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  • Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

    Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
    Monday, December 27, 2010 1:40 pm

    Good morning, and happy holidays.

    I hope everyone is in a good mood.

    Let's get started ...

    READING TIME 5 MINUTES (or so):

    * I'll be honest: I don't think NBC did the Rams any favors by taking Sunday's game and putting it on prime time. It's great that the Rams will get some national exposure, and all. But how will it impact the team's readiness to play? This group of players hasn't had a night-time showcase on the national stage; all of the Rams' games have started at noon, or at 3 p.m. Sitting around the hotel all day is a big change in routine. And the spectacle that comes with being a participant in the biggest TV audience of the NFL week is a new experience for these players. Will they be distracted? Will the moment be too big for them? These are legit questions.

    But my real concern is how head coach Steve Spagnuolo will react to this. The media attention (from a national standpoint) will intensify this week. The demands will rise. Spags tends to get uptight, and when he's tight, it it isn't good for him or the team. I hope the folks at Rams Park can keep Spags reasonably loose this week. I try to be fair, and I have a feeling that I'm not being entirely fair to Spags here. Look, the guy's been an excellent motivator who has his teams ready to play. That was the case in 2009, when the Rams never stopped competing for the guy and caring about their jobs despite the demoralizing agony of a 1-15 season. We can criticize Spags for being too conservative when the Rams take a lead in games, and we can get on him for some other matters, such as in-game adjustments. But he does have his teams properly wired going into games. So perhaps I'm way off base here. But I just know the guy, and I hope he doesn't get too stressed this week. That's all I'm saying.

    * The Rams should not be stunned if Seattle comes out strong and starts fast on Sunday night. Even during the the Seahawks' terrible 2-7 stretch they've managed to compete early in games. Let's take a look:

    -- Sunday, Seattle led Tampa Bay 7-3 after one quarter, eventually losing 38-15.

    -- Two weeks ago, Seattle led Atlanta 7-0 after one, and were tied 10-10 late in the first half, eventually losing 34-18.

    -- On Dec. 12 at San Francisco, Seattle lost 40-21 but trailed by only three, 10-7, after one.

    -- Seattle and Kansas City were tied 7-7 after the 1st Q on Nov. 28; the Chiefs won 42-24.

    -- Seattle trailed New Orleans by a point (7-6) early in the 2nd Q on Nov. 21 before falling 34-19.

    -- Seattle was only down by three (3-0) to Oakland after the 1st Q on Oct. 31. The Raiders won 33-3.

    During the course of these seven losses, only one team, the NY Giants, jumped up early to wipe out the Seahawks. The Giants led 21-0 after the 1st Q on Nov. 7 and cruised 41-7.

    The message to the Rams: Seattle, especially at home, is usually energized early. But as soon as the game starts to turn, the Seahawks can't hang on. Things tend to avalanche on them in a hurry. So even if Seattle comes out and takes an early lead, it's nothing unusual. The Rams have to maintain their confidence and focus and keep fighting. Good things will happen for them. But if the Rams freak out and overreact to early adversity, it could lead to big trouble.

    * And what about Qwest Field? Seattle is 4-3 at home this season. No question, the place helps the home team. But how much? Qwest opened in 2002, and for several years it was among the most intimidating venues for a visiting team in professional sports. From 2002 through 2007, the Seahawks had a regular-season home record of 36-12. From 2003-2007, the home record was 33-7. But great fans and a rowdy environment can't save a team in decline. And sure enough, the Seahawks are only 10-13 at Qwest since the start of the 2008 season. So what is there to be afraid of, really? The challenge isn't the stadium; it's the team that plays inside the stadium. And we should know all about this in St. Louis. The "Greatest Show" Rams were formidable at The Edward Jones Dome, going 37-8 there (including postseason) from 1999 through 2003. But that changed, didn't it? From 2004 through 2009, the Rams went 15-33 at home. From 2007-2009, the Rams were 2-22 at The Ed.

