Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

NFL 2004: This could be the year the Rams start to fade

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • NFL 2004: This could be the year the Rams start to fade

    DAVE GOLDBERG, AP Football Writer

    In the last five seasons, the St. Louis Rams have won three NFC West titles, two NFC championships and one Super Bowl, and their 56-24 regular-season record is tied with Tennessee for best in the NFL over that span.

    The emergence of the Seattle Seahawks and some pressing problems in St. Louis threaten to make the Rams just another team this season.

    The problem is not the departure of Kurt Warner. The Rams didn't win a game he started the past two seasons and Marc Bulger is more than a capable successor, although he'll probably never reach the MVP level Warner did in his prime. It's more injuries and the erosion of talent that's so prevalent in the salary-cap era.

    "It gets more difficult as you win to keep your free agents because it seems like you win, everybody wants your guys," says guard Adam Timmerman. "We've kept a core group of guys and we've kept the guys we need."

    Except that this year, the core is smaller than ever and injuries could cause a chain reaction.

    The Rams enter the season with serious questions on the offensive line. Andy McCollum, newly switched back to center, and Timmerman are the only sure things. Left tackle Orlando Pace has been staging his annual holdout; right tackle Kyle Turley is lost for the year with back problems; and center Dave Wohlabaugh was released after flunking a physical.

    Those woes are compounded by the fact Warner no longer is around as a security blanket for Bulger. Warner was released for salary cap reasons and landed with the Giants. So the backup quarterback is 38-year-old Chris Chandler, who could rarely stay healthy when he was young.

    The line problems also could cause trouble for star RB Marshall Faulk, who is 31 and hasn't played a full season in any of the past four years. First-round pick Steven Jackson has been very good in preseason.

    So the Rams are in the unusual position of underdogs in their division to Seattle, which last season finally exhibited the explosive offense expected when Mike Holmgren took over in 1999.

    St. Louis remains at least a wild-card contender because the other two teams in the division -- San Francisco and Arizona -- are rebuilding. The ***** are on the way down, the Cardinals, perhaps, finally on the way up under new coach Dennis Green, who got the Vikings to the playoffs in eight of his 10 seasons in Minnesota.

    But injuries to Anquan Boldin and Marcel Shipp, two of their offensive stars, could hinder Arizona.

    The Rams will still be fun to watch.

    Torry Holt has emerged as the star of "the greatest show on turf" -- his 117 catches led the league last season and were 48 more than fellow receiver Isaac Bruce had. Not only did Bruce slip a little but so did Faulk, who had his second consecutive season with less than 1,000 yards rushing and also averaged 3.9 yards per carry. That was his lowest average since 1996 with the Colts and miles from the 5.5, 5.4 and 5.3 he had from 1999-2001.

    In fact, the Rams will probably have to rely even more on defense, led by safeties Adam Archuleta and Aeneas Williams and second-year linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, a coming star. They've been hurt there by injuries, too: cornerback Travis Fisher broke his arm in preseason.

    Seattle also has injury problems, particularly veteran linebacker Chad Brown, who'll miss at least four games with a broken leg. Defense will be the key -- it improved last season under new coordinator Ray Rhodes, but still ranked in the middle of the pack.

    The secondary is young and good, but Brown's injury only compounds the problems at linebacker. Holmgren has been searching for a man in the middle the entire offseason. Niko Koutavides, a fourth-round draft pick, could be the starter and has been competing for the job with Orlando Huff and Solomon Bates.

    There are few questions on offense, although left tackle Walter Jones, like the Rams' Pace, is staging his annual holdout. Both are franchise players who never sign their one-year deal until late in camp.

    Matt Hasselbeck emerged as one of the NFL's top quarterbacks last season, throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. Shaun Alexander rushed for 1,435 yards and 14 TDs. The receiving corps of Koren Robinson, Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram could be outstanding and Alexander had 42 catches in 2003.

    What's needed is more success away from Seattle. The Seahawks were 8-0 at home, 2-6 on the road, although the second win, which came the final week in San Francisco, got them into the playoffs.

