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State of the Rams: Offense

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  • State of the Rams: Offense

    The rebuilding process looks quite formidable at this point. We have all kinds of needs all over the place. But how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So without further ado, here is my best effort to prioritize needs on the offense. Defense to follow eventually.

    Current Options: Bulger, Boller, Null
    Evaluation: It is my personal opinion that although Bulger's problems this year had more to do with protection and the play of receivers, his skill set is not ideally suited for a West Coast Offense. He is at his best when he has time to see what is happening and go through his checkdowns. He can be very accurate throwing into tight coverage when he has his timing down with receivers who run sharp routes because he knows where they are going to be when the ball arrives. We don't have such seasoned receivers, and the offense we are running relies more on quick decision-making than precise down-field passing. Rumors have already begun circulating about whether Bulger will remain with the team next season. Boller's strength is his ability to improvise, but he is not accurate enough to be a long-term solution. Null appears to be a player with some upside, but right now it is far more likely he has a future as a back-up than as a starter.
    Off-season Priority: Very High. Odds are that our next winning season will be with a quarterback who is not currently on the roster.

    Current Options: Steven Jackson, Samkon Gado, Kenneth Darby, Chris Ogbannaya, Mike Karney
    Evaluation: Jackson is easily one of the top backs in the league right now. He breaks tackles, has good top-end speed, and is an above-average pass catcher at the position to boot.

    Gado bounced around the league for a couple years before landing with the Rams and accomplished little with the team in 2009. Darby's 5.6 yards/carry in limited action in 2009 looks rather impressive on the surface, but if you throw out his single longest run, the average drops to a more pedestrian 3.8 yards/carry for the remainder. Ogbannaya did not work his way onto the game day roster until late in the season but did see some action in the final two games of the season. I would think that Gado will likely be gone before the start of the season; at this point in their careers, Darby and Ogbannaya would probably not be above third string on most teams in the league.

    Mike Karney is an archetypal fullback, but rarely receives the ball even in short yardage situations.
    Off-season Priority: Medium-Low. There is a substantial drop-off between our current #1 and #2 options. Entering the season without a better #2 would be risky but not disastrous.

    Wide Receivers
    Current Options: Laurent Robinson, Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brandon Gibson, Danny Amendola, Brooks Foster, Ruvell Martin, Jordan Kent
    Evaluation: Don't let the number of receivers fool you; probably half of them would be competing for spots on other teams' practice squads. In the weeks immediately after Laurent Robinson went down in 2009, receiver play was truly awful. One shudders to think what the rest of the season might have looked like if not for the mid-season acquisitions of Eagles fringe players Amendola and Gibson.

    Robinson is the closest thing we have to the total package at receiver, but as much as his pro career has been plagued by injuries, it is hard to count on the idea that he will be a major impact player all season long. Avery has speed but needs to work on his hands and route-running. He has made progress and has the potential to be a deep threat that defenses have to account for--but that wasn't how things played out in 2009. Gibson and Burton were more consistent and both averaged upwards of 10 yards/reception. Amendola impressed on special teams and demonstrated a willingness to fight for yardage but may have limited upside.

    Off-season Priority: Medium-High. We have a lot of middling, young players, and it is possible that long-term solutions will emerge from the current ranks, but it is fair to question whether any of them would be starting on a playoff team.

    Tight End
    Current Options: Randy McMichael, Daniel Fells, Billy Bajema
    Evaluation: McMichael has been underwhelming in the last few years. His production in St. Louis has never been close to what it was in Miami despite playing in systems that emphasize tight end sets over spread receivers. In this last season, we rarely even dressed a fifth receiver. Fells, on the other hand, is a player whose star seems to be on the rise. He was second on the team in TD receptions and had 273 yards receiving as the #2 tight end. He might be ready for an increased role. Bajema is a situational blocking tight end and fills that role adequately.
    Off-season Priority: Low.

    Offensive Tackle
    Current Options: Jason Smith, Alex Barron, Adam Goldberg, Phil Trautwein
    Evaluation: When healthy, Jason Smith turned heads. It is likely that he will be making his anticipated move from right to left tackle sooner rather than later. Although Barron has played better on the left, the combination of Smith's presence and Barron's own penchant for penalties make it unlikely that he will retain his starting position with the team. It would not be surprising to see him leave via free agency. Goldberg has served well as a utility lineman backing up a variety of positions, but there are mixed opinions about whether he should be considered an option as the starting right tackle. Trautwein was more of an emergency backup acquisition than anything.
    Off-season Priority: Medium. An upgrade at right tackle would be desirable. In any case, we can't go into the season with only Smith and Goldberg and no other depth.

