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Null Learns Plenty In First Start

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  • Null Learns Plenty In First Start

    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 start. I am not going to say I wasn’t nervous. I was nervous but I was also excited to get out there and play and I got pumped up for the game and was excited to run out there on the field.”

    In the immediate aftermath of the game, Null acknowledged that the speed of the game was greater than anything he’d seen, even in the preseason.

    Of course, that’s a normal recognition for any rookie but for one with Null’s inexperience and background in a spread heavy offense that emphasized quarterbacks working out of the shotgun, the simple act of taking snaps under center and dropping back to pass could be a difficult chore.

    “I think he found out it was different,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s an away game against a good defense, there’s an adjustment there, no question.”

    Null said he had gradually gotten used to taking snaps from center and adjusting to scanning the field while dropping back as opposed to being set up to throw from taking snaps out of the shotgun.

    “I have been getting used to that,” Null said. “Definitely in the game things started to speed up a little bit more. I think I adjusted to it as the game went on. It got sort of shaky for a while but then it slowed back down to me so overall I am starting to get used to that.”

    Null also did well with some of the other more minor but just as important details. Things like getting the plays on the headset, dealing with the crowd, making adjustments and communicating the plays properly sound like simple acts but they are also ones that can easily get lost in translation for a rookie.

    By all accounts, Null handled that part well also.

    “You look for that when you send a rookie out there in that situation, in that position you always want to see the look in their eye,” Spagnuolo said. “I thought he had a good look, he wasn’t frazzled by anything really.”

    After getting an opportunity to watch the film, Null believed he did some things well though the statistics won’t necessarily show it. More important, though, are the lessons Null can take from that tape study for his next opportunity.

    “It was definitely a lot to learn from,” Null said. “It was great to get out there and have that experience. I have taken a lot of things from that and I am going to get better from it.
    Having that film to watch helps you a lot. I saw everything I did wrong and hopefully I’ll go out there and never make that mistake again.”

    Perhaps more than anything, though, is the way Null’s confidence never took a hit despite his struggles. That will bode well for someone playing the most pressure packed position in sports.

    The next question is when Null’s next opportunity will come. Boller is still dealing with a thigh issue and the Rams would prefer to have a better handle on who will start this week earlier in the week so that person can get the bulk of the reps in practice.

    Spagnuolo said Monday the Rams would wait to see where Boller is in terms of his health and that if Boller is healthy, he would likely get the start.

    For his part, Null says he would love another opportunity.

    “I am going to go out and play with confidence no matter what happens each week,” Null said. “You can see watching the game I threw a pick, threw another pick, threw another one, I was still coming out and slinging it around. I didn’t let that stop me. I am going to go out with the confidence in the ability God has given me and that’s what my confidence is in anyway so I am not going to doubt that.

    “I would love to get out and play again. The more experience I can get, the better.”

  • #2
    Re: Null Learns Plenty In First Start

    I hope he gets better.


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    • 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, 04:53 PM
    • 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, 09:52 AM
    • MauiRam
      Null continues fight for his QB position with St. Louis Rams
      by MauiRam

      In a way, it almost seems unfair.

      Keith Null was the Rams' starting quarterback for the last four games of the 2009 season. The two players ahead of him on the depth chart for most of the season, Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller, no longer are with the team.

      And yet as organized team activities continue at Rams Park, Null is in exactly the same situation that he was last spring: fighting to land the No. 3 QB job.

      "Wherever I end up by the season, I trust the coaches enough to put me in the right position," said Null, a sixth-round draft pick last year from NCAA Division II West Texas A&M.

      Null beat out Brock Berlin to make the 53-man roster as a rookie. Null dressed as the No. 3 quarterback until injuries felled Bulger and then Boller.

      That thrust Null into the lineup Dec. 13 at Tennessee for an NFL debut that was short on personal highlights. Null did throw a touchdown pass, an 11-yard toss to tight end Randy McMichael. But Null also was intercepted five times in a 47-7 thumping.

