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  • Rams still have plenty of issues

    Rams still have plenty of issues

    Columnist Jeff Gordon
    (E-mail a "Letter to Gordo")By Jeff Gordon

    Yes, the Rams managed to win the Governor’s Cup on Thursday night and make St. Louis proud. They beat the hapless Kansas City Chiefs 17-9 to finish the preseason with a 3-1 record.

    But the Rams still have a great deal of work to do.

    Several issues arose as they tested their depth against the Chiefs depth Thursday night. The most glaring came on the defensive side of the ball, where the Rams blew assignments and missed tackles.

    That resulted in numerous big Chiefs plays at the Edward Jones Dome:

    -- Chiefs running back Larry Johnson slicing through a gaping hole, shaking off an open-field tackle and rambling 41 yards with the ball.

    -- Tight end Sean Ryan bursting through a seam in the Rams secondary to catch a 40-yard pass right down the middle of the field.

    -- Somebody named Dantrelle Savage ping-ponging through the Rams defense for a huge 71-yard run. (And to think the Rams believed they had him trapped inside the Chiefs 5.)

    -- Third quarterback Tyler Thigpen throwing up a fair catch ball and Ashley Lelie pulling it in for a 43-yard again against safety David Roach, who had a long night.

    -- Somebody named Jackie Battle took a swing pass and rambled 25 yards with it -– and came THISCLOSE to taking it the distance.

    The Rams defense forced turnovers and made big stops, too. They were rock solid on third down. They held firm in the red zone and limited the Chiefs to field goals.

    “I thought the mindset and approach was really good,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “The turnovers again are helpful in winning a football game.”

    Still, all those big gainers will give the coaches plenty to go over as the Rams prepare to start the real season. The Rams won’t win many real games while allowing 170 yards rushing.

    Here are a few other observations:

    -- With Tye Hill gone, cornerback Cord Parks made his pitch for a roster spot -– and he did it asserting himself as a kick returner. Might he make the final cut as a special teamer?

    -- Also, cornerback Quincy “Tye who?” Butler picked off another preseason pass and ran it back for the score. Ladies and gentlemen, this is how you play your way onto a football team.

    -- Also, cornerback Justin King made an acrobatic fourth-quarter interception, validating his ascension into the nickel back role. Later, though, he suffered a knee injury that could cloud the job competition at this position.

    -- Defensive tackle Adam Carriker got hurt again. This time it was his shoulder. This was probably not a great career development for him. The Rams have a LOT of defensive tackles to choose from and Carriker already was battling for a spot.

    -- Offensive tackle Jason Smith had a few glitches in pass blocking again. On one of them, quarterback Kyle Boller had to bust a move to avoid getting creamed. But the kid is a worker, so it is too soon to be concerned about his transition from a spread collegiate offense to a West Coast scheme in the NFL.

    -- Wide receiver Ronald Curry seemed to solidify his spot in the Rams offense by taking the ball downfield for post-reception yardage. He looks to be an excellent pick-up by GM Billy Devaney.

    -- Until he threw an interception in his own zone late in the first half, quarterback Brock Berlin was solid. Overall, he was 9 of 17 for 97 yards and a touchdown (to tight end Daniel Fells, with a nice throw through red zone traffic). Berlin’s numbers would have been even bigger had Derek Stanley not dropped a would-be TD pass as two defenders collided going for the ball.

    -- Rookie quarterback Keith Null coughed up a fumble on an ugly-looking broken play. But as time started to run out on his employment bid, he finally completed some downfield passes to move the chains. Was that enough to keep him around?

    -- Running back Samkon Gado got the start and got eight touches. His highlight: Taking a direct snap from center in the “Wildcat” formation and hitting a hole for 5 yards. Unfortunately, he left the game early with a rib injury -– further clouding the running back scenario.

    -- Fellow running backs Kenneth Darby, Antonio Pittman and Chris Ogbonnaya each made their case for continuing employment. But the Rams can’t keep everybody, unless the team can get Ogbonnaya on the practice squad.

    (Also, Devaney will monitor the marketplace. Several veteran backs could become available as teams make their final cuts.)

