The St. Louis Rams were known as the Greatest Show on Turf from 1999-2001 (and 2003), but after the debacle that the Rams have converted into, I’ve begun to believe that the new name of the team should be called the Most Myriad Injuries on Turf, the MMIOT (sounds like the abbreviation of a massive multiplayer RPG). Bulger hasn’t been able to stay healthy because the offensive line hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and with the said offensive line not being able to stay healthy, the backups have had to come in and serve as an aid the past few years, and even THEN they weren’t able to stay healthy. Orlando Pace, one of the league’s all time greatest tackles, was lost for the season in 2007 after he was injured during the second series of week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. I knew then that the season would be strenuously horrid. Still yet, Bulger played terrible football, and to rectify those woes, a cohesive unit needs to concoct between him and the rest of the offense.
Watching Marc Bulger fall to injuries, posting his worst season as a professional. Watching the line deplete more and more. Watching Steven Jackson not be able to play well, and himself fall to injury, as the line collapsed almost as soon as he received footballs from hand offs, having nowhere to run except backwards. Watching Drew Bennett underachieve all year with a nagging hamstring injury. Watching Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce be the only guys who were able to make plays, even though they didn’t have too many chances due to Gus Frerotte being manhandled in the backfield. Speaking of Frerotte, watching him drop a snap on the one yard line against Seattle ranks somewhere in the top 25 as one of my most personal disheartening moments of the 2007 NFL season. Watching the defense play better than anybody expected, with the offense playing like a load of crap (which is the opposite of what I expected). All of those factors — ALL OF ‘EM — killed me and every other Rams fan in the world.
But it’s a new year, and Marc Bulger has been said to be more mentally prepared than any player on the Rams’ roster right now. Studying, staying focused, understanding the game even more (exploits that he didn’t know before), and most of all that’s expected of him, a playmaking QB ability to deliver the ball at all costs. He’s healthy and ready to return to the field in August and September, but the question still lingers: Can Bulger and his five offensive line cohorts stay healthy enough so that he doesn’t fall on his ass on 95 percent of the plays in one game? That question’s going to be up for debate until the start of the season.
But the Rams’ O-Line is making changes. Orlando Pace is at full strength, and since his injury, has been working out in the weight room, staying strong and healthy as can be. Word’s out that Pace is going to be healthy for this next season, which may possibly be his last in the league (all up for speculation until the next off-season to hear his decision). Alex Barron has to be sweating right now, unless he’s been newly disciplined. Leading the league in false starts the past two years, he has a lot to prove to his coaches in ’08. A pretty good blocker, he makes too many mental mistakes like what I was just talking about — the excessive penalties are uncalled for, and he has this season to confirm whether or not he’s a legit NFL starting offensive tackle.
Pace and Barron aren’t the only two guys on the Rams’ line that’s going to be proving their worth in ’08. The Center position is up for grab between veteran Brett Romberg, young’n Mark Setterstrom, and other young’n Dustin Fry. All three will get their chances at center unless one completely blows the other two out of the water, which I don’t see happening. Richie Incognito will be back healthy in ’08 and ready to show the rest of the NFL how rough and tough he is (trust me, he is). His assertiveness shows on all levels, especially those annoying unsportsmanlike conduct penalties! Learn how to conduct yourself, Richie!
