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  • Rams Position Analysis

    Rams Position Analysis
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Sep. 11 2004


    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

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


    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

    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 at fullback. Trejo just joined the club on Thursday, so
    his role is uncertain.

    The Stat: Only Jerry Rice (205), Emmitt Smith (166), and Marcus
    Allen (145) have scored more career TDs than Faulk (131).


    Starter: Brandon Manumaleuna.
    Reserve: Cam Cleeland.

    In matching Carolina's five-year, $8.3 million offer sheet to Manumaleuna last
    March as a restricted free agent, the Rams made a commitment to him as their TE
    of the present and future. Manumaleuna dropped about 15 pounds during the
    offseason, and looks rather nimble at about 275. This should make him more
    effective as a receiver, while leaving him plenty big to do what he does best -
    block at the line of scrimmage. The key with Manumleuna is eliminating - or at
    least minimizing - mistakes in blocking and blitz pickup.

    Cleeland missed half the preseason with a hamstring injury, but has been
    impressive blocking and receiving when healthy. He caught four passes for 72
    yards in the preseason finale against Oakland. After catching just 10 balls
    last season with the Rams, he should be more of an option in the passing game
    in '04.

    The Stat: Manumaleuna established career highs in catches (29) and
    reception yards (238) last season.


    Starters: Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt.
    Reserves: Dane Looker, Shaun McDonald, Kevin Curtis, Mike Furrey.

    As he enters his 11th NFL season, Bruce has shown no signs of slowing down at
    age 31. If the league is serious about enforcing the illegal contact and
    defensive holding rules throughout the season, Bruce should be even more
    effective. There might not be another receiver in the league who gets grabbed
    and tugged as much as Bruce.

    Although Holt has yet to match Bruce as a big-game receiver, he has surpassed
    him as the team's go-to receiver over the past couple seasons. Holt led the NFL
    in catches (117) and reception yards (1,696) last season, and at age 28, is in
    his prime athletically. Besides the obvious talents of Holt and Bruce, what
    potentially makes this receiving corps special is its depth of talent.

    Looker established himself as a viable No. 3 receiver with 47 catches a year
    ago. After injury-plagued rookie seasons, second-year men Kevin Curtis and
    Shaun McDonald had impressive preseasons. McDonald could provide the kind of
    open-field elusiveness in the slot not seen since Az-Zahir Hakim was on the
    club. Mike Furrey plays aggressively and isn't afraid to go over the middle.

    The Stat: Bruce enters the season ranked 15th in reception yards
    (10,461) and 20th in receptions (688) in NFL history.


    Starters: Orlando Pace (LT), Chris Dishman (LG), Andy McCollum (C),
    Adam Timmerman (RG), Grant Williams (RT).
    Reserves: Darnell Alford (G), Tom Nutten (G), Blaine Saipaia (G),
    Scott Tercero (T/G), Larry Turner (C)

    The return of Pace after another contract stalemate helps stabilize this unit,
    which was jolted by the loss of '03 starters C Dave Wohlabaugh (hip) and RT
    Kyle Turley (back). Dishman, who came out of retirement to play left guard,
    looks like a good addition. Quick moves will give him trouble, he plays with an
    attitude and can be a road grader in the running game.

    The Rams won't miss a beat at center, where the savvy McCollum returns after
    spending '03 at left guard. Timmerman has been an anchor on the right side
    since joining the team in 1999 as a free agent from Green Bay. He is
    technically sound and still moves well. Williams replaces Turley as the
    starting right tackle. He's nearly 30 pounds trimmer than a year ago, which has
    helped his footwork and quickness. Although not as athletic as Turley,
    Williams' height (6-7) and wingspan make him difficult to get around.

    The depth situation is questionable, although Nutten should help once he gets
    over a turf toe injury and gets back into football shape. He also came out of
    retirement, and was out of football last season. Tercero's play leveled off in
    the final two exhibition games, but still was one of the pleasant surprises of

    The Stat: Including playoffs, Timmerman has played in 159
    consecutive games.


