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DE Grant Wistrom had 7.5 sacks & 43 QB hurries in 2003 for Rams

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The Rams were disappointed in the play of their defensive tackles, except for Brian Young, who is also an UFA. Their #1 draft pick Jimmy Kennedy was especially bad and didn't even suit up for their playoff game.

Of note was that UFA to be Grant Wistrom had 7.5 sacks and 43 hurries. Thats a lot of QB hurries, which are almost as good as a sack. If we can't sign Jevon Kearse, maybe we can sign Grant Wistrom. :)

Posted 1/22/2004 5:55 AM

Inside Slant - St. Louis Rams

It was a season that ended abruptly in a second overtime period against the Carolina Panthers. But it was also a season of accomplishment and growth for a team that fought through injuries and saw some younger players stand up and be counted.

The Rams got as far as they did largely because of their corps group of stars that includes running back Marshall Faulk, wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce and free safety Aeneas Williams.

But they wouldn't have won a division or gained a first-round bye without the contributions of players like wide receiver Dane Looker, rookie linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and cornerback Jerametrius Butler.

Coach Mike Martz loved the grit of his team, especially carving out four road victories in tough environments. He talked often as the season wound to a close about how close he felt to this team.

Asked what it was about them that made him feel that way, Martz said, "There are a lot of things. I think the ability in adverse situations to come back and win games. The 49ers game here. The overtime game on the road in Arizona. The Pittsburgh game without a lot of the defense. There were so many good things that happened this year.

"This team's got the heart of a lion. And we're going to have most of this team back intact, I hope."

As for the chemistry that developed, Martz said it was because of "the personalities. The people. It was a very unselfish group of people. There's a very tight family atmosphere there. They truly played the game for each other. They felt a responsibility and accountability to each other. When one guy would waver, the other guy would step in there.

"I think of the interaction of Aeneas with the younger players. The way Kyle (Turley) came in and blended in so well. The way Kurt (Warner) handled his situation. There are so many things that on other teams aren't going to work like that."

Still, Martz knows every season is different, and he now faces the prospect of losing some players and also having to figure out what will happen at quarterback.

Warner lost his job after the first game of the season, replaced by Marc Bulger, and played in only one other game all season. In a national radio interview, Warner said his main goal is to stay in St. Louis, but only as the starter.

"I've worked too hard and too long to place myself in a position to prove that I am a starting quarterback in this league," Warner said. "The window (of opportunity) is shrinking. I don't want to waste any more time on the bench. I look around the league and I know I can succeed. It would be extremely difficult to be a backup again next year."

Martz insisted that Warner won't be traded, but refused to commit one way or another on how the situation will shake out.

Asked about Bulger, Martz said, "There's an innate toughness that you don't know is there, that's masked by his personality. There's a belief in his ability to get the job done that would shock you, because he's such an easygoing, kind of unassuming guy on the surface.

"But down deep inside, he's got a real fire to him. Now there's a lot to his game that needs to be refined. And he'll make a great deal of progress. But he's a relatively young quarterback. So we'll see where this goes."

Where it goes will have a lot to say about where the Rams go in 2004.


—One disappointment for the Rams was the infrequent production from rookie defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy. The 12th overall pick in last year's draft, Kennedy was inactive for the playoff game against Carolina.

Said coach Mike Martz, "His commitment to being a good player is the only thing that I question at this point. I think it happens with a lot of high draft picks. I'm not sure he's particularly unusual in that respect. But Jimmy's level of expectation, and our level of expectation for him, don't match. That's what he needs to understand. He needs to pick it up a notch. More than a notch.

"It's not a coaching issue. It's about Jimmy. And Jimmy's commitment to being a good player. That's what he has to realize. Jimmy can have a million excuses why, but it comes down to making a decision that this is what I want to be."

Kennedy acknowledges he has a lot of work ahead of him, and that it took him a while to adjust to the fire and brimstone approach of line coach Bill Kollar.

"His heart is in the right place," Kennedy said. "He just wants you to be better. You learn not to take it personally. And you just say, 'It's not a personal attack. It's just his way of coaching.' So you learn, and you adjust.

"Once you deal with a coach like Kollar, and you're trying to make that adjustment to his coaching style, you ask yourself, 'Do I belong here? Is this the team for me?' But overall, I was placed here for a reason. I know God has his eye on me, and hopefully, success will come in my future."

—Martz remains convinced that running back Marshall Faulk will continue to be a significant factor next season, despite the fact he will be 31 years old.

"I couldn't be more excited about a football player than where Marshall is right now," Martz said. "By the time we got to the end of the season, he was just about completely healed. He's going into the offseason whole for the first time in the last four seasons. He's not trying to nurse something, trying to get back.

"And in talking to him the other day in the facility, he has a plan for the offseason. A pretty significant plan to get himself ready. He's already mapped this out."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I can't speak to what it was per se. I got some indications that it had something to do with ... my relationship with players. I have been given indications that is what it was. When I look at the way I played on the field, and the things I did on the field and the way this whole thing transpired, it leads me to believe that it was more off-the-field stuff than it was on-the-field stuff." - QB Kurt Warner, on why he believes his starting job was lost after the first game of the 2003 season.


After losing defensive coordinator Lovie Smith to the Bears as head coach, the Rams moved fast in hiring Larry Marmie, who was also being pursued by Smith. Marmie was the Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator last season, and he coached with Mike Martz in the past at Arizona State. Martz had wanted to hire Marmie before adding Smith three years ago, but the Rams were denied permission to talk to Marmie.

