RamView, August 22, 2002 --- From Row HH

RamView, August 22, 2002 --- From Row HH

From Row HH (Report and opinions from the game.) Preseason Game #3: Chargers 31, Rams 10 You can count me among the fans demanding "preseason reform" after tonight. What exactly was the point of that uninspired, uninspiring effort? Bright spots: The game doesn't count. That's about it.

RamView, August 22, 2002
by Rams Nation's Mike Franke
From Row HH (Report and opinions from the game.)
Preseason Game #3: Chargers 31, Rams 10

You can count me among the fans demanding "preseason reform" after tonight. What exactly was the point of that uninspired, uninspiring effort?

Bright spots: The game doesn't count. That's about it.

Position by position:
* QB: Not an MVP-worthy outing from Kurt Warner, 5-10-56. His first two series went 3-and-out, and he only got the offense into scoring position once. He really hasn't had a chance to get going with Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt yet in game conditions. Most of his yardage comes from a 31-yard pass to wide open Ernie Conwell late in the 1st. Good & quick recognition by Kurt there. Still waiting for Warner's first long pass of the preseason, and I'm starting to get impatient for Martz to have him "take a shot". I would like to "give the thumb" to any lingering doubts about Kurt's long ball… Marc Bulger seemed to take a step backward, throwing a couple of bad interceptions to go with an otherwise decent 19-27-177 night. He didn't read the defenders well on either of those picks. He didn't perform well under pass pressure and eventually it looked like he quit looking downfield and settled for dump-offs all the time. He did throw some accurate Warner-like passes, and he eluded piece of filth Rodney Harrison beautifully on a blitz in the 2nd; unfortunately, that play ended with Bulger's first interception. Better decision-making will be crucial for Bulger to make progress. Waiver bait: Ryan Helming, this year's Corte McGuffey, who was last year's Gus Ornstein.

* RB: Marshall Faulk played a couple of series, looked fine, and got out without a scratch. His only run was a draw for 11, and he had a couple of short catches… The world's deepest hole is on Russia's Kola Peninsula, near the Norwegian border, where a well has been drilled over 40,000 feet deep. Now put Mike Martz's doghouse on top of that hole, and put Trung Canidate at the bottom of it, and you'll have some idea where Trung stands after tonight. Trung tallied just 39 total yards in about 2 quarters, dropped a pass while wide open and, most damning, fumbled for the second straight week, and San Diego turned this one into a TD. But Lamar Gordon didn't exactly stand out, either, with 5 yards rushing on 8 attempts. This week he didn't do much of a job at all of breaking the first contact. Gordon played a little with the first unit in the 1st, and I don't think was going to come in until the 4th – that is, until Canidate's costly fumble late in the 3rd brought him back in. Even worse news for the RB corps is that James Hodgins suffered a broken foot early in the 2nd half and will be out 6 weeks, minimum. As the radio postgame show mentioned, good thing the Rams picked up Chris Hetherington. Waiver bait: Marques Glaze, Mike Malan, Dustin McClintock.

* Receivers: One player who played like his job was on the line was Chris Taylor, who caught a big 7 passes for 85 yards, and looked great on a couple of punt returns. Showed good hands and got where his QB expected him to be. Taylor should push Yo! Murphy for the last WR job. Francis St. Paul got the Rams' only TD with a sweet double move in the end zone, but couldn't make a lot happen on returns. Brandon Manumaleuna had yet another long catch (37 yards) in the seam, again showing very nice hands. Ernie Conwell added 2 catches for 43, and is holding on to the ball so far this year. Isaac Bruce had just one catch for 6, and Torry Holt had no catches, failing badly to adjust his pattern on an early Charger blitz. Waiver bait: Eugene Baker, Darran Hall, Anthony Tucker, Dauntae Finger.

* Offensive line: A lot of eyes on John St. Clair this week, and it did look like he played better. I'd probably give him a C-. He looked really good on some plays, when he'd get solid blocks on a couple of linemen. Other times, it looked almost like his guy would beat him inside and then he'd stop blocking too soon. That hurried the QBs, but St. Clair didn't give up any sacks. Also notable was that the Rams gave him a significant amount of help from Hodgins, Conwell and Manumaleuna. The new tackle, Grant Williams, looked just-ok. His man got a step on him outside more than I'd like to see, but he was usually able to tie him up enough to slow him down anyway. Something St. Clair needs to get better at. The middle of the second line, Scott, Garcia and Irwin, looked pretty solid pass-blocking, but run-blocking was poor all night. Scott did look really good pulling and leading a sweep on one play. The starters played the whole first half and looked awful on the last play, allowing Junior Seau to blow in untouched and sack Bulger. Pass blocking needs to get firmer – Warner didn't get completely comfortable often enough. The Chargers did seem to blitz a lot, so maybe that's just a preseason non-game-planning issue. Waiver bait: Andy King, James Broyles, DeMarcus Curry.

* Defensive line/LB: Grant Wistrom and Leonard Little looked good, and the starters looked good on run defense, despite Brian Young jumping offsides a couple of times. The starters got decent pressure on Drew Brees and forced him into a lot of bad-looking mistakes… Didn't some national writer say Jamie Duncan was not going to be a playmaker? Wrong-o, Duncan was all over the place in the first quarter, with six tackles, four which stopped runs for 1 yard or less…Tommy Polley sat out with an injury, and Robert Thomas made a couple of nice plays. He has plenty of speed, enough on one play to run clear around a blocker right in front of him to make a nice shoestring tackle… Except for a sack by Jonathan Brown, the Rams' front seven backups played awfully, getting mowed down and pushed around as if cardboard cutouts. Pass pressure and linebacker play were poor. I must not be looking at the right times, I can't see what anybody likes about LB Michael Hawkes, besides the cool TV-detective name. He got flambed on a 50-yard TE pass in the 3rd. I thought Kole Ayi played better. John Burrough was a stiff. That experiment's a failure. The DTs were AWOL. Correction, Chris Ward had another good outing. That guy's a gamer. Waiver bait: Burrough, Hawkes, Luis Almanzar, Keith Washington, Carl Bradley, Derick Pack.

