By Rams Nation's Brad Werths
Berger has been an excellent acquisition. He may not be leading the division in many categories, but I doubt that anyone has pinned the opposition inside the 20 more times than Mitch. Just off the top of my head, I remember that he has placed the ball inside the 10 three times and inside the 20 at least 6. This part of the punting game is vastly improved over last year.
I don't know what, if any, effect kicking barefoot is having, but it's a shame to hear Martz second-guessed because Wilkins missed a kick that he usually makes. I'm reminded of the old "missed it by that much" line Don Adams used in "Get Smart". The stats say his kickoffs are better, but I have to wonder about the FG's.
What can I say? Wistrom and Little can't do it alone. No one in the league tries harder than these two. 110% effort on every snap. More pressure on the opposing QB is a must, as is stopping the run. There are definite signs of improvement, and getting some of the guys injured in preseason back will only help the unit. If the officials noticed how much these guys are being held a little more often, it would help.
Losing Tommy Polley hurt, big time. Davis is doing a good job moving from spot to spot, and there are other concerns. I've heard several Fletcher fans lamenting his departure. I'm not in that camp. After reading some of his comments since leaving, I'm convinced that he is a "me first" player. For all his skills, he wanted the money, and didn't care about how it would affect the salary structure. It isn't fair to compare a one-handed Jamie Duncan to a health Fletch. Taking the injury into consideration, I think Duncan has done a fair job in the middle. After watching Thomas let up when he had Smith in the backfield last week gives me cause for concern. Wistrom was quick to let him know he had screwed up, and I hope being benched by Smith will drive the point home.
Now that the ankle sprain has occurred, we find out that Aeneas has been playing through a turf toe injury. Early comments suggested that he had finally lost a step. I guess he would running on a bad foot. Travis Fisher looked good on his open-field tackles last week, and if Bly continues to bump people instead of wrapping up, Fisher ought to be starting ahead of him and Dex. Arch is solid, but I'd like to hear Herring's name a little more often.
More pressure, better tackling and coverage. Pursuit is good, sure tackling and stops are better.
For all the uproar over St. Clair, he has played rather well. He was shaky at first, but once he got his feet wet, he has improved weekly. He held Pryce to one sack (with some help), but the next week, Strahan was shut out. He isn't another Orlando Pace yet, but he's developing nicely. Watching the line play, it seems most of the sacks are coming from confused blocking assignments. Unfortunately, Manumaleuna is the center of two examples. On the sack of Martin last week, he was faced with the Dallas end and a blitzing Roy Williams. Rather than make a wrong decision on whom to block, he let them both run past him. Against Denver, during the much discussed fourth down play, He released his block on Pryce too soon, which disrupted the play and ended the Rams comeback. It's getting better, but there is plenty of room for improvement.
I won't say we miss Hakim. The Rams don't need the fumbles. They do miss the threat he brought to the game. As much as I like Proehl, he is a fourth receiver in this type of offense. The Rams desperately need that third burner to stretch the defense. It is that forced spread that sets up everything the Rams do offensively. Things aren't running smoothly right now, but once Edwards and Wilkens understand the offense, the Rams will be able to put four wideouts on the field than no team in the league can match. Logically, if teams had trouble covering Bruce, Holt and Hakim, replacing Hakim with two quality receivers will compound their problems. When they empty the backfield, and Faulk lines up outside, who will the opponents try to defend?
Faulk is Faulk. Other than a couple of fumbles, Marshall is his usual stellar self. Canidate is a force when he can turn the corner, but lacks the strength to run inside. If Gordon gets his act together, he will be a superior back-up and heir-apparent to the starting job when Faulk retires. A question for the "run the ball more" crowd, when the defense has shut down the running game, what do you hope to gain? Why not just give the playbook to the opposition?
As I said at the start, Warner's injury changes everything. Martin has been in the system longer than Kurt was when he stepped in for Trent Green, so there is hope for the Rams. Just last year, some kid named Brady stepped in for Bledsoe, so it's still too early to throw in the towel.
It looks as if the "greatest show on turf" has begun to believe their own press, and has taken the system for granted. It's time to buckle down and execute on offense, both the run and the pass. Edwards and Wilkins must step up and contribute to force opposing defenses out of their game plan.
Special teams are improved, but they can be even better. I for one still support Martz. With a little break or better execution, the Rams could be 3-1 or 4-0. Most of the "experts" ripped Martz for his fourth down call in Denver. In my opinion, when you are playing in a hostile environment like Denver, when the opportunity presents itself, you must go for the kill. If Manumaleuna stays on Pryce for one more second, Conwell comes clear for the touchdown, Denver is demoralized and the crowd turns on the home team. If he blocks or even slows down the Dallas rushers, Conwell is all alone in the end zone and Dallas gets the ball down seven with no timeouts. In short, I'd rather see the team lose while trying to win than play for the tie. Martz is offensive minded. It's better than the mind-numbing Ground Chuck offense. As always, it's just one man's opinion.