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  • Rams cope by preparing for 2010

    Rams cope by preparing for 2010

    Columnist Jeff Gordon
    By Jeff Gordon
    STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
    12/28/2009

    There is no need for Rams fans to lament Sunday’s loss at Arizona. That was just an exhibition, a pre-preseason game if you will.

    Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo used the game to get a head start on his 2010 retooling. This was a full-scale audition for players hoping to compete for jobs next season.

    Spags used a no-name lineup in the 31-10 loss. You could see as many as 30 to 35 different faces when the Rams open next season for real.

    That is not an exaggeration. Look at the breakdown:

    The Rams were missing 13 players from injured reserve, including safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, quarterback Marc Bulger, guard Jacob Bell, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, defensive tackle Adam Carriker, long snapper Chris Massey, defensive end C.J. Ah You, tight end Daniel Fells and receivers Laurent Robinson, Keenan Burton and Brooks Foster.

    Running back Steven Jackson, defensive end Leonard Little, tackle Jason Smith, defensive end James Hall and cornerback Quincy Butler were among the players not active for the game.

    Of those 16 injured or otherwise absent players, you could see 11 to 14 of them dress for the Rams in Week 1 of next season. That is where the turnaround must begin.

    The Rams need to get all their wounded warriors back on the field and playing up to full potential.

    This franchise must add another 10 first-year players through the draft and rookie free agency. The 2009 draft was solid (but injury-prone) and this next class has to be even better.

    General manager Billy Devaney must add four or five impact players via free agency, using the money saved by the franchise’s massive salary dump during this calendar year.

    He must also fill another four or five roster holes with lesser free agents -– like many of those populating the Week 16 lineup -– or via trades.

    So the 2010 Rams should look a lot different than the overmatched group which fell well short in Glendale, Ariz., Sunday afternoon.

    Flip over the equation and answer this question: How many Rams who played this game are sure bets to play for the Rams next season?

    On the offensive line, Jason Brown and Adam Goldberg appear to be locks. Defensive end Chris Long is a cornerstone, as is middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. Safeties James Butler and Craig Dahl seem like good bets to stick in some capacity, as do cornerback Ron Bartell and defensive tackle Clifton Ryan.

    We assume the team will stay with kicker Josh Brown and Donnie Jones, since both are high-end performers. (On the other hand, kicking is one area where a rebuilding team can cut costs.)

    Receiver Brandon Gibson is in the process of winning a job and the Rams aren’t likely to give up on speedy wideout Donnie Avery.

    Those 12 players appear to be pretty solid for next season. After that, there should be plenty of Week 16 guys competing for work -- including offensive linemen John Greco, Mark Setterstrom and Roger Allen III; defensive tackle Dorell Scott and LaJuan Ramsey; running backs Kenneth Darby and Chris Ogbonnaya; quarterback Keith Null, receiver/kick returner Danny Amendola, special teams gunner Jordan Kent, tight end Billy Bajema and linebacker/special teamer David Vobora.

    A lot of these guys have shown enough to get into camp . . . but they haven’t done enough to win games, so Devaney needs to maximize the job competition at Rams Park.

    Sunday’s exercise was useful. Many players got an opportunity to make their case. A few of them looked fairly convincing in their starting roles.

    The competition for next year is already under way. Most of the dead weight is already off the roster.

    When you look at it that way, these grim ’09 blowouts are easier to endure.
    :ramlogo:

  • #2
    Re: Rams cope by preparing for 2010

    I have said in other threads that I expect some major changes concerning our roster. However 30-35 new faces seems a bit extreme.

    Devaney and SPAGS certainly have alot of work to do.
    sigpic :ram::helmet:

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    • r8rh8rmike
      It Ain't Pretty, But There Are Reasons To Keep Watching Rams
      by r8rh8rmike
      It ain't pretty, but there are reasons to keep watching Rams
      By Jeff Gordon
      STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
      10/14/2009



      The Rams have been outscored 146-34 this season. They have lost 32 of 37 games and 15 in a row.

