Ryan, who runs SBN's fine Rams site, Turf Show Times, was kind enough to trade five questions with me. The topics ranged from what's ailing the Rams -- clearly a lot -- to Scott Linehan's job security, to who he would like to see drafted, should the Rams win the Brohm Derby. As always, click over to his site to see my replies to his questions. Many thanks to Ryan for taking the time to help us better know the Rams.
- I suppose the most pressing issue for the Rams is injuries. The Saints, I'm sure, plan to throw upwards of 40 times. With Leonard Little out for the season, how do the Rams plan on pressuring the quarterback?
Even with Little, the pass rush hasn't exactly been a notable achievement for the Rams this season. Victor Adeyanju, who's starting in Little's place, owns a reputation of being a run stopping specialist, but he'll have to find a way to put his skills to use rushing the QB. Actually, VA came into the 2006 draft with a lot of hype. The criticism leveled against him as that he'd need to develop his skills. Now he has that chance. Also, I think you'll see more pressure on the inside, with rookie Adam Carriker and second year tackle Claude Wroten working to collapse the pocket and get into Brees that way. With New Orleans having allowed just 5 sacks all season, this isn't a match made in heaven. Still, we never saw, and probably won't now that Little's out, the Rams pass rush because injuries in the backfield through the first four games left us without the luxury of bringing up safeties or corners in the blitz package.
- Offensively, the Rams' line is in shambles. From what I read in Friday's Post-Dispatch, they're not sure who will start on Sunday. Last season, they had similar injuries, but cobbled together a pretty good line over their last few games. Do you see history repeating itself?
Short Interlude (11 AM, EST): If you click on the PD link, notice that the lead story is ... the Cardinals announcing their schedule. With Mizzou playing A&M this afternoon, (I predict) that will be the lead story for the evening. That's how bad it's gotten for the Rams.
There have been more injuries on the line this year, even depth guys like Steussie, who stepped in for Pace at LT last year, are out this season. Linehan cobbled together a solid-enough line over the last half of the season in 2006 that gelled after playing together week after week. That's never happened this year. The injury tidal wave never subsided long enough to run out the same line week after week. Starting center Brett Romberg's status is still up in the air for this week. All the injuries combined have kept the gaurd spots and the right tackle spot have been staffed via committee, and now the guys that are in there just aren't good enough to excel. No, this season we're just hoping that the line can keep Bulger from being ground into the turf.
- What's your take on Scott Linehan's job security? He's received the dreaded "vote of confidence" from John Shaw; will he be coaching the Rams next season? The Rams haven't had a defensive head coach since Rich Brooks; is it time they went with a defensive guy?
Barring a miraculous 8-0 run, Linehan's gone. Shaw just wasn't in the place to fire the guy at the bye week. Linehan hasn't even been here two seasons, and a midseason public beheading, especially in the wake of all those injuries, would have scared off any potential candidates for next season.
Message board complaints are one thing, but the suits that run the show can't ignore the empty seats. There's no telling who they'll bring in to replace Linehan. More than a defensive guy, they need to bring in an all around football guy with the vision to take the talent on this team to next level. They need a guy that reads talent really, really well to avoid bad draft picks, poor free agent signings, and keeping free agent talent in the Blue and Gold, which has really killed the Rams over the last five years or so.
- Marc Bulger's leadership has been questioned (most notably by PD-hack Bernie Miklasz). Bulger is in the first of a six-year contract; was this a wise move? With the Rams leading the Brohm Derby at the halfway mark, how many years of this contract will Bulger complete? If not Brohm, should the Rams get a top-3 pick, who would you like to see taken?
Well, Bulger's guaranteed somewhere around $25 million, so he's not going anywhere. Locking him up with that deal made perfect sense, and still does. Obviously, he's not Manning (Peyton) or Tom Brady, but he did throw 24 TDs and 8 INTs last season and has been consistently good since taking over for Warner. With more consistency in the o-line and better play calling that utilizes the offense's strengths, Bulger can be counted on for solid performance.
I don't think it's fair to criticize Bulger alone. There are other veteran players on this team who can assume a leadership role too. It's a collective failure, and it starts at the top, with the coach, in my opinion. Linehan hasn't provided much impassioned leadership (as far as we can tell), the kind of thing you'd expect from a coach of a winless team and also one who's fighting for his career.
I don't see how they won't get a top three pick, but I've been wrong before, like when I predicted an NFC West title and a 10 win season for the Rams. However, we're a year or two away from a first round QB. Honestly, I want to see the Rams win the Jake Long sweepstakes. Long would be able to step in right away and solidify the O-line, like Joe Thomas has done for Cleveland. Just as important, a guy like Long would replace Orlando Pace, who's getting long in the tooth and battling more and more injuries in the later stage of his career.
- How many wins do the Rams finish with this season? Are you rooting for 0-16, or would you like to see a late-season surge, a la 2006?
It's not unreasonable to think they'll pick up a couple. Actually, after this game we're going to battle it out with San Francisco to answer the who's worse question in the NFC. It's hard as a fan, you don't want to see your team lose at all. Knowing that even if they do win a couple and knowing they're still not very good, you find other things to root for. One of the silver linings is that the young players play, racking up precious experience and giving us an idea of what kind of talent we've got heading into the future. The afore mentioned Victor Adeyanju, is a perfect example. When the Rams picked him in 2006, he came with lots of potential, and his biggest strike against was that he needed time to develop as a playmaker. And now, well, here you go kid, show us what you've got. The good thing about this season is the potential for something positive to come out of it as plans for next season emerge.
Of course, 0-16 has a certain absurdist appeal to it.