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  • What To Watch: Jacksonville

    What to Watch: Jacksonville
    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    What to Watch: Jacksonville

    1. Slow Mo Jo

    Few running backs in the league pack more of a punch than Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew. One week after facing Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, the Rams get no recourse this week in facing Jones-Drew.

    The diminutive back runs with a superior combination of power and speed and he also has the ability to make plays in the passing game.

    “He’s a great back with a low center of gravity and he’s a guy you need to bring the whole defense to tackle,” Rams defensive end Chris Long said. “We just played one like that so it was good practice. I think we will be up to the task. We just have to tackle low and tackle well.”

    Jones-Drew is 10th in the league in yards from scrimmage though he hasn’t had as many touches as he’d like in recent weeks. Still, he’s excellent around the goal line and has scored five touchdowns, tied for fourth in the NFL.

    As usual, it always starts with stopping the run for the Rams, an area in which the defense has greatly improved this season. To slow Jacksonville’s offense, slowing Jones-Drew is the first priority.

    “We face a lot of great backs,” defensive end Leonard Little said. “He adds on to what we already saw so we have got to be disciplined in our run game and not get out of our gaps and stuff like that.”

    2. Getting Garrard

    Much like they have faced no shortage of talented backs, the Rams have also seen plenty of mobile quarterbacks with the ability to make plays with their legs as much as their arm.

    Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck have presented problems in their ability to make something happen out of the pocket when the play breaks down.

    Jacksonville brings a player of similar caliber to the table in the form of David Garrard.

    “He has been doing it there for a long time and they have a lot of confidence in him,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “They went with him a couple years ago. Dirk Koetter who is the offensive coordinator down there is outstanding and he is doing the things that fit Garrard’s capabilities as an athlete. He is tough; one tough cookie to bring down. He is real strong in the lower body. You see a lot of guys bounce off of him when he is in a sack situation. He extends the down like some other guys we have played and that makes it tough.”

    This season, Garrard has thrown for 1,129 yards and five touchdowns with a rating of 86.6. Perhaps more important, he’s thrown just one interception and is one of the best in the league at taking care of the ball and managing the game.

    Containing Garrard in the pocket is imperative and when the Rams get opportunities to get sacks (Jacksonville is young at tackle and has allowed 12 sacks this year), they must capitalize.

    3. A Not so Big Game

    There will be a lot of emotions on both sidelines Sunday when the Rams see old friend Torry Holt in Jacksonville’s black and teal for the first time.

    Holt played 10 seasons in St. Louis and was one of the primary stars of the Greatest Show on Turf era, posting numbers that place him among the great Rams of all time.

    Now, he’s serving as the leader and mentor to a young group of wideouts in Jacksonville and showing them the way.

    “Torry’s been a great addition for us,” Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a consummate pro. He’s obviously had a storied career. Had a lot of great catches and great moments there in St. Louis and has just been an outstanding to our football team. He’s a real pro at everything he does.”

    And oh by the way, Holt can still play. He leads the team 22 catches for 306 yards. Although he has yet to reach pay dirt as a member of the Jaguars, Holt still runs excellent routes and catches most everything thrown his way.

    Holt needs just 34 yards to become the third-fastest player in league history to reach 13,000 for his career. It’s up to familiar faces like Rams cornerback Ron Bartell to try to limit Holt’s productivity.

    4. Turnover Turnaround

    Nothing has plagued the Rams more this season than a penchant for giving the ball away. That was never more evident than last week against Minnesota when the Rams turned it over four times, including three inside the Vikings’ 10-yard line.

    As it stands, the Rams 31st in the league in turnover differential at minus-7 with three interceptions and nine fumbles.
    It’s not really cliché to say that the correlation of turning the ball over and results is strong.

    “We can’t turn the ball over, and that’s been our Achilles heel now,” Spagnuolo said. “If we eliminate some of those things…you know when the ball slips out of you’re hand, when you miss a routine handoff, those are tough things to explain. But we’ll hone in on them, get better at them, and move on.”

    The Jaguars have nine takeaways on the year and have been pretty solid in terms of not turning it over themselves.

    It might be obvious but it doesn’t make it less true. For the Rams to have success against Jacksonville, they must do a better job of securing the ball.

    5. To the Air

    Marc Bulger will be back at quarterback for the Rams this week after he made a brief appearance in place of a shaken up Boller last week against Minnesota.

