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  • Rams Must Avoid Letdown At 0-6 Miami

    Rams Must Avoid Letdown At 0-6 Miami



    By Barry Waller

    Gridiron Gateway



    October 23, 2004



    The Rams travel to Miami hoping to beat the 0-6 Dolphins and take a 5-2 record and a division lead into their bye week. Knowing that some key defensive players will probably be 100% by the time the New England Patriots come calling November 7th gives rise to even more optimism in the Rams locker room.



    All the Rams have to do, other than win, is get through Sunday’s game without any major injuries a victory looking to be a less difficult task than it now appears to be, “post-Rickey.” That’s exactly why Rams Nation should be as apprehensive about the outcome of this game than any all season.



    Even the attention of St. Louis Rams fans will be diverted from this game that should be a slam-dunk for a team that has beaten Seattle on the road and a desperate Tampa Bay team on Monday night. The Cardinals play Saturday night in game one of the World Series in Boston, so some fans may still be hung over by the time the Rams begin their game at noon local time. When they do awaken, St. Louis fans will be thinking more about game two Sunday night than Dave Wannstedt’s offense challenged club.



    Hopefully the Rams players will recall the beating they put on the Raiders when they came in as the undefeated darlings of the NFL in 2002, leading the league in both offense and defense. The Rams had a third string quarterback named Marc Bulger that no one had heard of starting his first game that day, and all the money was no doubt on the favored Raiders, one of the only times since 1999 that the Rams were a home underdog.



    It always seems like the NFL games that everyone in the world thinks will end one way go in exactly the opposite direction, and this shapes up to be one that carries that “sure win” label. In the NFL, unlike NCAA football, there are no “blood donors” on the schedule, and although Wannstedt seems to have a pathological hatred of offensive football, the Dolphins present a defensive challenge unlike any the Rams will face.



    Wannstedt has a long history of building good defenses while ignoring the need for an explosive offense, and if there is an “”Anti-Martz” in coaching makeup, it is the Dolphins head coach, who is the odds on favorite to be the first to lose his job in 2004. In Chicago, where he coached for six seasons before replacing Jimmy Johnson in Miami in 2000, Wannstedt traded a very high first round pick to acquire awful Rick Mirer, and his ability to judge passers has been a constant in the last ten 10 years.



    Wannstedt was a vocal non-suitor when Trent Green was available in 2001, preferring Jay Fiedler, who starts for the Dolphins Sunday, in yet another chance to finally cement the job that Wannstedt gave the Ivy Leaguer in 2000, after acquiring the unrestricted free agent. Fiedler had been a journeyman third stringer for his first four seasons, the first two with the Eagles, followed by one in Minnesota, and another in Jacksonville.



    At age 32, Fielder is no up and comer, and although his record the past four seasons is an excellent 35-17, Wannstedt didn’t exactly give him a vote of confidence when he traded a 2005 second round pick to bring in 27 year old A.J. Feeley from the Eagles. Wannstedt’s “eye” for passers was apparently it’s usual 20-200, as the youngster who started exactly five games in his career before this year has been a bust in 2004.



    Since that second rounder might be the very first in that round, the way the Dolphins are losing, Wannstedt may have, “Done it again”, as the Mr. Magoo of quarterback judges. After all, wouldn’t Kurt Warner have looked pretty good in the Dolphins colors right now? Wannstedt could have had a two time MVP, and one of the best passers in history over three seasons, and not had to trade that draft choice.



    To repair the draft possibilities, Wannstedt dealt away his best pass rusher, Adewale Ogunleye, to add receiver Marty Booker and draft picks from the Bears. Booker is a good receiver, but the Dolphins have had plenty of good receivers the past few years. What they desperately needed was a great receive, a difference maker, and the passer that can get him the ball. Instead, the Dolphins ignored offensive weapons in free agency, and used their only first day pick on a guard, Vernon Carey.