    Starters: Leonard Little (LE), Ryan Pickett (DT), Damione Lewis
    (DT), Bryce Fisher (RE).
    Reserves: Erik Flowers (DE), Anthony Hargrove (DE), Brian Howard
    (DT), Jimmy Kennedy (DT), Tyoka Jackson (DT/DE).

    Even with the loss of Grant Wistrom via free agency, the Rams should be fine at
    end. Not only is Little a premier pass rusher, his run defense and pursuit make
    him one of the league's top all-around ends. Little's drunken-driving trial
    isn't expected to be heard until January at the earliest, so his availability
    shouldn't be a question - at least not in the regular season.

    Bryce Fisher replaces Wistrom at right end. Fisher matches Wistrom in effort,
    but lacks Wistrom's speed. Rookie Anthony Hargrove and Erik Flowers are speedy
    backups. Defensive captain Tyoka Jackson also will be in the mix at DE, but
    might be used more at DT early in the season where the Rams are shorthanded
    because of Jimmy Kennedy's broken foot and Brian Young's free-agent departure.

    It is imperative the team get solid play from starting DTs Ryan Pickett and
    Damione Lewis, or it's going to be a long year for the defense. Pickett has
    rounded into shape after reporting heavy to Macomb. Lewis has had a good camp
    and preseason, but must transfer that play into games and must stay healthy.
    Undrafted rookie Brian Howard is a high-effort player who will be part of the
    rotation at DT.

    The Stat: Only Michael Strahan (52) and Simeon Rice (41 1/2) have
    more sacks over the past three seasons than Little (39).


    Starters: Pisa Tinoisamoa (OLB), Robert Thomas (MLB), Brandon
    Chillar (OLB)
    Reserves: Trev Faulk (MLB), Tommy Polley (OLB).

    In one of the major surprises of camp, it looks as if Chillar has beaten out
    Polley for the starting job at stronside LB. If that's the case, the Rams will
    start a rookie at linebacker for the third straight season. This is a very
    fast, but very young LB corps, with Polley - a fourth-year player - the
    graybeard of the group. Chillar has shown good range and instincts, plus some
    blitzing ability. Thomas is growing into his job as one of the leaders of the
    defense, and could be poised for a breakthrough year.

    An offseason in the system should help Tinoisamoa make fewer mistakes and
    become more disciplined in the system. It's difficult to imagine Polley not
    making a significant contribution over the course of the season, particularly
    in pass coverage - which is his strength. Backup Faulk is expected to be a
    major contributor on special teams.

    The Stat: Tinoisamoa became the first rookie in franchise history to
    lead the team in tackles (121) in 2003.


    Starters: Jerametrius Butler (LCB), Adam Archuleta (SS), Aeneas
    Williams (FS), Kevin Garrett (RCB).
    Reserves: Zack Bronson (S), Rich Coady (S), Travis Fisher (CB),
    DeJuan Groce (CB), Jason Shiver (S), Dwight Anderson (CB).

    Fisher's broken forearm has left the Rams one corner short, and puts the onus
    on second-year players Garrett and Groce to hold down a starting spot for most,
    or all, of the season. Garrett has superior speed, which gives him the
    "recover" ability many CBs lack when a wide receiver gets a step or two on
    them. But Garrett isn't as polished as Groce, who was slowed by a knee injury
    late in the preseason.

    Butler, who was pursued in the offseason by Washington as a restricted free
    agent, returns for his second season as a starter. Butler has good range and
    athleticism, has been more physical in run support, and is playing with more
    confidence. At free safety, Williams looks more comfortable in his second
    season there since switching from corner. Once again, he will move up to cover
    the slot receiver - in cornerback fashion - when the Rams go to their five- and
    six- defensive back packages.

    At strong safety, Archuleta has had a quiet preseason. But he is one of the
    team's top defenders, particularly in run support. Coady will be the fifth
    defensive back, and Lucas enters the season as the No. 6 DB.

    The Stat: Including playoffs, Williams has 15 TD returns on
    interceptions, fumble recoveries, and a blocked field goal.


