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  • Rams' QB situation is muddled

    BY BILL COATS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    01/04/2010

    The worst season in franchise history is over, and the Rams' quarterback situation is as cloudy as it was six weeks ago when starter Marc Bulger's year ended with a leg injury.

    Neither veteran Kyle Boller nor rookie Keith Null did enough to assure themselves a significant role in 2010, and Bulger's return isn't guaranteed.

    Null made his fourth consecutive start in Sunday's 28-6 loss to visiting San Francisco. Boller entered when Null came up woozy after being sacked by ex-Missouri star Justin Smith early in the third quarter.

    "I just hit my head on the turf real hard," Null said. "I came off and my body didn't feel right and my head didn't feel right."

    Sacked five times, Null completed seven of 17 passes for 57 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. His passer rating was 50.4.

    Boller, who started the first two games after Bulger was hurt before a thigh injury and illness forced him to the sideline, fared even worse. He was sacked three times in going four for 11 for 23 yards, also without a TD or interception. His rating was 44.9.

    "It's just frustrating," Boller said. "It's been a tough year. We've got awhile to rebound here now."

    Quarterback play all season was spotty, at best. Together, the three completed just 57.4 percent of their passes, and threw more interceptions (21) than touchdowns (11).

    Bulger, 32, has four years remaining on the $65 million contract extension he received in 2007. Boller, 28, was brought in on a one-year deal as the backup and wants to return. Null, 24, was a sixth-round draft choice from NCAA Division II West Texas A&M who spent the first 10 weeks as the No. 3 quarterback.

    If any of the three pressed his case for a longer look, it was Null.

    "Having the experience playing and then having the whole NFL season under my belt now is definitely going to help," he said. "I know that it may take some time and some development, but I know that I have the ability to do it."

    Null added that he would return in the spring "with a lot more confidence. Now I have a heads-up on how to do things, how to prepare. I still need to learn a lot more in that area, but it's a start and I'm on the right track. ...

    "I want to hang around here as much as possible (in the offseason), be around the coaches, be around the facility, do everything I can possibly do to try to get better."

    All the better to position himself for a run at a full-time job.

    "I think the best situation would be to have a chance to compete for that No. 1 spot, and that's what I want," Null said. "But I did start off as the third-string guy this year, so ... anywhere better than third string is a move up for me."
    :ramlogo:

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  • r8rh8rmike
    Round Two: Should The Rams Give Boller Or Null A Chance?
    by r8rh8rmike
    11.03.2009 1:20 pm
    Should Rams give Boller or Null a chance?
    By Roger Hensley


    QUESTION: Despite another rough outing Sunday, obviously the coaches still believe QB Marc Bulger gives the team its best chance to win or he wouldn’t be playing. Do you agree with that assessment or do you think it’s time to give Kyle Boller - or even Keith Null - a chance to run the offense?

    JIM THOMAS

    Even with the patchwork receiver corps, the results against Detroit - one of the worst pass defenses in the league - were underwhelming. But the problem with Boller is that he seems to be more mistake prone than Bulger, which leads to more turnovers. Null simply isn’t ready to start in the NFL, although it wouldn’t hurt to see him in mop-up situations.

    BERNIE MIKLASZ

    It’s time to get ready to draft a quarterback.

    Unless the people running the Rams have lost their minds, Bulger’s time here is winding down. Boller is Boller: a more mobile Bulger, but not an accurate passer and prone to silly mistakes. I don’t understand the people who want to throw Null to the wolf pack and see the kid fail. Null came to the NFL from a small-college program that ran a spread offense, and he has received virtually no reps in practice. At this stage of his career, starting Null in a regular-season NFL game is crazily irresponsible. I wouldn’t mind it if the Rams worked Null into a fourth-quarter series here in there to get him acclimated, but nothing more than that.

    As I wrote in today’s column, unless the Rams want to get RB Steven Jackson killed, they’d better get serious about drafting and developing a quarterback.

    JEFF GORDON

    Since the Rams just won a game, there is no reason to change quarterbacks. Had Bulger’s targeted receivers caught more of those balls within reach - like the would-be TD pass to Randy McMichael - his numbers would have looked better. The Rams need to throw more of those passes down the field. This is a check-down scheme, as it stands today, and Bulger is OK doing that. But how many more games can this team win checking down? When Bulger gets hurt again, Boller will get another chance. His mobility is a huge plus, but inaccuracy is a huge problem. As for Null, I would use him at the end of blowout losses to give him a taste of it.

    BILL COATS

    Boller isn’t a good fit for the offense, and Null simply isn’t ready to start - although I’d like to see him get some action in mop-up time. It’s become obvious that Bulger isn’t capable of reprising the kind of play he showed during his Pro Bowl seasons. Still, he’s the best option the Rams have right now.

    KEVIN WHEELER (Host of “Sports Open Line” on KMOX)

    It really doesn’t matter who takes snaps from center right now. Bulger isn’t getting it done, nothing in Boller’s track record suggests he would get it done and...
    -11-03-2009, 01:39 PM
  • BM_Face
    Null not discouraged
    by BM_Face
    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    12/15/2009

    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
  • 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, 08:01 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
    POST-DISPATCH ONLINE SPORTS COLUMNIST
    12/21/2009

    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
  • MauiRam
    Null continues fight for his QB position with St. Louis Rams
    by MauiRam
    BY BILL COATS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    05/26/2010

    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
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