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How do you judge a Ram?

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  • How do you judge a Ram?

    How do you judge a Ram?
    By Andy Dapron

    Well, Keith Null’s debut as a starting quarterback certainly went well. Now that we’ve all watched Null humiliate himself and the Rams with his one-touchdown, five-interception performance in a 47-7 drubbing at the hands of the Tennessee Titans Sunday, I hope everybody can stop clamoring to see him and realize that he just…

    Just kidding. I’m just trying to stir people up (because, after all, I don’t think people are riled up enough about the state of the Rams these days). Truth be told, I thought Null acquitted himself pretty well Sunday. No, his numbers (27 of 43 passing, 157 yards, 1 TD, 5 INT, 37.8 QB rating) aren’t going to cause anyone to hail him as “The Answer” to the Rams’ lingering question at quarterback. However, his mentality seemed right. He stayed calm in the pocket. He wasn’t afraid to take shots deep when they were called for (which still wasn’t that often, but given the circumstances yesterday, that’s understandable). He never looked rattled or overwhelmed, and despite getting knocked down repeatedly, he kept getting back up. He kept fighting. That’s about as much as you could ask from the guy.

    Besides, Null had the deck stacked against him in just about every conceivable way against the Titans. To begin with, Null’s background hasn’t exactly positioned him to make a big rookie splash in the NFL. He comes from the football factory that is West Texas A&M. He ran a spread offense there, which is notorious for being nowhere near a pro-style offense. As if being a rookie third string quarterback from a small school wasn’t enough, Null had to go on the shortest of notice. He discovered that he was the starter during pregame warmups, when presumptive starter Kyle Boller declared himself insufficiently healed from a deep thigh bruise to play. He had to match up against a Tennessee defense that stakes its entire reputation on punching people in the mouth, and was desperate to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive.

    Worst of all for Null, the offense he was asked to lead was the Rams’ offense. This offense was inept by nearly every measure long before Null was asked to try and run it.

    Actually, if anything struck me yesterday, it was how impossible it really is to get a read on Null, or, for that matter, any player or coach on this team. There’s a reason football is known as the the ultimate team sport. All the best teams (think Colts, Saints, Patriots, or even the Rams of a decade ago) have players who achieve a kind of synergy with each other. Each of them does their jobs well, and they can count on their teammates to do their jobs well, too. Good teams have 11 players in the right place at the right time.

    When one or two players find themselves overmatched, or out of position, well… think of a string of Christmas tree lights: one light goes out, and the whole strand goes out.

    I think it’s safe to say there’s more than one bulb out on the Rams’ strand.

    So, how can we judge the Rams, really? Collectively, sure — the word “awful” comes to mind — but on a case-by-case basis, how does one draw the line between players elevating their team (or failing to do so), and vice versa? We can be pretty sure Steven Jackson is awesome, since he’s writing his name in the Rams’ record books even as the rest of the team reaches new heights in futility.

    (By the way, if Jackson’s injury is as serious as a herniated disc, WHY is he still playing? The only purposes these remaining three games serve for the Rams are to evaluate for the future and to salvage some pride. It’s not worth the potential long term damage to the heart and soul of the franchise. I’m just sayin’)

    For the rest of the team, it’s not so clear-cut.

    The quarterbacks are the clearest example of this nagging “the chicken or the egg” issue. They’re also the most discussed, so I won’t beat it to death. Let me just offer this as a talking point: We all assume that Marc Bulger is on his way out of town after this season, thanks to his steep decline in production in recent years. Back in 2002, Bulger found himself in a similar circumstance to what Null faced yesterday. Heading into game 6 against the 4-0 (and soon to be NFC Champion) Oakland Raiders, the Rams were winless, and Bulger was the third string QB, behind Kurt Warner and Jamie Martin. With both Warner and Martin nursing injuries, Bulger got the start, went 14 of 21 passing for 186 yards with 3 TD’s and no picks, and sparked the Rams to a 28-13 win.

    Granted, there are a handful of differences between then and now, but one of the biggest was ithat, back then, Bulger was guiding a seasoned group of talented veterans who were able to understand and execute their roles to perfection. Null was guiding an aching star and exactly one wideout, Donnie Avery, who was on the opening day roster. Not exactly a level playing field.

    Avery is another example of how difficult it is to assess the Rams individually within their broader context. A lot of people are down on Avery right now, especially after watching him catch two balls for 14 yards Sunday, while fellow 2008 second round draftee DeSean Jackson had six receptions for 178 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown catch, to go along with a 72-yard punt return for a score, later that day for the Philadelphia Eagles.

    But here’s the thing: D. Jackson was catching balls from Donovan McNabb. That’s a whole lot different then grabbing them off Null, or Boller, or Bulger. D. Jackson also had the benefit of a defense that, while it did give up some points, also made some plays. Things tend to open up for you when you’re not down 14-0 before you can blink.

    I’m not saying that I think Avery is on D. Jackson’s level, and I realize that the relationship between player performance and team performance is a two-way street. D. Jackson stepped up and made some things happen for his team, and it’d be nice if Avery were doing the same for the Rams. But, I can’t help but wonder how many plays Avery would make if he had wings on his helmet instead of horns.

