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  • Hawks primed to finally surpass Rams

    Hawks primed to finally surpass Rams

    By John Clayton
    ESPN.com



    Editor's note: ESPN senior NFL writer John Clayton's weekly "First And 10" column takes you around the league with a look at the best game of the week followed by primers for 10 other games. Here's his look at Week 5.

    First St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks: Even in this era of parity in which franchises can go from worst to first, division takeovers don't always happen overnight.



    The Eagles have ruled the NFC East the past three years. Despite the Vikings being the favorites to win the NFC North this year, the Packers have won the past two division titles. And the Patriots seemingly now have the AFC East by the throat. But the longest divisional success story is the St. Louis Rams, who have either won or tied for the divisional title four of the past five years.



    Since joining the division in 2002, the Seahawks have set the Rams in their sights and structured their team in preparation for Sunday's game against St. Louis. If the Seahawks win at Qwest Field, they take control of the division with a 2-game lead. If they lose, the Rams would hold an edge because the Seahawks have a tough road trip to New England next week. Back-to-back losses by Seattle could give the Rams a half-game lead and the confidence of knowing the Seahawks would have to come to St. Louis on Nov. 14.



    On paper, the Seahawks have done all the right things to overtake the Rams. They've built an offense that can annually rank in the top seven in various statistics and play high-scoring games to counter the Rams' high-powered offense. They might have made the single biggest offseason move to weaken the Rams and strengthen themselves by signing former St. Louis defensive end Grant Wistrom.



    One player doesn't make a defense, but Wistrom is a player who makes this defense work. For one, he's a hustling player who creates a lot of energy. Second, he's a leader. Third, he gives the team a pass-rushing threat on the other side of Chike Okeafor to put pressure on quarterbacks.



    His absence has caused adjustments on the Rams defensive line, which also lost defensive tackle Brian Young and is missing injured defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy. Defensive end Leonard Little is being moved around to avoid the double-team blocking -- a strategy that worked well last week against the *****. In past years, Little drove right tackles crazy by rushing from the left side while Wistrom got his usual eight sacks from the right.



    In the past three years, the Rams haven't finished lower than 16th in defense. This year, they are 27th and are giving up 137.3 yards a game rushing. They are also giving up 21.5 points a game.



    While Arizona and San Francisco are in rebuilding mode, the NFC West is a two-team race. Sunday will determine which team has the edge.

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: Hawks primed to finally surpass Rams

    Big Game. This is what it's all about.

    GO RAMS!

    Comment

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    • RamDez
      Hawks ready to take Rams
      by RamDez
      By John Clayton

      ESPN.com



      Editor's note: ESPN senior NFL writer John Clayton's weekly "First And 10" column takes you around the league with a look at the best game of the week followed by primers for 10 other games. Here's his look at Week 5.

      First St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks: Even in this era of parity in which franchises can go from worst to first, division takeovers don't always happen overnight.

      The Eagles have ruled the NFC East the past three years. Despite the Vikings being the favorites to win the NFC North this year, the Packers have won the past two division titles. And the Patriots seemingly now have the AFC East by the throat. But the longest divisional success story is the St. Louis Rams, who have either won or tied for the divisional title four of the past five years.

      Since joining the division in 2002, the Seahawks have set the Rams in their sights and structured their team in preparation for Sunday's game against St. Louis. If the Seahawks win at Qwest Field, they take control of the division with a 2-game lead. If they lose, the Rams would hold an edge because the Seahawks have a tough road trip to New England next week. Back-to-back losses by Seattle could give the Rams a half-game lead and the confidence of knowing the Seahawks would have to come to St. Louis on Nov. 14.

      On paper, the Seahawks have done all the right things to overtake the Rams. They've built an offense that can annually rank in the top seven in various statistics and play high-scoring games to counter the Rams' high-powered offense. They might have made the single biggest offseason move to weaken the Rams and strengthen themselves by signing former St. Louis defensive end Grant Wistrom.


      One player doesn't make a defense, but Wistrom is a player who makes this defense work. For one, he's a hustling player who creates a lot of energy. Second, he's a leader. Third, he gives the team a pass-rushing threat on the other side of Chike Okeafor to put pressure on quarterbacks.

      His absence has caused adjustments on the Rams defensive line, which also lost defensive tackle Brian Young and is missing injured defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy. Defensive end Leonard Little is being moved around to avoid the double-team blocking -- a strategy that worked well last week against the *****. In past years, Little drove right tackles crazy by rushing from the left side while Wistrom got his usual eight sacks from the right.

      In the past three years, the Rams haven't finished lower than 16th in defense. This year, they are 27th and are giving up 137.3 yards a game rushing. They are also giving up 21.5 points a game.

