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Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

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  • Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Sep. 21 2004

    Who would have thought Tony Horne would be so hard to replace?

    From 1998 through 2000, Horne returned five kickoffs for touchdowns for the
    Rams - four in the regular season, and one in the playoffs. With Horne leading
    the way, the Rams led the league in kickoff returns and average drive start
    (following kickoffs) in 1999.

    He was considered one of the NFL's most feared return men when he signed with
    Kansas City as a restricted free agent after the 2000 season. But beset by a
    toe problem, he never played another game in the NFL, getting cut by the Chiefs
    on Sept. 3, 2001.

    Nonetheless, when Horne departed, so did the Rams' kickoff return game. They
    haven't scored on a kickoff return since Horne left. In fact, they haven't
    really come close. Only once since 2000 has the team had a kickoff return go
    for more than 42 yards, with coach Mike Martz going through a succession of
    return men:

    In 2001, Trung Canidate was the primary kickoff returner, but Yo
    Murphy, Dre Bly and Aveion Cason also had at least four returns apiece.

    In '02, it was Terrence Wilkins, but Canidate, Troy Edwards and
    Lamar Gordon also got in the picture, particularly when Wilkins was benched for
    the final three games of the season.

    Last season, Arlen Harris averaged 23.0 yards on 51 returns, but
    Mike Furrey (seven returns), Joffrey Reynolds (six) - remember him? - and even
    DeJuan Groce (one) also got into the act.

    So what does Martz look for in a kickoff returner?

    "Get us in good field position," Martz said. "The ideal guy would be a guy like
    Tony Horne, that's a threat to take it the distance at any time. That's what
    you'd like to have. But we don't have that right now."

    Not even close. Two games into the season, the Rams have one of the worst
    kickoff return games in the NFL. They have advanced the ball no farther than
    the 23-yard line on any return this season - and that's the only time they've
    advanced the ball past the 20 on a kick that actually was returned. (Sunday
    against Atlanta, they started on the 40 - per league rule - when Jay Feely's
    fourth-quarter kickoff rolled out of bounds.)

    Harris handled the Rams' first kickoff return of the season, against Arizona,
    but has since given way to rookie Steven Jackson.

    "Steven is fearless," Martz said. "He absolutely is, and he's a guy that will
    fly up in there and hit a seam and go with it. But the more involved he becomes
    in the offense, the less chance we'll use him as a kickoff returner."

    Jackson didn't return any kickoffs in the preseason, but Martz decided to try
    him against Arizona and Atlanta because, "I just felt like he's such a good
    open-field runner - he sees things so well - that we're going to get good field
    position out of it."

    But a couple of Jackson's returns have been moved back because of holding
    penalties. And Jackson didn't help matters on a touchback against the Falcons,
    getting penalized 10 yards for taunting.

    "I guess he just did it without thinking," Martz said. "He was upset. You just
    have to have better control of your emotions. You just do. We obviously
    addressed it."

    Kickoff returns frequently end in violent collisions. But when asked if he was
    worried about the danger of injury with Jackson returning kicks, Martz joked:
    "He won't hurt anybody. ... I told him to take it easy on guys when he returns
    the ball."

    Without getting specific, Martz said the team is addressing its kick return

    "We were really close on a couple of them, very close," he said. "We've got a
    lot of new guys back there. And obviously with Steven returning kicks, he's not
    done it for a while. We'll get that going."

    Jackson last returned kicks as a freshman at Oregon State in 2001. He returned
    only seven that season but had a 34.3-yard average, including an 89-yard
    touchdown against Northern Arizona

  • #2
    Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

    Like Avenger said, it's nice to see that some writers are getting their ideas for articles from the Rams message boards. But that doesn't excuse Thomas from not following up with the question why?

    Why are the Rams having such a hard time for so long in finding "the ideal guy ... that's a threat to take it the distance at any time" ? Granted it's a crap shoot to identify the "ideal guy". But its clear for all to see that lumbering RBs aren't going to fit the mold. Yet it is deja vue all over again and again and again ...