    The same issue applies to the coaching staff, too. I was hard on Coach Steve Spagnuolo and his staff in my blog last week, and I stand by what I said. I think the Rams would be better off if they tried to push the ball down the field more. However, Spagnuolo has a team that’s finding it difficult to execute even this blandest of bland offenses. I can see where he might be reluctant to add many wrinkles. Can you imagine the litany of errors if this gang had to digest even a fifth of the old Mike Martz playbook? Thus, Spagnuolo’s struggles need to be viewed in a broader context, too.

    When you look at all the issues the Rams are facing, and how they affect each other, you realize, it may be quite awhile before the Rams get their lights flashing again.

  • #2
    Re: How do you judge a Ram?

    Its a team effort not a one man team.. Every single player has to do there job... Th carelessness of one player can effect the outcome of the whole game... Everyone needs to step it up.


    • #3
      Re: How do you judge a Ram?

      By height.
      The more things change, the more they stay the same.


      Related Topics


      • BM_Face
        Null not discouraged
        by BM_Face

        Five interceptions or not, Keith Null wants to get back on the horse.

        "Yeah, I would love to get out and play again," Null said Monday in his west Texas drawl. "The more experience I get, the better."

        He just might get another chance. For the final three games of this season, it's either Kyle Boller or Null at quarterback. That's because Marc Bulger is still on crutches three weeks after he was diagnosed with a fractured shin bone.

        Bulger underwent a followup MRI exam Friday. According to Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, the exam "showed that (the fracture) was healing, that the swelling was down. It's not completely healed. He still has a little pain there, so (doctors) want him to stay on the crutches."

        Bulger did not accompany the team to Nashville, Tenn., or Chicago because medical officials want him to stay off his feet as much as possible and avoid putting weight on the leg. So it's all but certain that Bulger is finished for the season. It's just a matter of whether the team wants to put him on the injured reserve list.

        As for Boller, a last-minute scratch against the Tennessee Titans because of a thigh injury, there's no guarantee at this point he will be healthy enough to play Sunday against Houston.

        Does Boller start if he is?

        "I would tend to lean that way," Spagnuolo said. "But I'm not going to commit to that 100 percent. Kyle's been a competitor for us. If he's healthy, I think he can help us win a football game."

        The Rams have won only one of their past 23 football games dating back to October 2008. Sunday's 47-7 shellacking at LP Field in Nashville was among the most lopsided losses in franchise history — the fourth-worst margin of defeat.

        Null had a rhythm going early against Tennessee. But four early penalties by the offensive line, including two personal fouls against right guard Richie Incognito, made a tough situation worse for a rookie quarterback playing in his first NFL regular-season game.

        At least Null could joke Monday about his debut. After reviewing game film, he was asked what he did well.

        "Got in and out of the huddle," he said. "Called the plays right. Directed traffic. Those things that you could easily mess up on in your first start, I did well. I made some good throws. Good reads. I threw the ball to the right read most of the time. I had a lot of completions."

        Then came the punch line.

        "If you count the interceptions, even more completions," Null said, drawing laughter from the media at Rams Park.

        Spagnuolo is a firm believer in silver linings, and one of them Sunday was Null's poise and composure. Null didn't get dispirited. He didn't panic. And he kept...
        -12-15-2009, 08:52 AM
      • BarronWade
        Null starting by November?
        by BarronWade
        Okay this is not a complete Bulger Bash.

        This game could have been the fault of Bulger or his receivers. I like to just put the blame on soon to be ex-ram Richie Incognito.

        When watching the game on tv or internet you really cannot see what happens to the receiver its not thrown to so i dont really know if it's there fault or not. I watched it on the live feed. I live in NJ and i watched the Jets game and in that game i saw Bulger throwing early because did not trust the line. This time he was a bit trigger shy and he had great protection. Bulger needs to be more aggressive! He was more aggressive at the end of the game and it drove us all the way down inside the seaguls 10.

        When it comes to team leadership and running the Rams offense Kyle Boller is not the answer. However if have less then 2-3 again come November do you think Kieth Null will be the guy under center with Spags thinking about the future.

        Also do you think we should put in some wildcat plays with Action Jackson behind Center and Donnie Avery the man in motion?
        -09-13-2009, 06:08 PM
      • RamsInfiniti
        To put an end to the Nulpul decision ....
        by RamsInfiniti
        And in my opinion, any further posts suggesting Null start this year should be considered off-topic, since it's a non-issue ...

        Billy Devaney indicated on the radio today that in no way shape or form would Null be getting an open tryout. Nor would Null be getting any playing time unless something drastic happens. Looks like they are looking at bringing back Brock Berlin. If this happens, fully expect Berlin to get the reps if Boller were to go down ...

        It makes very good sense as to why they wouldn't throw Null out there. Devaney plain and simple said it wouldn't be fair to the rest of the team. For those that don't understand that, realize the Null gets very few if any reps in practice. He has very little grasp of the speed of the NFL game. Putting Null out there would be prohibitive to the growth and development of every single player around him, both offense and defense. This offense would be very limited in what they could do, and consequently very ineffective placing the D in a bad situation ...

