sure some members of the St. Louis sports media would love an easier topic to write about.


      • #4
        Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

        The only thing Bernies article shows is the Rams are no longer thought of as the best or as the elite or as dominating as in the past five years.

        The rankings are kind of comical because just how much difference in talent is the number 5 ranked compared to the 30th ranked? There is not near the difference that those numbers try to imply.

        Just as the 5th ranked rushing team compared to the 20th ranked rushing team is close and interchangable by the week. I think Bernie sees correctly when he predicts the Rams Record (give or take a game or two.) but like rankings and statististics there is not a whole lot of difference between a 10-6 team and a 6-10 team.

        The Rams are going to be in allot of games that go down to the final minutes this year and instead of voicing his real concern has found an out via the Rankings. (Read into that what you will.)

        As far as I see it, this is the Rams 1st real season where they will play at parity with the rest of the league. I think if you look at other teams, The Rams still have an advantage in talent over many teams allbeit ever so slight.

        For instance I would not give up Bruce and Holt for any other tandem in the league. Remember these two are ledgidimet wide receivers that attack downfield and not the 3 yard catch and run wide receivers that put up big misleading numbers.

        Then there are those two running backs, one of which has been an MVP and broken some pretty important records then the new kid Jackson (which in my book has been the Rams best draft pick since Holt) who together just may be part of a new attack and philosophy by the Rams. Unlike most, I believe that Martz could go away from his downfield passing attack and turn that offense into a run first offense. I have my reasons for believing this but won't post them at this time.

        In 2002 Bulger threw the ball well downfield and spread it around. No he didn't hit the bomb like Warner did but if he could some how play like he did in 2002, I will be happy to give up the bomb. Remember in 2002 when the buzz became "Is it Martz that make these QB's great or did we just get lucky with two QB's in a row"? I think the jury is still out on that issue.

        Bottom line is were going to have to do the fundemental things correctly now. We do not have the luxury of ignoring the basic fundementals that start with preperation and end with proper game time managment. That is what is going to be the deciding factor in the Rams success this season Not the Rankings.


        • #5
          Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

          I agree with Avenger to a certian degree. I do not think a lot of players (the talent) were considered elite going into the 1999-2000 season and well, one could say that rose to be an elite team. The present players are talented, but they are not going to surprise anyone.

          Plus, many of those teams who were beaten during the GSoT years 40-13 or 48-17 may have an axe to grind with the Rams. What goes around comes around and if teams get a chance to pound the Rams, they will.

          Now here is where I go my own way. I do think the Carloina game was a telling game. The run defense then was bad and it could get worse. The use of high round picks on D-lineman (that have not lived up to their draft status) has had a talent drain on the team and no team, no matter how good, can stand that drain for 3 drafts in a row.

          I too will remain optimistic. However, I will be more optimistic if MM gets his act together. Maybe I am the only one, but too too many commentators and sports writers think MM is idiot. Again, his lack of emphasis on clock and game management and on not holding on to the football, have my sapped my support for him.
          I still think MM is a big part of the problem.

          Being that I remain optimistic, I am willing to wait and see.



          • #6
            Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

            Originally posted by RamWraith
            Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
            Friday, Aug. 27 2004

            Two starters on the offensive line (Kyle Turley and Dave Wohlabaugh) are victims of injuries, and this jerry-rigged O-line will be pressed to match last season's mediocre output of 3.6 yards per rushing attempt. The defensive line is precariously thin. When the interior lines are a team's most alarming areas of concern, major problems are likely.
            How far the Rams go will rest on how far the O/D lines progress and how quickly. He is not a scrambler and thus far he has not shown much ability to throw off his back foot - Bulger needs protection and the ground game needs holes. But we didn't need Bernie to point this out. Fresh blood like Tercero will shine quickly or TV sets will need to be replaced in short order.