    Kicker: Jeff Wilkins.
    Punter: Sean Landeta.
    Kickoff returns: Arlen Harris, Mike Furrey.
    Punt returns: Shaun McDonald, Mike Furrey.
    Holder: Dane Looker.
    Deep snapper: Chris Massey.

    Under new special teams coach Mike Stock, the coverage units were noticeably
    improved in the preseason. Punt coverage was excellent. There were a few leaks
    on kickoff coverage, most notably Ahmad Merritt's 87-yard return for Chicago.
    But overall, these units have been sound. It looks as if McDonald gets the
    first crack at the punt returner's job, and he showed flashes of being an
    effective one in the preseason. On kickoff returns, Harris is steady, but lacks
    breakaway ability.

    Wilkins is one of the best kickers in the league, and is coming off one of the
    best seasons for a kicker in NFL history. As he enters his 20th season as an
    NFL punter, Landeta remains better than most.

    The Stat: Wilkins is tied with Mike Lansford for the franchise
    record for points scored (789).

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

Related Topics


  • 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.


    —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, 12:08 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, 11:34 AM
  • 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.

    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.

    GOOD: Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are the best tandem at wide receiver in...
    -08-09-2004, 01:53 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, 07:34 AM
  • RamWraith
    St. Louis Rams Team Report--Good overview of the team
    by RamWraith
    Posted on the site.
    St. Louis Rams Team Report
    Offense by Bob Magaw; Defense by Bob Magaw; OL by Chris Smith; Kickers and Returners by Mike Herman

    Starter - Marc Bulger
    Backups - Jamie Martin, Jeff Smoker, Ryan Fitzpatrick

    Starting Quarterback: Bulger signed an extension prior to 2004 which put an end to an increasingly divisive QB controversy. His inaugural camp getting first team reps fostered the telepathic WR rapport preferred in Mad Martz's passing lab. Bulger shares the same HS as Dan Marino and a similar lightning quick release and catchable ball. When in rhythm, he drops passes into the smallest windows in the league and can pick apart virtually any NFL defense. Taming the mind boggling myriad of Rams formations and shifts reduced INTs (22-14 from '03-'04). Other signs of maturity included going through progressions faster, seeing the field better, hitting second and third targets and passing downfield more accurately. Bulger is cool under fire and is garnering attention for his late game heroics. The Rams had a yardage (#6 NFL) and scoring (#19) disconnect in '04. If Alex Barron stops the horror at RT, beast Steven Jackson unleashes the rushing attack and Holt/Bruce maintain their stature as an elite duo, a "Perfect Storm" confluence could elevate red zone efficiency and bridge the gap between Bulger's elite yardage numbers (283.1 YPG #4 NFL) and pedestrian passing TD total (21).

    Backup Quarterback(s): Martin was brought back in the wake of last season's disastrous Chris Chandler signing. While unspectacular, a career backup who has played 27 games in six seasons (some merely in relief or mop up duty), with a mediocre 14/13 TD/INT ratio, Martz feels secure knowing Martin's familiarity with the intricacies of the system and ability to execute it proficiently if needed. Smoker was a sixth rounder in the '04 draft who likely would have gone higher if not for a public battle with substance abuse. He won Martz over with the forthright manner in which he detailed his problem and rehab efforts. Smoker was perhaps best known for being part of a record-setting battery at Michigan State with Charles Rogers. Though Bulger is the man, Smoker is expected to battle Martin for #2 QB in camp. While lacking prototypical size, positive attributes include a strong arm and unflappable aura. Harvard QB Fitzpatrick should master Martz's brainy playbook quickly.

    Running Backs
    Starter - Steven Jackson
    Backups - Marshall Faulk, Arlen Harris
    Fullback - Joey Goodspeed, Madison Hedge****

    Starting Running Back: Jackson was declared the starter in the offseason. He had a full yard higher (5.0) YPC average than Faulk and could be a more dangerous red zone weapon at this stage. With the future HOFer a shell of his former self, the Rams pounced on Jackson in the 2004 draft (parting with a fourth to move...
    -05-12-2005, 05:08 AM