    * All week long, Rams players are going to hear about how Qwest Field swallows up visiting teams, and all of that. Heck, I've done some of that myself, taking a moment after Sunday's win over San Francisco to ask Sam Bradford about the challenge of playing at Qwest. But again: things have changed there. I'm in no way suggesting that it's easy for a road team to win in Seattle. It's not. But the Seahawks have lost three of their last four at Qwest this season. And the three losses were blowouts: by 34 points to the NY Giants; 18 points to the KC Chiefs; and 16 points to Atlanta. Obviously, the Giants (at the time for sure), Chiefs and Falcons are better than the Rams are. So the Rams face a tougher test. The Rams are more limited offensively than the Giants, the Chiefs and the Falcons. But that doesn't change the reality here: the Rams can, and should, take care of business at Qwest. They just can't allow the Qwest reputation to get inside their heads and become a factor even before the game starts. The Seahawks are undoubtedly hoping that Qwest Field, if nothing else, will provide a psychological advantage. The Rams can't allow that to happen. The Rams have played in some tough venues this year, including Oakland and New Orleans. It should have helped them prepare for this.

    * Don't get me wrong; the fans at Qwest are loud and disruptive and can make the setting miserable for visiting teams. We all know about the dozens of false-start penalties slapped on visitors in Seattle through the years. And this will challenge the Rams to play a clean, low-mistake game. But they can overcome this. The Rams have to work on their communication plan this week. They have to work on their silent counts. They have to sharpen up and be smart and understand what they're in for, and be prepared to adapt and handle the noise. But it's not as if visitors have gone into Qwest and fallen apart this season. In fact, the Seahawks have as many penalties this year (46) as the visitors. And when Qwest was really rocking (2003-2007) the difference in penalties between home team and vistitors was profound...the visitors had 111 more penalties and 741 more yards in penalties. And now? In 2010 it's about even.

    * Not surprised that the ***** opted to put Mike Singletary out of his stark-raving misery with a game to go in the 2010 season. But why not let him finish the season? Perhaps the ***** want to get a jump on preparations for what comes next. Perhaps they don't want to get off to a late start in the potential recruitment of, say, Jim Harbaugh or Jon Gruden. (And Gruden will have interest in the *****' job.) Losing to the Rams is harmful to a coach's career. Two of the Rams' victims already have been fired: Denver's Josh McDaniels and now Singletary. Carolina's John Fox is presumably on the way out. The Rams beat San Diego, one of the league's most disappointing teams, and you don't know what will become of Chargers head coach Norv Turner now that The Bolts failed to make it to the playoffs.

    * Rams' returner Danny Amendola has been among the league's best over the last five weeks. Over the last five games he's averaged 27.2 yards per kickoff return, which is third-best in the NFL over that time. And his punt-return average of 13.1 yards is No. 1 in the league over the last five games. As a WR, Amendola for the season ranks 7th in the NFL with 83 catches. Rams GM Billy Devaney found a gem when he hired Amendola away from Philadelphia's practice squad in 2009.

    * Rams defensive linemen James Hall, Fred Robbins and Chris Long were tremendous in the win over the *****. They combined for 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and two batted-down passes. Hall is having one of the more overlooked, underrated seasons by an NFL defensive lineman. He's up to 10 sacks on the season and went into Sunday's game with a combined 22 QB knockdowns and hurries. Hall is also a strong leader in the locker room. Tell you what: Jay Zygmunt and Scott Linehan messed up a lot of things during their unfortunate period of being in charge at Rams Park. But one of the things they got right was acquiring Hall from Detroit for a fifth-round draft pick in 2007. And how about Robbins? He has six sacks, numerous pressures, and has been stuffing running plays all season. Robbins has provided the Rams with the inside push they've desperately needed at DT. He was a great free-agent signing by Spags. Chris Long gets a lot of attention, as he should. He's having a terrific season. But the two old veterans, Hall and Robbins, are so important to the success of this defense. I wonder if any of the three -- Long, Hall or Robbins -- will earn Pro Bowl recognition this week.