            • #7
              Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

              When they were The Greatest Show, the Rams featured dominant performers at multiple key positions. That's no longer the case. Scanning one scouting
              service, I saw some eye-opening rankings.
              Hmmmm, wonder what those rankings looked like in August '99? :king:
              The more things change, the more they stay the same.


              • #8
                Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

                If the Carolina game is so "telling," maybe what it should tell us that, but for a crazy forward fumble play that resulted in a score and/or a FG that missed by a few feet in OT, the Rams would have beaten a team that went to the Super Bowl and lost by a last minute FG.
                Last edited by AvengerRam_old; -08-30-2004, 09:32 AM.


                • #9
                  Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

                  Originally posted by AvengerRam
                  but for a crazy forward fumble play that resulted in a score
                  I still maintain that the "score" was down by contact at the 1/2 yard line. They very well could have scored on the next play, or kicked a FG, but they did not actually score then. I also have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the RAMS would not have been awarded a TD had the roles been reversed.



                  • #10
                    Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

                    Of course, if the Rams had recovered the ball, the Panthers wouldn't have scored at all on that drive.

                    My point is, as badly as the Rams played in some aspects of the game against Carolina (i.e. run defense, interceptions), they still were a play or two from winning. So if that game is indicative of how the Rams will do this year, it would logically mean that the Rams would be in the hunt again.


                    • #11
                      Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

                      I totally agree AV, my point is the same...what happened if Holt had caught that home run ball, that would of been the lead, if Bryan Young had fallen on that fumble,etc, hell we came back and took the ball game into OT.. yes I too agree we have areas to address,BIG time, but so do other teams, there is no gap in the NFL nowadays...

                      steve :ramlogo:
                      "The breakfast Club":helmet:


                      • #12
                        Re: Bernie's Take: Talent drain puts postseason in doubt

                        The "telling is in the tale"....

                        Yep.. If Young can get is bandaged arms around a fumble at the 2 foot line, maybe the Rams win. There were many shouldas and wouldas and couldas, but the facts are:

                        1) The the Rams D-line play was horrible in the Carolina game. (I will quote stats if you want).
                        2) Lovie's defense was victimized by over-pursuit and was simply overwhelmed at the point of attack.
                        3) There was insufficient pressure on Delhomme. When there was pressure the Rams were victimized by draw plays.
                        4) Based on the presason games vs Chicago, KC and even Washington (first drive), there was no improvement w/r to run defense. It may have been worse.
                        5) Current D-line starters are not living up to their billing. This will be the year where Pickett and Lewis earn thier "bust" badges (or not).
                        6) I think that the the loss of Wistrom and Young are a huge blow to the defense, not a death blow, but we could argue as to whether the replacements could be as good. Since we have no history or bad history by which to judge the new D-line, you might agree that what they had is better than what have now.
                        7) How does Marmie (who ran the Defense in Arizona) hope to change the blueprint that Lovie drew up??? The only real credential Marmie has is that he was a "long time" buddy of Mike Martz. What does that say?
                        8) The Rams play a finesse type of defense, built on speed and athletic ability. They get pushed around by "old" smash mouth run based offenses.

                        I would like to find something more positive to say, but nothing really comes to mind. They looked a lot better after the first Washington drive on Friday night, but that was after Portis came of of the game.


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                        • RamDez
                          by Bernie the Dolt - Rams will have to score a lot this season
                          by RamDez
                          Rams will have to score a lot this season
                          By Bernie Miklasz
                          Of the Post-Dispatch
                          Saturday, Sep. 11 2004

                          The Rams plan to celebrate their 10th anniversary in St. Louis this season.
                          Team owner Georgia Frontiere threw a formal party Friday night to kick off the
                          festivities, and guests remembered the good times.

                          The Rams arrived here in 1995, but didn't stop making fools of themselves until
                          1999. The long wait was worth it. The four years of losing was followed by the
                          most successful five-year run by a St. Louis NFL franchise.