    Bulger is almost fully recovered from a bruised right rotator cuff in his shoulder and showed signs of being healthy against the Vikings when he completed all seven of his attempts and threw a touchdown on his way to a perfect quarterback rating.

    “Last week doesn’t impact this week and next week won’t impact the following week,” Bulger said. “What’s done is done.”

    While that is probably true, it also doesn’t take away from the fact that the Rams have picked up a little offensive momentum in the past week or two. This week is the first time Bulger has had the full week of repetitions with the first team offense since injuring the shoulder and that should only help in terms of timing.

    In addition, the offensive line had its best effort of the season against Minnesota and should provide more stability up front on Bulger’s return.

    Jacksonville’s pass defense ranks 30th in the NFL, allowing 273 yards per game so there could be come opportunities for Bulger and Co. to get the passing game going.

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    [*****] Rams' game may be flying circus
    by DJRamFan
    Janny Hu, Chronicle Staff Writer
    Thursday, September 30, 2004

    What was once the Greatest Show on Turf returns to San Francisco this weekend, toting a clear challenge for the *****' defense. St. Louis throws more and runs less than any team in the NFL, and if the *****' secondary doesn't tighten up, Sunday's prime-time game could morph into the greatest show on grass.

    The Rams are averaging nearly 300 yards passing per game, while the ***** have given up 513 yards through the air over their last two outings. With some of those completions tracing back to sloppy play, coach Dennis Erickson has turned to trimming mental errors in preparation for the pass-happy Rams.

    "You're going to give up passes in this league, we just don't want to give them up by making mental mistakes, by not being where we're supposed to be," Erickson said. "If a guy makes a catch and physically beats you, that's one thing. To not be at the right place when you should be, that's something that we can control."

    The burden of stopping the Rams' offense will fall mainly on the secondary, which should get a boost with the return of starter Mike Rumph. He has healed sufficiently from his groin injury and will play right corner, sliding inside on nickel packages.

    Watching last week's game from the sidelines, Rumph said he was impressed with the team's patchwork defensive line, as well as its run-stopping ability. Slowing the aerial attack, however, has proved difficult.

    "With the Rams coming in (bringing) one of the top offenses every year consistently, it poses a threat to us," Rumph said. "Defensively, we had a couple of mental breakdowns (against Seattle) that allowed them to get plays on us. (We can't) try to do too much because (the Rams) have so many plays. You can't sit out there and try to match them play by play."

    The Rams' play has been largely predictable so far. Their unbalanced offense has earned coach Mike Martz much criticism lately, as only 30 of the Rams' 110 plays have been runs. St. Louis has the league's two leading receivers in Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and quarterback Marc Bulger tops the NFC in pass completions (79) and attempts (114).

    Still, the ***** say they don't want to get caught solely trying to defend the pass.

    "You got to play those guys true," safety Ronnie Heard said. "You can't just rely on the pass because Marshall Faulk is in the backfield, and he can whip off 100 yards gained on seven carries if you're not playing to stop the run."

    Rattay on pace: Quarterback Tim Rattay practiced Wednesday for the first time since separating his right shoulder during the season opener. If his arm continues to show improvement, he will be the starter against the Rams.

    "Is he 100 percent? No. Is he getting toward that?...
    -09-30-2004, 02:23 PM
  • RamWraith
    Offense on Verge of Breakout
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, September 28, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    WR Torry Holt says the Rams' offense is close to getting over the top.

    After having its most complete offensive performance of the young Scott Linehan era against Arizona last week, the Rams believe they are getting closer and closer to being the type of offensive force that Linehan has built in all of his NFL stops.

    “I was talking to Kevin (Curtis) and Shaun (McDonald) and Dane (Looker) and we were saying we are that close to putting up 28 or 30 points,” receiver Torry Holt said. “I mean, we are THAT close as an offense. Will we get there next week? I don’t know. That would be great, but if we keep improving and keep making it a point of emphasis I think we will eventually get over the top. We are close and we are sticking together, not pointing any fingers, and recognizing the problems and attacking the problems.”

    The Rams posted 364 yards of offense against the Cardinals and quarterback Marc Bulger seemed to find his rhythm by throwing for 309 yards and a touchdown. Bulger was quick on the release and accurate with his throws, signs that he is more comfortable in Linehan’s offense.