        Hence, it just isn't going to happen ...

        SO DROP IT!

        BTW, the rest of the season is NOT a "wash" as some have called it. I am sorry to say, but uttering this statement immediately puts your football IQ in question, because every game and every second is important to players that are on a franchise in rebuilding mode ...
        -11-24-2009, 04:14 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Null Learns Plenty In First Start
        by r8rh8rmike
        Null Learns Plenty in First Start
        Monday, December 14, 2009

        By Nick Wagoner
        Senior Writer

        Although he was nervous, rookie quarterback Keith Null let nobody know that the moment of making his first start was too big for him.

        And, like most players making their NFL debut, Null’s nerves went away quickly.

        “I’d say after the first play,” Null said. “I went out there pretty comfortable. It definitely helps to go out and throw a completion on your first pass so after that any player would tell you, you get that first play then you are out there playing football again.”

        It was a long road from tiny West Texas A&M to taking the reigns of the Rams offense for Null but on the first play from scrimmage, Null had a number of firsts.

        Null took his first snap in a regular season game (and from under center, something he hadn’t done much of in his shotgun-heavy career), dropped back and delivered his first pass to tight end Daniel Fells for a gain of 7 yards.

        It wasn’t the flashiest opening to a NFL career, but it was enough to shake the butterflies loose from Null’s stomach and allow him to settle in.

        By the end of his first busy NFL Sunday, Null had a rough statistical day in line with what many rookie signal callers – let alone sixth-round draft choices with Division II pedigrees – would have.

        But in retrospect, it wasn’t so much the numbers Null posted as the way he handled an extremely difficult situation that impressed teammates and coaches alike.

        “Under the circumstances and how it all went down, I thought he handled himself well in the huddle, I thought he was composed, he had command of what he was doing,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “He’d like some throws back. I thought he stepped up in the pocket well and actually had some pretty nice throws. That part of it was encouraging.”

        Null finished the game 27-of-43 for 157 yards with a touchdown and five interceptions for a rating of 37.8.

        Considering that Tennessee represents one of the most hostile environments in the league with one of its toughest defenses, Null’s assignment was loaded with landmines before he ever was even declared the starter.

        Last week, Null split repetitions with Kyle Boller in practice for most of the week. With Boller battling a thigh injury, Null got more and more reps as the week went on.

        By Saturday, it had become clear that Boller would be a game time decision and Null was a viable candidate to start.
        That made for some interesting moments for Null in the run up to the game as he awaited word on his role.

        “I was going out, getting ready to play not really know what was going to happen and trying to prepare myself for whatever they tell me,” Null said. “I went back in the locker room, they told me I was going to...
        -12-15-2009, 07:01 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Null Should Be On '10 Roster, But Starting Is Another Question
        by r8rh8rmike
        Null should be on '10 roster, but starting is another question

        Jeff Gordon

        Rookie quarterback Keith Null has earned a spot on the 2010 Rams. This much we know for sure.

        Could he compete for the starting job next season? It is too soon to stay that.

        Could he blossom into the franchise’s Quarterback of the Future? It is much, MUCH too soon to make such an optimistic assessment.

        We do know that Null has pretty good tools. And we know he has some nerve, too, since he shrugged off his ghastly five-interception debut in Week 14.

        Clearly Null learned from his first NFL start. His second outing went much more smoothly than his first. He settled down and got into a nice passing rhythm.

        "It was a lot different," Null told reporters after the game. "It seemed like things slowed down a little bit for me a lot more than it did last week. It was a great opportunity to get out there and play again."

        He made just two glaring mistakes during the Rams’ 16-13 loss to the visiting Texans Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

        1) After a botched exchange, Null tried to execute the running play. He needed to eat the football instead, as he learned while losing a costly fumble. Job One for young NFL quarterbacks is ball security.

        2) While scrambling for his life, Null tried to make a play. He needed to just throw the ball away, as he learned while throwing a costly interception.

        Other than those errors of aggression, Null was just fine.

        He took a couple of big sacks after failing to locate a receiver, but at least he pulled the ball back instead of forcing throws into coverage. That was progress.

        Null completed 18 of 27 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. He looked like a veteran while converting that one red zone opportunity.

        The Rams lined up with three wide receivers on the short side of the field on a first-and-goal play from the Houston 3. The other two wideouts cleared room for Danny Amendola, who caught a quick pass from Null to score.

        That is a routine touchdown play for most teams, but it was like scaling a mountain for this group. Week after week after week the Rams have come up short in the red zone.

        So fans saw glimmers of hope in this game. The Rams offense appeared more assertive than it had been for most of this season. We saw a lot of three- and four-receiver sets, which is highly unusual for the Steve Spagnuolo regime.

        Null demonstrated a strong arm while taking some deep shots. He threw intermediate passes with authority. He made generally good reads, too.

        Some fans have gotten way too excited in our forums and chats here at STLtoday, but Null did a lot of good things. During a season of unrelenting failure,...
        -12-21-2009, 03:53 PM