    * With Matt Hasselbeck injured again, it looks like the Rams will see Seattle's No. 2 QB, Charlie Whitehurst. He's played a lot over the last two weeks, and he started against the Giants back on Nov. 11. Whitehurst hasn't played well when pressed into action. He's completed 55 percent of his 63 passing attempts He's had a touchdown and three interception. He has sailed too many passes. He's thrown behind receivers. He just hasn't inspired much confidence, at least not to this point. But he will get the first-team reps this week, and that should sharpen him up. On the other hand, the Rams have an edge in knowing that they can prepare for Whitehurst. And they have lots of video to study, given his one start and two busy relief-pitcher performances in recent weeks. But let's be honest about something: the Rams have been fortunate to face a lot of bad QBs this season. A declining Donovan McNabb, a fading Hasselbeck, a terrinbly inaccurate Derek Anderson (twice), the erratic Troy Smith (twice) and Carolina's Matt Moore. The Rams have gone against some good QBs, too: Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton and the emerging Josh Freeman. But if you have one game left, and one game to win the division, you'll take the luck of the draw and an appointment with Charlie Whitehurst.

    * Sam Bradford got the third-down mojo working for him Sunday, completing 7 of 10 passes vs. the Niners on 3rd down. In Seattle, Bradford will have to play better on the road than he did at Arizona and at New Orleans.

    Thanks for reading...

    -Bernie

  • #2
    Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

    Could you be a little MORE wishy-washy, Bernie?

    Seriously, the condescending way that Bernie writes about Spags... who the Hell does Bernie think he is?

    If I were Spags, I wouldn't give him the time of day.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

      Reading Bernie reminds me of when I am in line at the store and read the National Enquirer headlines as I wait: a bunch of BS, yet entertaining in a twisted sort of way.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

        When not stating the obvious in this article Bernie seems to be busy preparing fans for failure.
        "I've been saving the Universe for over a thousand years. I figure it owes me just this once."

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

          Originally posted by AvengerRam View Post
          Could you be a little MORE wishy-washy, Bernie?

          Seriously, the condescending way that Bernie writes about Spags... who the Hell does Bernie think he is?

          If I were Spags, I wouldn't give him the time of day.
          Seriously....perhaps what Bernie interprets as stress when he & his ol' buddy Spags are spending all this quality time together is simply repressed loathing or stifling the urge to pull one of BM's chins up to his forehead & staple it there.Miklasz' observations have been startlingly readable this season but it's good to see the inner putz reveal itself in silliness like that.We live in uncertain times. It's good to know some things can be relied upon; water is wet & Bernie is a knucklehead,etc.

          I certainly don't get all this angst over Qwest & the primetime slot. The Rams may well blink but the only way they'll get used to the limelight is to step into it. I'd rather they get the flopsweat dealt with this year than next.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

            Originally posted by r8rh8rmike View Post

            But my real concern is how head coach Steve Spagnuolo will react to this. The media attention (from a national standpoint) will intensify this week. The demands will rise. Spags tends to get uptight, and when he's tight, it it isn't good for him or the team. I hope the folks at Rams Park can keep Spags reasonably loose this week. I try to be fair, and I have a feeling that I'm not being entirely fair to Spags here. Look, the guy's been an excellent motivator who has his teams ready to play. That was the case in 2009, when the Rams never stopped competing for the guy and caring about their jobs despite the demoralizing agony of a 1-15 season. We can criticize Spags for being too conservative when the Rams take a lead in games, and we can get on him for some other matters, such as in-game adjustments. But he does have his teams properly wired going into games. So perhaps I'm way off base here. But I just know the guy, and I hope he doesn't get too stressed this week. That's all I'm saying.
            Is it just me, or does this not make sense to anyone else? It seems like he starts with one point, and halfway through the sentence remembers another point he wanted to make, and immediately jumps to that new point, not ever returning to the previous points he already started. I'm not sure what to make of it.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

              I'm a Bernie fan, but...... "that's all I'm saying"?
              Look away. I'm hideous. __ Cozmo Kramer

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

                So close to getting better reads out of Bernie... and then this. I didn't even make it half way through his despairing article.

