– Rams coach Jeff Fisher just spoke to the media for his final day after game news conference of the 2012 season only about an hour after addressing his team for the final time this year.
– The message was simple: be smart with your time off, learn from the season and come back ready to work in 2013.
– Fisher expressed that his team is fired up with optimism and enthusiasm for the 2013 season and seemed energized when asked how it was being back in the league after a one-year hiatus. Fisher said he “had a blast” and said he “can’t wait to get started again.”
– According to Fisher, the wrap up meeting was not easy, they never are but this one felt different for him. He focused on the big picture and from the sounds of it, his team bought into that focus. The Rams played the third toughest schedule in the league this year and had the best record in perhaps the best division in football. He said he was quite proud of the team for how it worked hard and focused in to win games throughout the season.
– Asked directlly if he believed his team is a playoff team in 2013, Fisher said that’s what they want, that’s the goal. He believed they could do it this year and though they came up just short, he believes the groundwork has been laid.
– One thing Fisher is especially looking forward to is the improvement of so many of his young players. He said players make the biggest jump from year one to year two and he sees big things for many of the talented rookies that played valuable snaps this year.
– Along with that, Fisher made it clear that the next 3.5 months will be very important for his team. So many young players will embark on some off time with money in their pocket for the first time. He reminded them that every decision they make in that time is one they are responsible for and need to be made wisely.
– The players all departed ContinuityX Training Center on Monday. Some will stick around and train here, some will leave and come back but all will be expected back for the offseason program in April.
– Before then, Fisher and his coaching staff will go through an exhaustive evaluation of the roster. Fisher said that won’t happen right away because he feels like a little time away creates chances for guys to take emotions out of the equation and come back with a more objective eye. The coaching staff will be off for two weeks starting at the end of this week.
– Asked about the trade with Washington and how it turned out for both teams, Fisher reminded the reporter that it’s not yet complete. The Rams still have two first round picks to make before that can even be discussed.
– Fisher said he felt like some early season inconsistency led to some losses in games they could have won and lamented that his team is now healthy at just the wrong time.
– One thing Fisher didn’t see from his young players was a “rookie wall.” Fisher proud of how the youngsters fought through any possible fatigue.
– Fisher mentioned that RB Isaiah Pead got some reps by design yesterday and he was pleased with what he saw. Pead has a little something to build from heading into next year now.
– On the topic of a defensive coordinator, Fisher said Gregg Williams has not been re-instated and the move to hire a D.C. will be addressed in the next couple of weeks. There are some moving parts at play but Fisher indicated that the Rams will be making a move in that regard at some point.
– On QB Sam Bradford, Fisher said the chance to have some continuity for a whole offseason with the same playbook and system will benefit Bradford. Likewise, he believes Bradford improved and got better as the season went along. He’s excited for Bradford’s progress.
– On the Rams finishing tied for first in sacks and first alone in sacks per pass play, Fisher was proud of the job done by DL coach Mike Waufle and noted that it was done by the whole group, not just the defensive line. I’ll have more on it later this week, but the Rams raised $52,000 ($1,000 per sack) for the “Sack Homelessness” project in conjunction with the St. Patrick’s Center.
– Fisher again emphasized that he and the rest of the locker room would like RB Steven Jackson back, saying he’d like to see Jackson “finish up” in St. Louis.
– Fisher reflected a bit on the London trip and again said he enjoyed it save for the “3 hours of hell” that was the game against New England. He offered some tweaks he’d like to see in the game but had positive memories as a whole.
– As far as the free agent list, Fisher said he told the team he wants every single unrestricted free agent back. That’s probably not realistic or feasible but that’s how highly he thinks of guys like WR Danny Amendola, OL Rob Turner, DL William Hayes, etc.
– The Rams handed out their team awards on Monday. Jackson was named Most Valuable Player and got the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game award as the team’s most inspirational player. Jackson was also named the team’s representative for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
– CB Janoris Jenkins won the Rookie of the Year award.
