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  • Rams-Niners: 5 Things To Watch

    Rams-Niners: 5 Things To Watch
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Oct. 02 2004

    Julian & Co.

    The strength of the ***** is its linebacking corps. Two-time Pro Bowler
    Julian Peterson is one of the few playmakers on the roster - and can
    do it in coverage, on run defense and rushing the quarterback. He made his
    presence felt against the Rams last season, registering three sacks, six QB
    pressures, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles in two games.

    "He's got to be one of the better defensive players in the league in my opinion
    - no question about it," Rams coach Mike Martz said.

    The ***** are moving Peterson around more this year under new defensive
    coordinator Willy Robinson. Peterson is fast and so is nickel LB
    Jamie Winborn, who's better equipped to handle Marshall
    Faulk
    in the passing game than most LBs. Also an effective blitzer,
    Winborn registered two sacks against the Rams last season. When Winborn and
    Peterson are on the field, it's tough to run outside.

    Winborn comes in off the bench. The other starters besides Peterson are
    Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich, both smart, heady players.
    Smith is one of the league's most underrated LBs. He always seems to play well
    against the Rams.


    Life without TO

    With Terrell Owens doing his pass-catching for Philadelphia, the
    *****' receiving corps lacks star power. With the exception of Curtis
    Conway
    , it also lacks experience. First-round draft pick Rashaun
    Woods
    has yet to catch a pass. Former Illinois star Brandon
    Lloyd
    caught only 14 passes last season as a rookie, and has been slowed
    by a groin injury this season.

    The good news for Rams fans is that Cedrick Wilson no longer returns
    kicks - he opened last year's Rams-***** game in San Francisco with a 95-yard
    kickoff return for a TD. He is now a starting wide receiver.

    Nonetheless, the Rams' secondary shouldn't take these guys lightly, because
    almost all of them can run. Conway, with three 1,000-yard seasons and 49
    receiving TDs over 12 NFL campaigns, runs the 40 in 4.33 seconds. Wilson (4.42)
    and Woods (4.43) aren't far behind. But the go-to guy has been Eric
    Johnson
    , who entered the weekend leading all NFC tight ends with 18
    catches.


    Barlow . . . and more Barlow

    Without the proven talent at quarterback and wide receiver, the ***** must run
    to set up the passing game. Without Garrison Hearst, that means
    fourth-year pro Kevan Barlow is the key to the *****'
    offense. If he gets going early against the Rams' 30th-ranked rushing defense,
    it could be a long evening for St. Louis. At 6-1, 238 pounds, Barlow is a
    powerful runner, but also has some elusiveness.

    "Kevan Barlow can be a very explosive and physical runner, and is a threat to
    go the distance at any time," Martz said. "We've seen him do it."

    That they have. Barlow had runs of 33 and 35 yards in a 2002 game against the
    Rams. While splitting time with Hearst, he rushed for 121 yards and a TD on 25
    carries in two games against them last season.


    Finally, pocket passers

    They've chased Michael Vick, and faced Michael Vick's cousin
    (Aaron Brooks). Even Arizona's Josh McCown was
    no slouch when it came to mobility at quarterback. But on Sunday, the Rams
    finally face a pocket passer in Tim Rattay or Ken Dorsey.

    "We're happy about that, because we're not worried about the running so much,"
    Rams DT Ryan Pickett said. "It's like we've been playing track
    teams."

    It's a strange circumstance in San Francisco, because from Jeff
    Garcia
    to Steve Young to Joe Montana, the *****
    have always had QBs who could beat you with their legs as well as their arms.
    Until now. Neither Rattay nor Dorsey has a carry this season. Garcia had 56
    last season, averaging 5.7 yards with seven rushing TDs.

    Rattay will start Sunday after missing two games with a separated right
    shoulder. In his first career start last season, he threw three TD passes in a
    30-10 victory over the Rams.


    In the trenches

    A back injury is expected to sideline DE Andre Carter for the third
    straight game. That's obviously a blow to the San Francisco pass rush, because
    Carter averaged 8 1/2 sacks in his first three NFL seasons. DT Bryant
    Young
    , a four-time Pro Bowler, still can be disruptive in the middle at
    age 32. Overall, this defensive line is nothing special, but has defended the
    run much better than expected.

