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It's time for Rams to focus on next QB ..

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  • It's time for Rams to focus on next QB ..

    Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz

    I don't know how Steven Jackson is doing it. When getting ready to play the Rams, opposing defenses have six days to conspire and scheme and concentrate on one goal: stopping No. 39.

    Defenses are ganging up on Jackson, wanting him to feel a lot of pain in exchange for those yards. But he endures. He will not surrender. Through eight games, Jackson is tied for second in the NFL in rushing, and he's second in combined rushing-receiving yards. Considering what he's up against, that's pretty amazing.

    I don't know if we can fully comprehend the difficulty of being a targeted running back on a bad football team. Jackson is getting it done in an offense that cannot throw the ball with any consistency. Without the threat of an aggressive downfield passing attack, Jackson won't be able to hold the dogs off forever. Those eight-man fronts will eventually grind him down.

    And that must change.

    Unless the Rams get serious about developing a new quarterback and upgrading the skill level at wide receiver, Jackson will limp away to an early retirement. He'll be pummeled into a premature breakdown.

    Jackson is a franchise piece. But without adding a franchise quarterback, the Rams will waste the remaining prime years of his career.

    As I've written before, I have no interest in a futile and foolish Marc Bulger vs. Kyle Boller debate. They are not the future. And while I understand why fans want to see rookie Keith Null, it would be irresponsible to start him. Null played small-college ball, ran a spread offense, doesn't receive practice reps and hasn't had much time to learn a pro-style offense. Why set up the kid to fail? Besides: Null was OK in the preseason, but let's not get carried away.

    The Rams should invest a premium 2010 draft pick in the quarterback position and get on with the future. There's no guarantee that Sam Bradford, Tony Pike, Jimmy Clausen, Jake Locker, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy or any other top QB prospect will turn into a franchise-altering starter in St. Louis.

    And though we've seen rookie quarterbacks — Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco — immediately step in and thrive, a growth period is the norm. And that maturation process can be difficult. I took a look at some Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and their early struggles were profound.

    Terry Bradshaw completed 38 percent of his passes and threw six TDs and 24 interceptions as a Pittsburgh rookie. John Elway completed 47 percent with seven TDs and 14 interceptions as a Denver rookie. In his first two seasons in Dallas, Troy Aikman passed for 20 TDs and 36 interceptions. In his first three seasons in San Diego, Dan Fouts completed 49 percent of his throws, with 15 TDs and 33 interceptions. And there are many other examples.
    The Rams can't be afraid to draft a quarterback early. They can't worry about the possibility of a young QB going bust. They have to identify someone they believe in, get him in here and school him up. And as this massive roster reconstruction evolves, the Rams will have a building block in place to link with Jackson and an improving offensive line.

    Besides, can a rookie quarterback fare any worse than Bulger? At least the rookie will have potential, and a bigger arm. Since the start of the 2007 season, Bulger ranks 39th among NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage, 42nd in yards per attempt and 40th in passer rating. The Rams can't continue this way. They can't delude themselves into thinking Bulger will turn his career around.

    Bulger doesn't have quality receivers, and that hurts him. But the O-line has reduced the sack rate this season. And Bulger (or any quarterback) should benefit from the presence of Jackson in the backfield. With defenses stacked to stop the run, it should open up space for the passing game.

    And Bulger has had chances to make plays. Bulger has completed only six of 20 in the red zone this season. And in fourth quarters of close games — when the Rams are winning or losing by seven points or fewer — Bulger has completed 10 of 27. And you wonder why the Rams have scored only six touchdowns on offense this season? They can't do it with Jackson alone.

    Sunday in Detroit, Bulger bailed out on a scramble that would have produced a first down. Rather than take a hit from a defensive back, Bulger went into a slide to avoid contact and came up a yard short. I'm sorry, but when a team has lost 17 consecutive games and teammates are scrapping and battling to end the streak, it doesn't look good when the quarterback, the leader, slides to safety.

    I realize Bulger has taken a lot of hits. He's been sacked more times (237) than any other NFL quarterback since the start of the 2003 season. I have some empathy for him.

    But this point needs to be made: If Bulger has reached the stage where it's a health risk to fight for a yard and a first down, then he shouldn't be playing.

    In more ways than one, the Bulger slide was a cry for help.

  • #2
    Re: It's time for Rams to focus on next QB ..