      These are mind-blowing numbers. We are witnessing sustained failure of historic proportions.

      It is difficult to be THIS BAD in a league dedicated to maintaining parity, but the Rams have become exceptional losers. Week after week, they discover new ways to succumb.

      Believe it or not, though, the football operation appears to be adding potential building blocks, one by one.

      Second-round draft pick James Laurinaitis appears to be a worthy foundation on which to rebuild the defense. He is piling up tackles week after week and his pass coverage is improving, as he proved Sunday by picking off Vikings quarterback Brett Favre.

      Just five weeks into his NFL career, Laurinaitis is emerging as a leader too.

      “As long as the guys keep the heart that they have, we’re going to be all right,” he told reporters after the Rams lost to the Vikings 38-10 Sunday. “When we’re out there on the goal line stand, you have a lot of guys out there with a lot of heart, who just truly love playing this game and really want to get things corrected and win.”

      General manager Billy Devaney and Steve Spagnuolo keep milling the practice squad and the bottom half of the roster, auditioning new players on a weekly basis.

      Wide receiver/kick returner Danny Amendola appears to be a nice addition. He has produced one home-run return (which, of course, was negated by penalty) and nearly popped several other big gains.

      More impressively, he has emerged as a viable third receiver within a few weeks of his in-season arrival. His quick feet add some life to a generally moribund unit.

      If the pint-sized Amendola can improve his ball security and avoid getting squashed, he will earn a place in this group moving forward.

      The same can be said for tight end Daniel Fells. Sunday’s red zone fumble was a shame, since it overshadowed his emergence as a viable offensive option.

      Fells and Kyle Boller developed a love connection. It will be interesting to see if Marc Bulger bonds with him Sunday at Jacksonville.

      The Rams accumulated some interesting depth on the defensive line, with 25-year-old LaJuan Ramsey making a mark at defensive tackle.

      While it is a shame that journeyman run-stuffer Gary Gibson suffered a season-ending injury, the team was overloaded at that position. Perhaps rookie Darell Scott can step in the breach and build on his solid preseason showing.

      Rookie cornerback Bradley Fletcher has gotten burned here and there, but he is showing some potential to play the “press” coverage favored by this coaching staff....
      -10-14-2009, 01:47 PM
    • eldfan
      Rams Team Report
      by eldfan
      USA Today
      Posted 12h 35m ago E-mail | Save | Print |


      Aside from trying to win games, coach Steve Spagnuolo had one thing he stressed from the first day he was hired last January: Concentrate on "team first" and building an atmosphere that had that as the main goal.
      The Rams won only one game during the season, but Spagnuolo insists the team goal was met. Now he knows what has to be done to create wins for an organization that has won just six games in three seasons.

      Rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis likes what was accomplished and says the young talent will only get better.

      "I think we have a lot of talent on this team," Laurinaitis said. "If you look at a lot of the games this year, they could've gone other ways. I think we have great coaches. Another year together, it's going to be something good. There's definitely a lot of competitiveness in this group."

      It was also a unique year for Laurinaitis, who didn't lose many games during his entire college career at Ohio State, much less 15 in one season.

      "It's very easy to play 100 percent when you're winning and things are rolling and the crowd's into it, and stuff like that," he said. "But when you're down and things get out of control, that's when it's very easy to pack it in. I think I learned a lot about myself this year. I've never been put in that (losing) situation except for a few times in college. You can tell who really cares by who really keeps trying in those moments."

      Cornerback Ron Bartell was an unrestricted free agent last March and was being wooed by the Saints. After meeting Spagnuolo, Bartell elected to re-sign with the Rams. Does he regret it, considering New Orleans was 13-3 this past season and earned the top seed in the NFC playoffs?

      He said, "When I re-signed, I knew it wasn't going to be an overnight thing. I got into it for the long haul. So I knew it was going to take time. We still have the right people in place. I totally, firmly believe that. I think I made the best decision for me. I still think we can get this thing turned around."

      Of course, he acknowledged how tough the season was.