    • #3
      Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

      You'd think Jim would give us a royalty or two, but no!


      • #4
        Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

        The Rams have a different kick returner every year. They simply need to pick a guy and stick with him. Steven Jackson is obviously not that guy, because he won't be a backup for much longer. Once DeJuan Groce and Kevin Curtis are fully recovered from their injuries, I'd like to see them get a chance.


        • #5
          Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

          Originally posted by AvengerRam
          You'd think Jim would give us a royalty or two, but no!
          Or at least a column inch.


          • #6
            Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it


            The Bears have waived wide receiver/kick returner Daryl Jones. Through two games, Jones had averaged 18.7 yards per return and had zero receptions

            Anyone know about this guy? I'd like to see someone back there that MIGHT make a big play. Why don't we have McDonald back there? He's not being used much at wr so why not get him on the field with his speed. Why not this, why not that? There seem to be so many options that would be better than putting the supposed future of the team back there to plod his way up to the 15.


            • #7
              Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

              First of all, I would like to congratulate mokler for posting in this thread. Growth has already started.

              Now, about a KR. I think the reason McDonald isn't back there is due to Curtis and his shin splints. Furrey has great hands for a KR but no speed. This won't come as a revelation to anyone, but the ST's just dosen't seem to be a major focal point for Martz for some reason.


              • #8
                Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

                What Bears fans think.
                Small, fast, shifty, but somehow average on returns.


                • #9
                  Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

                  I would like to thank Tex for ALMOST only commenting on the subject rather than the poster.

                  I disagree about McDonald though. If Martz is that scared of losing his 4th receiver then...I don't even know what to think. Obviously the ST's coaches over the years weren't the only problem, if a problem at all. You're right, Martz is doing something wrong in the ST's department.


                  • #10
                    Horne is long gone, and so too is Alvin Hammond.

                    Originally posted by txramsfan
                    I think the reason McDonald isn't back there is due to Curtis and his shin splints.
                    I think the point sMokerMan was making was that McDonald has been so underutilized at WR that if the Rams want to exploit his speed it couldn't hurt to put him back at KR. Surely Looker can make up for the loss of Curtis' catches.


                    • #11
                      Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

                      McDonald is returning punts, not sure if the Rams want to use him on KRs also.


                      • #12
                        Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

                        Originally posted by txramsfan
                        McDonald is returning punts,
                        If that's what you call it.


                        • #13
                          Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

                          The kickoff return is nice. It's nice to have a guy like Dante Hall or Desmond Howard. But, in my opinion, the purpose of that guy is to HOLD ON TO THE BALL (<cough> Az <cough) and get good field position. I'm usually more worried about the bad play on the kickoffs and punts that let guys go all over the place.


                          • #14
                            Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

                            Is Horne still playing?
                            JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS

                            "HIT HARD, HIT FAST, AND HIT OFTEN"
                            Adm. William "Bull" Halsey


                            • #15
                              Re: Horne is long gone, and Rams still feel it

                              I've got to believe there's a specialist out there somewhere...

                              Someone who returned kicks in NFL Europe? Or the Arena league? Or college?

                              That said, you'd think other specialists would be easier to find, but the truth is a guy like long-snapper extraordinare Chris Massey is, in fact, a rare commodity.


                              Related Topics


                              • RamWraith
                                Special teams not so special
                                by RamWraith
                                By Jim Thomas
                                ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

                                2004: The Rams were 31st in punt coverage and 31st in kickoff returns among the NFL's 32 teams.

                                2005: Special teams failures last week against the ***** leave many wondering if the Rams are improved.

                                The mission was both simple and ambitious for the Rams' special teams unit Sunday in San Francisco.

                                "We wanted to come out and set the tone that this is going to be one of the top-notch special teams in the league," safety Mike Furrey said.

                                It began with Chris Johnson stepping out of bounds on the 1 on the opening kickoff, followed by a 40-yard kickoff return by San Francisco's Maurice Hooks, Otis Amey's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown and a successful onside kick by ***** place-kicker Joe Nedney. Oops!