      While Arizona and San Francisco are in rebuilding mode, the NFC West is a two-team race. Sunday will determine which team has the edge.


      And 10. New York Giants at...
      -10-09-2004, 03:56 PM
    • RamDez
      Quarterback questions dominate NFC West
      by RamDez
      Quarterback questions dominate NFC West

      By Vic Carucci
      National Editor, NFL.com

      (With NFL training camps due to open later this month, Vic Carucci has put together an eight-part series highlighting how each division shapes up in the aftermath of offseason personnel moves and organized workouts).

      (July 22, 2004) -- Here's a look at the NFC West.

      Most influential offseason moves


      The Rams remain explosive and always will be as long as Mike Martz is the one designing their offensive philosophy and putting together their playbook. But are these the same Rams that won a Super Bowl and appeared in a second not long ago? Are they the same Rams that seemingly could score at will? Those are tough questions to answer until the season opens and we see how Marc Bulger is going to handle the starting quarterback job without Kurt Warner, who is now a New York Giant, looking over his shoulder pad. After becoming the starter in '03, Bulger showed signs of regression late in the season and into the playoffs. Just as in offseason drills, the Rams will devote a good portion of training camp to helping Bulger improve his accuracy on deep passes and stop forcing as many throws into coverage. The Rams' defensive line took a couple of significant hits with the free-agent departures of end Grant Wistrom and tackle Brian Young, and it remains to be seen how well those spots can be filled.

      After beefing up their pass rush, the Seahawks' primary offseason goal was improving the NFL's 27th-ranked pass defense. They opened the vault particularly wide to acquire free-agent end Grant Wistrom. He doesn't consistently put up impressive numbers (see his 7 sacks last year), but he is a difference-maker in so many other areas such as matching his considerable strength against the run and providing excellent spirit and leadership. First-round draft pick Marcus Tubbs should help fill the athleticism void in the middle of the Seahawks' defensive line after John Randle's retirement and pick up the run-plugging slack created by Norman Hand's departure. Second-round pick Michael Boulware was a linebacker at Florida State but has the speed and athletic ability to make an impact as a strong safety in the NFL. He started off slowly with the adjustment in early offseason workouts, but has made dramatic progress since. Seattle's secondary should receive a powerful shakeup with the addition of free-agent cornerback Bobby Taylor. Taylor can still shutdown some of the top quarterbacks in the game, or at the very least, put himself consistently in a position to make plays. Taylor has the size (6-foot-3 and 216 pounds) and long arms to hold his own against the larger and more physical receivers he will regularly see in this division. Another huge move was the decision to re-sign Darrell Jackson, the team's leading receiver last season and a hot commodity in the free-agent market, to a big contract.
      ...
      -07-22-2004, 11:01 AM
    • AvengerRam_old
      The most idiotic comment I've ever read
      by AvengerRam_old
      As those of you who have been around here for a while know, I'm not a big fan of sportswriters. However, I don't think I'm being overly critical when I say that John Clayton has just published the most idiotic comment I've ever read in a sports-related article.

      This comes from his weekly "First and 10" column:



      At first glance, maybe that seemed pretty innocuous, right? Well, most of it is, except for this part:


      The Rams thought that???? Really???

      You're telling me that, at the start of the season, the Rams players and coaches said "Gee, I don't see us winning more than 4 games... 6 if we're really lucky?"

      Hell no!

      Nobody can say that they "knew" the Rams would be 6-7 and in the division lead at this stage of the season, but you can't tell me that the Rams "thought" they were a "four win team."

      I don't think Clayton understands what it means to be a competitor. Let's make this simple: EVERY PLAYER in the NFL believes they can win EVERY WEEK. NO PLAYER goes into the season believing his team will lose 12 games.

      There are essentially four primary factors that determine which teams win in the NFL (or any sport). They are (in no particular order): talent, health, preparation and execution.

      Do you think the Rams started the year thinking they had no talent?

      Do you think they anticipated poor health?

      Do you think they operated with the intent not to prepare or to execute?

      I truly believe that one of the reasons that the Rams have succeeded is that the team's leadership, from Devaney, to Spags, to S-Jax to Bradford, truly believed that the team could rise from the ashes, and the rest of the team bought into that notion.

      Sportswriters and fans may have seen the Rams as a "four win team" at the start of the season.

      The Rams didn't, and that's one of the reasons they're going for their 7th win in Week 15....
      -12-16-2010, 03:56 PM
    • RamDez
      The Power teams
      by RamDez
      Balance of powerWe've chosen five categories to characterize how we view the NFL's 32 teams after the first six weeks of a season in which parity has been relegated to parody. Here's a look:

      <LI>Schlage (a "lock" for the playoffs): We thought about expanding the number of teams by one or two here but, for now, we're going with an elite five: New England, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Denver and Minnesota. Still some concerns about the Colts and Vikings defenses and they may have to win some shootouts.