    And, like everyone else, they must avoid injuries.

    "Every day you pick up a newspaper there is someone on some team and something that happened," Holmgren said after Brown went down. "You worry about it, but it can't paralyze you. It's just the nature of the beast. You just keep your fingers crossed that it doesn't happen too much to you."

    The other two NFC West teams are probably afterthoughts.

    The ***** finished 7-9, then got rid of quarterback Jeff Garcia and wide receiver Terrell Owens, who didn't get along. They are left with Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey at quarterback. Rattay will start, but he is coming back from groin surgery and Dorsey has back problems.

    Two standouts: linebacker Julian Peterson, another franchise player holdout who just reported to camp, and running back Kevan Barlow, who has the job to himself with Garrison Hearst now in Denver.

    Green's problems in rebuilding what has been the NFL's sorriest franchise for 50 years has been compounded by injuries.

    He thought Larry Fitzgerald, the third overall pick in the draft, would give the Cardinals one of the NFL's best receiving corps. So he bypassed drafting a quarterback because he had confidence in Josh McCown, who has all of three starts in two NFL seasons.

    But Boldin, who set a rookie record last season with 105 catches, has a knee injury that will keep him out at least through mid-October. And Shipp, the team's leading rusher last season, is gone at least that long with a broken leg, leaving 35-year-old Emmitt Smith, the NFL's career rushing leader, as the starter by default.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Predictions: Seattle 11-5; St. Louis 9-7; Arizona 5-11; San Francisco 4-12.

  • #2
    Re: NFL 2004: This could be the year the Rams start to fade

    Another preseason prognostication that means jack. Who on the AP picked the Panthers in the Super Bowl? The Rams will definitely have a difficult road, but we shall see.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: NFL 2004: This could be the year the Rams start to fade

      Yeah, this guy Goldberg typifies lame sports writing. "This could be the year..." Gee, this could be the year i win the lottery, this could be the year the Islamic terrorists convert to Judaism, this could be the year that we don't have to pay taxes, this could be the year the Rams will 20, or 10 games, or 9 games... this could....

      And the "start to fade" ... my goodness, a couple years ago it seemed like we were fading, didn't it? Have a losing season and are you fading?

      Most sports writers are not bastions of intellectual analysis, fact sifting, laboring to get the bottom line. They are just hacks trying to make a living. Their gift isn't supposed to be knowledge or accuracy, it's supposed to be delivery. A sharp quip here, a humorous observation there, a historical reference thrown in, and if we're lucky, we get a great one, one who is intelligent, logical, and willing to go the extra mile to write something of value. I'd like to find a guy who could do sports writing like Cosell could do announcing. i.e. someone who brings more to the table besides the gift of gab, and obvious jock knowledge. Someone who has command of the English language and can order his metaphors, and drive his similies like Patton driving his soldiers through the Germans.

      Comment

      Related Topics

      Collapse

      • RamWraith
        It's a two-horse race
        by RamWraith
        By Ira Miller
        Special to NFL.com

        (With the NFL regular season set to kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9, NFL.com has put together an eight-part series previewing each team division by division. Here is the NFC West.)

        Overview

        Realignment has not been kind to the NFC West. The division produced eight Super Bowl teams in 21 seasons prior to realignment, but in two years since the league went to its eight-division format, the NFC West has failed to even advance a team to the NFC Championship Game.

        St. Louis finished in first place last season with a 12-4 record, and Seattle also reached the playoffs as a wild-card team at 10-6. The Seahawks had a better record within the division -- 5-1 compared to the Rams' 4-2 -- but their poor record outside the division (5-5) and their poor record on the road (2-6) kept them from finishing first. Neither team advanced after their first playoff game.

        The Seahawks lost an overtime thriller at Green Bay, and the Rams, who had won 14 consecutive home games, lost a double-overtime game at home against Carolina.

        Once more, these appear to be the only true playoff contenders in the division. The ***** are in a total rebuilding mode, tearing apart their offense after a 7-9 season. And the Cardinals are starting over with new coach Dennis Green after going 4-12.