    -- The run blocking needs to get a LOT better. The Rams finished with 76 yards on the ground with just 2.4 yards per carry. They need to get their starting group together and generate some push.

    -- Defensive end Victor Adeyanju isn’t known for his pass-rushing skills, but he earned one sack and delivered a second big QB hit. He is known as a stout run stuffer, but he got penetration in this game.

    -- Defensive end C.J. Ah You also had an active game. On balance, the Rams defensive line depth held up well during this preseason.

    -- Defensive end Eric Moore suffered a hand injury, which was an unfortunate ending to a strong preseason. The competition for jobs at that position has been intense.

    So now come the cuts. About half of them will be easy and injuries could pick off a few more spots. The last eight to 10 roster decisions will be difficult, which tells you that Devaney did a good job assembling a deep training camp.

    Now the coaching staff must finalize the opening 53-man roster, clean up some issues, build on the progress and prepare for the real games.

    “The challenge is going to get tougher,” Spagnuolo said. “We know the mountain is going to get a lot tougher when we tee it up next week. Everybody has to step it up a notch, that's what the NFL is all about.”
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • #2
    Re: Rams still have plenty of issues

    I'm afraid we've seen what our running game is going to face each and every week. Teams are loading up the box and our o-line isn't beating them. Smith gave up some horrible pass protection plays but he ALWAYS had energy and played hard. Personally, I'm giving him a pass for 8+ games to learn the position. I love how after plays (good or bad) he is running to help his teammates up and running back to the huddle.

    Jacob Bell was horrible last night IMO. Not playing together as a squad is going to bite them in Seattle.


    • #3
      Re: Rams still have plenty of issues

      Maybe Carriker has got to go. Do we have any decent bodies to replace him?


      • #4
        Re: Rams still have plenty of issues

        Originally posted by ScottD413
        Maybe Carriker has got to go. Do we have any decent bodies to replace him?
        We brought in Darrell Scott, Gary Gibson and Hollis Thomas this offseason, so a lot of bodies have been added, but none are as talented as Carriker is supposed to be. But, that's a big supposed to be. Gibson has the starting job at the moment, so even though he's being written off by most on this site, he's a lock to make the roster in my book. I think we were looking at keeping 5 DT's but now with Carriker a possible IR candidate keeping 4 makes more sense. Those four would be Ryan, Scott, Gibson and Thomas with AC going on IR.
        I believe!:ram:


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        • MFranke
          RamView, 9/3/2009: Rams 17, Chiefs 9 (Long)
          by MFranke
          RamView, September 3, 2009
          From Row HH
          (Report and opinions from the game.)
          Preseason Game #4: Rams 17, Chiefs 9

          The St. Louis Rams – 2009 Missouri state champs! But more important than that, believe it or not, were the final intrasquad contests, at nearly every position. RamView will now take on the daunting task of breaking down those battles while not detracting from the historical nature of the Rams bringing the storied Governor’s Cup back east…

          * QB: Whoever won the fight at third QB tonight didn’t do it by knockout. Brock Berlin (9-17-97) probably had the better night, despite a bad interception deep in the Rams’ own end in the 2nd. Berlin underthrew what was supposed to be a quick out for Daniel Fells. Hard to believe he didn’t see DaJuan Morgan out there, so I’m assuming the throw was worse than the decision was. Berlin played the second quarter and led the Rams on an earlier TD drive, making several nice throws along the way. After being robbed of a 33-yard TD pass thanks to Derek Stanley’s brutal drop, he hit Nate Jones on the sideline at the 6 with a 27- yard pass, and shortly after, drilled a pass to Fells in traffic at the goal line for the go-ahead TD. Berlin’s engineered some TD drives this summer; his ability to finish drives has to work in his favor. Keith Null (9-17-78) auditioned the whole second half, hitting only one long throw of note, as 23-yarder to Sean Walker. Null didn’t show a lot of touch on what you’d have to call classic WCO throws. Several of the five-yard slant-variety throws he made were high, hard ones his receiver couldn’t handle. Easy there, hoss. Null also fumbled on a completely-blown running play and walked right into a sack in the 4th. Tonight’s starter was actually Kyle Boller (3-4-24), who barely broke even if you take away the 18 yards he lost on just two sacks. I have no idea what the decision’s going to be at QB. Taking the snap from center, having to deal with blitzes, Null hasn’t looked ready to run the offense the last couple of weeks. Yeah, about as ready as Berlin was to play in Cincinnati a couple of years ago. And Steve Spagnuolo’s last team in New York wasn’t that concerned about entering recent seasons without much experience at third string, like Andre Woodson or Hefty Lefty Lorenzen, both 7th-round picks iirc. The guess here is that Berlin’s really going to wish he had that interception back. Waiver bait: Berlin.

