– The mood at Rams Park on Monday afternoon was understandably somber. Such an abrupt ending to a rollercoaster season that many thought would end with a playoff berth and a NFC West Division title can be a bitter pill to swallow and it certainly was on Monday.
– However, the Rams were in a much more retrospective mood given some time to reflect on what occurred this season and the strides the team made.
– This is a team that went from 1-15 a year ago to 7-9 this year. In the process, it improved from 29th to 26th in total offense, from 29th to 19th in total defense, from 31st to 12th in points per game allowed, from 30th to seventh in sacks and from a tie for 30th to 10th in turnover differential. The Rams also finished second in third down defense a year after finishing 29th.
– So if you don’t believe progress was made, the numbers would argue vehemently against you.
– All of that said, it doesn’t make for an excuse for what was a missed golden opportunity to claim a division crown Sunday night in Seattle. That’s a sobering reality that nobody at Rams Park would hesitate to acknowledge. To a man, each player has stepped up and taken accountability for what went wrong: the dropped passes, the missed blocks and tackles, the bad reads, the silly penalties. All of the things that have hampered the Rams this year seemed to rear their ugly head in one foul swoop last night in the biggest game of the year.
– Before we get into some reflections and updates, let me give you a couple of quick pieces of information.
– The Rams will draft 14th in this year’s NFL Draft. You probably already know what the needs are: WR, OLB, DB, DT, more help on the interior of the offensive line. But the Rams are a long way from locking in on anything and, as always, general manager Billy Devaney will explore all options and look for the best player available when the Rams time comes.
– The Rams’ 2011 opponents are set. On paper, it looks awfully tough but remember, this is the NFL, things change dramatically from year to year. Here’s a look at how it breaks down. The actual schedule won’t be released until April:
Home games: Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, Cincinnati.
Road games: Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay, New York Giants, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Cleveland.
– Of course, this offseason will be shaped by the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement situation. The league intends to have a draft one or another but free agency would be greatly altered by a lockout. It remains to be seen how fast a resolution will come and it’s something we’ll certainly be watching in the coming weeks and months.
– Back to the Rams, some tidbits from the locker room the day after the season ended.
– S Oshiomogho Atogwe is due a big roster bonus this offseason but made it clear he’d like to stay in St. Louis to continue to see this process through and be part of the team that returns to the playoffs.
“I want to be back,” Atogwe said. “However we can make that work, we’ll talk about it. Going forward, it’s just whatever God has for me, whatever God has for the organization, He’s going let His will be done and I’m cool with that.”
– WR Mark Clayton says he is ahead of schedule in his recovery from his season-ending knee injury. But he also emphasized that he really wants to stay in St. Louis and make this his permanent home. He’s scheduled for unrestricted free agency this offseason but again, the CBA could change things some depending on what happens. Regardless, Devaney has made it known the Rams would like to keep Clayton and the mutual feeling likely keeps him in Rams horns beyond this year.
“I really want to be here,” Clayton said. “I was really excited about coming. I am totally committed to the organization, the players. I love Sam. I have developed relationships with guys on the defense and offense…I love the relationships. I love the organization. The coach is awesome, he’s passionate. I can relate to that. I would love to be here.”
– QB Sam Bradford says he’d like to work on “everything” this offseason but says his main goal is to become more comfortable in the offense. Bradford says he felt comfortable with a lot of the basic reads and things he was fed this year but that he’d like to go to the next level to be able to do more pre-snap reads where he can make choices and checks to get the ball down the field.
“I felt like for the most part I was comfortable with what we were doing, but I still stayed within our base reads,” Bradford said. “I’d like to be able next year to pre-snap, maybe take some more shots down field just based on leverage and matchups that we’re getting. Within plays that were really designed to take an intermediate throw, recognizing what the defense is giving us and maybe take a shot. So that’s one of the big things.”
– Bradford also said one of his offseason priorities will be to find a home in St. Louis and set up shop here on a more permanent basis.
– RB Steven Jackson says he is as healthy as he’s been going to an offseason since 2006. He says he is planning to play in the Pro Bowl this year and will likely have the pins in his broken finger removed sometime soon after that.
“Other than the broken finger, since 2006 this is probably the healthiest I’ve been finishing a season,” Jackson said. “That’s very, very positive, especially coming off a back surgery where a lot of questions was will I be able to endure another NFL season? I’m very proud of that, to not only go through a surgery, but to play in all 16 games.”
– Jackson says he believes the Rams offense is close to a breakthrough but acknowledged the need for more play makers and guys capable of scoring anytime they touch the ball. He also said he believes the Rams are now a more attractive option to free agents and he’ll do what he can to help recruit potential help for the roster.
“I trust that our front office will make whatever decision they feel like is best for the team,” Jackson said. “Whatever that is, I assure you that I’ll be ready to play football for the 2011 Rams. I’ll come back hungrier than ever. Being this close, it won’t take much motivation to get the body back together for training back in March. I normally take a couple months off, but March time I might be ready to go.”
– Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo also addressed the media on Monday afternoon and wrapped it all up. As for the season, he again expressed his pride in what the team accomplished but also his disappointment in the outcome. Still, he believes there were important lessons to be gained from the season and thinks those lessons will serve the team well going forward.
– Speaking of going forward, Spagnuolo says the coaching staff will immediately get to work on evaluating the players already on the roster. When that’s through, Spagnuolo says he will look at the coaching staff. He said it’s too early to determine if any changes could be made in that regard.
– On the injury front, DE Chris Long is seeing a hand specialist but no results were available immediately. I’ll have injury updates on things throughout the week.
– That’s going to do it for today. I’ll have plenty of updates and stories coming this week as we put a bow on this season. Thanks again for following all season long. Here’s to another busy offseason.
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