                He should not be allowed near players or coaches until after the season, when they can all watch him eat crow

                Comment

                Related Topics

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                • r8rh8rmike
                  Bernie Bits: Time Now For Rams To Play Their Best
                  by r8rh8rmike
                  Bernie Bits: Time now for Rams to play their best

                  BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
                  Saturday, January 1, 2011 12:20 am

                  Final thoughts on the Rams-Seahawks matchup:

                  If the Rams play their best game, or close to it, they will prevail. The Seahawks are a mess right now. They've lost seven of the last nine games, with all seven losses deteriorating into ugly blowouts.

                  The advantage of Qwest Field hasn't helped much as of late; Seattle has dropped three of the last four at home. Since the start of the 2008 season, the Seahawks are 10-13 at home.

                  Not that it's a comfy venue for visiting teams. The place can cause chaos and confusion for offensive linemen. Since 2005, visiting O lines have twitched for 105 false start penalties. The Rams have committed 28 false starts this season, the league's third-highest total. Rookie offensive tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith have five apiece. If the Rams are jumpy up front they'll fall through the trap door at Qwest.

                  Accordingly, the Rams will have to remain steady early on, tune the fans out and take Seattle's best hit. The Seahawks usually get off to a decent start; in the seven losses they've had the lead or been tied in four of the games at the end of the first quarter. (And they've been within a touchdown of the lead in two others.) The energized crowd will get the home team pumped. If the Rams can ride it out early, they'll be fine. When a game turns on the Seahawks, they tend to collapse. In their last seven losses Seattle has been outscored 211-76 after the first quarter.

                  The Rams' defense must be aggressive, and that's a specialty of a Steve Spagnuolo defense. I think the Rams defense can, and should, win this game. During this 2-7 stretch Seattle has committed 20 turnovers, allowed 21 sacks and been penalized 56 times. Seattle quarterbacks have a passer rating of 68.2 over the last nine games, with 19 turnovers. The Rams' disruptive style of defense should be able to take advantage of Seattle's error-prone offense.

                  When the teams met in St. Louis on Oct. 3, the Rams had four sacks, two takeaways, 10 combined quarterback pressures and knockdowns and limited the visitors to three points in a 20-3 win. And the Seahawks were much better then -- at least compared to how they are playing now.

                  Seattle offensive tackles Russell Okung and Sean Locklear have been on the wobbly side. So if Rams defensive ends James Hall and Chris Long can get the locomotive breath going, it could be an overwhelming experience for the Seattle OTs. Long and Hall have combined for 19 sacks and 56 quarterback hurries and knockdowns. On the other side of this equation, the Rams have to put the lock on Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons. He's good. Really good.

                  I'm sorry, but did Seattle coach Pete Carroll really think he was conning the Rams by pretending that Matt Hasselbeck...
                  -01-01-2011, 12:24 PM
                • r8rh8rmike
                  Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways
                  by r8rh8rmike
                  Loss is disturbing in many ways

                  Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
                  ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
                  11/30/2009

                  From the moment Steve Spagnuolo was hired as the Rams' head coach to partner with new general manager Billy Devaney, I've preached patience. The new leaders were put in charge of cleaning up the NFL equivalent of a toxic spill. And it would take a lot of time, hard work and smart decisions to get it done.

                  Those who thought the Rams had a chance to win between seven and nine games this season and contend for the playoffs were more delusional than optimistic.

                  I didn't expect much, and I'm not asking for much.

                  All I wanted to see, really, were signs of progress in 2009. And shouldn't this team be getting better, even if the gains are incremental and modest? Instead, the Rams are getting worse. Is there any justification for that?

                  With Sunday's 27-17 loss to the visiting Seattle Seahawks, the Rams became the first St. Louis NFL team to post a 1-10 record after 11 games in a season. That covers 43 seasons of St. Louis NFL football, 28 with the Cardinals and 15 with the Rams.

                  This was a winnable game. It was sitting there at 7-7 in the second quarter, and the Rams were only down by seven late in the third quarter. The Seahawks came into The Ed with a 3-7 record and didn't appear to be highly motivated. But as most opponents do, the Seahawks pounced on the Rams' mistakes and sloppy play and bullied the Rams with a physical rushing attack. Taking over, Seattle opened a 17-point lead before the Rams scored a so-what TD with 44 seconds remaining.