          * RB: The muddle behind Steven Jackson on the depth chart got even more muddled when Samkon Gado (6-17) left the game due to a rib injury. And even more muddled because the other backs didn’t make much of their golden ticket. Antonio Pittman (3-3) made a couple of nice blitz pickups but didn’t find much running room. Kenneth Darby (3-14) weaved through the middle nicely a couple of times. Chris Ogbannaya (12-41) got extensive work in the 2nd half. He popped a couple of 10-yard runs early but spent the rest of...
          -09-04-2009, 11:14 AM
        • MFranke
          RamView, 8/21/2009: Falcons 20, Rams 13 (Long)
          by MFranke
          RamView, August 21, 2009
          From Row HH
          (Report and opinions from the game.)
          Preseason Game #2: Falcons 20, Rams 13

          Preseason is easy to overreact to; trust me, I'm an expert at it. The Rams definitely showed flaws, some painfully familiar, while getting overpowered by the Falcons tonight. But just as those weren't the 1999 Rams who won in New York last week, those weren't the 2007-08 Rams last night. While not ignoring the minuses, we'll be better off heeding the timeless words of Allen Iverson. We're talking about practice!

          Position by position:
          * QB: Now that I know Kyle Boller is dating former Miss California Carrie Prejean, who joins a list that includes Tara Reid and Petra Nemcova, all I can think now when I see him is, “Stoney Case”. If Boller (9-16-91) was as rusty in the singles scene as he was on the field tonight, he'd be dating Madeline Albright. Boller was about as accurate as a rookie weatherman at times. Most of his sideline passes were adventures. At least two of them should have been picked off. Laurent Robinson was open by a good couple of yards for what should have been a 40-yard TD in the 2nd, and Boller threw a bomb out of bounds that the WR couldn't even get to. He had Randy McMichael open by a mile on a dig route deep in Atlanta territory in the 2nd and threw the pass into the ground, short of him by yards. He had Keenan Burton open on one sideline pass, pumped, then had to roll out Burton's direction and throw him the pass on the comeback, that way he could get it out there. Yikes. I understand Boller's coming off shoulder surgery, and that he had men in his face on some of his throws, but everybody else understand that we're going to miss Marc Bulger if he stays hurt. A lot. I'll try to account for Boller's rust and that we've been spoiled by pinpoint-accurate throwers like Bulger and Kurt Warner for a decade. But Boller's numbers on the night were inches from being Ryan Leaf-quality. Speaking of Leaf, his protege Keith Null (6-9-56) had a pretty nice 4th quarter, though Null should look good in the 2:00 drill; that's basically his college offense. Null was accurate, threw the ball into some tight spots, showed a sweet play fake, and ran the offense and stood tall in the pocket with poise. He drove the Rams right down the field from their 35 toward the tying TD before Sean Walker got knocked off his route on a 4th-down blitz, and Null's spot pass for him was intercepted in the end zone. But it looks more and more like the kid's got “it”. That may be a bad thing for Brock Berlin (5-8-71), though he didn't have a bad 3rd quarter. His TD pass to Derek Stanley was a suh-weet throw. He couldn't keep the momentum going, though, taking a sack the next possession despite having plenty of time to throw and Jerome Johnson out in the flat lonelier than a pork chop at a vegan buffet. Thank you! I'll be here all week. So will Berlin, though thanks to Null's emergence, I'm...
          -08-22-2009, 10:40 AM
        • MFranke
          RamView, 8/14/2009: Rams 23, Jets 20 (Long)
          by MFranke
          RamView, August 14, 2009
          From The Couch
          (Report and opinions on the game.)
          Preseason Game #1: Rams 23, Jets 20