    On the other side of the ball, the ***** are missing their best offensive
    lineman, C Jeremy Newberry (knee injury). Also, 2003 first-round
    pick Kwame Harris might be in uniform, but isn't expected
    to start at tackle because of knee and ankle injuries. Rookie RG Justin
    Smiley
    struggled last week in his first NFL start. Veteran RT Scott
    Gragg
    has been known to struggle against speed rushers. (Leonard
    Little
    , that's your cue.)

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • RamWraith
    Rams-Niners: 5 Things To Watch
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    09/10/2005


    Blocking the 3-4
    The 3-4 alignment, using only three defensive linemen and four linebackers, is experiencing a renaissance around the NFL. Count San Francisco among its new proponents under new coach Mike Nolan.

    "We've seen it before, but obviously we're more accustomed to seeing a 4-3, which has been more prevalent around the league the last few years," Rams C Andy McCollum said. "Now it seems a lot of teams are going back to that three-man front. We have everything installed to deal with it, it's just a matter of getting it down and making sure we know it just as well as we know the other stuff."

    In the 3-4, the outside linebackers are really end-linebacker hybrids. Sometimes they rush the passer and play run defense; sometimes they drop in coverage.

    "That's part of the 3-4 scheme," Rams QB Marc Bulger said. "They try to confuse you. We're going to have to be mentally sharp this game."

    At least the Rams got a dry run against the 3-4 in their second exhibition game, against San Diego, using blocking schemes designed for the *****.


    Peterson & Co.
    Whether it's a 4-3 or a 3-4, the linebacker corps has been the strength of the San Francisco defense in recent years.

    "There's no question about it," Rams coach Mike Martz says. "I still say that that middle 'backer, 50, he's pretty terrific."

    No. 50 on the *****' roster would be Derek Smith, an intense, aggressive, underrated performer. Smith has topped 100 tackles in each of the past eight seasons, tied for the second-longest such streak in the NFL. He's a key to the *****' run defense.

    But the headliner of the starting unit, which includes Jeff Ulbrich and Jamie Winborn, is left outside linebacker Julian Peterson. He can do it all - rush the passer, play run defense, and drop into coverage. He will have more pass-rush duties in the 3-4. Although Peterson's not quite 100 percent coming off an Achilles' tendon injury in 2004, he will prevent a formidable opening-day challenge for Rams right tackle Rex Tucker, who's playing the position for the first time in his NFL career.


    Barlow left, Barlow right
    Nolan wants to establish the running game this season, which could mean plenty of work for enigmatic ***** RB Kevan Barlow. After rushing for 1,024 yards and 5.1 yards a carry in 2003, Barlow slipped to 822 yards and 3.4 yards a carry last season.

    In eight career games against the Rams, he has never rushed for more than 87 yards. Despite their struggles defending the run last season, the Rams limited Barlow to 90 yards in 34 carries in two games. Nonetheless, the Rams aren't taking him lightly, which is a good thing because Barlow packs 238 pounds on his 6-1 frame.

    ...
    -09-10-2005, 06:45 PM
  • Nick
    Rams-Panthers: 5 Things To Watch
    by Nick
    Rams-Panthers: 5 Things To Watch
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    12/11/2004

    Comings and Goings

    Since the Rams' move to St. Louis in 1995, only 11 teams have rushed for 200 or more yards against them. Carolina became one of those teams last Jan. 10, in its double-overtime playoff victory over the Rams. The Rams were outgained on the ground 216 yards to 64 on the ground. The Rams must balance out those rushing totals Sunday, or it's going to be a long day. At least Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster won't be able to kick the run defense around. They're both on injured reserve. But the Panthers always seem to find a way to run the football, even if it's Nick Goings doing the running.

    Goings began the season as the Panthers' No. 2 fullback. But he has topped 100 yards rushing three weeks in a row, including a team-high 122 yards last week in New Orleans.

    "He's a north-south runner," Rams DT Ryan Pickett said. "He just gets the ball and runs right down hill. And the holes usually open for him."

    Goings isn't very fast. He has decent size (6-0, 225). He's a blue-collar player who's making the most of his opportunity.

    The Rams are hoping for a similar approach and similar results Sunday from Arlen Harris, who's making his first start of the season in place of the injured Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson, who both have bruised knees. It wouldn't be surprising to see Faulk get some spot duty - maybe more if Harris struggles. But Jackson appears to be in no position to play, walking stiff-legged and not practicing all week.