    Offensive Guard
    Current Options: Jacob Bell, Mark Setterstrom, John Greco, Roger Allen, (Adam Goldberg)
    Evaluation: Jacob Bell seemed to hold up just a little better in 2009 than in 2008 but still did not live up to expectations. And Justin Smith schooled our left guards in the finale, reminding us that there actually is a substantial drop-off behind Bell at that spot. Setterstrom played reasonably well when called on to start a few years ago but has had several injuries since. It is also a bit concerning that the protection was not very good when he and Greco were starting down the stretch in 2009. Roger Allen only played part of one game. Goldberg could conceivably start at guard if he is not at right tackle.
    Off-season Priority: Medium-High. Incognito's successor at right guard is a mystery at this point, and honestly we could use improvement at both spots.

    Current Options: Jason Brown, (Adam Goldberg), (Mark Setterstrom)
    Evaluation: Brown started all 16 games in 2009, which practically makes him the MVP of our line for the year by default. He didn't have a great season, but in theory he's supposed to get help blocking those nose guards. I see him as the only offensive lineman aside from Jason Smith who can feel confident he will be the starter next season.
    Off-season Priority: Low

  • #2
    Re: State of the Rams: Offense

    A good job of assessment here, Goldenfleece. There is only one area where I would beg to differ with you. I feel it is high priority to get a solid #2 RB to spell Steven Jackson. It is asking too much to throw the entire offense on this man's shoulders again, and he will become the next Earl Campbell within three years if he is abused like he was this season. Worn down and hobbled with a back injury, he needs to be helped and protected. With Spags stated desire to be a ball control team emphasizing both running and defense, the Rams need a good 2nd back. The ones they have now can't cut it.


    • #3
      Re: State of the Rams: Offense

      i disagree with the assessment of Jacob Bell, as i feel when he was playing in the middle of the season before his injury he was playing very well. I certainly dont feel we need an upgrade at LG


      • #4
        Re: State of the Rams: Offense

        Originally posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
        A good job of assessment here, Goldenfleece. There is only one area where I would beg to differ with you. I feel it is high priority to get a solid #2 RB to spell Steven Jackson. It is asking too much to throw the entire offense on this man's shoulders again, and he will become the next Earl Campbell within three years if he is abused like he was this season. Worn down and hobbled with a back injury, he needs to be helped and protected. With Spags stated desire to be a ball control team emphasizing both running and defense, the Rams need a good 2nd back. The ones they have now can't cut it.
        I agree that it is too much to put the entire offense on Jackson's shoulders, but my answer to that would be better offensive balance and improved line play. When a team is getting a good push from the line in the running game, it makes even mediocre backs look good. If we had a functioning west coast offense, which I believe is what Shurmur has tried to implement, then maybe we wouldn't have to run the ball 25-30 times a game.

        Originally posted by tomahawk247 View Post
        i disagree with the assessment of Jacob Bell, as i feel when he was playing in the middle of the season before his injury he was playing very well. I certainly don't feel we need an upgrade at LG
        My take on that is that there was improvement, but it wasn't enough. Bell started for 13 games last season, and there was only a brief period in the middle of the season where the line seemed to least relatively. I don't think there was any point during the season that we were doing well at converting short yardage situations, and it seemed like during that period we were most effective running the ball to the right behind Incognito and Jason Smith. It's also worth pointing out that despite running an offense with 3 and 5-step drops, we were still near the bottom of the league in sacks allowed, and I didn't get the sense that it was because our offensive tackles were failing. It seemed like the pressure was coming through the middle as often as not (although it would be interesting to see some of those stats on which players allowed the most sacks for 2009).


        • #5
          Re: State of the Rams: Offense

          Ofensive balance or not if SJ goes down we are screwed. We need a #2 RB that can play, not in a year or 2 but now. In this kind of Ofense the #2 RB is pretty important considering your whole stratagy has to change if u have 1 injury. ON OUR TURF no doubt.