    Helping the offense find a rhythm was a few adjustments made by Linehan and the coaching staff. Instead of changing the plays or the playbooks, Linehan decided early last week to change some of the verbiage for the play calls to the way it was before he arrived.

    Seemingly, that helped the Rams feel more comfortable and take advantage through the air.

    “We’ll do that, and I think continuing to call things we’re doing more and more will add to the familiarity,” Linehan said. “It’s like anything else, the more you practice something, the better you get, and the more comfortable you get. Really that’s going to be the key to us is sticking with things, and not overreacting to maybe our lack of execution in an area and just knowing a lot of it is we’ve just got to get it down better. There’s going to be a lot of both when it comes to getting us in sync and those kinds of things.”

    As Linehan points out, the Rams have been going through the process of learning the coach’s system, but he also is still feeling out his players and learning what they like. Take Holt’s double move for a touchdown against Arizona as an example.

    That’s a play that has resulted in six points on numerous occasions in Holt’s time in St. Louis and Linehan has showed a willingness to listen to input from his players on the types of plays they like.

    “I think the familiarity helped a little bit,” Bulger said. “I think with each week the reps and getting more familiar with it is helping. I think we’ll see an improvement every week. Obviously, we’ve got to score some more touchdowns, but I think there has been improvement. We hadn’t had a dip in the improvement yet, which...
    -09-28-2006, 03:41 PM
  • RamWraith
    Offense Looking to Break Out
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    During the heyday of the Greatest Show on Turf, the formula was simple. Take the Rams’ total yards gained, add in the points the team scored and the results were wins, lots of wins.

    But the first two weeks of this season have exploited a glitch in the old Rams’ formula. Against San Francisco in week one, St. Louis put up plenty of yards (405) and a decent amount of points (25), but left with a loss. Last week against Arizona, the Rams posted just 297 yards with 17 points and found a way to win.

    Of course, the circumstances for each game were far different. For instance, St. Louis had all kinds of trouble converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns against the *****, which kept its point and win total down in that game. Against Arizona, the Rams struggled to sustain success after a dominant opening drive.

    “If the stats are there great, if not and we’re winning then that’s great too,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “I feel like I know what I’m doing; it’s just a matter of how the game progresses on how much we are going to throw the ball for what the stats will be. I’m not worried, but I’m not extremely happy. There’s room for improvement, but we’re not too far off.”

    Fortunately for the Rams, the defense has been good enough to keep the offense in a position to win games at the end. St. Louis allowed just 217 yards to the *****, allowing the Rams a shot to win at the end. Against the Cardinals, the Rams actually put the game in the hands of their defense and came out on top when that group came through with a stand in the last minute.

    “These games are different,” Bulger said. “You get behind, you throw the ball a lot and last week with the heat we seemed out of sync. We’ll get there. We have got to help the defense out. Fortunately they have been bailing us out a little bit.”

    There is no doubting the offensive talent the Rams have. Bulger ascended to near the top tier of quarterbacks in the league last year. Steven Jackson is one of the most exciting young running backs in the league and the emergence of Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald gives the Rams a pair of sidekicks for star wideouts Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
    Combine those skill position players with a veteran offensive line and the offensive outburst many are expecting should be coming soon, shouldn’t it?

    “I believe it’s right around the corner,” Bruce said. “We’ve been moving the ball pretty easy. We’ve been in the red zone a lot. We just haven’t capitalized with touchdowns.”

    With a home opener against a young and injured Tennessee defense on the slate this week, the chance for that outburst would seem to be there. Then again, you never know if or when it will happen.

    “I think it could happen at any given time,” Holt said. “It could happen this weekend,...
    -09-23-2005, 05:18 AM
  • RamWraith
    Coach Scott Linehan December 12
    by RamWraith
    Head Coach Scott Linehan

    December 12, 2007

    (Opening Remarks)

    “Each week we have a coach of the week sponsored by the Rams and the U.S. Army. It’s important to our organization and our partnership with the U.S. Army to acknowledge a job well done here in the St. Louis region. It’s a lot of fun to get to know a little more about the programs here. I’m following them more that my sons are getting closer to high school age and following the programs and seeing the guys doing a great job here in town.