        Seattle, which has built a strong offense and is showing signs of improvement on defense, is considered the division favorite. History also favors the Seahawks. No team has repeated as NFC West champion since the ***** won the last of four consecutive titles in 1995.

        Arizona is the only team with a new coach. The ***** will have a new starting quarterback -- Tim Rattay if he is healthy, Ken Dorsey if Rattay is not. The Cards also have a quasi-new starter because Josh McCown started only three games last season.

        Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Rams running back Steven Jackson appear to be the two most eagerly anticipated rookies in the division. Fitzgerald was the third overall pick in the draft and Jackson was 24th. The *****, having dispatched Terrell Owens in the purge of their offense, are hoping that first-round pick Rashaun Woods can pick up the slack. Seattle expects its top two draft picks -- defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs and strong safety Michael Boulware -- to play significant roles in improving its defense.

        Movers and shakers

        Green took his Minnesota teams to the playoffs eight times in 10 years with seven different starting quarterbacks. It would be hard to find a coach more qualified to wade into a long-time chaotic situation. With a new stadium under construction, the Cards are perfectly positioned to begin the kind of turnaround that Tampa Bay made under Tony Dungy about a decade ago.

        There are new defensive coordinators in St. Louis and San Francisco, both of whom...
        -08-27-2004, 12:08 PM
      • RamWraith
        Rams are the best pick among a weak west
        by RamWraith
        By BARRY WILNER
        AP Football Writer


        The fashionable pick in the NFC West these days seems to be Arizona.
        We're not going to be fashionable, although the Cardinals are improved
        and should reach the .500 mark for the first time since 1998, when
        they were 9-7.

        And an 8-8 record could sneak off with this weak division, where only
        the ***** aren't good enough to contend.

        Still, the Rams should have plenty of offense and just enough defense
        to overcome any challenges - and overcome coach Mike Martz's sometimes
        strange sideline decisions.

        Seattle seems too fragile and must prove it can beat the Rams, who
        swept three meetings with the Seahawks last year.

        These are not quite the Rams who dominated the early decade with a
        scintillating passing attack and the magical Marshall Faulk. Steven
        Jackson has usurped Faulk as the starting running back, and Marc
        Bulger long ago took over for Kurt Warner, who is now with the
        Cardinals.

        "When he has that adrenaline going, he's tough to bring down," Bulger
        says of Jackson, in his second pro season. "You give him a little bit
        of a crease, his legs are so big and he's so strong that he's tough to
        bring down."

        The receiving corps remains dynamic as long as Torry Holt and Isaac
        Bruce are around, and Rams fans are excited about Kevin Curtis and
        Shaun McDonald. Bulger could have more options than Warner did -if
        Jackson is as good as advertised and Faulk still has some of his touch
        - and the line is one of the NFL's best.

        For St. Louis to do better than the 8-8 that got it into the playoffs
        as a wild card, it needs a less-charitable defense. The Rams yielded
        an ugly 392 points last season, 12th in the NFC.

        That prompted a bunch of moves, particularly at linebacker (Dexter
        Coakley and Chris Claiborne) and in the secondary, where starting CB
        Jerametrius Butler already is gone with a wrecked knee. If the Rams
        can cover people and get the usual pass rush from end Leonard Little,
        plus improved performances from the LBs, they should be the class of
        the division.

        Watch for DT Jimmy Kennedy and end Anthony Hargrove to support Little,
        which should help the so-so secondary.

        "We played pretty well on the defensive line last year and I felt like
        our linebacker play wasn't what it needed to be," Martz said. "We've
        made the personnel changes, and it was significant. This is as excited
        as I've been about a defense here."

