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  • Rams will need great coaching -- and more -- to prosper

    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Friday, Sep. 10 2004

    Is the Rams' run done?

    Many NFL experts believe so. One of my favorite scribes, the Orlando Sentinel's
    Jerry Greene, has them pegged for an 8-8 finish that sends Mike Martz back to
    the offensive coordinator ranks.

    Over at ESPN, John Clayton, Len Pasquarelli, Joe Theismann, Tom Jackson, Merril
    Hoge, Sean Salisbury, Mike Golic, Randy Mueller and Mark Schlereth all pick the
    Rams to miss the playoffs.

    Peter King, the NFL guru at Sports Illustrated, expects the Rams to go 9-7 and
    miss the playoffs.

    You get the idea. If the Rams can go 11-5 and make the playoffs – as I believe
    they can – then the 2004 season will offer validation for many.

    Let's start with coach Mike Martz. This season offers a golden opportunity to
    prove he really does have the right stuff to prosper in this role.

    Look at all the setbacks the Rams have suffered. Grant Wistrom and Brian Young
    left holes in the defensive line by leaving as free agents. Then top cornerback
    Travis Fisher broke his arm, compromising the secondary.

    The team tried to bring safety Jason Sehorn out of retirement, but he flunked
    his physical. Former ***** safety Zack Bronson came aboard . . . and
    immediately suffered a broken ankle.

    On the offensive side, starting right tackle Kyle Turley and starting center
    Dave Wohlabaugh failed to recover from offseason operations – forcing the Rams
    to jerry-rig their offensive line.

    If the Rams can overcome all of those setbacks AND successfully navigate
    through a difficult schedule, then Mad Mike will be a made coach. This is his
    opportunity to silence all his critics, because the Rams will need great
    coaching to prosper in 2004.

    Many Rams players have a chance to gain validation, including:


    Orlando Pace: He quit eating fried foods. When he finally showed up to play
    football, he was in excellent physical shape.

    Now let's see if he can become the on-field leader for an offensive line that
    badly needs one. Let's see if he can put the onus on Rams management to give
    him a lucrative long-term deal that will allow him to finish his career here.

    We all know that he wants top dollar. Let's see if he can prove that he
    deserves a record-setting contract for an offensive tackle.


    Marshall Faulk: He already has Hall of Fame credentials, so his greatness isn't
    in question. But we need to know if he can play anywhere near his established
    All-Pro level after so many knee operations.

    He feels great now, but he hasn't been exposed to real combat. The hitting
    starts Sunday. Can he hold up? And can he still shift into breakaway gear when
    he gets into the open field?


    Marc Bulger: He's a pretty good quarterback right now, better than most. But
    his play regressed during the latter stages of last season and he failed to
    deliver in the big games.

    Now he faces a daunting schedule. In '03, the Rams stole some sloppy victories
    over inferior foes by mustering late heroics.

    The offense must play at a much higher level to succeed this season, especially
    when you see all those potential holes on defense. Bulger has more weaponry
    than last season, with the addition of power runner Steven Jackson, the
    emergence of big-play receiving threat Shaun McDonald and the potential for
    more receptions at right end.

    If Bulger can become consistent overall and more effective in the red zone,
    he'll earn another Pro Bowl outing and legitimization in the eyes of his peers.


    Ryan Pickett, Damione Lewis: These former first-round draft picks are overdue
    to make a difference at defensive tackle. Now would be a good time to do that,
    with Wistrom and Young gone and fellow No. 1 pick Jimmy Kennedy shelved by a
    foot injury.

    This is their make-or-break year in the NFL. Are they going to become standouts
    or are they just a couple of guys?


    Jerametrius Butler: During his short Rams career, he has been an excellent
    prospect, then a near washout, then a solid second cornerback. It's been an
    interesting ride, one that became more treacherous when Fisher went down.

    Butler is on the island now. Can he survive? This is a wonderful opportunity,
    but a dangerous one.


    These Rams don't have much margin for error. I can see them regaining their
    high-scoring ways with a more varied offense, one that blends effective power
    running with four-receiver explosiveness.