    They could have had running back Steven Jackson, or one of the top wide outs available in 2004, or even a quarterback for the future, but they put all their offensive hopes in one shaky bottle, Rickey Williams. The deal to acquire the talented but flaky former Saint is yet another Wannstedt move that is proof positive that he should not be given power over personnel.



    The Dolphins made many changes in coaches and management in 2004, but the situation was so scary that newly hired President Dan Marino immediately ran away from the pressure, as he never did as a Hall of Fame quarterback. The new offensive coordinator, Chris Foerster, came over after two season with the Colts, but once Williams went South…actually Far East, on the Dolphins at the last minute, Foerster had his hands tied.



    Wannstedt “solved” the loss of Williams by dealing a third rounder to the Rams for oft-injured Lamar Gordon, and he almost immediately got hurt.

    The Dolphins have played a tough, but not impossible schedule this far, but have scored just 55 points in six games, an unbelievably bad 9.2 points per game average. They haven’t scored a rushing touchdown, and have just four touchdown passes so far.



    They play the Rams without their Pro-Bowl kicker Olindo Mare, who has been one of the best ever thus far in his career, so scoring may be even more difficult for the Dolphins. Their offensive situation mirrors the weather this fall in Florida, a complete disaster. With no running game, the two big but relatively slow starting Dolphins receivers, Booker and Chris Chambers, aren’t able to be very effective in the red zone when the Dolphins do get there. Their best weapon Sunday may be tight end Randy McMichael, who caught 49 passes for 598 yards in 2003, his second NFL season.



    The Rams have had problems with tight ends in the past, so with McMichael already on pace for an even better season this year, with 22 receptions for 179 yards and a score thus far, that should be a focus for Mike Martz. Carey looks like a good pick, though maybe not the best fit for a team with no backs, as he is starting at right tackle. Damion McIntosh, a bust in San Diego, was signed as the starting left tackle this off season.



    Seth McKinney starts at center after being a backup his first two seasons. The guards are 2003 3rd round pick Taylor Whitney and veteran Jeno James, also signed this off-season to bolster the offensive line for a supposed solid running attack with Williams featured. Instead Travis Minor, averaging 3.1 yards a carry in 2004, will be the starter Sunday. The dolphins normally have one of the league’s best fullbacks, but Rob Konrad, who the Rams wanted badly as an unrestricted free agent in 2003, is injured and out for the season.



    As bad as that Miami Dolphin offense is in 2004, their defense is just that good, and to win, that unit must be the one to do it, along with special teams. The Rams will possibly be without their “money” kicker, Jeff Wilkins, who is nursing a bad ankle this week, and that will help the Dolphins cause a bit. The Rams have signed ex-Niner kicker Jeff Chandler just in case Wilkins can’t go.



    The Dolphins defense is 3rd in yards allowed per game, second in passing yards allowed, mainly due to the best cornerback duo in football. Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain can match up against any wide receiver group in the league and can play a physical style or cover with the best speed receivers out there. The Dolphins strong safety, Sammy Knight, is very familiar to Rams fans, who remember all too many big plays he made against them during his time with New Orleans, and he proved to be a very good pickup for Miami last season, with 111 total tackles and three picks.



    The Dolphins signed free safety Antuan Edwards, the Packers top draft pick in 1999, this off-season to replace long time starter Brock Marion. Edwards was a big disappointment in Green Bay, but he has better players around him with Miami.



    The Miami linebackers are also very good, and very experienced, beginning with Junior Seau, a future Hall of Famer on the weak side. In the Middle is nine-year veteran Zach Thomas, still one of the best when he is healthy. Morlon Greenwood, who has been a starter since being drafted in 2001, is the strong side linebacker, coming off a career year in 2003, when he totaled 85 tackles. All three linebackers are physical and smart, and capable of making big plays, though they seldom rush the passer.