          • #6
            Re: State of the Rams: Offense

            I too would put back-up RB high on the priority list. As far as OT goes, it all depends on whether Barron stays or goes. If he stays I would put the OT position on the low end of the priority list. The O-line was coming together and playing well before the injuries started.
            sigpic :ram::helmet:


            Related Topics


            • RamsInfiniti
              Where we stand after the draft (OFFENSE) ...
              by RamsInfiniti
              Here's my take on the offense:

              Quarterbacks - Is there any man on the face of the earth happier than Marc Bulger? Hard to tell how "happy" he really is I guess, but considering the debacle of the past two years, he must be gleaming. A revamped offensive line, a real fullback, a new coaching staff, a real front office, and an offensive system that has his name written all over it. Bulger's accuracy and quick release make him perfect for Shurmur's system. If his confidence comes back, Bulger should easily rebound to near Pro-Bowl form. Of course, this is contingent on the development of a very young group of wideouts. Boller is a solid backup, and that is just that. He is good enough to keep us in games should Bulger go down, but I doubt we can win with this game long term. Regardless, definitely a significant upgrade over Trent Green, a Saunders guy who clearly can no longer perform in this league. I cannot see Null beating out Berlin for the 3rd spot, but that battle is irrelevant at this point. Neither is likely the QB of the future here, we'll grab that guy in next year's draft.

              Running Backs - You would be hard pressed to find a more talented back in the league than S.J.. He has all the tools to be the absolute best running back in the league. He runs hard, catches the ball well, and can turn nothing into something big. If he can stay healthy and stay on the field, we can stay in most games. He has an opportunity to shut up all the naysayers with a big year, and behind this line, he should be gold. Darby, Pittman, and Leonard are a trio of servicable backs, but none stand out as a top prospect for the #2 role. Darby is a hard running, good pass catcher, and good blocker but lacks the explosiveness to break the big play. Pittman is shifty and quick, a nice change of pace from Jackson, but lacks Darby's hands and blocking abilities. Leonard is a jack of all trades, but isn't superior to either of the other two in any area. Obgonnaya seems to be a hard downhill runner with great hands. Darby and Leonard are servicable special teams players, so I am calling Pittman the odd man out here, if anything because WCO backs need great hands. Karney is a hammer in the backfield and should be our best FB since the other "hammer", James Hodgins. He can be a threat out of the backfield.

              Wide Receivers - Wow, have you ever seen a team go into the season with a younger group of wideouts? Avery developed nicely last year, proving that he can be both a deep threat and a solid go to guy. His route running increased as the season went on and his hands were far better than expected, resulting in several spectacular grabs. He may not be a #1 at this point in his career, but he is going to have to pretend to be this season. Burton struggled with injuries early on, but has all the skills to be an Isaac Bruce type. He looked superb in preseason and is a very nice route runner. It would not surprise me, if healthy,...
              -04-27-2009, 11:43 AM
            • r8rh8rmike
              How They Look - Offense
              by r8rh8rmike
              How they look Offense
              BY JIM THOMAS

              Talk about tough breaks, pun intended. In what's a make-or-break year for Marc Bulger, a broken pinky finger suffered in practice already has cost him two preseason games. Not to mention two weeks of practice time that could've been used polishing up on the new West Coast scheme installed by offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. The hope at Rams Park is that better pass protection by a revamped line will help Bulger return to his Pro Bowl form and showcase his accuracy. But the finger won't be completely healed on opening day, Sept. 13, in Seattle. Backup Kyle Boller, a former first-round pick by Baltimore, lacks Bulger's accuracy but has a stronger arm. He also has the quickness and speed to avoid the rush and make something happen with his legs.

              Obviously, the Rams are counting on a big year from Steven Jackson, both as a runner and receiver. He will be the centerpiece of what coach Steve Spagnuolo hopes is an efficient ball-control offense that spreads the ball around in the passing game. Jackson has compiled four consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but missed four games and most of a fifth because of injury in each of the past two seasons. The dropoff has been dramatic when Jackson is sidelined, and the Rams really didn't address the No. 2 running back issue during the offseason. So barring a late roster move prior to opening day, they will rely on some combination of Samkon Gado, Antonio Pittman, Kenneth Darby and Chris Ogbonnaya behind Jackson each of whom has holes in his game.

              Mike Karney missed two weeks of camp with a sprained ankle, so he's still not entirely in sync with Jackson. But at least the Rams have their first true lead-blocking fullback since Madison Hedgecock was unceremoniously released by Scott Linehan one game into the 2007 season. Karney is a thumper built low to the ground. If he stays healthy, the running game should be that much better. At tight end, Randy McMichael returns from an injury-shortened '08 season, still hoping to become the receiving threat that has been forecast for him every year since signing here as a free agent in 2007. Offseason pickup Billy Bajema is a blocking specialist who also has shown surprising ability to catch the ball on the practice field and in the preseason.
              No Holt, no Bruce, no hope? We'll see. This unit remains the biggest question mark on the team because of a lack of proven experience. Plans for speedy Donnie Avery to be the No. 1 option were derailed three weeks ago when he suffered a fractured foot in the Lindenwood scrimmage. There's no guarantee that Avery will be back for the season opener, although he appears to be progressing more quickly than expected. Laurent Robinson, acquired in a pre-draft trade with Atlanta, has been impressive this summer, flashing size, speed, hands and some run-after-the-catch ability. Keenan Burton is...
              -08-30-2009, 04:17 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
            • r8rh8rmike
              Where Do Rams Go From Here?
              by r8rh8rmike
              Where do Rams go from here?