– One thing Fisher is looking forward to is a normal offseason. Last year, it was a whirlwind that included hiring a coaching staff and trying to blend scouting systems and he is excited about the opportunity to go into free agency with the belief that St. Louis is now a place where players will want to play.
– That said, Fisher said the building is ongoing. There’s a process that has to take place that Fisher believes will improve the overall talent on the roster and believes that improvement in all players will continue with a full offseason with this coaching staff.
– When asked if he believes the offense is the area most in need of upgrades, Fisher said it’s a huge deal. He wants more scoring, more third down conversions, etc. A lot of this offseason will be focused on improving the offense any way possible.
– Fisher was pleased with both the rookie class and the free agent class of last year and is looking forward to adding to the group.
– While free agency is a little ways away, Fisher said the team will do whatever it takes to improve and get where it wants to go in 2013.
– A couple of other quick notes from players, though I will have much more from a variety of guys the rest of the week:
Bradford said the ankle injury that plagued him last year is no longer bothering him. He said surgery is “not even a possibility.” He’s fired up at the mere thought of some coaching staff and system continuity.
Jackson again said he’d like to return and continues to make it clear where he stands on the matter. He said he’s given no thought to wearing another jersey. There is no timeframe in his mind of when he’d like to have a decision made though obviously it has to come relatively soon.
On stat to chew on: in 2011, the Rams allowed 55 sacks, ranking last in the league in the category. In 2012, they allowed 35 sacks, 14th in the league.
– I’ll have a lot more stuff coming this week with stories on Jackson, Bradford, C Scott Wells, rookies going out into the world, the Fisher Effect, the team taking the sacks title and so much more so please stay tuned for that.
– In the meantime, thanks for reading and Happy New Year.
Posted in From the Sidelines | 4 Comments »
– No, the Rams did not do what many national NFL pundits and wannabe pundits said they couldn’t do and knock off the red hot Seahawks in the most hostile atmosphere in the league on Sunday afternoon. Let’s get it out of the way right now, the scoreboard at the end of the day read Seattle 20, St. Louis 13.
– But while there are no moral victories in the NFL, the Rams sent a message to the rest of the NFL and, especially, the rest of the NFC West Division that a storm is coming and, as Jeff Fisher told his team right after Sunday’s game: The Rams are back.
– With the 2012 season coming to a close, nobody is happy with a 7-8-1 record but let’s take stock of how far the Rams have come in less than a year’s time after a regime change in the front office and with the coaching staff and with a drastically remade roster.
– Last year, the Rams finished 2-14. They won one game on the road and zero games in the division. They finished the season on a seven game losing streak and were 1-7 in the second half of the season.
– This year, the Rams finished 7-8-1. They won three road games and tied another and went 3-1-1 in their final five road contests. They went 4-1-1 in the NFC West Division, the best record for any team in a division that entering Sunday had the league’s best combined winning percentage. They finished the season winning four of their final six and went 4-3-1 in the final eight games. No matter how you slice it, that’s pure, unadulterated progress.
– Making the Rams’ effort Sunday in Seattle more impressive was the fact that a playoff chance was a distant memory. The Rams were told they had nothing to play for and the playoff-bound Seahawks would come in and dispose of them much in the same way they’d disposed of San Francisco, Buffalo and Arizona in the past three weeks.
– Instead, as Rams WR Austin Pettis said, the Rams gave the Seahawks “more fight than they probably wanted.”
– Let’s start this with praise for RB Steven Jackson, who passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the 8th consecutive season, joining Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, LaDainian Tomlinson and Thurman Thomas as the only backs to achieve that milestone. In nine years covering Jackson and watching every carry of his career, I’ve probably exhausted every superlative there is to describe him but there’s only one adjective he wants associated with his name: consistent. Well, No. 39, you have been a beacon of consistency through the dark times and continued to do it again this year. Congrats on another strong season.