    Peter King on Bulger today:

    THANKS FOR READING IN SERBIA. From Oliver Zlatkovic of Belgrade, Serbia: "Regards from Serbia (yes, we're reading your column, although due to the time difference it's more of a 'Monday Afternoon Quarterback' over here.) I'm a Rams fan, and my question relates to your opinion of the future of the Rams: Can Marc Bulger reinvent himself and be the QB that management thought he would when they awarded him with long-term contract, or should we watch college games to see the new Rams starting QB next year? If the latter, does Steven Jackson have time to wait for the Rams rebuilding process, since he will be approaching 30 by the time the new QB fully establishes himself?''
    So good of you to write, Oliver, and to read the column. Thanks. Tough call for the Rams because they have so many holes to fill. Let me take you back to last April, when I was in St. Louis reporting on the Rams before the draft. They were seriously considering taking USC quarterback Mark Sanchez with their first-round pick. But they decided to take the tackle, Jason Smith, and try to build up a bad offensive line before picking a quarterback.
    The only way Bulger has a chance to be the quarterback long-term in St. Louis is to have a very good, very durable season, and he hasn't so far. It's up to him, really. In the second half of the season, if he can stay on the field and perform better than he has in the last couple of years -- and I understand it's not his fault -- the Rams will put off drafting a young quarterback. But I don't think that's going to happen.


    • #3
      Re: It's time for Rams to focus on next QB ..

      We aren't very good at judging talent, and we end up tying up a huge percent of our salary cap on these very high draft picks who don't pan out, and we have no money to retain good players from previous years or to acquire free agents. Look at all the players we've released that are now playing for other teams and are better than anyone on the Rams at their positions. Bruce, Holt, Pace, Warner, Curtis, and London Fletcher. We would be a lot smarter trading the high picks for more lower picks at non-inflated prices. But nobody wants the high very expensive picks so will not trade with us. Instead, we should consider just letting the number one pick time out, and start at the beginning of the second round. Does anyone have a better idea for getting off this treadmill?


      • #4
        Re: It's time for Rams to focus on next QB ..

        Originally posted by zgare
        We aren't very good at judging talent, and we end up tying up a huge percent of our salary cap on these very high draft picks who don't pan out, and we have no money to retain good players from previous years or to acquire free agents. Look at all the players we've released that are now playing for other teams and are better than anyone on the Rams at their positions. Bruce, Holt, Pace, Warner, Curtis, and London Fletcher. We would be a lot smarter trading the high picks for more lower picks at non-inflated prices. But nobody wants the high very expensive picks so will not trade with us. Instead, we should consider just letting the number one pick time out, and start at the beginning of the second round. Does anyone have a better idea for getting off this treadmill?
        Well we had Martz and linehan help make picks. I feel like Spagnulo is a "little" better at judging talent coming from college. A joke at "little" he is def way better


        Related Topics


        • RamsFanSam
          Just One Man's Opinion
          by RamsFanSam
          I have waited a few weeks to assess the past season before sitting down to write my thoughts. I thought the extra time would allow me to examine in more detail what the state of the Rams really is.

          What I found amazed me. Let's start with the QB.

          Marc was in a solid third place in the league in passing yards. 4301 for the season. I wonder how many more yards he would have had if our WR's would have held onto a few more balls instead of dropping them.
          He had a 62.9% completion percentage. Consider that this season, he deliberately threw away a lot of balls to prevent interceptions when he had no options. Speaking of INT's, there was only 8. No other QB in the NFL who played all 16 games did better. All told, he had a 92.9 rating for the season.

          QB is one spot we don't need to worry about.

          As for our RB, 1528 rushing yards. 806 Recieving yards. Enough said.

          The WR position didn't do too badly, either. Sure, we saw a lot of incomplete passes due to dropped balls, but did you realize that Torry Holt had more yards this year than Steve Smith and T.O.? Isaac Bruce was #12 on the list. We're doing OK there, too.

          Our TE position showed no spectacular progress this season, so I won't elaborate.

          When it comes to our offensive line, much can be said, and most of it negative. It has been a few years since a solid front has been assembled on the line. At one time, the term "Donut Brothers" referred to the size of our Center and Right Guard. For the past few years, it referred more to the holes found in the O-line.

          Face it, things aren't rosy for the o-line.

          Pace, still one of the best LT's in the NFL, is getting older. How many more seasons can we count on him holing down the left side? While finding a replacement for him isn't a priority right now, perhaps it is time for the front office to be looking at some of the college underclassmen to see if, in two or three years, there is a tackle we could bring on board to begin the 'grooming' process. Pace will be 32 this year. By 2010, we will be needing someone who can step in.

