Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Monday, September 05, 2005

NFL Preview: St Louis

We're going to go a little out of order because Colin needs to preview Arizona due to his living in Phoenix. So I get the amazing mystical journey that is Mike Martz's Rams.

St Louis:
2004 record: 8-8

I'm really really really glad that I'm not a Rams fan. I think I would be incredibly frustrated at how a potential dynasty has imploded. Frankly, the Rams were on a path to become a dominant team in the realm of the Cowboys and 49ers. Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk on offense, and a defense led by Grant Wistrom, Dre Bly and such. They had it all. Tons of young cheap talent. Yet St Louis has squandered it all and are still trying to play off the success of their Super Bowl championship season. They have had an absolute hemorraghing of talent. I'm going to steal this from Colin, but I think it's very cogent to the discussion. The Rams draft awful, and don't bring in any free agents.

The 2005 rookie class for the Rams include:

1. Alex Barron, OT, Florida St - The man has sucked in camp and preseason and has serious personality issues.
2. Ronald Bartell, Jr, CB, Howard - Say what? Two round too early for this guy.
3. Oshiomogho Atogwe, S, Stanford - Decent pick, will see if he can cut it.
3. Richie Incognito, C, Nebraska - Serious problem pick, hasn't played in a year.

Is this just one year of an issue? Last few first round picks...
2004: Stephen Jackson, RB - Could be a stud, more on him later.
2003: Jimmy Kennedy, DT - Big disappointment, hasn't shown up.
2002: Robert Thomas, MLB - What? What?
2001: Damione Lewis, DT - Anyone know who this guy is?
2000: Trung Candidate, RB - Tried to be the successor, failed.

This is after an amazing run of drafting Holt, Wistrom, and Orlando Pace in successive years. The Rams are slowly sinking into mediocrity with age, and without the ability to draft real players are going to find themselves ending up with a lot of 8-8 records. They could have been so much more...

Key Losses: T Kyle Turley, LB Tommy Polley, G Tom Nutten, G Chris Dishman, CB Jerametrius Bulter (injury)

Key Additions: LB Dexter Coakley, LB Chris Claiborne, TE Roland Williams,

Offense:

Quarterback: Mark Bulger is a stud. Unfortunately, he's a stud who gets pancaked every single game multiple times and it started to show last season. He is starting to get a little more jittery in the pocket, as Martz's offense is built around the deep ball. Still, he has the best depth at WR since the Super Bowl season which should help his completion percentage (already a robust 66.2%). The TD/INT ratio is suspect (21/14), a product I believe of him rushing his throws. Bulger is an intelligent QB and if healthy will do most everything asked of him. Quite possibly the best QB in the division (yes Hawks fans, deal with it).

Running back: Combination of Stephen Jackson and Marshall Faulk. Jackson finally is the heir apparent to Faulk but I still have questions. He isn't really the kind of pass receiver that Martz likes and I think defenses will be able to position themselves dependent on the personnel (kind of like if Alexander or Morris are in for us). Jackson has great power and seems poised for a breakout season. This breakout will only happen if Martz commits to the run and doesn't have games with 20+ passes in a row (you laugh now). Faulk has definitely lost a step but if used as a change of direction can still have a significant impact on a game.

Wide Receivers: Strength of this team, no question. Big Game Torry Holt is back for another go-around. Holt is a gamebreaker wide receiver, perfect in the Rams' offense. Isaac Bruce has definitely lost a step and most of the balls in his direction should go to the improved depth, most notably Kevin Curtis, who stepped it up big time in the playoffs last year. We remember Shaun McDonald, who caught the gamewinning TD in overtime last year in the Game Which Must Not Be Mentioned. There is tons of depth here and many TDs will be scored.

Offensive Line: This offensive line should be entitled "Orlando Pace and Trash" because that's pretty much what it is. Martz and Kyle Turley should have tried to iron out their differences, because Bulger's side is going to be rocked, as first round pick Alex Barron has struggled to adapt to the NFL. A couple of mediocre free agents are going to try and replace the guards. They do still have Adam Timmerman, who is a solid contributor, but this line is full of question marks. How well they perform will have a significant impact on the Rams' futures. Remember, this is an offense built around the 20 yard crossing route. If Bulger stays in the pocket and absorbs enough hits, he will miss time (like last season). This offense will then implode. I just don't see this being able to take them to the top.

Defense:
This defense sucked last year and, with the magnitude of change (i.e. basically nothing) done to it will again, suck this year.

D-Line: The defensive line is full of underachievers. Leonard Little has had way more expected of him than just mediocrity (kind of Bryce Fisher type numbers). Perhaps having his legal problems out of the way will help him have the dominant year off the end that has been hoped for. Across from him will be second year player Tony Hargrove, who had a pretty nice rookie year. In the middle will be Jimmy Kennedy and Ryan Pickett. I kinda like Pickett, he at least played well against us. Kennedy, according to many, could have a "breakout year" this year. Riiiight.

Linebackers: This linebacking corps was dreadful last season. Bring on Chris Claiborne, who sucked for the Vikings, and Dexter Coakley, who sucked for Dallas. This is supposed to fix everything? Coakley has lost many many steps, and Claiborne was on the wrong end of every big play the Vikings gave up. Robert Thomas will be the other starting outside linebacker, who didn't do much last year, but has "upside". Frankly, I don't see how they will be able to do much of anything on the second line of attack. Teams should be able to run and throw short crossing routes against this... kind of like Seattle. If we can't do the West Coast offense against this crap, blow up our team.

Secondary: Huge blow of the preseason as starting CB Jerametrius Butler is now out for the year. There is no depth behind him. CB Travis Fisher will be one of the starters with Player X (probably Ronald Bartell). These players are undersized and weak. Anyone who watched this team go up against a good passing attack knows they needed a huge upgrade. S Adam Archuleta is still a beast against the run but is really slowing down. The Rams will be susceptible to the deep ball when he hugs the line of scrimmage. Probably the biggest weakness of the entire ballclub.

Overhyped Myth: The media is all over RB Stephen Jackson as having a huge Pro Bowl type season. I just don't see it. Mike Martz is not a running quarterback. Marshall Faulk was huge as a playmaker run/pass threat. Jackson is not that. I don't believe Martz will run enough for Jackson to be effective, as a up-the-gut-wear-down-the-defensive-line runner.

Understated Reality: If the offensive line goes bad, this team is screwed, because the offense will not develop as it looks on paper. Mark Bulger will go down.

General Prognosis: This team didn't do near enough to upgrade an 8-8 season, with only some linebacker swapping to show for their offseason. There is then no reason to expect a season much improved. Far too many question marks to call them a favorite. Still, the offense will put up a few 40 point efforts and make everyone think they're amazing. I think 9-7 is the best they hope for (10% chance).

Early Season Game I'm Looking Forward To: October 9th vs Seattle... this is for bragging rights in the division. The teams are pretty equal on paper (no Arizona talk allowed), and so which will assert early dominance?

posted by Gavin @ 10:02 PM  0 comments

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