    The Dolphins tend to use their line to generate the pass rush, while occasionally bringing a safety or linebacker on sure passing downs. They depend on their great cover corners to give the line time to get at the passer, much like Tampa Bay does. They have Jason Taylor, once one of the better pass rushers in the NFL at right end, but at age 30 he is no longer the player he once was when he totaled 54.5 sacks from 2000-2003. He has the unenviable task of trying to beat Orlando Pace Sunday, and chances are he won’t.



    With Ogunleye gone, the Dolphins start journeyman David Bowens at left end. The 6-3, 260 pounder out of Western Illinois lacks the pass rush of Ogunleye, but he has two sacks thus far to lead the team. Rams right tackle Grant Williams has had his hands full in recent weeks with some of the better left ends, and he needs to keep Bowens at bay so the Rams receivers can get open.



    The Miami tackles are long time veteran Tim Bowens, who returned for a back injury last week, and former Bear Bryan Robinson, who like top backup Jeff Zgonina, are ex-Rams.



    Mike Martz knows that only mistakes on offense or lack of effort on defense could cost him a much needed win Sunday, so he may play it a bit closer to the vest as the game goes on, relying quite a bit on the duo of Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson to control the ball and the Dolphin’s pass rush. Martz will also attack Seau and the other linebackers in the passing game, a tactic Martz employed when Junior was a Charger.



    With Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt probably drawing coverage from those two Pro-Bowl corners all day, look for the contributions from Kevin Curtis, Shaun McDonald and Dane Looker to continue, especially on some shots to the first two downfield and down the middle of the Dolphins defense. To get that done, the line must come up big for the Rams.



    On defense, look for the Rams to make sure the elusive Fiedler stays in the pocket, and they must not allow any Michael Stecker moments from Minor by taking him or the big Miami line too lightly. The defense must come out hot, and come out physical, and the same goes for the Rams special teams. Martz promised to fix the kickoff coverage that was the reason he may have to do without his kicker, so vital in games against the toughest defenses.



    The kickoff return unit has also been horrible, with Arlen Harris recording a longest return of only 27 yards in 2004. One has to wonder why others have not been auditioning for that chore recently, with Harris being so pedestrian.

    Even Mike Furrey, now a little used receiver because of the emergence of McDonald and Curtis, appears to be a better option than Harris.



    The Dolphins return specialists are mediocre, but so were the Bucs going into Monday night, and the Rams made them look like among the best. Miami’s coverage teams are merely average as well.



    It all adds up to a Rams win if they take this game seriously enough and avoid any Monday Night hangover. Hopefully when the weekend is over, the Rams will be 5-2, and the Cardinals will be coming home from Boston 2-0. The Rams have the best chance of meeting those expectations, but as Martz said Thursday, there are no easy games in the NFL, and this one is against a team just as desperate as his 2002 Rams team when those big bad Raiders coming to town.
    Attached Files

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • RamDez
    Debunking An NFL Myth
    by RamDez
    Debunking An NFL Myth



    By Barry Waller

    Gridiron Gateway





    It’s something NFL fans hear constantly. Right now it seems to be on the lips of every Rams fan and those who cover the NFL. In fact, in may be the “first commandment” of the football bible. One even hears head football coaches reciting the age-old adage when discussing football strategy. Wouldn’t it seem like someone, at some time, should actually take a bit of time to prove that “Running the football helps your defense by keeping them off the field, and running the clock.”



    I guess, like all too many long held beliefs, people simply believe because so many people say it over and over and over. One thing I love most about writing my opinions on NFL football is that I have the burning desire to hold such tenets up to the light. This one falls flat on its face.



    The NFL has changed drastically in the last 35 years, since the AFL-NFL merger brought the idea of high scoring offenses into a league that stubbornly clinged to their old ways, and that old imperative about the ground game.