                          Two Super Bowls, one Super Bowl title and four playoff appearances in five
                          seasons. The offense filled Sunday afternoons with flying footballs and nearly
                          30 points per game. And even when the Rams lost, they were never dull. Coach
                          Mike Martz, the designer of this offensive masterpiece, is our town's most
                          eccentric and temperamental artist. Martz's avant-garde approach to
                          forward-thinking football is frequently controversial, but never boring.

                          It's been a thrilling ride. But is it over? Are the Rams about to revert back
                          to the days of Same Old Rams behavior? Are we going to have flashbacks? Tony
                          Banks throwing interceptions . . . Lawrence Phillips spending more time in jail
                          than the end zone. . . . Dwayne "Road Grader" White belly-flopping as he misses
                          blocks . . . Overwhelmed head coach Rich Brooks shivering on the sideline at
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                          Let's not go back there, OK?

                          As a new season reveals itself, I'm hoping the Rams can continue to entertain
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                          see in 2004. Lots of points, and too many disappointing losses.

                          If there's a model for this season, it's 2000.

                          The 2000 Rams scored 540 points, the most in franchise history.

                          Problem is, those Rams also were plundered for 470 points, the most in
                          franchise history.

                          We saw that 10-6 team win games by scores of 41-36, 37-34, 45-29, 57-31, 40-29.
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                          -09-12-2004, 02:02 AM
                        • ramsanddodgers
                          Revisiting the past, but not living in it...
                          by ramsanddodgers
                          Forgotten Greatness: The 1999 St. Louis Rams
                          by Ben Gunby (Columnist) 1 comments
                          Filed Under: NFL, St. Louis Rams

                          On a certain network’s morning radio show, the two co-hosts were dissecting a list compiled by another major media outlet of the NFL's ten all-time greatest single seasons. I’m not here to address the make-up of the list, or the validity of it.

                          I’m here to address the response to one of the teams on this particular list. I wnat to debunk this myth that the 1999 St. Louis Rams were just some offensive juggernaut who have no place among the great NFL champions of years past. I’m not here to go on a case by case study of where exactly those Rams should fall on such a list, but rather that their inclusion is not as absurd as was implied.

                          Offensively, nobody in their right mind could question anyone’s inclusion of the “Greatest Show on Turf” as among the greatest offensive units the game of football has ever seen. While there have been many other teams with great duos (Montana and Rice), trios (Aikman, Irvin, Smith) and quartets (Bradshaw, Stallworth, Swann, Harris), perhaps no team had the number of truly explosive playmakers this Rams team possessed.

                          Kurt Warner and Marshal Faulk’s 1999 seasons were among the greatest ever by a player at their respective positions, and they so came from two teammates in the same season. Furthermore, unlike great statistical seasons put together by quarterback/receiver duos (Brady and Moss, Montana and Rice), this was a running back/quarterback duo in which case the statistics of one don’t directly affect the stats of the others.

                          Granted, Faulk’s 1,000 plus yards receiving certainly come in large part due to Kurt Warner, however, much of what Faulk did as a receiver was more the product of the system, the play calling, and Faulk’s incredible skills with the ball in his hands.

                          Warner’s impact was obviously felt with the incredible numbers put up via the pass catchers for the Rams during that 1999 campaign. Az-Zahir Hakim battled Ricky Proehl and tight end Roland Williams for the role of fourth option in this passing offense. A testament to how deadly this offense truly was is the fact that despite being option number four, Hakim still caught eight touchdown passes, only two more than Williams.

                          These Rams though weren’t just blessed with perhaps the greatest overall complement of skill players the NFL has ever seen, they were blessed with talented players up front. Adam Timmerman and Tom Nutten were both more than a solid choice on the offensive front, but the line’s anchor, Orlando Pace, will go down in history as one of the greatest offensive linemen to ever strap up a chinstrap.