          Last year's disastrous preseason opener led to a disaster of a season. With tonight's game, Rams fans can hope the team has put a lot of 2008 behind it. Compare the first preseason games. Winning 23-20 instead of losing 34-13? I'll take it. Giving up 102 yards on the ground instead of 343? I'll definitely take it. The offense that settles for too many field goals and still doesn't protect Marc Bulger adequately? We'll have to wait on that. But this year's Rams are starting off on the right foot, instead of shooting themselves in it.

          Position by position:
          * QB: Marc Bulger (4-4-77) played about a quarter and a half, and when his teammates protected him, he looked sharp and threw accurately, including as good a pass as he's thrown as a pro, a 50-yard bomb he dropped right into Laurent Robinson's breadbasket in the 2nd. Protection problems, though, got Bulger sacked a startling three times and forced the offense to settle for 3 FGs. Kyle Boller got about a quarter but was pressured into an underwhelming 3-9-25 performance, relying a lot on bootlegs and swing passes. Brock Berlin was 6-8-27 but had a short night, spraining a knee while getting dragged down at the end of a naked bootleg by Zach Potter. The most impressive QB off the bench may have been Keith Null (2-2-16). After Berlin's injury rushed him into play, the Rams got a composed and ultimately game-winning play from the rookie. Sean Walker lined up wrong with the Rams at the Jet 14, but instead of blowing a timeout, Null got Walker lined up correctly before the snap and wound up exploiting a mismatch with a LB and hitting Walker for the go-ahead TD. Berlin'd better be wary or he'll get Wally Pipped. Or is that Trent Greened?

          * RB: Steven Jackson had just a couple of carries and was pulled from the game after a 13-yard gain late in the first. The competition for the spots behind Jackson got more heated when Samkon Gado (6-93) started the second half by exploding up the middle and running through the Jet secondary for a 77-yard TD. Antonio Pittman's (4-36) getting plenty of chances and still looks like the Rams' most elusive back. He bounced a run outside for 20 and forced a fumble on special teams to enhance his chances. Unfortunately, the biggest competition between the RBs tonight was to see who could pick up blitzes the worst. Jackson didn't get a block on the blitzing safety, helping LB David Harris score a sack to shut down the Rams' opening drive. Chris Ogbannaya (9-29) let Kenwin Cummings go right by him and drop Berlin for a huge loss in the 4th. The big winner(?), though, was Kenneth Darby (6-16), who looked far worse in blitz protection tonight than he ever did last season. He let a DB go right around him, creating pressure that led to Calvin Pace getting the Jets' second sack. The third came...
          -08-15-2009, 02:30 AM
        • mikhal5569
          Game Plan: What To Expect Against Kansas City
          by mikhal5569
          Game Plan: What To Expect Against Kansas City
          By: Rick Venturi
          Published: August 25, 2011 @ 9:14pm

          After leaving the Dome Saturday night, Rams fans that drank the Kool-Aid after the performance over the hapless preseason Colts the week before, were a bit confused and loaded with a ton of questions. The way I score a preseason game resulted in an adjusted 8-3 win by the Titans, who dominated play when the significant players were on the field. Winning the junior varsity portion of a preseason game is and always will be a distortion of the performance of your team.

          In my opinion, Saturday night was a needed reality check for the Rams. Key areas like run defense, running the ball, and pass production need to be addressed. To me, this is anything but a bad thing. I never wanted a false sense of security in preseason. I always hoped to play against the best (Peyton Manning and Chris Johnson) to see exactly where my team is and what has to be fixed. There is no emotional carryover from the exhibitions to the regular system, so it's better to find out now.