      The Rams were outscored 122-36 and went 0-4 with Null as the starter, wrapping up their franchise-worst 1-15 season. Null completed 73 of 119 passes (61.3 percent) for 566 yards and three touchdowns, with nine interceptions. His passer rating was a woeful 49.9.

      "I definitely wish I could get another chance to get back in and sort of redeem myself," Null said. "I don't think that I played as good as I could have."

      Coach Steve Spagnuolo agreed. "He had some ups and downs, like you would think in a rookie," Spagnuolo said. "Here's a guy that probably didn't expect to play at all, and we had the injury situation. He made some good plays, and he made some bad ones. I know it wasn't probably as good as he wanted it to go overall.

      "But I do think the reps he got were invaluable."

      Again, coach and player were in agreement.

      "These OTAs, as far as knowing the plays and calling the plays in the huddle, it's way easier than it was last year at this time," Null said. "Having one year under my belt, and then getting to go in and play four games, I'm taking all that with me ... and using that experience to help me."

      The Rams signed veteran quarterback A.J. Feeley to a free-agent deal in the offseason, then spent the No. 1 overall draft choice on Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford.

      Feeley has been getting all the first-team snaps during OTAs, with Null and Bradford alternating with the second and third units. Ultimately, though, Bradford will be starting and Feeley will be backing him up.

      That means that the 6-foot-4, 219-pound Null, 24, seemingly will have to best rookie free agent Thaddeus Lewis to retain his roster spot.
      -05-26-2010, 09:39 AM
    • BEER
      Article on Kieth Null.
      by BEER
      By Jeff Gordon

      Ryan Leaf was one of the most egregious draft busts in NFL history. He went second overall to the San Diego Chargers and failed miserably.

      He alienated teammates, fans and media types. He suffered serious shoulder and wrist injuries. Later, after the Chargers turned him out, he failed to sustain comebacks in Tampa Bay and Dallas.

      Now his protégé is trying to succeed where he failed.

      As an assistant coach at West Texas A&M, Leaf helped develop Keith Null into a hugely productive Division II quarterback. Now Null is getting his shot under much different circumstances than Leaf enjoyed -– as a sixth-round Rams draft pick fighting for the No. 3 quarterback slot.

      Many experts left him out of their pre-draft rankings. Others mentioned him as a potential street free agent, or “camp arm” as they say in the business.

      But Null could become much more than that. He is a big prospect (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) with a big arm and a nice passing touch.

      He offers intriguing physical tools and a productive collegiate background.

      With starting quarterback Marc Bulger missing the rest of preseason play with a broken finger, Null will get additional work as he battles Brock Berlin for the No. 3 job behind Bulger and Kyle Boller.

      Maybe, just maybe, Null could become a true developmental quarterback. His considerable potential could earn him a roster spot if he continues progressing through the preseason.

      Null did not look like a small-town, small-school rube during training camp. He knew exactly what he was getting into when he reported to work at Rams Park.

      Leaf helped get him ready. Null learned from Leaf’s fortune and misfortune.

      “He has gone through it all, to say the last,” Null said. “He’s definitely had a lot of experiences. He has learned from all of those.

      “We really enjoyed each other. I enjoyed having him as a coach and I know he enjoyed having me as a player. We got along great.”

      Leaf’s tenure at the school ended abruptly and badly. He developed a painkiller addiction after his NFL career ended and that led to his arrest on drug charges.

      But Leaf has stayed connected with Null while working through his personal and legal issues.

      “He just called me two or three days ago and left me a message,” Null said. “I actually have to call him back. It’s been pretty busy around here.

      “We talk every two or three weeks, He says in touch. He is very encouraging and helpful for me.”

      Null threw for 5,097 yards in his senior season and capped his career with stellar Division II playoff and all-star game performances. Null threw for 595 yards and seven touchdowns against Abilene Christian in a playoff game and later earned MVP honors at the Valero Cactus Bowl.
      -08-20-2009, 03:53 PM
    • realchamp11
      keith null
      by realchamp11
      i dont understand why people thought null was ready to start. He's a rookie and not even from the D1 level. He was/is NO WHERE close to being ready to be a starter
      -12-13-2009, 06:52 PM