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  • Bernie: Quick Takes On Rams At Halfway Point

    11.05.2009 11:45 pm
    Quick Takes on Rams at the Halfway Point
    By Bernie Miklasz


    Iím taking a few days off, but before I zoom off, letís take a look at the 1-7 Rams at the midway mark of their 2009 season.

    Here are my opinions, and yours are certainly welcome in the comments section:

    Best Player: Steven Jackson. Yes, an obvious choice. But itís impressive the way SJ39 has been running through defensive walls. Through 8 games, Jackson is second in the NFL in rushing yards (784), second in rushing first downs (32), first in the NFL in runs of 10+ yards (25), second in the league in yards from scrimmage (970), second in most broken tackles, and second in yards gained after contact (461). His attitude has been tremendous. The only minus is the shortage of rushing touchdowns (only 1). Thereís more than a few ordinary backs in the league with 5 or more rushing TDs. But hereís the problem: the Rams have had only six series where theyíve had a 1st down and goal to go; only four NFL teams have had fewer. The Rams have had only two series where theyíve had a 1st down and 5 yards or less to go for the TD. And the Rams are tied for 23rd in the league for most red-zone possessions. In other words, Jackson hasnít gotten many opportunities to run the ball from in close. Jackson obviously lacks the breakaway capability of, say, Tennesseeís Chris Johnson, but thatís because Jackson is a power runner and not a speed back. And power backs roll up the TDs when they get the ball close to the goal line. And Jacksonís chances have been limited.

    Worst Player: Lots to choose from, and Iím picking on a guy who is no longer with the team, but I never understood why WR Tim Carter was recalled to the roster after being cut in the preseason.

    Most Surprising Player: That would be WR and return man Danny Amendola. Heís no superstar, but this was a nice pickup of a ďstreetĒ free agent. The Rams have thrown the ball to Amendola 19 times and have completed 15 of the passes, which is an exceptional percentage. He knows how to get open. And I think tight end Billy Bajema has some talent and should be utilized more.

    Most Disappointing Player: Thereís a long line of candidates. And generally speaking, you have to possess real talent to be considered disappointing. So Iíve tried to stick with guys who have the ability to do better than they have. Marc Bulger continues to decline as an NFL QB. We expected more from TE Randy McMichael, who has dropped five passes. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe has a lot of skill, but isnít coming up with the ball (picks, fumbles) nearly as much as he has in the past. He has one INT and only three pass defenses. CB Ron Bartellís coverage has slipped, but heís also been playing hurt. Thereís second-year WR Donnie Avery, the only wideout on the roster who can burn a defense and change a game. But Avery has dropped five passes and canít stay healthy. I cut him some slack for two reasons. Thereís his (1) raw experience level; the dude had a lot to learn about being an NFL receiver and the adjustments are still coming. And (2) Avery could be making more plays, but according to STATS LLC, eight of the incompletions on balls directed at him this season were the result of poor throws by the QB. Avery has been getting open more often, but the Rams QBs canít get him the ball. Some of you will cite rookie OT Jason Smith, but not me (more on that later.) Iíd have to go with DE Chris Long, the second overall pick in the 2008 draft. Long has only one sack and a combined 6.5 quarterback hurries/knockdowns.

    Best Rookie: The easy choice here is MLB James Laurinaitis. I wasnít sure that the Rams tabbed the right MLB in the second round of the NFL draft, but Laurinaitis is playing up to the Ramsí expectations. Heís the teamís leading tackler and is improving in his pass coverage. If the Rams had some wide-load DTs who could tie up blockers and allow #55 to roam free without interior blockers in his grill all the time, heíd pile up an extraordinary number of tackles.