          On offense, I was happy to see the offensive staff emphasize the passing game on the outside quarter of the field, both deep and in the second level. You saw the signature Josh McDaniels fast start, "establish the lead" philosophy with a play-action post to Brandon Gibson for a touchdown. We also watched Mike Sims-Walker and Donnie Avery catch balls in the deeper parts of the field, so Sam Bradford got some feel for timing with those guys. In the second half, they got the ball to Mardy Gilyard, Danario Alexander, Greg Salas, and Austin Pettis, so in that regard, they successfully got another look at a very competitive position.

          On the negative side, the Rams struggled in pass protection, both in regular situations, and also showed a vulnerability to third-down, nickel-blitz variations. The coordination of backs, offensive line, and quarterback were out of sync, and Bradford got hit way too much. The teams that get their protection problems worked out quickly are going to be ahead of the game. The Rams must fix this issue, because the NFL is a copy-cat league, and you will get a million blitzes until you fix it, and Bradford is too valuable to even think about it.

          On defense, the good news was that the Rams continue to play good red-zone defense, which forced three field goals, keeping the game at 16-7, instead of 28-7, which makes a comeback possible. The bad news was that the Tennessee offense dominated the Rams' defense with runs and screens. The most troubling part of the night was that the Titans did it with third- and fourth-team tailbacks. The failure to stop the "cutback" and "wrap" runs was the result of uncharacteristic, undisciplined "fits" of the front seven and the safeties, and the Titans winning the line of scrimmage battles.

          Looking forward to this week at Kansas...
          -08-25-2011, 06:15 PM
        • MauiRam
          Rehabbing the Rams will take time ..
          by MauiRam
          Columnist Jeff Gordon

          Moments into Friday night’s Rams scrimmage at Lindenwood University, Marc Bulger mixed his count cadence and, sure enough, Alex Barron jerked into the full upright and locked position.

          Everybody else on the field remain set. A penalty flag flew. This was still another false start penalty on the big fella. Barron heard boos, catcalls and a few derisive cheers from the loss-weary fans on hand.

          All were reminded of this: Rehabbing this sadsack team will take time. New coach Steve Spagnuolo is running a crisp camp, but there is so much work to do.

          Friday night offered the first full glimpse at the progress. Fans watched proven players test unproven ones, such as second-year defensive end Chris Long working street free agent left tackle Phil Trautwein.

          It was a night were Dominic Douglas, a street free agent linebacker from Mississippi State, got to impress the staff by getting deep in coverage to swat away a Brock Berlin pass. Another linebacker hopeful, K.C. Asiodu, helped his cause with a nifty red zone pick.

          Here were some impressions from the press box above the fray:

          * Do the Rams really want Marc Bulger to throw rollout passes in this offseason? Nimble he is not. After a rocky start, Bulger found his rhythm as the scrimmage progressed. When the team gets into a quicker passing tempo, his accuracy shines. But his adaptation to this offense is ongoing. Spanguolo will be patient, since back-ups Kyle Boller or Brock Berlin aren’t exactly turning heads.

          * Rookie quarterback Keith Null has a chance. He is making a big adjustment from the spread offense to lining up behind center in the West Coast scheme. Predictable footwork and ballhandling problems arose early in the scrimmage. But it quickly became evident why he threw for a zillion yards at West Texas A&M. Let’s put it this way: The Rams have brought far worse developmental quarterbacks to camp.

          * The competition is spirited at cornerback. It’s a little thing, but Jonathan Wade exudes enthusiasm when wrapping up receivers in the flat. Draft bust Tye Hill must fight for the opening across from Ron Bartell, since ’08 camp standout Justin King is back and ’09 pick Bradley Fletcher offers more size.

          * Linebacker Chris Draft looks eager to start this year. He got dinged early last summer and he wasn’t right all season. Larry Grant is an interesting prospect, offering more upside than the other kids in camp. But once MLB James Laurinaitis graduates to the varsity, Draft could move outside and solidify the defense.

          * There is much sorting to do at receiver. Observers like the progress Donnie Avery has made running routes, but his hands still need some work. Second-year WR Keenan Burton has great hands, but he must stay healthy to advance his career. Laurent Robinson...
          -08-10-2009, 08:58 AM