    Sid Gillman and his San Diego Chargers were employing an offensive machine in 1968 that was years ahead of its time, one that has flowed through Bill Walsh, Don Coryell, and Dick Vermeil; to Sam Wyche, Hank Stram, Ernie Zampese, Norv Turner, and Joe Gibbs; and finally to Steve Marriucci, Mike Martz, Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren, and Andy Reid, as well as hundreds of other college and professional coaches.



    Gillman’s scheme has mutated many different ways as it branches off the trunk of his coaching “family tree”, but the pass patterns, and the philosophy that accurate short passing is better than a running attack, are alive and well. Once old school coaches like Vince Lombardi, George Halas, George Allen, and the rest of their peers were history, unable to win against the new pass-happy NFL offenses, all the NFL organizations upgraded their playbooks to the modern game.



    The NFL helped the change by amending rule after rule to make the passing game a better option, even a far more advantageous one. The advent of a national TV deal now worth billions made for a good reason for the league to ignore the caterwauling of NFL “purists” whining about messing up the game, and remake their game. It was commissioner Pete Rozelle’s vision, and that Chargers team that Rozelle, then Rams GM, saw plenty of when they were in Los Angeles, influenced it greatly.



    Yet, now, so many years later, NFL fans and analysts are still not convinced that teams should not return to the days of Lombardi to win consistently, even with the rule changes that include when the game clock starts and stops.



    Players no longer play both ways, or even every play on one side...
    -09-30-2004, 06:54 AM
  • RamDez
    Fearless “Non-Predictions” For The 2004 Season
    by RamDez
    By Barry Waller

    Gridiron Gateway





    I hate predictions, especially concerning the final records of NFL teams, since injuries and luck play such a huge part of the way things play out each season. The media will be full of such nonsense this week, as always, in the quest to hold their readers’ and listeners’ attention for what has become a 12 month obsession for so many.



    The major football publications and networks try to withhold their guesses as to which teams will rise, which will fall, and which will remain where they were in 2003, as long as possible, so the last couple weeks have really been loaded with the final standings imagined five months early in the minds of modern day Nostradamuses. Since dozens of so-called “experts” have wildly differing opinions on which club will hold the Lombardi Trophy aloft in February, with the same factors available for all to examine, does it mean that many of those pundits have no clue?



    A look back would prove that in past seasons, even the most respected analysts, with direct information pipelines from organizations, have been way off in their pre-season prognostications. In fact, they are way wrong far more often than they are on the money. However, when it is all said and done, no one is searching for those six month old issues of all those publications that were so sure they had “handle” on the season. That is very fortunate for the writers who would have very serious doubts arise as to their competence, were this the case.



    The guys on ESPN occasionally joke about one another’s pre-season picks, but mostly the guys who put their opinions out there in August for all too see, often in print, are in no hurry to compare their vision to the final reality. In that way, the media is very much like the politicians they seek to discredit these days.



    Of course, just like whatever administration is trying to hold onto their jobs in Washington, each and every media person that put out their predictions, and sold the value of their picks over others like the guys selling “tip sheets” at the track, would have good excuses for the failure of their crystal balls. The thing is, in the NFL it is not just a possibility that teams will get hit by devastating injuries, bad weather, bad breaks, or other things that turn 11-5 into 8-8 or worse; it’s EXPECTED, or at least should be.



    Since no one knows which teams will be hit the worst, or when it will happen, these predicted final standings things are really nothing more than something draftniks can use to do 2005 mock drafts eight months early. That’s not to say there are not teams that appear to have better ability to persevere when the bad stuff hits, as it already has to some clubs, including the Rams. The haves and have-nots in the league appear to be fairly well defined, though...
    -09-05-2004, 04:53 AM
  • RamDez
    Crushing Loss Should Mold Rams Offseason
    by RamDez
    By Barry Waller

    Gridiron Gateway





    In many ways, other than actually having to sit and watch it happen of course, it may be better for the Rams to exit the playoffs by getting their asses kicked than battle to the end only to lose by two missed field goals, like the Jets did in Pittsburgh. When a team folds up like Mike Martz’ team did Saturday night in Atlanta, it can really shine a spotlight on the roster and coaching staff, and make it very clear what changes have to be made this off-season, if this organization is to return to its former glory.