      "It was extremely difficult," Bartell said. "With all the changes we made, you definitely didn't see that coming. But it is what it is. We put ourselves in this position. The only thing we can do now is move forward."

      Bartell also likes the talent on the roster.

      "We have a good mix of young guys that are willing to learn, and veterans that are willing to lead," he said. "Not a lot of egos. Everybody's playing for the same goal. We didn't accomplish that, of course, but I think in the end we all just stuck together."

      Said veteran James Hall, who has played 10 seasons in the NFL...
      -01-14-2010, 02:33 PM
    • eldfan
      Rams have holes all over the field
      by eldfan
      Rams have holes all over the field

      By Jeff Gordon
      STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
      11/23/2009

      Had Kurt Warner stayed on the field Sunday, the Cardinals would have clubbed the Rams by about 35 points.

      This game would have ended the way the Colts game ended -– in utter humiliation for the home team.

      For two quarters at the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams were feckless on offense and helpless on defense. The first half of their 21-13 loss underscored just how many holes the franchise must fill before it can contend again.

      Let’s go down the list:


      * Next quarterback. At best, Marc Bulger could fill an interim role while this team grooms the new guy. Will the Rams use the draft to fill this need? Can they salvage one of the many failed young veterans likely to become available? Could Keith Null develop into a candidate with a full offseason of work in this offense?

      With many teams looking for long-range help at this position, it’ll be interesting to see what Billy Devaney and Steve Spagnuolo do. I would keep Null, draft a quarterback after the first round and shop for a Ryan Fitzpatrick-type to manage the offense in the meantime.


      * Run-stuffing defensive tackle. Spags hopes to build physical lines. The offensive wall has taken shape, thanks to free agent center Jason Brown, top pick Jason Smith at right tackle and veteran Adam Goldberg filling in everywhere.

      But as we saw when Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells blew through big holes Sunday, the defensive side still needs much work. This team needs a behemoth to start next to hard-working Clifton Ryan.


      * Outside linebackers. Busy rookie James Laurinaitis is definitely the right man for the middle, but his cohorts got swallowed up again Sunday. Arizona was on pace to gain 650 yards against the Rams when Warner got hurt.

      Spags has developed some no-name OLBs in his career, so maybe he can fill this need without spending high picks or big free-agent dollars. With so much else to do, that would be a good thing.


      * Pass rushing defensive end. Chris Long is developing nicely as an all-purpose DE on one side of the line, but the Rams could use a young speed rusher to succeed veterans Leonard Little and James Hall.

      The Rams must add a young playmaker at that position to give the defense more bite.


      * A big wide receiver. Donnie Avery is showing more potential as a speed guy. Once he masters the offense, Brandon Gibson could be a viable possession guy. Laurent Robinson was a decent possession receiver when he got hurt. Elusive Danny Amendola offers some potential in the slot.

      But the Rams need a big red-zone target for finishing off drives. As we saw again Sunday, completing a fade-route pass with the current offensive cast is a near impossibility....
      -11-23-2009, 12:38 PM
    • MauiRam
      Rams ready to open camp ..
      by MauiRam
      BY JIM THOMAS Posted: Saturday, July 24, 2010 12:00 am | (2) Comments

      The offseason seemed to last 15 minutes. Ready or not, the 2010 NFL season is upon us. A couple of teams reported to camp this weekend, and the Rams join the rest of the league in assembling this week. Rookies and selected veterans report Wednesday at Rams Park. The first full-squad practice is Saturday, July 31. The Rams' preseason opener against Minnesota is less than three weeks away.

      In the wake of a 1-15 season in 2009, and with just six victories in their last 48 games, the Rams are widely regarded as one of the worst teams in the NFL. If not THE worst. It's up to coach Steve Spagnuolo and staff to change that, with a little help from No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford at quarterback. For the first time since the days of the Greatest Show on Turf, there are no members of the Rams' Super Bowl XXXIV championship team or Super Bowl XXXVI runner-up squad on the current roster.