– After the game, Jackson again re-iterated he plans to play in 2013 and that he’d like to do it with the Rams. QB Sam Bradford, LB James Laurinaitis and other team leaders also made it clear they want him back. Jackson has the choice to opt out of the final year of his contract. It’s going to be a wait and see process but I think it’s fair to put you faith in Jackson when he says he wants to return to St. Louis.
– Likewise, WR Danny Amendola, who is scheduled for unrestricted free agency also said again he’d like to be back with the Rams. Considering his value to the offense and weighing it against his injury issues will be a tricky job for the Rams but it’s clear both sides would like to continue their relationship as well.
– One player who has no contract issues showed why the Rams were so eager to sign him to a lucrative, long term contract Sunday. DE Chris Long posted three sacks and led the way for a defense that finishes the season tied with Denver for most sacks in the NFL with 52. Long was great again in 2013, finishing with a team-leading 11.5 sacks and constantly getting pressures and hits.
– Excellent job of blitzing and changing looks by the Rams defense on Sunday. Sacking an athletic QB like Russell Wilson six times is no small feat.
– Kudos to DE Robert Quinn, also. He got another sack Sunday and finished with 10.5 on the year, more than doubling his rookie season total. He’s just getting better and will be more of a force moving forward.
– Long and Quinn became the first Rams duo to each have double digit sacks since Grant Wistrom and Kevin Carter achieved it in 2000.
– Another week, another sack for William Hayes. He finished with 7.0 for the season. What a find. The Rams must re-sign him in the offseason as well.
– It was a shame the Rams couldn’t come up with Marshawn Lynch’s late fumble or get Wilson down on third down on Seattle’s winning drive. The fumble, in particular, was an elusive thing for the Rams all season and it came back to bite them Sunday.
– Rookie CB Trumaine Johnson had some growing pains Sunday like he did all year but he really seems to have a knack for finding the ball and being around it constantly. The Rams have two really bright young corners in Johnson and Janoris Jenkins.
– DT Michael Brockers suffered an ankle injury but returned and finished the game. It is NOT a high ankle sprain or even the same ankle, according to Brockers.
– LB Rocky McIntosh suffered a concussion and did not return to the game.
– On the other side of the ball, it was tough sledding for the Rams against a stout defense but many of the offensive problems stemmed from untimely and costly penalties. A couple false starts, a couple delays of game, etc, really hurt the Rams chances to get some momentum.
– QB Sam Bradford was not sacked for the second game in a row and put on a strong performance against one of the league’s best secondaries. He finished 25-of-42 for 252 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a rating of 74.7. That rating is much higher if he doesn’t throw the INT on a fourth and 10 play where he had no choice but to get rid of the ball somewhere.
– Bradford’s TD to Austin Pettis wasn’t the prettiest thing but it showed again that Pettis has a bit of a magnet on him in the red zone with his second touchdown catch inside the 20 in as many weeks. All four of Pettis’ touchdowns in 2012 were from red zone possessions.
– Jackson finished with 97 total yards, including 52 on the ground and 45 on seven receptions.
– An Isaiah Pead sighting! Pead got five carries and picked up 21 yards. Nothing earth shattering but some nice cuts and gains for the rookie. Has to help his confidence moving into 2013.
– Nice job the Rams offensive line opening holes and protecting Bradford. What a terrific job done by that group and OL Coach Paul Boudreau this season.
– Another strong effort from P Johnny Hekker. He punted five times for an average of 48.6 yards and a net of 40.2.
– That wraps up a 2012 season that went by way too fast but take heart, Rams fans, the future looks bright. The Rams played one of the five toughest schedules in the NFL this year and came out on the other side the better for it. Young players got valuable snaps across the board and that will only bode well for the future.
– As always, thank you so much for reading all season. We’ll have plenty of good stuff in the coming months so stay with us for free agency, the NFL Draft and so much more.
Posted in From the Sidelines | 6 Comments »