    Most Disappointing Rookie: I reluctantly say Jason Smith ó only because a 2-14 team should be receiving instant and positive impact from the No. 2 overall pick. But I add these caveats: (1) I donít think Smith has done anything to shake the belief that he will be a great NFL offensive tackle; (2) I think coaching has been a factor in his slower-than-anticipated development. The big man has an abundant skill set, the right attitude, a hunger to learn and a mean-streak competitive demeanor. Itís all there. But in conrast to the way the coaches handled Laurinaitis ó getting him ready to start immediately at MLB as soon as they drafted him ó the staff took an oddly cautious, conservative approach with Smith. Given the Ramsí situation, it made no sense. Smith hasnít started because the coaches opted to hold him back. And they also switched him from his natural position (LT) to RT. A minor knee injury slowed his progress. Heíll be oustanding as soon as heís allowed to turn it loose and get the inevitable learning curve out of the way. The coaches finally have reached that point with Smith, even if some injury-related shuffling put him in the lineup. But heís starting now. I just wish heíd be starting at left tackle.

    Best ďOldĒ Ram: That would be defensive end Leonard Little. I wonít be a phony here; I thought the combination of increasing age and wear caused by injuries had greatly reduced Littleís impact as a pass rusher. I doubted that heíd find that quickness that has made him one of the leagueís best pass rushers for a time. But Little is flying around again. He has five sacks. He ranks second in the NFL with a combined 21.5 quarterback hurries/knockdowns; only Indyís Dwight Freeney (25) has more.

    Worst ďOldĒ Ram: That would be QB Marc Bulger. Statistically heís near the bottom of the league, and his red-zone passing has been abysmal. But more than that, Bulger sealed his rep among many fans and other observers when he acknowledged that he bailed out on a third-down scramble last week at Detroit to slide to safety out of concern that heíd take a hit and get hurt again. I donít blame Bulger for worrying about his health; some of the leagueís greatest-ever QBs (Roger Staubach, Steve Young, Troy Aikman) walked away from their careers earlier than expected because of health concerns. But that is precisely the point: when youíve reached the stage in your career when youíre making decisions based on fear of injuries, then you shouldnít be playing. Even more amazing: Rams coaches appear to be oblivious to this.

    Top positives on rookie head coach Steve Spagnuolo: (1) a steady, positive leader who is secure enough in his approach that he refuses to play to the mob by displaying multiple personalities in a cheap attempt to show that heís some tough-guy macho man. Spagnuolo is consistent, and heís genuine, and he saves his tough talk for private meetings, and the players respect that. Thatís why they play for him. (2) His decision to cultivate Laurinaitis and instantly develop him as a starter and a leader. Because of it, the Rams have a key building block in place. (3) Is working well with GM Billy Devaney in a dramatic shift from the stormy past, when key Ramsí leaders couldnít build a team because they were too busy trying to tear each other down. To reconstruct a franchise, you need guys working together and coming up with a plan. It isnít flashy or sexy and doesnít sell tickets but itís the only place to start.

    Negatives or Concerns on Spagnuolo: (1) Game management; itís to be expected because this is his first time through as a head coach; (2) did he assemble a good staff of assistants? Some folks I talk to in the NFL donít think so. But keep in mind itís a scramble to get guys hired; a bunch of new head coaches were rushing to fill staffs. Maybe Spagnuolo will make some changes for year two. (3) He must do a much better job of communicating his vision for Rams football to the public. Along these lines, Spagnuolo does lose some cred when he praises players who donít deserve it. Again, he isnít the type to trash players publicly, and thatís a style that has worked for successful coaches. We have no problem with the coach being discreet. But thereís no reason to offer unwarranted compliments, either ó not when fans can see for themselves that an individual is playing poorly.

    Best Free Agent Signing: Center Jason Brown is a helluva player, and heís also one of the guys in the locker room who truly wants to do his part to transform a loser into a winner. And Devaney deserves some credit in this area; the Rams have put together a promising offensive line that has a chance to be very good, and soon.

    Worst Free Agent Decision: There wasnít much of an effort made to upgrade at wide receiver, a weak area, and the Rams are paying the price.

    Most Underrated Player, Defense: DL James Hall.

    Most Underrated Player, Offense: G Jacob Bell, who is playing much better than he did last season.

    Not So Bold Prediction: The Ramsí next win, and their only other win, will come at home against Seattle on Nov. 29.

    Jumping Way Ahead Because I Canít Help It: The Ramsí biggest areas of need for 2010 are a physical wide receiver, defensive tackle, quarterback, outside linebacker.

    Iím sure I could serve up some other categories, but my 5 Minutes expired a while back.

    Thanks for reading. Talk with you soon.