        They're excited about defense in the desert, too. Indeed, the
        Cardinals are showing more signs of life in all areas than at any time
        recently, and if the Rams remain a .500 team,...
        -08-30-2005, 05:40 PM
      • Nick
        2004 NFL PREVIEW: Team Forecasts & Early Predictions - NFC West
        by Nick
        2004 NFL PREVIEW: Team Forecasts & Early Predictions - Part II – NFC West
        Monday, August 16, 2004
        By Drew Cook
        Courtesy of PrimeSportsPicks.com


        Part I of our 2004 NFL Preview covered the NFC East & in Part II we will breakdown the NFC West. Upcoming articles will feature the remaining divisions. Again, our team forecasts are designed to provide insight on predicting total teams wins, so that you can take advantage of the value found in wagering on the Total Team Wins futures propositions.

        NFC West
        -Seattle Seahawks: Prediction Over 9 Wins - In 2004, the Seattle Seahawks may just be the team to beat in the NFC. Coming out of the relatively weak NFC West, Seattle should head into the season as the division favorite with the Rams as their only true competition. The Seahawks were (5-1) in their division last year and a perfect (8-0) at home, but if they are going to go far this year, they must improve on their (2-6) road record. It appears that the schedule makers were paying attention to these numbers because Seattle will not only play their first 2 games of the season on the road, but also six of their first nine games as well. If the Seahawks can keep things together during this early stretch on the road, they will have a great opportunity to finish the season strong playing 5 of their last 7 games at home.

        On offense the Seahawks should once again be very solid with all of their skill players returning - (QB) Matt Hasselbeck (26 td's in 2003), (RB) Shaun Alexander (1,435 yards & 14 td's), (WR) Darrell Jackson and (WR) Koren Robinson. This unit ranked #7 in scoring last year, averaging over 25 points per game.

        The defense made some serious progress in 2003, but could have trouble due to the departure of several players - (DT) John Randle, (LB) Randall Godfrey, (SS) Reggie Tongue, and (CB) Shawn Springs. However, in their place the Seahawks have brought in (DE) Grant Wistrom from division rival St. Louis and (CB) Bobby Taylor from Philadelphia and drafted Marcus Tubbs from Texas in the first-round. Taylor and second-year CB Marcus Trufant will make up a formidable duo in the secondary, which could should give receivers all they can handle.

        With Mike Holmgren & Ray Rhodes having all these tools at their disposal, Seattle should once again be a serious force in the NFC West. Look for the Seahawks to improve on their (2-6) road record and surpass the 9 win mark in 2004.


        -St. Louis Rams: Prediction Over 9.5 Wins - Coming off a 12 win season, the Rams have done little in the free-agent market to alter their team. Offensively they were awesome in 2003, racking up 447 points, good for the second most in the league. (QB) Marc Bulger will once again lead this impressive unit with (RB) Marshall Faulk, (WR) Torry Holt and (WR) Isaac Bruce. Holt showed that he is one of the games best receivers leading the league...
        -08-16-2004, 10:46 PM
      • RamWraith
        Rams' amazing run may be about to end
        by RamWraith
        Aging offense won't be able to bail team out anymore
        By Stephen Nover of Covers.com

        The Rams have had a nice five-year run. Since 1999, St. Louis has won 70 percent of its games making the playoffs four times while reaching the Super Bowl twice and winning once.

        But there are ominous clouds signaling that good times may be coming to an end for the Rams.

        The Rams have always been careless with the ball. They’ve led the league three straight years in turnovers. Their high-powered offense, though, has been able to bail them out. That may not be the case anymore.

        The great Marshall Faulk is 31. That’s old for a running back. He’s slowing down and becoming injury-prone. Isaac Bruce also is 31 and isn’t as dangerous as he once was. Faulk has missed at least two games each of the past four years. If he goes down again, the Rams are in trouble because backup Lamar Gordon is out after ankle surgery and rookie Steven Jackson is too raw.

        Quarterback Marc Bulger is fragile and interception-prone. The Rams only have washed-up Chris Chandler in case Bulger gets hurt. The Rams may have to begin the season, too, with a makeshift offensive line. Both center Dave Wohlabaugh and right tackle Kyle Turley are out indefinitely with injuries, guard Adam Timmerman has a bad shoulder and All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace is doing his annual disruptive holdout.

        Maybe it’s time to place a call to Jackie Slater. He did finally retire, didn’t he?