                                All of which took place a mere 1 1/2 quarters into the game.

                                "It wasn't the debut that we had envisioned," special teams coach Bob Ligashesky said Thursday. "But any time something like that happens, obviously, you can't wait for your next opportunity to play."

                                Opportunity knocks Sunday at Sun Devil Stadium against the Arizona Cardinals.

                                This year was supposed to be different. Coach Mike Martz not only hired the young, energetic Ligashesky to run special teams, but he also hired an assistant for Ligashesky, Charles Bankins.

                                Whether it was via the draft or through signing low-cost free agents, the Rams added players with an eye toward improving special teams. They appear to be spending more time on the practice field than ever before under Martz on special teams.

                                But despite this newfound - and some might say - overdue emphasis on special teams, the results looked too familiar against the *****. It looked very much like the same special teams unit that ranked:

                                Last in 2003, and 30th in 2004 in punt coverage in the 32-team NFL.

                                Thirtieth or lower in kickoff coverage in four of the past five seasons.

                                Thirty-first in kickoff returns last season.

                                Thirty-first in punt returns a year ago.

                                The rocky start against the ***** prompted cries of "here we go again" throughout Rams Nation.

                                "That's part of being a special teams coach," Ligashesky said. "One thing you know is that nothing ever is going to go 100 percent your way. You could have 28 plays of special teams, and if one play doesn't go your way, that's the play that's going to stay with you. So, I knew what I was coming into, and accepted it with open arms."

                                One week into the season, Martz remains convinced things will work out with Ligashesky and with special teams.

                                "I'm very confident, the rest of the year, that this is going to work fine," Martz said. "This guy that's...
                                -09-16-2005, 05:56 AM
                              • RamWraith
                                Martz says Landeta needs to produce
                                by RamWraith
                                By Jim Thomas
                                Of the Post-Dispatch
                                Monday, Nov. 22 2004

                                Sleepless in St. Louis.

                                It has come to that for Rams coach Mike Martz as he grapples with how to keep
                                his team afloat. And more precisely, how to get a handle on the ongoing
                                nightmare that is Rams special teams.

                                "I went back and looked at it really hard this morning," Martz said Monday
                                afternoon. "Didn't sleep at all last night. This is the first night in my
                                coaching career that I didn't sleep. A lot of things went through my head. But
                                the more I thought about it, the more clear it became.

                                "And as I was able to talk to more coaches this morning, it even became more
                                clear. I do know what the approach is and the course that we'll take."

                                Martz declined to provide specifics. But a couple of things were clear by late
                                Monday afternoon. For one, veteran punter Sean Landeta is now officially on
                                notice. That became clear during Martz's Monday news conference.

                                Buffalo returned three Landeta punts for 148 yards Sunday - a Bills franchise

                                The punt return yardage total also was the second-highest ever recorded against
                                a Rams team - exceeded only by Washington's 155 yards in punt returns against
                                the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 21, 1963. Martz made it a point Monday to mention
                                that not all of those Buffalo return yards were caused by faulty coverage.

                                "We just punted the ball very poorly," Martz said. "A 26- yard punt, you know,
                                that's not good. That's going to come back at you no matter how you look at it.
                                Sean didn't punt well at all. He hasn't for some time now. So that's a major

                                Landeta's 26-yard punt came in the first half Sunday. Actually, there was no
                                return on the play, with Nate Clements fielding it on a fair catch. But Buffalo
                                took over on its 49 and scored its second touchdown of the game three plays

                                Of course, the major damage occurred in the third quarter, when a 39-yard
                                Landeta punt was returned 53 yards by Jonathan Smith to the Rams' 5, setting up
                                a Buffalo TD. Less than 3 minutes later, Clements returned a 54-yard punt 86
                                yards for a TD. Martz said the hang time on the 54-yarder was not good enough.

                                "No, it wasn't," Martz said. "And those always come back at you - those rockets
                                that go down the middle of the field."