    -Bernie

  • #2
    Re: Bernie: Quick Takes On Rams At Halfway Point

    Not So Bold Prediction: The Ramsí next win, and their only other win, will come at home against Seattle on Nov. 29.
    Really? Why even bother saying "not so bold." I'd rather see a "man up" prediction which does indicate boldness. This team is buying into Spags system. They are finding their identity behind the power running of Steven Jackson, which is being augmented by the finally beginning to develop cohesiveness of the offensive line. While we obviously have glaring weaknesses at some other skill positions, this team is very young and is gaining experience the hard way. Rather than fear to be bold, I on the other hand WILL make a bold prediction and say that this team will win 4 of the next 8 games, of which will include the Seahawks, Titans and *****. One other win will come against the Cards, Texans, or Bears. Contrary to the non-believers, every game (except arguably the Saints) remaining is a winnable game, and I refuse to say otherwise until the 4th quarter of each and every game is over.
    Steve

    What you see is what you get, but what you see depends on where you stand.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Bernie: Quick Takes On Rams At Halfway Point

      Originally posted by oldschoolramfan View Post
      really? Why even bother saying "not so bold." i'd rather see a "man up" prediction which does indicate boldness. This team is buying into spags system. They are finding their identity behind the power running of steven jackson, which is being augmented by the finally beginning to develop cohesiveness of the offensive line. While we obviously have glaring weaknesses at some other skill positions, this team is very young and is gaining experience the hard way. Rather than fear to be bold, i on the other hand will make a bold prediction and say that this team will win 4 of the next 8 games, of which will include the seahawks, titans and *****. One other win will come against the cards, texans, or bears. Contrary to the non-believers, every game (except arguably the saints) remaining is a winnable game, and i refuse to say otherwise until the 4th quarter of each and every game is over.
      amen!

      Go rams!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Bernie: Quick Takes On Rams At Halfway Point

        Originally posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
        Best “Old” Ram: That would be defensive end Leonard Little. I won’t be a phony here; I thought the combination of increasing age and wear caused by injuries had greatly reduced Little’s impact as a pass rusher. I doubted that he’d find that quickness that has made him one of the league’s best pass rushers for a time. But Little is flying around again. He has five sacks. He ranks second in the NFL with a combined 21.5 quarterback hurries/knockdowns; only Indy’s Dwight Freeney (25) has more.

        Worst “Old” Ram: That would be QB Marc Bulger. Statistically he’s near the bottom of the league, and his red-zone passing has been abysmal. But more than that, Bulger sealed his rep among many fans and other observers when he acknowledged that he bailed out on a third-down scramble last week at Detroit to slide to safety out of concern that he’d take a hit and get hurt again.
        Those are some great numbers for Little - I knew he had five sacks and I've noticed him bringing pressure lots of times. But I didn't know he was 2nd in the league in hurries/knockdowns - that's fantastic.

        As for Marc Bulger and the infamous slide - did he "acknowledge that he bailed out" as Bernie says? The only thing I have read from Bulger on that matter is from the other thread we had here a couple of days ago (Link) where he said:

        On Wednesday, in his first comments about the controversial slide, Bulger offered no apologies or mea culpas for the play. "I was close (to a first down)," Bulger said. "There's been times this year I've gone in head first and it's hurt me for a couple weeks. So I thought I had it, but I didn't."
        Did he later contradict that with another statement or where exactly did Bernie get that from?

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Bernie: Quick Takes On Rams At Halfway Point

          Originally posted by RamOfDenmark View Post
          Did he later contradict that with another statement or where exactly did Bernie get that from?
          Let's just say that Bernie has never let facts get in the way of his version of reality.

