Know Your Enemy: The St. Louis Rams

Here's a little Q&A recon scouting report on the St. Louis Rams as the Seahawks are set to take them on in Monday Night Football action tomorrow. The Turf Show Times' Joe McAtee was gracious enough to answer a few questions I had, and here's what he had to say.

DK: So what's the story at QB? We've heard it's likely Tom Brandstater but I'm still hearing reports that Sam Bradford might play. What's your gut on that?

Joe McAtee: My gut has been entirely destroyed by the Pepsin-killing poisons released by my gall bladder when watching the Rams...It's hard to say.

It's in the best interests of the Rams to shut Sam Bradford down for the year, tank the season for the #2 pick and regroup over the offseason. But there's a good chance that doing just that would mean the end of HC Steve Spagnuolo's tenure in St. Louis and GM Billy Devaney's as well.

So while OC Josh McDaniels suggests Bradford will be ready to go, my gut tells me 'so what?' Optimism abounds around the Rams these days, ya heard?

DK: Speaking of Bradford, it seems he's had a pretty rough season. What are your thoughts on how he's played this year? What have been his major problems, what has he done well? Do you still think he's a legitimate franchise QB for the Rams?

Joe McAtee: Overall, it's been a disappointing season on Bradford's part. Winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year in a year that saw the Rams improve from a 1-15 2009 season to 7-9 in 2010, people were expecting a playoff-caliber run from the Rams led by Bradford in an improved sophomore effort. It never came.

He looked hesitant in the red zone, confused under duress, and overwhelmed in key points in the nine games he did play this season.

If there's one thing I could point to that he did well, it's his demeanor. He's held his head high despite the losses in a season where fans and the media expected more. He's never pushed the blame off on teammates. He's never made an issue out of anything but the play on the field. For a young QB, that's essential and it's good to see in a year that's tested him, the fans and the coaching staff as much as it has.

But yes, I still think he's the answer at QB. His skill set is still exceptional. But expecting him to call O-line protections for the first time in his career with the O-line playing as badly as they did early on was obviously a huge hindrance.
Whether or not it will prove being worth it to dive headfirst into that learning curve to be worth it, we won't know for at least a few seasons.

DK: This season, from an outsider's perspective, has pretty much unraveled for the Rams. Do you think Steve Spagnolo will be fired? Will any of the other coaches on the staff be let go? Why do you think the Rams have seemingly regressed this season?

Joe McAtee: I think it's all in the air right now. Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Rams and multiple other sports franchises, understands how to manage teams from the top. That being said, there are valid cases to keep Spags, his staff and/or senior members of the front office.

You can argue that the worst thing to do to Sam Bradford is disrupt chemistry, and that the OC switch from Pat Shumur from McDaniels has been overwhelming. Also, the ridiculous number of injuries (especially at CB) was too much for this young team, and that in spite of that the defense has performed exceptionally at times. On the other hand, the reality is that the win-loss record is everything in sports. Some point to the injuries and the OC switch as mere excuses.

I understand both arguments. And because they're focused on football, both the coaching staff and the front office has avoided the question to this point as they should. Still, it's issue #1 after Week 17.

DK: What do you think will be the Rams gameplan this Monday? How do you think the Rams will adjust to the injury issues they're facing?

Joe McAtee: It depends on the QB. If it's Brandstater, I expect them to run a contracted offense like they did last week, and hope they don't get embarassed too badly with the outside chance that the defense keeps them in the game.

If it's Bradford, perhaps they can stretch thing out a bit more, but with his ankle injury I doubt he'll be able to execute his signature rollout with ease. And injury issues? We're nearing placing 20 players on IR for the season (including 10 CBs and 3 starting O-linemen).

There's little "adjustment" to make at this point. It's about getting through the season and, for the people with their jobs in question, making the case that with a healthy roster in 2012, they can put the Rams in contention.

DK: What do you think will be your biggest need in the Draft this year? Where do you envision the Rams picking and do you have a favorite at this point for that number one pick?