                  The Rams had shown improvement by losing in overtime at Jacksonville, winning at Detroit, and taking the undefeated New Orleans Saints down to the wire with a chance to win. But the Rams didn't build on that brief spell of not-so-hideous football.

                  Instead, they're regressing.

                  And I don't think that's acceptable.

                  "This game was a big step backward," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "I think we've got a long way to go, so we can't afford to take these steps backward."

                  Agreed. After the game, I asked Spagnuolo if he thought his Rams were slipping and getting worse. After saying he wouldn't cite injuries as an excuse, Spagnuolo sort of did just that.

                  "The one thing we've got to remember, and I'm not going to use this as an excuse, so bear with me here," Spagnuolo said. "But we have gelled. Since the first time we played Seattle (in the season opener) until now, I believe it's a different football team.

                  "But we're fighting some injuries right now at some key positions. So the dynamics of working together and getting better and better at certain things, maybe it takes a step back. But this is professional football and guys got to go in there and play....
                  -11-30-2009, 04:39 PM
                • MauiRam
                  Bernie: Rams have big chance to show progress ..
                  by MauiRam
                  Bernie Miklasz Saturday, October 2, 2010 12:20 am


                  The Seattle Seahawks will be at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday, and this is only the Rams' most important home game since the 2006 season. It's the last time the franchise had a mathematical possibility of making the playoffs.

                  Not that we're ready to put the 1-2 Rams in the playoff-contender category. Not at all. But for a forlorn franchise that spent the previous three seasons riding on a downbound train, this is a pretty big deal, to have a chance to be 2-2. It's been a while. The 2007 Rams got off to an 0-7 start., the 2008 team was stuck at 0-4 a month into the season, and the 2009 Rams lost their first seven games.

                  Considering that the Rams' combined September-October record over the previous three seasons is 2-21, the opportunity to be 2-2 is an appealing objective. And it would represent tangible progress.

                  We're not talking miracles here. This is about reversing a pattern of chronic losing. And reversing the horrible trend of losing games at home, and losing games in the NFC West. Since the start of the 2005 season the Rams are 4-27 in division games, and that includes a 1-15 mark at home. Unless the Rams can begin to beat up on the NFC West teams that have bullied them, their torment and frustration will continue.

                  So it's time to make a stand. Yes, even with an injured Steven Jackson. The Seahawks are 3-14 in their last 17 road games, and two of the wins came in St. Louis. That means Seattle has lost 14 of its last 15 road games in places other than The Ed. This is an ideal time for the Rams to fight back and let the rest of the NFL know that things are finally changing in St. Louis.

                  "I wasn't here last year," rookie quarterback Sam Bradford said, in a conference call with Seattle reporters. "So I couldn't tell you exactly what that culture was like before I got here. But in talking to some of the veterans, the guys that have been here, they seem to feel like we are moving in the right direction."

                  The Rams should settle for nothing less than a win and a 2-2 record
                  -10-01-2010, 11:13 PM
                • Nick
                  Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show
                  by Nick
                  Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show
                  BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist | Posted: Monday, January 3, 2011 11:45 am

                  Do you want to talk about the seven wins, and the progress that the Rams made in 2010, and how vital it was to establish QB Sam Bradford as a franchise piece? Do you want to talk about how we'll look back on the last few months and realize that this really was a good season for a franchise that went 1-15 in 2009?

                  I agree with all of those points. And that would be a good and proper conversation to have. And I am certain we will have that discussion in the coming days. There will be plenty of time for the appreciation that comes with a long-view perspective.

                  But that's a separate topic. A separate issue.

                  My focus, for now, is specifically on the Rams' 10-point loss at Seattle. I'm talking about this game. We can talk about the other stuff later. But the 16th and final game -- and a failure to take advantage of such a clear opportunity -- warrants plenty of discussion in the immediate aftermath.

                  So that's what I'm doing.

                  It isn't that the Rams lost by 10 points at Seattle on Sunday night.

                  It's the way it all went down.