                                During his news conference, Martz also indicated in general that some players
                                were in the process of playing themselves out of jobs - at least jobs with the
                                Rams beyond this season. And in the case of defensive back Tod McBride, the
                                Rams didn't wait until next season.

                                The Rams were...
                                -11-23-2004, 04:38 AM
                              • RamWraith
                                Martz sticks to bye-week routine
                                by RamWraith
                                By Bill Coats
                                Of the Post-Dispatch

                                With an inelegant defeat looming large in their rear-view mirror and the heretofore unbeatable New England Patriots just up the road, the Rams are going on vacation.

                                OK, not really. But Mike Martz plans to give his troops plenty of time to heal their wounds and catch their breath during this bye week. They won't return to the practice field until Monday - six days before the defending Super Bowl-champion Patriots, 6-0 this season and winners of their past 21 games - visit the Edward Jones Dome.

                                Martz said the Rams would "lift and run this week. This has been our procedure each year with bye. It's not contingent on anything other than, I've always felt like these players need time to recover physically. For about five weeks here, we've had a pretty good run, out to the (West) Coast and back (twice), and Monday night, and got things kind of off schedule a little bit. We need to let them calm down a little bit, get back physically.

                                "We can come back and kind of regroup on Monday and get going again."

                                Martz's method has worked to perfection in the past: He's 4-0 in games after a bye week, a record second only to Philadelphia's Andy Reid (6-0) among active NFL coaches. Martz also said he and his staff would use the extra time for evaluation - and re-evaluation - in the wake of Sunday's 31-14 loss to the previously winless Dolphins in Miami.

                                "It gives us a chance sit down and look at some things," he said, "particularly any changes from a personnel standpoint that we feel like we need to make, anything we want to do differently on either side of the ball."

                                Those figure to be lengthy sessions, given the multitude of breakdowns that scuttled the Rams' chances vs. the Dolphins. Martz was particularly unhappy about the shoddy special-teams play.

                                "We've got to address a lot of things with our special teams," Martz said. "We need to look at our special teams in its entirety and figure out where we're going with it. ... We've started to put starters on special teams, and we shouldn't have to. Because we've got some guys, they're here because that's part of their role. We feel like we've got to compensate for those guys, and that's just not good."

                                Still on top

                                While the Rams were taking a header in Miami, their chief NFC West rival was committing a pratfall of its own. Seattle's 25-17 loss at Arizona kept the Rams (4-3) in first place in the division, a half-game ahead of the Seahawks (3-3). No other division leader has a record worse than 5-2.

                                "It's a step-by-step process, and we need to win the division. That needs to be our focus," Martz said. "And however you get that done, that's what you have to do; whatever your record is, it is. And as long as we can stay atop the...
                                -10-26-2004, 06:55 AM
                              • RamWraith
                                Ligashesky brings energy in trying to revamp kick, return teams
                                by RamWraith
                                By Bill Coats
                                Of the Post-Dispatch

                                What's a rarer sighting: a) an ivory-billed woodpecker, until recently thought to be extinct, or b) the same man occupying the second-floor office of the special-teams coach at Rams Park for more than one year?

                                Mike Stock, Bobby April and Larry Pasquale might well choose b). All were hired and fired as Mike Martz's special-teams coach over the past five seasons. Of the three, only April lasted more than one year in St. Louis.

                                Faulty special-teams play has been a constant on Martz's watch, and the stumbling and bumbling never were more evident than last season. The Rams, under Stock, ranked 31st in the 32-team NFL in punt returns (4.8-yard average) and kickoff returns (19.1). They didn't cover any better, finishing 30th in defending punt returns (11.9) and 32nd on kickoffs (25.5).

                                And they saved their worst for last: Atlanta's Allen Rossum set a league postseason record by piling up 152 yards in punt returns, including a 68-yard touchdown dash, in the Falcons' 47-17 drubbing of the Rams in the NFC semifinals on Jan. 15. Stock was dismissed five days later.