Joe McAtee: Oh, now you've hit a soft spot. As you noted in the last Q&A we did (far more graciously than I deserve), I likey me some draft. As for the Rams, the O-line is the premier issue on the offensive side, though plenty of Rams fans would argue the lack of a stud WR is holding Sam Bradford back.

Defensively, DT, OLB, CB (depending on the rehab results of the CBs lost to injury this year) and S are in play. As well as the defense has played at times, it's Spags' forte and with Chris Long, James Hall and Robert Quinn manning the DE spots, you would expect positive results there.

I'm of the opinion that this is a very strong draft at QB and CB, so it doesn't sync up well with the Rams' holes. I don't see the Colts winning more than one game, and I don't see the Rams winning any, so it's Colts-Rams to open the 2012 NFL Draft, methinks. So given that Stanford QB Andrew Luck should be #1 overall (and no, Peyton's status doesn't matter; it's about Luck's abilities as both ESPN explained and as I did albeit with less design fanfare), I would think it would serve the Rams best if they go after USC OT Matt Kalil at #2.

His back and forth on declaring for the draft certainly doesn't soothe Rams fans at this point, but there's always options like WRs Justin Blackmon and Alshon Jeffery, CB Mo Claiborne, OT Jonathan Martin and the opportunity to trade down to seethe the pain.

Thanks to Joe for the update, and after the jump check out some more from the Turf Show TImes!

Putting Steve Spagnuolo's 2011 season in context - Turf Show Times
Putting Steve Spagnuolo's 2011 coaching job in perspective.

Yahoo Sports Columnist Doug Farrar visits Turf Show Times - Turf Show Times
The sports columnist is a unique individual. They live and breath sports 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year... All have different styles, and some gather faithful hoards of readers that take what they write as very close to gospel. Joining us today on Turf Show Times is a writer who is fast becoming an iconic sports columnist. Yahoo Sports Doug Farrar has gained a solid reputation while writing for "Shutdown Corner", and has become a part of my, and millions of other sports fan's, regular daily read. He's also one of the contributing authors for "The Football Outsiders Almanac", the bedside bible for all things football. Please welcome Doug Farrar to Turf Show Times...

Sam Bradford Still Among The Most Talented, Says One Expert - Turf Show Times
Sam Bradford's season might very well be over. The St. Louis Rams second-year quarterback spent the last two days watching his team practice, sidelined by the same high ankle sprain that sidelined him in October. Whether Bradford plays or not, his season is officially lost, a sophomore slump for the ages. Hopeful Rams fans are now left to wonder about Bradford's future, which is inextricably linked to the future of the franchise.

Rams Week 13 Top Defensive Plays, Or Why Chris Long Deserves A Pro Bowl Vote - Turf Show Times
Earlier today, I urged you to go and vote for St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long for the Pro Bowl this year. You need to do that. Long wasn't the only player contributing for the Rams defense, but he was a dominant force. He highlights the top five defensive plays from last week.

This Week is Golden Tate's Time to Shine - Turf Show Times
Drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks, Golden Tate has had a quiet Pro career to date. Life in the NFL must have been a cold slap in the face for the Notre Dame wide receiver. A consensus 2009 All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner in his final college season, he posted incredible numbers, catching 93 passes for 1496 yards and 15 TDs.

Signs Of Life For The Rams? - Turf Show Times
Uh oh, don't look now, but the computers might be trying to tell us something. By now, even the most optimistic fans have conceded the St. Louis Rams' season. Half the team is injured. The coaching staff possesses all the effectiveness of the current GOP field of presidential candidates. The front office looks like it might be run by Paul Bremer. But let's face it, all of us hold on to some germ of possibility, that little bit of blind obsessiveness that makes you a fan in the first place. That part of you that's so desperately looks for any kind of sign. You're in luck, we found a Week 14 Madden simulation that foresees a Rams win. The Madden simulation over at the National Football Post predicts a a 17-10 win for the St. Louis Rams.

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