              BY JIM THOMAS
              Sunday, January 9, 2011 3:10 pm

              Points scored. Points allowed. Takeaway/giveaway differential. Sacks. Sacks allowed. Pick a category. Any category. The Rams were substantially improved almost across the board.

              Then again, when your three immediate predecessors combined to win only six of 48 games, it's not as if the 2010 Rams had a tough act to follow. And for most fans, it will take awhile for the bitter taste of that season-ending loss in Seattle to subside.

              A prime-time chance at a playoff berth and an NFC West championship doesn't come around very often in these parts. But the Rams fumbled away the opportunity with their biggest dud of the season this side of that 44-6 shellacking in Detroit, anyway.

              But in the big picture, a 7-9 finish after 2009's 1-15 free fall marks significant progress. The Rams have gone from being the NFL's worst team to the middle of the pack in 12 short months.

              As our season-ending positional analysis shows, there were brights spots all over the roster. But also holes to be filled and question marks to be answered, with Rams Park now in full offseason mode.


              Rams' outlook at quarterback

              What They've Got

              Sam Bradford took every snap and took every hit that came his way for 16 games. By the numbers, the presumptive offensive rookie of the year in the NFL played better than just about any other rookie QB in the history of the game, helping to elevate the Rams to a seven-victory season. His athleticism and mobility were surprising; his competitiveness wasn't.

              As the season progressed, the coaching staff put more on Bradford's shoulders. Although his play declined late in the season, he appeared to stay mentally sharp and didn't seem overly fatigued. Without stepping on any veterans' toes, Bradford exerted leadership in the huddle. When it came to interacting with his teammates in the locker room or away from Rams Park, he was just one of the guys.

              What They Need

              Obviously, the starting job's not up for grab and there doesn't seem to be any need to find a new backup. With another year left on his contract, A.J. Feeley has a good relationship with Bradford, a relationship that should only improve in Year 2. With his knowledge of the West Coast offense, Feeley is always there as a sounding board for Bradford, although Feeley tries to avoid butting in because Bradford has lots of voices in his ear. The Rams kept only Bradford and Feeley on their 53-man roster in 2010, with undrafted rookie Thaddeus Lewis on the practice squad. That could be the way things go in 2011 as well, although the Rams might consider drafting a development quarterback in the later rounds. But at the top of the depth chart, the Rams hope they're set at QB for another decade or so.
              -01-10-2011, 07:55 PM
            • chiguy
              Positions I Feel Good About
              by chiguy
              The positions on the roster I feel OK about:

              1. MLB. The kid is good.

              2. Safety. Dahl has been good in Butler's absence.

              3. Center. Not dominant, but he ain't the problem either.

              4. Cornerback. We still need another one, but our CBs don't get embarrassed each week.

              5. Number #2 Receiver. Between Robinson and Avery, one of them is bound to be good enough for that.

              6. Defensive End. I don't feel great about this because of our lack pass rush, but our DEs have been good against the run. Long in particular looks like a good one against the run. I bet he'd get to the passer with real help elsewhere.

              Positions I feel only so-so about:

              1. DT. They're better this year, but dominant they ain't.

              2. WLB. Witherspoon is fine, but he doesn't stand out like he did two years ago either. He isn't worth the big money he's getting paid, but at least he shows up and does his job.

              3. RB. People will hate this being listed there, but I wonder how many more productive seasons Jackson will have and we have nothing behind. If he goes down, our offense would be beyond bad.

              4. OT. Two first rounders starting (when Smith is healthy), but no dominance there. Jury is clearly out on Smith and Barron is at best mediocre.

              The worst positions:

              1. QB. Combine Boller's athleticism and moxie with Bulger's accuracy, and you'd have a decent quarterback. Sadly, they're separate people.

              2. TE. McMichaels has the dropsies and Fells still can't earn starting time.

              3. FB...unimpressed by Karney.

              4. SLB. Grant? Probably not.

              5. #1WR. Do we have an NFL #1 on the roster? I haven't seen him yet.

              6. OG. Bell has been awful (RT next year?) and I don't understand anyone's fascination with Incognito....
              -10-11-2009, 09:15 PM