    Everything's Jake

    Last season's Cajun sensation, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme has been counted on to carry more of the load on offense because of the injuries at running back. Delhomme's completion percentage was down, and his interception total up, early in the season. But like the Carolina team as a whole, Delhomme has been doing a lot of things right lately.

    Over the past six games, he has a 100.2 passer rating, with 13 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. And he's been able to get the ball down field. Over the past five games, the Panthers have 23 pass plays of 20 yards or more. That's a league high over that stretch - one more than the Rams.

    "He's got the big arm," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "He has that Brett Favre type of arm. He can zing it down the field, and has terrific accuracy."


    The Moose is loose

    Last year at this time, the talk in Carolina was about dumping WR Muhsin Muhammad. His production was down. He was dropping passes. And Steve Smith had developed into Delhomme's favorite target. But Carolina kept Muhammad around, and it's a good thing. Smith suffered a season-ending broken leg in the 2004 opener.

    Muhammad has responded by playing...
    -12-12-2004, 12:56 AM
  • Goldenfleece
    Over/Underrated Teams in the Preseason
    by Goldenfleece
    This time of year everybody can find reasons why their team is going to be a contender in the upcoming season, but I had some time on my hands, so I thought I'd take another look at a few of the teams with high expectations and see what they have really done to improve their teams in the offseason. Feel free to disagree; these are just one fan's opinions. I left the Rams off the underrated list because I've obviously got a bias there. So without further ado, here's my take on the most overrated/underrated teams in mid-August:

    Most Overrated:

    NY Giants

    Why they're hyped: The Giants have a Manning at the helm, and he's got weapons: Burress, Toomer, Shockey, and Barber. On defense, the team has some great pass rushers including Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, and linebacker Lavar Arrington, along with first rounder Mathias Kiwanuka. Will Demps should be an upgrade at FS.

    Why they won't live up to it: First, the defense. They lost 2 defensive tackles in free agency. Clancy and Allen were not exactly worldbeaters at their position, but the Giants don't have proven talent to replace them. William Joseph started 10 games at the right DT spot and had 2 sacks; he's the pass-rushing DT. Looking at their roster, I can't figure out who is supposed to be starting next to him. Fred Robbins maybe? Robbins couldn't even hold down the backup job last season. At corner, they added Sam Madison but lost Will Allen who is not only younger but has also put up better numbers in recent years. It looks as though Will Peterson will be replaced on the other side by last year's nickelback, Corey Webster. Webster has shown some promise, but it's still his first year as a starter. Arrington has a reputation as a free lancer who gets out of position trying to make the big play; it has also been said he can't handle coverage responsibilities. The Giants should still be at least a little better at WLB and FS but worse at both DT spots and both corners.

    On offense, Eli looked worse towards the end of the season, throwing 4 TDs and 7 ints in 5 games in December. He looked shaky in the playoffs, too, throwing for a paltry 113 yards, 3 ints, and no TDs while taking 4 sacks and coughing up a fumble in a loss to the Panthers. Tiki on the other hand had a remarkable season, but age is a factor here. Take the example of Curtis Martin who led the league in rushing yards with 1,697 yards in 2004. Then he hit the wall. His rushing average the next season fell from 4.6 yards/carry to 3.3, and his rushing total was nearly a thousand yards less at 735. Maybe it'll happen this year, maybe it won't...but one of these days age is going to catch up with Barber, and when it does, it'll happen fast. It's probably not a good sign that he has talked about retiring after this season. Barber has said, "We'll see how my body holds up. Last year was a grind for me. Even though I played great, I battled to be healthy. We'll see...
    -08-16-2006, 06:05 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams-***** is anything but a Monster matchup
    by RamWraith
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    09/29/2004

    Back in the day, "***** Week" triggered a call to arms at Rams Park. The long-standing Los Angeles-San Francisco rivalry came east when the Rams franchise fled Orange County.

    "Forty-Niners versus the Rams, that was a big game when I was young, growing up," ***** coach Dennis Erickson said during a conference call with St. Louis media members. "That's just the way that it was."

    The Niners owned the Rams during most of the 1990s. Then the Rams started retaliating for those beatings in '99, during their dramatic Super Bowl-winning season.

    The last two seasons resulted in a spirited 2-2 split. But now the rivalry lacks the usual sizzle, since both teams are stumbling along at the bottom of the NFC West.