                  I think most reasonable people could accept this with more patience and understanding if the Rams had played well and coached well, only to fall short. But they weren't even close to that. They were embarrassingly bad. Embarrassingly outcoached. Embarrassingly overmatched by a Seattle team that had lost seven of its previous nine games by an average of 22 points.

                  It's one thing to lose to Atlanta or New Orleans. But to go to Seattle and pull a no-show?

                  It shouldn't have happened this way. Especially to the offense. And to the coaching staff.

                  The Rams defense wasn't spectacular. But if you hold the home team to 16 points, three points under Seattle's season scoring average, then you've given the offense a good chance to come out of Qwest Field with a win and the NFC West title.

                  Granted, Seattle's first series against the Rams was a nightmare, with the Rams blowing assignments and unable to cover Seattle's receivers down the field. But the defense recovered to control the game for long stretches. The Rams pass defense should have been tighter early in the game, and the run defense should have been tougher late in the game. Giving up 141 yards rushing is too much. But again, I don't believe the defense was the reason why the Rams came up empty.

                  There was something disturbing about the Rams' attitude and approach.

                  From the beginning, Seattle attacked. The Seahawks came out on the first drive, with the heretofore underwhelming backup Charlie Whitehurst in charge of their fate. And instead of backing away, and playing scared, the home team immediately went after the Rams' necks. On the game's second...
                  -01-03-2011, 11:25 AM
                • r8rh8rmike
                  Bernie Bytes: Rams Must Use DX Missle
                  by r8rh8rmike
                  Bernie Bytes: Rams must use DX Missile

                  BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
                  Tuesday, December 28, 2010 2:05 pm

                  Sorry for my late start today ...

                  Let's get going:

                  READING TIME 5 MINUTES:

                  * The Rams have to play wide receiver Danario Alexander at Seattle on Sunday night. They not only have to play him; they have to utilize him. Before I get into the statistics, let me declare up front that these are based on a small sample size. Which means that we shouldn't draw any firm conclusions. And that these numbers don't carry the same weight as an entire body of work over a full season. So there. You've been warned.

                  That said, it's pretty obvious that the exciting rookie WR has delivered substantial impact when given the opportunity. And that he makes a difference in the Rams offense. And that he gives it a dimension that the other receivers can't provide.

                  Alexander has appeared in seven games this season, four wins and three losses.

                  -- In the Rams' four wins, QB Sam Bradford has targeted the DX Missile 25 times. Alexander has caught 16 passes for 286 yards, an average of 17.9 yards per reception. The haul includes a touchdown, 11 first downs, and three catches of 25+ yards.

                  -- In the Rams' three losses with Alexander, he's been targeted only 7 times, with one catch for six yards. Granted, the three losses have been against winning teams, Tampa Bay and New Orleans and Kansas City. But still...

                  Notice a trend there? When the Rams roll out the DX Missile and actually make him part of the game plan, big things happen. When they don't use Alexander, the passing game lacks sizzle. It's plain to see.

                  There's more to it than that. Let's talk about the dimension that DX brings to the field. This season he's averaged 11 yards at the point of the catch. (In other words: how many yards downfield is he at the point of reception? This doesn't take into account the number of yards produced after making the catch.)

                  That 11-yard average is the best on the team. Before getting injured, Mark Clayton averaged 9 yards at the point of the catch. The little-used Mardy Gilyard averages 8.2 yards at the spot of the catch. Other averages for the wideouts: Laurent Robinson 7.5 yards, Brandon Gibson 7.4 yards, Danny Amendola 3.7 yards.

                  How about a dash of historical perspective? In the peak years of the Greatest Show on Turf (1999-2001), Torry Holt averaged 12.7 yards at the point of the catch. Isaac Bruce averaged 12.3 yards. Ricky Proehl averaged 9.3 yards at the spot of the catch.

                  Which means that Alexander -- small sample size and all -- is capable of stretching the field in a way that we haven't seen from a Rams wideout since the glory days.

                  In that context, it makes absolutely no sense to keep Alexander in the shed. It makes no sense to reduce him to a non-factor....
                  -12-28-2010, 08:13 PM
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