A quick few words on Steven Jackson: in my opinion, he’s the second best running back in the league (behind LaDainian Tomlinson). The reason I say he’s better than Adrian Peterson is because I’m not a what have you done for me lately homer like many people are. Peterson had an awesome rookie campaign, but I’m not the type that jumps on the bandwagon of a rookie player for their one credible season over a guy who’s experienced and has proved to me that he can play football. Jackson, if he has an offensive line that decides they want to block for him (lucky for Peterson, ‘All Day’ has Steve Hutchinson and a great o-line cast compared to Jackson’s mediocre third stringers), he’ll be in Hawaii next February — I guaran-damn-tee it. Oh, and if you’re sitting, staring at your monitor with disbelief because the guy who’s writing this blog is putting Jackson over Peterson, well, if Peterson matches his season last year, and Jackson under performs again, THEN I’ll throw Peterson over top of Jackson on these silly, stupid, idiotic top 10 position lists. Until then, suck it up and learn football analysis and morals instead of becoming a what have you done for me lately fan. I’m sick and tired of it. I cannot extend my hate for idiots, bandwagon fans, or fans who nutjump any player that has a great season out of the blue and touts them as a hall of famer. Could Peterson be in the Hall of Fame some day? Most certainly. But shut the fuck up and sit down if you’re going to make this case after his rookie season, when the rest of his career could be fucked up the ass with injuries. I hate this kind of speculation and refuse to take part in debate of it or even pay attention to anybody’s ignorant thoughts about my team or any other for that matter if they haven’t watched more than three Rams games the past 3-4 seasons.
The Rams’ receiving corps will be without a well known Rams legend this year (I’m trying not to mention his name in this, but I will: Isaac ‘the Rev.” Bruce), and the top two wide outs listed on the depth chart will be Torry Holt and Drew Bennett. Holt had a quality 2007 season, but it wasn’t as up to par as his other seasons have been for the past eight years he was in the league. Entering his 10th season in the NFL, he’s slowing down, but he’s still a big play receiver, which surely still holds up his moniker, “Big Game.” Drew Bennett was sought out as a disappointment for the Rams in 2007 (but then again, who wasn’t?). The newly acquired receiver from the Tennessee Titans to replace Kevin Curtis was brought in to provide an exceptional slot receiver to open up holes for Isaac Bruce (second mentioning) and Torry Holt. It didn’t happen. Bennett was hampered with a nasty hamstring injury for the majority of the year, and suffered through intermittent pains through on until the end of the season. Now healthy, Bennett says he’s more focused than ever to contribute to the Rams as a number two receiver. The number three is up for grabs between Dane Look, Dante Hall, newly acquired Reche Caldwell, rookie Donnie Avery, and even rookie Keenan Burton. Al Saunders took over the offensive coordinator job in the off season (was with the Rams during the GSOT days, by the way), which leads me to believe that this offense is going to be a speedy one, which will cause for flashy, quick receivers streaking down field, catching [hopefully] touchdown strikes from Marc Bulger. It would be nice to see Donnie Avery slip in at the number three receiver and make an immediate impact, but that needs to be taken care of in moderation.
The defense is really shaping up. The defensive line is one of the youngest in the league, with the Rams adding UVA D-End Chris Long with the second pick in the Draft. With Long lining up next to Adam Carriker and [either Clifton Ryan (who had a quiet, excellent year last season) or Claude Wroten (more on Wrote in a bit] being the counterpart end to vet Leonard Little, the line should pose some threats to opposing teams’ offensive lines this season. Not to mention, the linebacker core will make a big impact on rushing quarterbacks as well. Will Witherspoon, in lieu of Little’s problems, made a huge impact on taking down QBs and pressuring them all season in 2007. Brandon Chillar bolted for a contract in Green Bay, but the Rams will be replacing Chillar at the strong side with either young Quinton Culberson or vet Chris Draft. Pisa Tinoisamoa, returning from injuries, will be returning to healthy form as well, but questions are lingering around Rams’ message board forums on whether he can stay healthy and motivated or not.
The Rams’ quick defense is affected deeply by its play in the defensive backfield. Tye Hill, after an injury plagued season, is happy to return as a healthy corner, feeling that his role on the team will be successfully fulfilled in 2008. O.J. Atogwe was a snub in the pro bowl in 2007, as he lead the NFC in interceptions, having a breakout year (one of the very few good seasons that a Ram had last season). Corner Jonathan Wade has improved over the off-season, getting bigger and bulkier. The skill of the Rams’ defensive backs will depend largely on these three guys. I would throw CB Fakhir Brown into the mix, but his egregious off the field problems are duly noted.