          Comment

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          • r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: Give Game Balls To Jackson, Spagnuolo
            by r8rh8rmike
            11.02.2009 10:06 am
            Give Game Balls to Jackson, Spagnuolo
            By Bernie Miklasz


            Greetings. Sorry that I didnít write immediately after Sundayís 17-10 Rams victory in Detroit, but Iím feeling better today, so letís have at it:

            * This one was for Steven Jackson: I wonder if we realize how difficult it is to be a standout running back on a bad team. Not only a bad team, but one with an extremely limited passing attack. It means that every week the opposing team has one goal in mind: stopping the running back. Taking away the Ramsí only real playmaker on offense. Jackson gets ganged up on every week. But Jackson continues to trample the odds. After a command performance in Detroit, Jackson is tied for second in the NFL in rushing and is second in the league in combined yards from scrimmage. Heís averaging 98 yards rushing per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Heís giving the Rams 122 all-purpose yards per game. And heís been at his best when the Rams make it close ó when everyone in the house knows heís going to get the ball. This season in the 4th quarter when the Rams are in a close game ó within a seven-point margin, up or down Ė Jackson averages 6.6 yards per carry. Heís been at his best, overall, in the fourth quarter, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He breaks down those defensive stacks.

            But Jacksonís attitude and professionalism have been as impressive as his running. Heís been a total team player in 2009. A positive influence in every way. Someone who tries hard to keep his teammates fired up. Someone who refuses to dwell on any kind of negativity. Jackson just keeps pressing on, running through the fog of losing, trying to desperately to break through to the sunlight..

            * This one was also for Steve Spagnuolo: As I wrote in Saturdayís ďBitsĒ column, itís too soon to make any conclusive judgments about Spagnuolo as an all-around head coach. Way too early for that. Frankly, I donít understand how anyone can take a stand ó pro or con ó on the guy so far. There are some things that I really like about him; there are some things that give me concern. Heís never been a head coach before. Heís working his way through this. And heís learning to be a head coach as he cleans a mess created by the previous regime at Rams Park. You think thatís easy? But I was happy to see the man get a win in Detroit. I was happy to see him rewarded.

            I repeat: Spagnuoloís overall steadiness and consistency in dealing with his players is a real plus in this situation. No gimmicks will turn around years of roster-management incompetence and losing. There are no short cuts on the long road back to being a respectable franchise. Spags has a message and stays on it. He refuses to let any player drift away from the cause. Spagnuolo is from the Dick Vermeil school of positive thinking. There is nothing wrong with that. Too many fans think head coaches are supposed to put on a show by hollering...
            -11-02-2009, 10:58 AM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: Could Rams Be Worst Ever?
            by r8rh8rmike
            10.04.2009 8:13 pm
            Oct. 4: Could Rams Be Worst Ever?
            By Bernie Miklasz


            Letís cut to the chase:

            Iíve been covering the NFL for nearly 30 years, and I think the 2009 Rams are the worst non-expansion year team Iíve seen. Well, at least as they are right now, at this moment, sitting at 0-4 following an embarrassing 35-0 beating from the San Francisco *****. I could be wrong, of course. I didnít sit here and do 12 hours of research to support my ďworst everĒ observation. Thatís all it is; an observation. And this opinion can be revisited and updated in a few weeks, or at the end of the season, as more games are played, and as the Rams progress, or regress.

            But I havenít seen a mess as big as this for a long time.

            The 2009 Rams arenít entirely responsible for what happened last year ó there are a lot of new players on the roster ó but the fact is, the team has lost 14 consecutive games. Thatís the longest current streak in the NFL and the longest streak in franchise history. They have lost the 14 in a row by an average of 17 points. In a competitive league where many games go right down to the wire, the Rams are routinely routed by the opposition.

            What about the 2008 Detroit Lions? They went 0-16. So when weíre talking ďworst,Ē theyíre the leader in the clubhouse in terms of record. And if the Rams win a game or two, they wonít be the worst. But up to this point, the trend is ominous. At least the 2008 Lions scored points, around 15 per game. And those Lions had (and still have) a big-time playmaker at WR in Calvin Johnson. At least there was some sizzle. And the Ď08 Lions were competitive at times, losing five games by 8 points or less. Overall, the 2008 Lions lost their games by an average of 15 points. Through four games, the Rams have lost by an average of 21 points.

            What about the 2008 Rams, who went 2-14? Well, they were hideous, sure. And we will never forget that beatdown by the NY Jets at the Meadowlands; the Rams were down 40-0 at the half and lost 47-3. But overall, the 2008 Rams lost their 14 games by an average of 15 points. The Ď09 squad is losing by an average of three TDs so far.

