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Time for panic in Rams Nation?

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  • Time for panic in Rams Nation?

    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist

    Here at Sports, we've detected a measure of panic in Rams Nation. The electronic correspondence from our readers has become rather terse.

    That 34-17 loss at Atlanta has triggered sweeping criticism of the football operation. Defensive coordinator Larry Marmie has become a lightning rod for abuse, just two games into his regime.

    We've also heard complaints about the recent Rams drafts and the team's seeming inability to fill defensive holes.

    But it's tough to make generalizations about Marmie or the front office's draft acumen for two obvious reasons: (1) The defense has lost key players to free agency; and, (2) the defense has gotten hammered by injuries.

    Let's start with Marmie. His hiring drew some criticism because he goes way back with head coach Mike Martz, who, for reasons we've outlined in the Post-Dispatch, has become a lightning rod himself.

    Marmie also coached in Arizona, a traditionally inept franchise viewed with scorn in these parts. So he arrived with two strikes against him, in the eyes of many fans.

    Is he the right guy to coordinate this defense? That's impossible to say after one victory and one loss, especially when the personnel issues are factored in.

    Marmie inherited a unit that got gashed on the ground last season, then lost critical talent over the winter.

    This would be a better defense with Grant Wistrom starting at right defensive end and Brian Young starting inside at defensive tackle. Both are playmakers with motors that seldom quit.

    Aside from Leonard Little, Wistrom and Young were the Rams' two most disruptive defensive linemen last season. But now Young is a New Orleans Saint, posed to face the Rams this Sunday, and Wistrom is raking in large dollars in Seattle.

    This also would be a better defense with Travis Fisher starting as one of the cornerbacks. This unit would be more stout against the run if Jimmy Kennedy was in the defensive tackle rotation.

    Both players are injured, though, taxing this team's depth. Now another promising player, cornerback DeJuan Groce, is hobbled by a sprained knee.

    Rookie Dwight Anderson, a street free agent, saw considerable action at cornerback Sunday. The team continues signing veteran safeties off the street; after Zack Bronson suffered a broken ankle and Jason Sehorn flunked his physical, the team is giving former Gridbird Kwamie Lassiter a try.

    All this tells us the secondary is in a state of emergency, through no fault of Marmie's. And it's also tough to fault the Rams' draft record for these shortcomings.

    Wistrom, Young and Dre' Bly (gone after the '03 season) were salary cap casualties. The Rams drafted and developed them, only to watch them get big dollars to go elsewhere.

    As we noted, Fisher and Kennedy are hurt. Put those two and the three free-agent losses in the mix and the Rams' defense is a whole lot better.

    It's too early to write off defensive tackles Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett, first-round picks that have yet to become consistent forces. They are getting their chance to become cornerstone players this season, so let's see what they do with it.

    They were fine against Arizona and not-so-good against the Falcons. Now we will see if they rebound against the Saints.

    What are we to make of the linebackers? Tommy Polley used to have great promise, but he struggled mightily in camp and then suffered a broken rib during the season opener. He may only get one more shot to prove he isn't a washout.

    Robert Thomas, Pisa Tinoisamoa and rookie Brandon Chillar might comprise the least-experienced linebacker corps in the league. If this trio can learn from some of the mishaps inn Atlanta, this could become a pretty good unit.

    But on-the-job training can get pretty ugly, as Rams Nation saw Sunday.

    Falcons quarterback Michael Vick abused the Rams by getting downfield on scrambles and designed runs. The Rams tried to game-plan against his running ability, but corralling Vick can be a chore.

    When you really break down Sunday's performance, though, you can identify the make-or-break plays that the Rams simply failed to make.

    On the first Atlanta possession of the game, the defense earned a three-and-out stop. But on the second possession, Rams safety Adam Archuleta failed to nab Falcons fullback Justin Griffith as he turned the corner with a swing pass.

    The result? A 62-yard gain that set up the first Falcons touchdown.

    After another three-and-out stop, the defense let another opportunity get away. The Rams thwarted an end-around run by Peerless Price, only to allow him to reverse his field, escape the posse and turn a massive loss into a nine-yard gain.

    That narrow escape kept the Falcons rolling toward their second touchdown.

    Had the Rams made those two plays, they would not have fallen into a 17-7 halftime hole. Had the Rams made those two plays, they could have gained the upper hand in the game and changed its outcome.

    "When the game is that close and there is a play that's there to be made," Martz said Monday, "you have to make that play."

    Maybe these Rams will learn to make those plays. Or maybe they won't. Let's give Marmie a few weeks to see if he can make chicken salad out of chicken goop

  • #2
    Re: Time for panic in Rams Nation?

    I'm increasingly viewing Gordon's writing as "chicken goop."

    Help me out... what (other than meeting a quota and a deadline) was the point of that article? To state the obvious? To point a finger at Marmie? To ramble on aimlessly?

    Geez... I can't believe these guys get paid to write this stuff.


    • #3
      Re: Time for panic in Rams Nation?

      On a side note...

      If Brian Young recovers a fumble for the Saints in this game, I'll puke. :confused:


      • #4
        Re: Time for panic in Rams Nation?

        If it has to happen, I'd prefer if we fumbled it at the goalline and he whiffs on it, then we recover for the touchdown. ;)