"I worked with and for Larry for seven years," Martz said. "He probably has had more of an impact on me professionally than anybody. I'm thrilled and excited that we have an opportunity to bring Larry to St. Louis."

John Benton, who was an assistant at Colorado State since 1995, was added to the staff as an assistant line coach. He will work with John Matsko, who takes over the main coaching of the line following the retirement of Jim Hanifan. Benton had been at Colorado State since 1995 as line coach and was also co-offensive coordinator for the last three seasons.

The Rams are also close to adding Joe Vitt as linebackers coach, replacing Bob Babich, who left to join Lovie Smith in Chicago. Vitt has been the Kansas City Chiefs linebackers coach for the last four years, and was under consideration for the team's defensive coordinator job following the resignation of Greg Robinson.

However, after Gunther Cunningham was hired as the team's coordinator, Vitt apparently did not fit with Cunningham's plan for other coaches. Vitt does have a connection with the Rams. He was the team's assistant head coach and secondary coach from 1992-94.

Former Rams special teams coach Bobby April was named special teams coach for the Buffalo Bills. The Rams are still looking for a coach to replace April.


QUARTERBACK: Starter - Marc Bulger. Backups - Kurt Warner, Scott Covington.

The future is uncertain at the position, while the organization decides how the offseason will proceed with Bulger a restricted free agent and Warner counting just under $9.5 million against the cap.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters — HB Marshall Faulk, FB Joey Goodspeed. Backups - HB Lamar Gordon, HB Arlen Harris.

Faulk isn't what he used to be, but there are very few backs in the league as effective as he is running and receiving. Goodspeed had some moments, but also missed key blocks at important times.

TIGHT END: Starter - Brandon Manumaleuna. Backups - Cam Cleeland, Spencer Nead.

Manumaleuna had some limited moments as a receiver, but his blocking was suspect and he missed too many assignments. Cleeland made some plays in the passing game, but not enough, and he didn't block well, either.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce. Backups - Dane Looker, Mike Furrey, Kevin Curtis, Shaun McDonald.

Despite Holt's huge numbers, Bruce still caught 69 passes and only a late-season ankle injury left him 19 yards of a 1,000-yard season.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters — LT Orlando Pace, LG Andy McCollum, C Dave Wohlabaugh, RG Adam Timmerman, RT Kyle Turley. Backups — T/G John St. Clair, T Grant Williams, G/C Scott Tercero, G Andy King, G David Loverne.

Pace and Turley were the team's bookend tackles that played consistently all season. The middle of the line was not as productive.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters — DLE Leonard Little, DT Damione Lewis, DT Ryan Pickett, DRE Grant Wistrom. Backups — DE Tyoka Jackson, DE Bryce Fisher, DE Erik Flowers, DT Brian Young, DT Jimmy Kennedy.

Little played the run well, and is one of the best all-around defensive ends in the league. Grant Wistrom finished with 7.5 sacks and 43 pressures, and will be an unrestricted free agent. With the exception of Brian Young, the defensive tackles were a disappointment.

LINEBACKERS: Starters — SLB Tommy Polley, MLB Robert Thomas, WLB Pisa Tinoisamoa. Backups - MLB Jamie Duncan, MLB Trev Faulk, OLB Justin Smith, OLB Jeremy Loyd.

Thomas was a big improvement over Duncan, who started in the middle last season, but injuries affected him. Polley seemed to regain some of the big-play capabilities that he discovered in his rookie season of 2001. Tinoisamoa was an aggressive player prone to mistakes when he was in the wrong place.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters — LCB Travis Fisher, RCB Jerametrius Butler, SS Adam Archuleta, FS Aeneas Williams. Backups - CB DeJuan Groce, CB Kevin Garrett, CB Fred Weary, FS Jason Sehorn, SS Rich Coady.

Butler remained consistent all season, and competed. Fisher was also solid, and both should continue to improve. Williams made the transition from cornerback and was selected for Pro Bowl. Archuleta showed much improvement, and is on his way to being one of the better strong safeties in the league.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Jeff Wilkins, P Sean Landeta, KR Arlen Harris, PR Mike Furrey, LS Chris Massey.

Wilkins' 39 field goals tied the league record. Landeta was solid, but not outstanding. Harris and Furrey were adequate as returners, and never were a threat to break one. Massey is consistent and bad snaps are a rarity

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Wow....it's amazing how much Kennedy was a bust this year. 1st round pick and he doesn't even suit up for the playoff game. Anyone read him talk about "god" and think immediately Sean Gilbert? I did.

Also, don't overlook Brian Young. He's a kid who has gotten better each year, a high motor like Winstrom, and a standup guy. He's a UFA as well.... so it's prudent to add him to the FA prospect list.

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If Wistrom is signed, does that free up the #5 to take S Sean Taylor or an offensive weapon (Winslow, Jones, Jackson)?

It could. but it shouldn't.

One player is not going to fix the Dl. I'd still draft Udeze.

With only signing wistrom, that leaves the other DE's as Wynn, Upshaw and peppi le peux. No major pass threat among the group. Wistrom has some, but he's not a big time threat.

Not to mention the Dt spot..... we really need three DL upgrades this year, with another one or even two next year to set up a good young DL with adequate depth. that's how far it has fallen.

If you keep 8 DL on a team, I have to say 6 or 7 on the team from the last year are at best reserves for any other team. and some wouldn't even make another team.

Maybe that undrafted clemons kid from last year becomes the next jacoby.... I wouldn't count on it.

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