    “I want to congratulate you on great seasons and being our coaches of the week. Week 1 was Nick Gianino from Fox High. Week 3 was Farrell Shelton from Eureka High School. Matt Martin from Granite City (Week 4), Darren Sunkett from East St. Louis (Week 5), Ray Kauling from Mater Dei (Week 6), Matt Irvin (Week 7) from MICDS, Doug Newton from Pattonville (Week 8), Mark Goldenberg from Parkway Central (Week 9) and Scott Horner (Week 10) from Columbia in Illinois. I want to be the first one to congratulate you on great years, great season and great accomplishments. We’re glad to have a great sport’s town. High school football is one of the great traditions of the area.”

    (On how QB Marc Bulger looked in practice)

    “He looked fine. More importantly is how he gets through the week. For Wednesday it was a good day. I won’t be ready to announce who will start quarterback for us until at the earliest, Friday. He looks good. He feels better. What percentage that is, I don’t know until he gets through a full week of practice. There’s still no guarantee Friday’s going to be any different.”

    (On if QB Gus Frerotte looks like he will be available on Sunday)

    “I think he can be available. He threw the ball. He did not take the scout team reps. I had Brock (Berlin) do those this week. He threw the ball through individual (drills) and looked to be close to himself. I’ll see how he feels after throwing it. He put in some pretty good work today.”

    (On how many reps Bulger had in practice)

    “He took all of the reps. It’s really hard to split them up. This is the time of year where we don’t get enough reps from coaches’ standpoint because of the amount of snaps we’re able to do with our limited numbers. He took all the reps today. If there’s any concern about where we’re at or how he feels tomorrow we’ll make some adjustments to tomorrow’s practice.”

    (On how WR Brandon Williams looked in practice)

    “Brandon didn’t do a whole lot. It looked like he felt better, but he really did not practice in the capacity of our returner. That could change tomorrow. We’ll see how he feels. He tried to work through some individual stuff today and seemed to be making some progress.”

    (On if S Oshiomogho...
    -12-12-2007, 05:33 PM
  • RamWraith
    What to Watch: Second Half
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Entering the season with a new head coach, new staff, new personnel and a new outlook on their situation, nobody knew what to expect from the Rams.

    While the halfway point of the season is a couple of weeks away, the Rams find themselves at 4-2 at the bye week with an important stretch of games coming after the week off.

    Through six games, a lot has been learned about the direction of the organization and what coach Scott Linehan is doing to take it in the right direction.

    Here are five things to keep an eye on as the second part of the season approaches.

    1. Turnover Turnaround

    More than any other single statistic, turnover ratio might be the best determinant for translating a number into victory. In a two-year span from 2002-2003, the team that was plus-one in turnovers at the end of the day, was 77-31, according to NFL statistics. A team that was plus-two was 75-13.

    Essentially, a team that wins the turnover battle wins about 70-75 per cent of its games . Unfortunately for Rams teams of years past, the turnover battle has not been one they have consistently won.

    In 2004, the team had just 15 takeaways compared to 39 giveaways. It’s no coincidence that team went 8-8. But, with Linehan in charge of an offense that emphasizes taking care of the ball and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett leading an opportunistic, attacking defense, the Rams have turned it around in 2006.

    St. Louis is first in the NFL in turnover ratio at plus-11. Linehan’s group has just five giveaways, one of which was a fumble on special teams. Quarterback Marc Bulger has thrown only one interception and the offense has still moved the ball with great success.

    Defensively, Haslett has his group flying to the ball and constantly coming up with it to put the offense in excellent field position.

    It’s also no coincidence that the Rams have won all four games this season in which they have won the turnover battle and both losses have come in games in which they lost or tied it.

    Against Denver in the season opener, the Rams were plus-five with zero turnovers. Against San Francisco, the teams were even and the ***** won. The Rams then went plus-two, plus-three and plus-two in wins against Arizona, Detroit and Green Bay before losing to Seattle on a day when they were minus-one.

    The defense has been especially good with turnovers early in games, creating nine takeaways in the first half of games. But that group has also developed a knack for coming up with the ball when the team needs it most.

    To wit, Fakhir Brown’s game-clinching interception against Denver, Will Witherspoon’s winning fumble recovery against Arizona, and Jerametrius Butler’s game-winning fumble recovery...
    -10-20-2006, 07:01 AM