      <LI>Heaven's door (knock-knock-knockin' at possible playoff spots): Hard to ignore the combined 9-1 record of the two New York teams, isn't it? But we want to wait one more week -- and it has nothing to do with the Jets matchup at New England on Sunday -- before moving them up a notch. Same with Atlanta, where Michael Vick has flashed snippets of brilliance, but where the defense has been the most significant constant. Joining those three: St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. We're anxious to see how Ben Roethlisberger reacts on Oct. 31 when the Steelers rookie quarterback tries to figure out the exotic defenses that New England coach Bill Belichick will have schemed up.

      <LI>State of Missouri (still have something to show me): We moved Seattle down into this subset because, while we're not alarmed by the Seahawks' two-game losing streak, the loss of defensive end Grant Wistrom to injury and a suddenly unsettled wide receiver situation changes the dynamics. San Diego is more competitive than we thought, now that we have seen the team in person, but the Chargers need to make some plays on the outside offensively and have to tighten up the right cornerback spot. Joey Harrington had better start playing better in Detroit and ditto Baltimore's scattershot Kyle Boller. Houston has surged nicely the past few weeks but we're not convinced yet they won't backslide a bit.

      <LI>Middle men (currently mediocre or, in some cases, the potential to at least rise to average): A few surprises here -- present bottom-feeders such as Cincinnati, Buffalo, Tennessee, Kansas City -- because those teams all possess enough talent, on paper at least, to still make a run. They are joined by Dallas, Washington, Green Bay and Cleveland. Actually, we might have named this the Jekyll-Hyde category, because that's how many of these teams play. Good enough to beat anyone in the league. Bad enough to lose to anyone, too.

      <LI>Stick a fork in 'em (they're done): Miami, Oakland, Arizona, San Francisco, Carolina, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Chicago. Oh, sure, they'll have a surprise or two. But it's time for these teams to start planning for 2005.

      -- Len Pasquarelli
      -10-23-2004, 02:04 AM
    • Tampa_Ram
      Rams have tough choice with #2 pick
      by Tampa_Ram
      History proves Rams will have tough choice with No. 2 pick

      By Vic Carucci | NFL.com



      The St. Louis Rams are in a tricky spot.
      With the second overall pick of the draft, they aren't under quite as much scrutiny as the Miami Dolphins, who own the top choice.
      Photos ...
      Last 20 No. 2 picks


      More photos
      But it's extremely close.
      Theoretically, the Rams -- who haven't chosen this high since trading to No. 1 for Orlando Pace in 1997 -- are in position to land the second-rated prospect of the entire college crop. In a year such as this, where there is no consensus No. 1, they could very well end up with a player that they (and many other teams) actually rated higher than the first one chosen.
      They also could end up with the messiest of uncooked omelet facials.
      Miss on the second overall pick, and you can count on receiving every bit of the harsh and endless criticism that the team picking at the top can expect if its selection flops -- if not more.
      Does the name Ryan Leaf ring a bell? He is the poster child for colossal draft busts. He also was a second overall pick (by the San Diego Chargers in 1998). Crazy as it sounds now, there were many NFL observers who actually believed that Leaf would become a better quarterback than the one taken ahead of him, Peyton Manning.
      Maybe the name Tony Mandarich sounds familiar. Before Leaf came along, his was the face on the aforementioned poster. And, yes, he, too, was a second overall pick (by the Green Bay Packers in 1989). The player taken ahead of him, Troy Aikman, has a bronze bust in his likeness in Canton, Ohio.
      Another historically poor No. 2 choice was Rick Mirer, selected by the Seattle Seahawks selected in 1993.

      Of course, history shows that the second overall pick has produced its share of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees as well -- eight to be exact.
      The general feeling around the league is that with highly talented prospects such as defensive linemen Chris Long (Virginia), Vernon Gholston (Ohio State) and Glenn Dorsey (LSU), offensive tackle Jake Long (Michigan), and running back Darren McFadden (Arkansas), a team with a top-five pick should feel confident about getting a quality player. The Rams are planning to have all five, plus 25 other potential draftees, visit them in mid-April, less than two weeks before the draft.
      "The magic of drafting isn't so much filling the needs of your roster, but getting guys that are going to help you win," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "I think these guys are all going to be very good candidates for injecting some help to our team in some areas where I think we're going to need it."
      The No. 2 spot also can be attractive to teams in the lower portion of the first round looking to trade up for a player who wouldn't likely otherwise be available to them. Such deals have happened three times...
      -03-25-2008, 02:45 PM
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