                                Nonetheless, Bob Ligashesky said job security wasn't atop his priority list when the following day he decided to accept Martz's offer to replace Stock. "I didn't really think about that," said Ligashesky, 43. "You really think about more that it's an opportunity to become part of a successful organization."

                                Martz and Ligashesky worked together from 1986 to 1988, as assistant coaches at Arizona State. Martz moved up to the NFL in 1992, as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams. Ligashesky, a Pittsburgh native, stayed with college football, moving on to Kent State, Bowling Green and finally Pittsburgh from 2000-03.

                                His first, and only, pro experience came last year as an assistant to special-teams coach Pete Rodriguez in Jacksonville. In 2004, the Jaguars ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in most special-teams categories.

                                Martz said he hadn't kept in touch with Ligashesky and was surprised when his former colleague's name kept coming up as he asked others around the league about candidates to succeed Stock. "They said, 'There's this guy down in Jacksonville ... '" Martz said.

                                Ligashesky was given considerable opportunity during the recent three-day minicamp to drill his various units. According to Martz, he did so at a breakneck pace and yet with painstaking precision.

                                "He's high-energy," Martz said. "I think the approach and the way he goes about it, the attention to details, is very significant. It's a marked difference." Ligashesky said his frenetic behavior on the field comes naturally. "I don't really think about it when I'm out there," he said. "I just know that I'm trying to get to everybody in a small amount of time."...
                                -06-14-2005, 05:56 AM
                              • RamWraith
                                Mike Martz punts special teams coach
                                by RamWraith
                                By Jim Thomas
                                Of the Post-Dispatch
                                Thursday, Jan. 20 2005

                                Less than a week after concluding the season with a thud against Atlanta, the
                                Rams have two vacancies on Mike Martz's coaching staff.

                                Special teams coach Mike Stock has been fired, and secondary coach Perry Fewell
                                has been hired by Chicago to coach the Bears' secondary.
                                Stock, 65, was with the Rams one season and becomes the third special teams
                                coach to come and go in Martz's five seasons as head coach. Larry Pasquale was
                                fired after one season in 2000, and Bobby April's contract was not renewed
                                after three seasons with the club (2001-03).
                                "I've got nothing negative to say," Stock said Thursday night. "They've been
                                very nice to me. It's been a real honor to be here. I feel bad because we
                                didn't produce more. I feel very embarrassed that we didn't perform to the
                                level that I've been used to."
                                A former fullback for legendary coach Ara Parseghian at Northwestern, Stock
                                came to St. Louis with a reputation as a tough, old-school style of coach.
                                Which was just what Martz was looking for.
                                "He's hard-nosed. He pays attention to all the little details of each phase of
                                special teams," Martz said, at the time Stock was hired one year ago.
                                Like Pasquale and April before him, Stock came to St. Louis with a
                                well-established reputation in NFL coaching circles. Stock had spent 12 of his
                                previous 14 NFL seasons coaching special teams in Cincinnati, Kansas City and
                                Washington. He was named NFL special teams coach of the year in 1997 with the
                                "I think what I've been able to accomplish up to this time speaks for itself,"
                                Stock said Thursday.
                                But like Pasquale and April before him, Stock was unable to get the Rams'
                                special teams on track.
                                "My year here is just basically a continuation of what's happened in the past,"
                                Stock said, referring to the special teams problems here that preceded him.
                                "But I don't know if anything's going to change."
                                The Rams have been struggling to find kickoff-return and punt-return men since
                                the departure of Tony Horne and Az-Zahir Hakim. Unlike many NFL teams, St.
                                Louis uses very few starters on special teams - and the backups didn't get much
                                done this season covering kicks and blocking for return men. The Rams finished
                                at or near the bottom of the league in almost every major special teams
                                "I was just happy for the opportunity," Stock said. "The Rams are a great
                                He just would have liked more of an opportunity.

                                "It's too bad that I couldn't have another chance," Stock said. "I don't think
                                one year's a way...
                                -01-21-2005, 06:18 AM