            And the Rams donít score. Not much, anyway. The 2009 Rams have been shutout twice in four games, and were held to 7 points in a third game. They didnít even have a red-zone possession at San Francisco. They had only 177 yards against the *****. And for the season, the Rams are averaging 6 points per game. Abysmal. For historical perspective, consider this: the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs ó a winless (0-14) expansion team widely considered the most futile outfit in NFL history ó averaged 8.9 points per game. Those expansion Buccaneers had more game than what weíve seen from the Ď09 Rams offense.

            The Rams have scored 7 points, total, in three road games this season. Through four games, they have converted only 31.4 percent of third-down...
            -10-05-2009, 08:20 PM
          • Nick
            Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB
            by Nick
            Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB
            BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist | Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010 9:37 am

            Good morning to you. Let's get this thing going:

            * Perspective: I was pretty harsh in my initial reaction to Sunday's 44-6 destruction at Detroit. I thought the Rams reacted poorly to adversity. I thought they stopped competing. Not in a voluntary "We Quit" type of way. But when that game began to avalanche on the Rams, they just lost energy and they lost heart. It happens. I was surprised that it happened to this particular team, though. Because one thing I counted on from them was to give us a relentless effort, no matter what. That part was woefully lacking.

            But here's where the calmer perspective comes in: a lot of NFL teams have days like this, when everything blows up and their Sunday turns to smithereens. A few weeks ago the NY Giants were busted 31-10 at home by Tennessee, and the Giants looked lost. The newspapers were filled with talk about the coach being doomed. Well, the Giants have won two in a row since then, and they're looking great. They rebounded. Another young team, Tampa Bay, was crushed by 25 points in a loss to Pittsburgh but pushed that away and defeated Cincinnati Sunday to go to 3-1 on the season.

            Look at the Arizona Cardinals. This is a flawed team, and those problems were ripped open in horrible losses to Atlanta (41-7) and San Diego (41-10). But the Cardinals haven't freaked out, haven't cowered. They went back to work. And the Cardinals upset defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans on Sunday. Arizona is 3-2 and leads the NFC West. That's because the Cardinals have developed some survival skills. The Cardinals have been able to put hideous games behind them and move on.

            That's what the Rams must do now. The massacre in Motown is over. The question now is: how do they move forward? How will they handle it? This is an important part of the character development of a young team.

            *Leadership? OK, the question must be asked: where was the leadership heading into this game? Look, if we're going to praise the coaches and Steven Jackson and Fred Robbins and O.J. Atogwe and other veterans for keeping the young players' heads and egos in proper working condition, then it's fair to wonder why the Rams were unprepared for what awaited them in Detroit. I do not mean to single out those guys specifically; my point is more general. I just have to question why the fellows did not have the same mindset that we witnessed in the wins over Washington and Seattle. I get it; the Rams had won two in a row and were soaking up the praise, with everyone talking about contending for the NFC West and all of that. But how in the world does a team that's been the joke of the NFL for several years take such modest success and somehow conclude that all they have to do to get a win in Detroit is to show up and get...
            -10-11-2010, 03:47 PM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: Quick Takes On Rams 9-7 Loss @ Washington
            by r8rh8rmike
            09.20.2009 8:19 pm
            Quick Takes on Rams 9-7 loss @ Washington
            By Bernie Miklasz


            Good dayÖ

            * The Outcome: The game was there for the Rams all day, just waiting to be claimed. Baffled coach Jim Zorn and the Redskins tried to give it away to the visitors, and the Rams flubbed the opportunity. Were the Rams better in Washington than they were in Seattle? Yes. The Rams defense kept the Redskins out of the end zone, and Steven Jackson rushed for 104 yards. But the bottom line is the 12th consecutive loss for the franchise. Disappointing. The Rams have played two games and have scored 7 points. Thatís inexcusable.

            * The Effort: The Rams played hard in Washington and the players are clearly determined to do better. Thatís what they should be doing, of course. They have every reason to be motivated. But that hasnít always been true ; in 2007 and 2008 we saw too many faint-hearted efforts. Now the challenge will be to hang tough during more hard times. The Rams are off to an 0-2 start and the schedule doesnít get any easier. Green Bay comes to The Ed after getting burned at home by Cincinnati, and then the Rams head to San Francisco, which is 2-0 and playing a physical, relentless style of football. San Franciso coach Mike Singletary is succeeding in changing his teamís losing culture. The Rams arenít close to making that conversion.