    I can also see a defense getting gashed and strafed for many points. I can
    envision many entertaining shootouts on this schedule, some of the most
    exciting football we'll ever see.

    Of course, there is a chance this team will suffer additional injuries, buckle
    and ultimately collapse.

    Which way will it go? I'm an optimist, but it will take breakout or reaffirming
    seasons from most of the individuals above to get the Rams to postseason play.

  • #2
    Re: Rams will need great coaching -- and more -- to prosper

    Only a sportswriter could reach the conclusion that players look for validation from - or even care about the opinions of - other sportswriters. I guarantee you that every player on the Rams' roster believes that the team has the ability to once again go 12-4, make the playoffs and compete for the title - regardless of what a bunch of self-aggrandizing hacks might think.
    Last edited by AvengerRam_old; -09-10-2004, 05:27 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Rams will need great coaching -- and more -- to prosper

      Agree, if MM makes it through this season and the Rams make the playoffs, he may well have turned the corner as a HC.

      I may even post a postive thread about him.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Rams will need great coaching -- and more -- to prosper

        I may even post a postive thread about him.
        I could see the passion we all feel for this team is making some people crazy.
        :redface:

        Comment

        Related Topics

        Collapse

        • 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, 05:26 AM
        • 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, 09:10 AM
        • RamWraith
          Several young Rams already at crossroads of careers
          by RamWraith
          BY JEFF GORDON
          Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
          11/29/2004

          Online Columnist Jeff Gordon


          The Rams have time, with six games left on their schedule. They have opportunity, with so many NFC teams playing like they are in the Big 12 North this season.

          So what’s it going to be? Are the Rams going to overcome their pedestrian 5-5 start and battle into postseason play?

          Or are they going to stagger toward an offseason of heavy reconstruction?

          The Rams have been all over the map this season, so it’s tough to label the Monday Night Football game at Green Bay as a defining moment of the season.

          An upset would help the Rams, of course, but only if they followed it by dismissing the under-skilled ***** next week.

          A loss would hurt the Rams, obviously, but this is shaping up as a season where 9-7 or even 8-8 might be good enough.

          Will the Rams make it, or break? We’re guessing this season will go right down to the end, with plenty of good and bad surprises still in the offing.

          But this much is for sure: Many Rams are running out of time to make an impact for this franchise.

          There are lots of promising first- and second-year players on this team -- Mike Martz’s last two drafts have been OK -– but plenty of young veterans have reached the crossroads of their careers here.

          To wit:

          Damione Lewis, DT: He has made some big plays here and there, but he hasn’t become a defensive force. Lewis has NOT played like a first-round draft pick. When Martz elected to start street free agent Brian Howard ahead of him, that is a warning flare.

          Lewis is healthy now. There are no excuses.


          Jimmy Kennedy, DT: He is the same story. Foot problems slowed him earlier, but now he is healthy. He is overdue to become a force inside. At the very least, he needs to become a reliable run-stopper.

          On an otherwise under-sized front seven, he should make a big difference. But he hasn’t. Martz has been encouraged by Kennedy's improved work ethic, but that hasn’t been followed by improved productivity.


          Ryan Pickett, DT: He has shown more than the other two first-round picks -- largely because he has stayed relatively healthy -– but he hasn’t become special. Martz often says that defensive tackles take a while to develop, but at what point must an organization concede that a player has hit his plateau?

          It seems like we’ve about reached that threshold with “Big Grease.”


          Adam Archuleta, S: Remember when he appeared destined to become a regular at the Pro Bowl? That’s a faded memory. He is no longer a ferocious run-stopper and he hasn’t improved his coverage skills.

          Nagging back problems have certainly affected his play this season, but his ordinary play is still a concern....
          -11-29-2004, 01:02 PM
        • evil disco man
          The Good and The Bad
          by evil disco man
          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...
          -08-09-2004, 01:53 PM
        • RamWraith
          HOLY CRAP! No wonder Marshall is not the same
          by RamWraith
          I was reading in the Sporting News that Marshall has had his surgury 87 times on his knees. Is this true??? WOW! How can the guy even walk much less run.
          -09-01-2004, 07:14 AM
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