    The Rams are 1-2 and desperate for a victory. The ***** (0-3) are in a state of emergency after that 34-0 spanking they took from the Seattle Seahawks.

    "This is what I would say is just a flat (backside) kicking," Erickson said after that loss.

    "The reality of it is we weren't competitive," general manager Terry Donahue said.

    We're guessing that ESPN didn't envision this sort of match-up when it booked these teams for a showcase Sunday night game. The Rams are a good team playing badly these days.

    And the Niners? They are just plain bad after letting veterans Terrell Owens, Jeff Garcia, Tai Streets, Garrison Hearst and others depart the offense.

    Erickson has tried to foster high expectations despite those losses, but it hasn't been easy.

    "You don't tell players that they are not going to be successful because this guy goes here, this guy goes there," he said. "You just don't do that. That's the attitude we've taken. We know that we have to and still are replacing players from the offensive football team, starting at quarterback, wide-out, the offensive front.

    "But we do have those players in place. Now we just have to get better and continue to improve in those positions."

    Perhaps looking to build some confidence for Sunday night's home game, the ***** renamed their stadium Monster Park. The only scary aspect of this team, though, is all the mistakes it has made through three weeks.

    The ***** have lost five fumbles and thrown four interceptions. Their turnover ratio is minus-7. They have been penalized for 232 yards. They have allowed opponents to complete 68.2 percent of their passes.

    In other words, they have struggled with many of the issues plaguing the Rams in this young season. Unlike the Rams, however, they have precious few offensive playmakers.

    Running back Kevan Barlow appears to be legitimate; he rushed for 1,024 yards last season while sharing the...
    -09-30-2004, 05:38 AM
  • RamsFan16
    Team Postion Rankings
    by RamsFan16
    Team DL rankings: Miami fourth
    Michael Harmon / FOXSports.com
    Posted: 4 hours ago

    My off-season fantasy caravan rolls on.

    This week, I'm stepping across the line of scrimmage and giving further inspection to the defensive units. Offensive players are scrutinized with every throw, run and passing route completed. It's high time that the individual components of defenses get their just due.

    Today, I'm examining the defensive lines of each NFL team. In addition to the straight personnel, I'm also evaluating the fantasy contributions we can expect heading into 2006. For example, the Browns and Broncos slide in this form of evaluation. While both are successful at cutting down on total points allowed, their overall contribution in other defensive categories were lacking.

    The defending NFC champions rise to the head of the class. With a ballhawking defense and an offense that will apply pressure of its own, the Seattle Seahawks lead my list of defensive linemen.

    1. Seattle Seahawks
    The Seahawks led the NFL with 50 sacks in 2005. Bryce Fisher and Rocky Bernard combined for 17.5 of those sacks and accounted for 76 tackles. Grant Wistrom provided solid pressure off the other end with 52 tackles and four sacks of his own. Of chief import here was Wistrom's ability to stay healthy through the course of the year. Marcus Tubbs also supplemented the efforts of Chartric Darby and Bernard when he rotated into the game. Tubbs added 40 tackles and 5.5 sacks of his own. Seattle is primed for another run to the top of the fantasy stats with this nucleus returning intact.

    2. Atlanta Falcons
    John Abraham got his wish and exited the Jets this off-season. He now pairs with Patrick Kerney to form one of the most formidable defensive end combinations in the game. And when you add the pressure applied by tackle Rod Coleman (10.5 sacks), the Falcons figure to terrorize opposing quarterbacks throughout the fall. The Falcons will count on Coleman and Chad Lavalais to stuff the run better than they did in '05, when Atlanta ranked 26th in rushing defense at 128.9 yards per game.

    3. Carolina Panthers
    The Carolina Panthers remained among the top defenses in 2005 with great pressure off the edges from Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker. The duo combined for 18 sacks and 94 tackles to boost the Panthers to fifth in overall defense. Carolina received great play from Maake Kemoeatu on the interior. He stepped up in the absence of Kris Jenkins, who played in only one game last season. Kemoeatu and Jenkins will team to protect the middle of the line and keep Carolina's lofty ranking in run defense (fourth at 91.6 yards).

    4. Miami Dolphins
    The Dolphins ranked second in the NFL last season with 49 sacks and return all four members of their defensive line. Jason Taylor remains the leader of the unit, and posted another double-digit...
    -06-06-2006, 10:25 PM
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