      The road to respectability will be traveled largely by a cast of young, and unproven, faces. What happens with Bradford in the coming weeks will attract much of the attention at Rams Park, but there are personnel questions and depth chart battles throughout the roster which will sort themselves out over training camp and the preseason.

      = = = = =



      Position-by-position overview of Rams

      Quarterback

      Let the office pools begin: When will Sam Bradford make his first NFL start? Bradford has the physical tools and appears to have the mental makeup to be a successful NFL quarterback. During the spring practices at Rams Park, he showed no ill effects from surgery to his throwing shoulder. But in order to take over as the starting QB, he must display a working knowledge of the Rams' West Coast scheme. He must also show, albeit in preseason play, that he can adjust successfully to the speed of the NFL game.

      Otherwise, it will be veteran A.J. Feeley, who has worked with Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur in Philadelphia and knows the system. But Feeley hasn't thrown an NFL regular-season pass since 2007, so he needs a lot of preseason work, too, especially since he's the team's potential opening-day starter.

      QBs on roster (4): Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis, Keith Null.

      Running back

      Four running backs is a low total for training camp; some teams keep that many on their regular-season roster. So it wouldn't be surprising to see the Rams add a body prior to camp or during camp. The need for a strong backup seems obvious, but the Rams are optimistic that Chris Ogbonnaya can be an effective third-down back, be it as a receiver or a blocker on blitz pickup. Undrafted rookie Keith Toston had a productive career at Oklahoma State. He's not a burner, but bears watching this preseason.

      Of course, the team's offensive...
      -07-24-2010, 01:55 PM
    • r8rh8rmike
      How Did The Rams Get This Bad?
      by r8rh8rmike
      How did the Rams get this bad?

      Columnist Jeff Gordon
      By Jeff Gordon
      STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
      11/30/2009

      The Rams are 1-10 and racing toward 1-15, with little hope of actually winning another football game.

      If this team couldn’t beat the reeling Seahawks at home, then you can't expect it to beat anybody left on its schedule.

      The thoroughness of their futility is stunning. How did the Rams get THIS bad?

      Four predominant factors are to blame:

      1. To speed up the rebuilding process, the Rams football operation unloaded much of the remaining big-money veteran talent.

      From the end of last season into the middle of this season, the Rams cashiered tackle Orlando Pace, receiver Torry Holt, receiver Dane Looker, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, defensive tackle La’Roi Glover, linebacker Chris Draft, cornerback Tye Hill, safety Corey Chavous, linebacker Will Witherspoon and others.

      True, many of those guys played their way off the team. But that is a LOT of veteran talent to lose in such a short period of time.

      2. Once again, the Rams suffered an inordinate number of costly injuries.

      The offensive line was coming together nicely this season, but tackle Jason Smith, guard Richie Incognito and center Jason Brown all went down. Once again, the Rams are forced to use a patchwork approach up front.

      Rookie cornerback Fletcher Bradley was emerging as a solid “press” coverage player, but he suffered a catastrophic knee injury. Quarterback Marc Bulger, receiver Keenan Burton, receiver Laurent Robinson, defensive tackle Adam Carriker, receiver Brooks Foster, defensive end C.J. Ah You . . . the list of casualties goes on and on, with new victims appearing on the injured list every week.

      3. The Rams lacked the depth to withstand all these losses.

      For a variety of reasons, this franchise failed to build and maintain a critical mass of talent in recent years. As the Greatest Show on Turf aged, the Rams failed to develop viable replacements.

      The Rams became stunningly deficient in almost every area. They didn’t have worthy prospects ready to replace all the departing veterans. And when injuries hit, general manager Billy Devaney was forced to fetch fill-ins off practice squads and off the street.

      As a result, this season has turned into an extended training camp with youngsters and fringe veterans coming and going at a dizzying rate.

      4. The Rams embarked on this massive rebuilding project with inexperienced leadership.

      From the top of the organization on down, the key leaders are learning on the job. Devaney, president Kevin Demoff, head coach Steve Spagnulo, offensive coordinator Pat Shumur and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole all possess more responsibility than they have ever had before.
      ...
      -12-02-2009, 12:45 AM
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