    Everyone thought the way the Rams got punked by Atlanta in week two was an aberration, and even the players were clear that this was a far different unit than it was in September. Once the game began however, it was a football version of “Teen Wolf Too”, a similar, but even feebler sequel to the original. At least one can leave a horrible movie after five minutes, though.



    The Ram’s schedule will be softer in 2005, and the NFC West is looking so weak, with many changes expected in Seattle and San Francisco, that the Arizona Cardinals should be the pre-season favorite to win the division next year. However, the chances of sneaking into post season again next year by standing pat shouldn’t prevent the obvious additions and subtractions Rams president John Shaw must make soon.



    Mike Martz certainly should accept his fair share of the blame for this star- crossed season, but in truth, Martz probably knew what the team lacked from training camp on, and maybe before that. It’s not his fault that free agency cost his defense its two most emotional players, tackle Brian Young and the “alpha male” of the defense, defensive end Grant Wistrom.



    Losing those two on the heels of watching other emotional leaders like MLB London Fletcher, DE Kevin Carter, and cornerback Dre Bly leave in recent years, and others like Toby Wright and D’ Marco Farr retire too soon due to injury has been simply too difficult to overcome.



    It seems like every time the Rams are raided for talent because of their cap issues, the targets are always the players who have brought a team lacking tough guys their backbone. It’s never been more evident than in 2004, and the final debacle topped it all off, or more correctly, bottomed it out.



    Martz probably thought his team could get by with guys he brought in to add grit; tackle Kyle Turley, center Dave Wohlabaugh, and safety Aeneas Williams, plus the young guys he saw as future leaders, like Adam Archuleta and Pisa Tinoisamoa, added to his core of championship caliber stars.



    However, when Williams turned out to be too hurt to play, let alone lead, Wohlabaugh and Turley couldn’t play, the Rams became as soft as the 2000 or 2002 clubs again. When...
    -01-18-2005, 02:41 PM
  • RamDez
    2005 Nfl Draft: Mock Draft I
    by RamDez
    by Barry Waller

    Gridiron Gateway




    1. San Francisco ***** - QB ALEX SMITH- Utah (JR)

    Smith has wowed the scouts this off-season in his workouts, and his size athleticism and youth make him the choice over CAL’s Aaron Rodgers for a team in total rebuild mode.



    2. Miami Dolphins - RB Ronnie Brown- Auburn

    Brown has emerged as the top prospect at running back, and unlike Ricky Williams, he loves to play.



    3. Cleveland Browns - WR Braylon Edwards-Michigan

    The Browns are rebuilding under a new coach, and though Rodgers would be a logical choice, they’ll instead fill a huge need with more of a sure thing, something they need after so many poor number one picks in the past. They can get a developmental QB in round two anyway.



    4. Chicago Bears- RB Cedric Benson - Texas

    This looks like a lsam dunk pick for Lovie Smith, in need on any spark on offense, especially a stud back like Benson.



    5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- RB “Cadillac” Williams -Auburn

    Jon Gruden liked what he saw of Williams when he coached him at the Senior Bowl. The Bucs need lots of things, and will look hard at wide receivers Mike Williams and Troy Williamson, but in the end it looks like Gruden buys a “Caddy”



    6. Tennessee Titans- QB Aaron Rodgers- California (JR)

    Needing everything, the Titans could go any which way here, and probably will be looking for trades to add picks from a team hungry to deal up for Rodgers. If they stay put, this makes the most sense, because “Air” McNair is running on fumes. A cornerback is also a possibility here.