* Secondary: The portent of bad things to come was Aeneas Williams getting beat deep early in the game by Tim Dwight. Aeneas appeared to stumble just as he was closing on the ball. But it's good just to see him on the field again. Dre Bly's play appears to have slipped a little bit. Sure looked like he was letting receivers get open a lot. Jerametrius Butler looked good, making good plays on defense and special teams. Travis Fisher also looked good, especially against the run again this week. This is not a draft pick Rams fans are going to regret. Adam Archuleta had a good game which included a sack. Waiver bait: Todd Howard, Ron Rogers, Rich Coady.

* Special teams: Taylor also stood out here, with two fine punt returns, a long of 33, which were also very well-blocked by the special teams. But who the heck is going to return kicks? St. Paul and Hall didn't really impress there. Yo! Murphy may be the best kick returner on the roster, but hasn't had any work there in preseason games… Jeff Wilkins' 41-yard miss in the 1st half is really going to disturb me unless someone tells me the snap or hold was bad. You CANNOT miss those kicks indoors… Most of Mitch Berger's punts were excellent, and he pinned San Diego between the 10 and 15 several times… Thanks to the lack of scoring, not much chance to evaluate 1st-string kickoff coverage. The scrubs stunk again, though… Waiver bait: PK Matt Simonton, & I assume Chris Massey has won the long snapper job.

* Coaching/discipline:
The Chargers cared about tonight's game. The Rams didn't care at all. Case closed. The poor quality of play was especially amazing from the second and third-stringers. Guys who are supposed to be fighting for their jobs not even playing hard? Especially most of the defensive subs, who, when they weren't badly out of position, were getting physically dominated. Well, it should sure make some of the cuts easier for Mike Martz to make… Martz again not really fancy at all offensively tonight. This helps explain why the Chargers held them scoreless for a half, because the couple of fancy plays he did call were big successes – the opening draw to Faulk and the long catch by Conwell, with very effective motion that caused the Chargers to lose him at the line of scrimmage. And let's keep in mind that Faulk and the main receivers again came out of the game very early… One of those "signs of maturity" from Martz was his willingness to get extra blockers over on St. Clair's side… Still mildly upsetting to me to put down $94 to see maybe 2-4 guys play with any fire at all. Season's right around the corner, and the Rams are playing with the sharpness of a ton of wet Nerf and the intensity of Teletubbies. And, heaven forbid, what happens if the team can't just "turn on the switch," like Martz appears to be counting on them to do between now and the start of the season? I believe they will, though. Sorry to sound so panicky over preseason games…

* Waiver bait: I've listed my predicted cuts at the end of each section. This is under the assumption that the roster page on the Rams' website is close to correct, that the Rams have to cut 21 players by Tuesday, and that the NFL Europe guys (Willie Gary, Dane Looker, Rob Gatrell, Kaulana Noa, Jason Gavadza) do not count against the roster for the first cut. That's a lot of ifs, we'll see how close I get…

* Upon further review:
I believe Dick Hantak was tonight's referee, and his crew didn't give much to complain about. Could have been a little tighter on holding calls, but I always complain about that. This is one of the league's best officiating crews, and they maintained that reputation tonight.

* Cheers: The fans countered the Rams' lack of effort with their own lack of effort. The crowd was never really in it after player introductions except for a couple of third downs. Looked like about the same number as last week – high 40K – low 50K's. I normally would chastise a crowd for booing the home team, which happened several times tonight, but one thing you're obliged to do as a fan is boo when players don't appear to be trying… Chargers scouting report: Drew Brees doesn't look very good. Doug Flutie is hilarious. To throw a ball over five yards, he has to run up (not step) into it like he's throwing a javelin or something. Chargers have a keeper in safety Davis Sanchez. Kid was all over the field.

* What's next?:
(Sarcasm) Well, if the Rams don't care about winning the coveted Governor's Cup Friday night in Kansas City, they're never going to care. (Sarcasm mode off) It would be nice not to go 0-4 in preseason. Although I'm sure there's no historical basis for 0-4 preseason teams having subpar regular seasons, it would be at least shut up morons like the one who headlined tonight's game recap on nfl.com, "Chargers shock Rams." Really, now. Friday'll be "step up" time, for those of us fond of that cliché. Bulger needs to show he's not Joe Germaine. Lamar Gordon could well have the inside track at backup RB. Hetherington needs to step up and in for Hodgins. St. Clair needs to put two semi-decent games together in a row. The rest of the line needs to clamp down on the pass rush and crack open more holes run blocking. Holt and Bruce need to play more like the Greatest Show on Earth and less like guys who hate preseason games. The front seven on D needs to pick up the pass rush a little bit, but they're not far off, and the secondary could stand to have a less-mistake-filled performance to build on. We need consistency out of the special teams. And everybody try not to get injured. Gee, think I'm asking for much? Actually, I don't think so. These guys are professionals who know that the rubber is starting to hit the road, that the games that count are drawing near. They know you don't achieve Max Q without successful prelaunch procedures. Even if it doesn't add up to a win, let's at least get in a good game against the Chiefs as a springboard for Denver September 8th and all the big games that follow that one.

-- Mike

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