                          On offense alone, the Rams were as great as any team ever. Whether that’s from a production, statistical, or talent standpoint.

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                        • Goldenfleece
                          Over/Underrated Teams in the Preseason
                          by Goldenfleece
                          This time of year everybody can find reasons why their team is going to be a contender in the upcoming season, but I had some time on my hands, so I thought I'd take another look at a few of the teams with high expectations and see what they have really done to improve their teams in the offseason. Feel free to disagree; these are just one fan's opinions. I left the Rams off the underrated list because I've obviously got a bias there. So without further ado, here's my take on the most overrated/underrated teams in mid-August:

                          Most Overrated:

                          NY Giants

                          Why they're hyped: The Giants have a Manning at the helm, and he's got weapons: Burress, Toomer, Shockey, and Barber. On defense, the team has some great pass rushers including Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, and linebacker Lavar Arrington, along with first rounder Mathias Kiwanuka. Will Demps should be an upgrade at FS.

                          Why they won't live up to it: First, the defense. They lost 2 defensive tackles in free agency. Clancy and Allen were not exactly worldbeaters at their position, but the Giants don't have proven talent to replace them. William Joseph started 10 games at the right DT spot and had 2 sacks; he's the pass-rushing DT. Looking at their roster, I can't figure out who is supposed to be starting next to him. Fred Robbins maybe? Robbins couldn't even hold down the backup job last season. At corner, they added Sam Madison but lost Will Allen who is not only younger but has also put up better numbers in recent years. It looks as though Will Peterson will be replaced on the other side by last year's nickelback, Corey Webster. Webster has shown some promise, but it's still his first year as a starter. Arrington has a reputation as a free lancer who gets out of position trying to make the big play; it has also been said he can't handle coverage responsibilities. The Giants should still be at least a little better at WLB and FS but worse at both DT spots and both corners.

                          On offense, Eli looked worse towards the end of the season, throwing 4 TDs and 7 ints in 5 games in December. He looked shaky in the playoffs, too, throwing for a paltry 113 yards, 3 ints, and no TDs while taking 4 sacks and coughing up a fumble in a loss to the Panthers. Tiki on the other hand had a remarkable season, but age is a factor here. Take the example of Curtis Martin who led the league in rushing yards with 1,697 yards in 2004. Then he hit the wall. His rushing average the next season fell from 4.6 yards/carry to 3.3, and his rushing total was nearly a thousand yards less at 735. Maybe it'll happen this year, maybe it won't...but one of these days age is going to catch up with Barber, and when it does, it'll happen fast. It's probably not a good sign that he has talked about retiring after this season. Barber has said, "We'll see how my body holds up. Last year was a grind for me. Even though I played great, I battled to be healthy. We'll see...
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                          Welcome back to the Rankings File, an ongoing spring and summer series rating the best and worst units in the NFL. This week, we examine defensive front sevens.

                          Why "front sevens" instead of breaking down defensive lines and linebackers in separate weeks? There are many reasons, starting with the simple fact that we can argue for hours about where a defensive end ends and an outside linebacker begins. Any rating of best defensive lines would be dominated by the four-man lines of 4-3 defenses, while linebackers in 3-4 would overwhelm their own "best of" lists. Then we have to worry about the hybrid defenses and "Leo" defenders. The final rankings would be full or arbitrary distinctions and a few silly results.

                          By rating front sevens in their entirety, we can brush off the 3-4/4-3 one gap/two gap distinctions and concern ourselves with the major duties of a defensive front: run defense, pass rush and defending short passes, particularly to running backs and tight ends. When sifting through the mountains of Football Outsiders statistics, I focused on various evaluations of success at stopping the run and chasing the quarterback, including Power Success (stopping goal-line and third-and-1 rushes), Stuffed Rate (percent of running backs stopped for no gain or a loss) and Adjusted Sack Rate (which accounts for pass attempts and other factors, including the quality of the opponent).