          On the other side, we have Mr. Penalty, also known as Alex Barron. This is one guy I can't figure out. He's got the size, the speed, the talent, and one of the greatest teammates to tutor him, yet he really hasn't progressed as much as one would expect. I hope Linehan can figure out what it takes to kick him in gear.

          When I continue this, I'll look at the rest of the offense. For now, this should give you food for thought.
          -02-11-2007, 07:14 AM
        • RamWraith
          Marked man: Rams' O-line injuries imperiling QB, season
          by RamWraith
          By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY
          ST. LOUIS — Where does one find the most tender ribs in a Midwest city known for them?
          At a tailgate party hosted by rabid St. Louis Rams fans?

          Not quite.

          Those tender ribs belong to Rams quarterback Marc Bulger. The gritty, two-time Pro Bowler continues to play despite broken ribs and a badly bruised leg courtesy of several wicked hits absorbed during season-opening losses to the Carolina Panthers, San Francisco ***** and Tampa Bay Buccaneers behind an injury-depleted offensive line.

          Like a determined boxer, Bulger keeps pulling himself off the turf in a bid to lift his team -- even when he endured six sacks and at least a dozen hits from the ***** in Week 2. Bulger somehow managed to throw for 368 yards and a touchdown that day only to have Jeff Wilkins' 56-yard, game-winning field-goal attempt bounce off the crossbar in a 17-16 defeat.

          Bulger's ribs were initially bruised thanks to a Week 1 hit from hulking Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. Seven days later, ***** rookie linebacker Patrick Willis delivered a vicious second-quarter shot that required pain-killing medication for Bulger to play on.

          "When the average fan sees a big hit on television, we go, 'Ooh! That had to hurt,' and then we move on," says R.J. Gonser, one of Bulger's CAA Management representatives. "I saw Marc late that evening after the ***** game. He literally could not walk. His entire leg was purple. And his ribs were broken.

          "When you're an NFL quarterback, you're taking shots every week, and there's nothing you can do to rehab (the ribs) until the season's over. Yet Marc doesn't even miss a practice."

          Brian Baldinger worked the Rams-***** game for the Fox network. The NFL analyst might as well have been calling a pay-per-view fight.

          "Marc was gutty … really gutty," Baldinger says. "He got hit just about everywhere on his body."

          But Bulger, 30, returned to the practice field last week to get ready for Tampa Bay. He embodies the mentally tough resilience second-year coach Scott Linehan is trying to infuse in the Rams, who have been blindsided by injuries where they could least afford them.

          A campaign that began with bright playoff expectations is suddenly on the ropes, along with a battered quarterback. The season-ending loss of perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace to a shoulder injury in Week 1 was compounded by preseason injuries to two other offensive linemen, veteran reserve tackle Todd Steussie and starting right guard Richie Incognito. Starting left guard Mark Setterstrom is also gone for the year after tearing a knee ligament during the Rams' 24-3 defeat in Tampa last Sunday. The injuries have forced Linehan to continually reconfigure the line.

          When protected and given time, Bulger is as accurate and...
          -09-26-2007, 10:52 AM
        • RamWraith
          Marc Bulger has lost the touch as Rams quarterback
          by RamWraith
          By Bernie Miklasz
          Monday, Dec. 01 2008
          Fighting hard all afternoon and poised to spring an upset, the Rams needed
          someone to step forward, make a play and steal Sunday from the Miami Dolphins.

          Miami's precarious 16-12 lead was hanging within reach, an easy capture. The
          Rams required a singular act of brilliance. Someone who could convert hope into
          victory by offering a few seconds of Joe Montana, a two-minute tribute to John
          Unitas, a mad dash of Roger Staubach or a touch of John Elway's golden arm.

          Just one magic moment.

          The Rams were down by less than a touchdown throughout the entire second half.
          They had some things working in their favor. The running attack was boosted by
          the return of Steven Jackson, the pass protection was solid and the defense
          repeatedly made stops.

          Now it was time for a winner to sign in and take over. The money quarterbacks
          live for these situations. Give them the ball and a chance and they'll take
          care of the rest. Their careers are defined by these late, daring, all-in bids
          at the final poker table.

          And then there is Marc Bulger.

          Who can't help what he is.

          Bulger had the magic stomped out of him a long time ago.

          Bulger has been drained of the possibility of summoning Montana, Staubach or
          Elway — if even for just one clutch throw.

          If Bulger is Unitas, he's the sad Johnny U. we saw in the San Diego Chargers
          uniform, taking a whupping in the final phase of his career.

          Bulger was back on the field Sunday, a week after having his brain scrambled by
          the Chicago Bears.

          Put it this way: A boxing commission wouldn't have allowed the man to step into
          the ring.