    7. Minnesota Vikings(from Oak)- WR Mike Williams- USC(JR)

    With two #1 picks this year, the Vikings could go defense here and address WR with the later pick at #18. If they do, look for a defensive end like Maryland’s Shawne Merriman as their guy, since head coach Mike Tice was also a Terp.



    8. Arizona Cardinals- CB Adam “Pac Man” Jones-Va. Tech(JR)

    The Cardinals have big needs at running back, quarterback, and cornerback. They would love to get Rodgers, but I doubt they make a deal to assure it. The depth at running back will leave one there in round two, and none remaining are worthy of this pick. That makes the selection of the top corner, also a great return guy, a good bet for Denny Green.



    9. Washington Redskins- CB Carlos Rogers- Auburn

    The Redskins have a huge hole at cornerback, and Rogers in a big one that can help cover T.O. and the other big NFC East receivers. If Danny Snider looks to make a big splash, he may be the one trying to move to get Rodgers.



    10. Detroit Lions- DE Shawne Merriman- Maryland(JR)
    ...
    -04-03-2005, 12:02 AM
  • AvengerRam_old
    AvengerRam's 2005 First Round Mock (February 1 Version)
    by AvengerRam_old
    Here's my first stab at the first round:


    1. San Francisco: Aaron Rogers, QB, California
    No brainer. They need a QB, Rogers is the top rated one on the board, and he's from Northern California.

    2. Miami: Alex Barron, OT, Florida State
    I expect that they will sign a RB (Shaun Alexander, perhaps) and won't take QB in the first round. Their O line was dismal last year, and Barron could be a huge upgrade.

    3. Cleveland: Antrel Rolle, CB, Miami
    A real difference maker for their defense. Could play CB or FS, or both, and is an excellent blitzer.

    4. Chicago: Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas
    Lovie Smith will be very happy with this pick. Brian Urlacher will be downright giddy.

    5. TampaBay: Cedric Benson, RB, Texas
    Great pick for John Gruden's offense. Two Longhorns in a row.

    6. Tennessee: Jammal Brown, OT, Oklahoma
    Titans' need for OT help causes Brown to go a bit higher than perhaps expected. Could trade this pick.

    7. Oakland: Mike Williams, WR, USC
    Need new blood at WR with departure of Rice and Brown. Williams will have much improved 40 time with a year to prepare.

    8. Arizona: Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn
    Could go with teammate Williams just as easily. Definitely need an upgrade at RB.

    9. Washington Redskins, Anttaj Hawthorne, DT, Wisconsin
    Joe Gibbs gets his Dave Butz style defensive anchor.

    10. Detroit: Alex Smith, QB, Utah
    Either this will light a huge fire under Harrington (a la Drew Brees) or be the prelude to his departure.

    11. Dallas: Adam Jones, CB, West Virginia
    A need position for the Cowboys. Don't expect Bill Parcells to call him "Pac Man," though.

    12. San Diego (from N.Y.Giants): Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan
    Whether its Brees or Rivers at QB, they need more weapons on the outside to take the next step into contention.

    13. Houston: Ersamus James, DE, Wisconsin
    They need to upgrade the defense. James a good choice.

    14. Carolina: Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn
    A team that likes to run the ball as much as the Panthers can never have too many quality backs. A steal this late in draft.

    15. Kansas City: Marcus Spears, DE, LSU
    The Chiefs might want to consider going defense on all of their picks.

    16. New Orleans: Heath Miller, TE, Virginia
    Aaron Brooks needs a reliable receiver other than Joe Horn, and Miller could be a standout at the TE position.

    17. Cincinnati: Marlin Jackson, CB, Michigan
    His ability to play either CB or FS will make him a valuable addition to the Bengals' defense.

    18. Minnesota: Travis Johnson, DT, FloridaState
    Vikings are building their most formidable D line since the days of the "Purple People Eaters."


    19. St. Louis: Shawne Merriman,...
    -02-01-2005, 01:28 PM
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