            * The Coach: Keeping the morale up will be more of a challenge for rookie HC Steve Spagnuolo. I donít mind his positive approach. This is the Dick Vermeil way of doing things. Spagnuolo has to stay upbeat, and keep his players working and competing. It might make fans feel better to hear/read Spagnuolo savage his team after a loss, but that wouldnít achieve anything. He has to remain true to himself. Keep an eye on Spagnuolo. You donít really find out about a coach until he has to deal with losing streaks and adversity, and the rookie boss has entered that zone. In addition to the 0-2 start and one TD in two games, the offensive line has taken a hit with injuries. Post-Dispatch beatwriter Jim Thomas noted that it took Spagnuolo 25 minutes to gather himself before he faced the media after the game. (The NFL-mandated wait time is 10 minutes.) I donít know what that means, but again: losing isnít easy to handle.

            * Game Management: Spagnuolo and staff really need to grow in this area. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur canít keep getting plays in late. You canít burn all of your timeouts early in close games. Wasting the final timeout before that 4th quarter punt with 9:25 left in the game? What was that? A confused player, Kenneth Darby, called it - but ultimately this is the coachís responsibility to make sure the players know what to do and when to do it. And defensive coordinator Ken Flajole was slow to adjust when the Rams inexplicably left Redskins tight end Chris Cooley uncovered for most of the first half.

            * Play...
            -09-21-2009, 04:05 PM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: 10 Opinions On The Rams
            by r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: 10 opinions on the Rams

            1 hour ago ē BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist

            10 Thoughts on the Rams:

            1. I don't care what the score was at Indianapolis, because few things in sports are more meaningless or a waste of time and money than NFL exhibition games. Even the one important aspect of this junk -- evaluating players, especially young players -- gets lost in the traffic. Bodies in, bodies out, skeletal offenses, conservative defenses, coaches playing it safe. So many players on the field in Sunday's 38-3 loss won't be with the Rams when they open the real season on Sept. 9 at Detroit. So it's difficult to zero in on specifics, but we'll give it a try ...

            2. Sunday's game served a valuable purpose. Well, at least I think it did. After watching the Rams struggle in so many areas, a slap of reality was a good thing. Now maybe everyone, including the media, will calm down and understand that a ton of work must be done to get this team to a respectable level. Sunday, we were reminded of just how bad this roster is. Yes, the Rams have added some talent since last season, but you don't fill so many roster holes in one offseason. Not after going 15-65 over the last five years. Not after screwing up so many drafts. One more time: Jeff Fisher is cleaning up the debris left by three previous regimes. Not one, not two, but three ... in time, Fisher and Snead will be judged for their personnel decisions. But not now.

            3. For the peeps that were going nuts on Twitter and internet forums and all but heading to the Eads Bridge to end it all after watching this game: the Rams went 4-0 last summer. And they opened the preseason by stomping Indianapolis. The Rams were on their way; here we go. Big season up ahead, right? Not exactly. A 2-14 record, with the coach and GM getting fired. The preseason scoreboard means nothing. The roster means just about everything.

            4. The problems that we thought would be problems appear to be problems. Offensive line: same as it ever was, but with an asterisk.* What, you were expecting a second coming of The Hogs? Snead and Fisher didn't make major upgrades to this area over the offseason. And their one major move, signing expensive free-agent center Scott Wells, hasn't gone well so far. He apparently has a knee injury, which the Rams continue to downplay, which of course raises suspicions that there's something more serious. We'll see. But by bringing back the same offensive tackles, and adding Kansas City discard Barry Richardson to the OT mix, the Rams didn't reinforce their pass protection.

            * Now about the asterisk ... I do think this group will, if nothing else, be able to lower their shoulders and pound away with run blocking. I think it can be a physical line, going straight ahead, trying to clear a path for Steven Jackson. The Rams are going to run the football. And the line is more suited for...
            -08-13-2012, 11:09 AM
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