          So we don't have to remind you how things turned out, right?

          Three second-half interceptions, and only 16 completions in 35 attempts overall
          for 149 skimpy yards.

          A QB rating of 22.2 for the afternoon.

          Bulger was unable to emerge from the fog and make a play when his team needed
          it most.

          The outcome was as predictable as the tendencies picked up by appreciative
          Dolphins defenders. "A lot of the time their quarterback would stare down a
          guy, and it gave our guys a chance to get in the passing window and make a
          play," Miami cornerback Renaldo Hill said. "It seemed like when he had
          (receivers) locked in, you knew the ball was going there if you could just get
          a jump or take a gamble here and there. Because you know where the ball was
          going. He wasn't doing much looking off."

          Other than getting a chance to play against the Mizzou secondary each Sunday, I
          don't know how Bulger can pull out of this two-season...
          -12-01-2008, 05:08 AM
        • Bralidore(RAMMODE)
          Bral Backing Bulger...
          by Bralidore(RAMMODE)
          I believe Bulger can still contribute and will at the very least be back next year (hopefully with a renegotiated contract). I think, with the right chips in place, he can lead us to a .500 record next year.

          Bulger's faults is his lack of mobility and improvisation skills at this point in his career. He seems to lack the ability to be elusive in the pocket and goes down once penetration is achieved. He has never been mobile, but in recent years he just hasn't been able to make things happen in the passing game, especially on the run. Every time he's taken off Ive literally held my breathe and felt my palms get sweaty.

          I think this season, his worse to date, has humbled him. Hopefully he can use this as fuel to fire himself up to be that player he once was. Mid 30 resurgences are very possible as we have seen with Favre, Warner, Moon, etc. He can turn it around if hope is restored in his mind and he believes we can make some noise, as we've seen, he has the tools.

          Ive also come to this decision of keeping Bulger because of lack of depth and options. Keith Null is not ready from what we've seen his first year, Boller better not even be in camp, and who is Mike Reilly? I think Bulger is better than any guy that we can get in FA barring the Eagles releasing Mcnabb. Let Bulger remain as that vaunted stop gap option i keep hearing about and lets play ball. West Coast offenses demand accuracy. Bulger was the most accurate passer in football at one point. We focus on the run, once we get that second change of pace back to compliment steven jackson, we could run a three headed monster with the likes of Ogbonnaya as well.

          All that being said, give Bulger another year and take the BPA in round 1.
          -02-01-2010, 07:57 PM
        • r8rh8rmike
          Round Two: The Future Of Marc Bulger
          by r8rh8rmike
          01.13.2010 1:40 pm
          The future of Marc Bulger
          By Roger Hensley


          QUESTION: There’s been much speculation on the future of Rams’ QB Marc Bulger: Will he retire? Be cut? Be traded? Or will he remain as the Rams QB for another season as a young QB is mentored. Do you believe Bulger will be under center for the Rams when they open next season?

          JIM THOMAS
          I still think it’s better than 50-50 that Bulger will not be back. And if he’s traded to a non-contending team he may pull a Jake Plummer and just retire. But in order to dispose of Bulger, the Rams need two quarterbacks — a veteran and a draft pick. How they fare on those two fronts over the next three months might have a lot to do with whether Bulger returns to St. Louis in 2010.

          I can’t say ‘Impossible’ but I doubt very much that we’ll see him QB the Rams in 2010. Bulger has taken a brutal beating on this job over the years and cannot stay healthy. The team is 5-31 with him as a starting quarterback over the last three seasons — though certainly there is plenty of blame to go around for that hideous record, and Bulger is only one piece of the team. But his play has declined, and his injury issues will only create more instability at a crucial position. Nothing personal, but at this point it is just best for Bulger and the Rams to move on.

          BILL COATS
          My guess is that he’ll be with the Rams next season, in some capacity. And that could well be as the No. 1 quarterback. What’s the alternative? There doesn’t appear to be a “franchise quarterback” available in the draft or free agency, and a trade would cost the Rams dearly as they try to rebuild in several areas. Neither Kyle Boller, who almost surely won’t be back anyway, nor rookie Keith Null showed that they are a better option than Bulger at this point.

          JEFF GORDON
          I believe Marc would be a better stopgap quarterback than almost any veteran the Rams could round up without sacrificing assets. But . . . given all that Marc and the team has been through the past three years, I can understand why the Rams would want to do something different just to do something different. One by one, veterans who have failed have moved on. Why could Marc be the one exception to that trend?
          -01-13-2010, 04:39 PM