        At least the Rams have their defense to bail them out. Yeah, right. The Rams' undersized front seven are vulnerable to ground attacks. At last remembrance, the Panthers were ending the Rams’ season, rushing for 216 yards and averaging 5.3 yards a carry in a playoff victory.

        Don’t be surprised if the Rams defense gets worse. Grant Wistrom, the Rams’ best overall defensive lineman, signed with division rival Seattle. Leonard Little, their top pass rusher, is facing a possible suspension after another DUI arrest. And respected defensive coordinator Lovie Smith now heads up the Bears.

        Also don’t look for Jeff Wilkins to make 39 of 42 field goals. That was a career year. His lifetime percentage before last season was 79 percent, not 93 percent.

        Luckily for the Rams, they play in the NFC West, which means four games against weaklings San Francisco and Arizona. So oddsmakers have set St. Louis’ over/under regular season win mark at either 9 1/2 or 10. I see the Rams having trouble reaching 10 victories even being in an easy division.

        Starting with an away game in Week 2 against the Falcons, the Rams have a four-game stretch where they play three road games in four weeks. Following their bye, the Rams have four tough games in a row. They host the Patriots on Nov. 7. Then they host the Seahawks. This is followed by road games at the Bills and Packers. If the Rams defeat the...
        -08-19-2004, 05:46 AM
      • RamDez
        Seahawks Opponent Preview – St. Louis Rams
        by RamDez
        Wrapping up the Weekly Opponent Preview with the Rams

        Seahawks Opponent Preview – St. Louis Rams

        By Scott Eklund
        Seahawks.NET
        .NET reporter Scott Eklund wraps up his weekly look at the Seahawks’ 2004 opponents. Up this week: The St. Louis Rams, who the Hawks host October 10th at Qwest Field and then travel to meet in the Gateway City on November 14th.
        Overview: Rams head coach Mike Martz isn’t considered “Mad Mike” for nothing. Since he took over as head coach in February of 2000 the Rams have had the best and most dangerous offense in the NFL.

        The offense has been known as “The Greatest Show on Turf” since the 1999 season (the franchise’s first and only Super Bowl title), but the offense began to show signs of slowing down toward the end of 2003 and many think Martz and his offensive coaches will look more to a ground game that features a sure Hall-of-Famer in Marshall Faulk and first-round selection RB Stephen Jackson.

        Gone is former defensive coordinator Lovie Smith left St. Louis to coach the Chicago Bears and in his place Larry Marmie, a long-time friend of Martz, who will stick with basically the same defense with only a couple of variations.

        Martz still focuses on the offense and he has plenty of talent at his disposal. However, some key parts have left and those that remain are getting older and aren’t the players they once were.

        Offense: The Ram offense will still be high-flying and very explosive, but look for Martz and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild to use more of a power-running game to help out new starter QB Marc Bulger.

        Saying Bulger is a “new” starter is sort of a misnomer. Bulger has started 22 games over the last two seasons due to injuries and ineffective play by former starter Kurt Warner. Warner was an icon in the Gateway City and Bulger will have lots of pressure on him to perform at a high level.

        In 2003 Bulger completed 63.2% of his passes for 3,845 yards, 22 TDs and 22 INTs. Bulger isn’t very mobile, but he has enough pocket-awareness and savvy to move around enough to allow things to happen down field. Bulger’s two biggest faults are his decision-making and is youth. He still does not see the field as well as Warner and sometimes that gets him into trouble.

        Bulger’s strength lies in his live arm, accuracy and his calmness under pressure. If he can cut down on the untimely interceptions (see last season’s Divisional Playoff loss to Carolina) he could be a special QB. As it stands the jury is still out on whether he will be an elite QB or just an average signal-caller.

        Behind Bulger is grey-beard Chris Chandler. Chandler thows a great deep ball, understands defenses, and is a good leader. Chandler has the ability to help the team get through two or three weeks in case Bulger is hurt. Rookie Jeff Smoker will be brought along slowly as his talents and firey attitude...
        -08-14-2004, 02:14 PM
      Working...
      X