                          A few other statistical indicators got tossed into the stew. Broken tackle totals and rates were given some consideration. Football Outsiders also keeps track of the success opposing offenses have when throwing passes to running backs and tight ends, from completion rates and yardage on those plays to interceptions and third down conversions. The results are a handy indicator of whether a defense is doing a good job of covering backs and tight ends or perhaps generating such a massive pass rush that opponents must always keep those players into block.

                          After all the number crunching, Pro Bowlers, newcomers, departures and top prospects are tabulated. Established coaches who have kept a successful system in place for years get a little boost. Run the spreadsheet through some formulas and Presto! Offseason web content!

                          As with last week's offensive line ratings, only the top five, bottom five and five "worth mentioning" teams are ranked. The plan is to keep me from writing about middle-of-the-pack units week after week, and to prevent arguments about whether some team should rank ninth or 13th, even though splitting hairs that finely is impossible. If you read last week's comment session, you know that the argument prevention tactic backfired, but comment thread arguments can be more fun than articles anyway.

                          You are going to see a lot of NFC West at the top of this list, which should not surprise you. Just...
                          -06-10-2014, 12:10 AM
                        • r8rh8rmike
                          Bernie: Quick Takes On Rams At Halfway Point
                          by r8rh8rmike
                          11.05.2009 11:45 pm
                          Quick Takes on Rams at the Halfway Point
                          By Bernie Miklasz

                          I’m taking a few days off, but before I zoom off, let’s take a look at the 1-7 Rams at the midway mark of their 2009 season.

                          Here are my opinions, and yours are certainly welcome in the comments section:

                          Best Player: Steven Jackson. Yes, an obvious choice. But it’s impressive the way SJ39 has been running through defensive walls. Through 8 games, Jackson is second in the NFL in rushing yards (784), second in rushing first downs (32), first in the NFL in runs of 10+ yards (25), second in the league in yards from scrimmage (970), second in most broken tackles, and second in yards gained after contact (461). His attitude has been tremendous. The only minus is the shortage of rushing touchdowns (only 1). There’s more than a few ordinary backs in the league with 5 or more rushing TDs. But here’s the problem: the Rams have had only six series where they’ve had a 1st down and goal to go; only four NFL teams have had fewer. The Rams have had only two series where they’ve had a 1st down and 5 yards or less to go for the TD. And the Rams are tied for 23rd in the league for most red-zone possessions. In other words, Jackson hasn’t gotten many opportunities to run the ball from in close. Jackson obviously lacks the breakaway capability of, say, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, but that’s because Jackson is a power runner and not a speed back. And power backs roll up the TDs when they get the ball close to the goal line. And Jackson’s chances have been limited.

                          Worst Player: Lots to choose from, and I’m picking on a guy who is no longer with the team, but I never understood why WR Tim Carter was recalled to the roster after being cut in the preseason.

                          Most Surprising Player: That would be WR and return man Danny Amendola. He’s no superstar, but this was a nice pickup of a “street” free agent. The Rams have thrown the ball to Amendola 19 times and have completed 15 of the passes, which is an exceptional percentage. He knows how to get open. And I think tight end Billy Bajema has some talent and should be utilized more.

                          Most Disappointing Player: There’s a long line of candidates. And generally speaking, you have to possess real talent to be considered disappointing. So I’ve tried to stick with guys who have the ability to do better than they have. Marc Bulger continues to decline as an NFL QB. We expected more from TE Randy McMichael, who has dropped five passes. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe has a lot of skill, but isn’t coming up with the ball (picks, fumbles) nearly as much as he has in the past. He has one INT and only three pass defenses. CB Ron Bartell’s coverage has slipped, but he’s also been playing hurt. There’s second-year WR Donnie Avery, the only wideout on the roster who can burn a defense and change a game. But Avery has dropped five passes and can’t stay healthy. I cut...
                          -11-06-2009, 04:33 PM