Wednesday, May 14, 2014

CLOSED


This site is OFFICIALLY CLOSED. 


You can still follow me by visiting my Bleacher Report profile page or by following me on Twitter. Thank you to everyone who supported me. This site was my only writing outlet for the first few months of my career, but I've moved on to bigger and better things!

I'm only keeping this blog open so that I can access my early work for personal reasons. I will eventually get all my writing archived and delete the page.

I've toyed with the idea of starting a separate blog—separate from this site and my work at Bleacher—but I'll post an update if that comes to fruition.

Thanks Again,
Steve Gerwel

Friday, July 6, 2012

11 Longshots Who Could Shock the NFL in 2012

In 2010, an undrafted rookie out of Massachusetts took an NFL field for the first time in his career during a preseason matchup against the New York Jets. 


The young receiver was desperate for a chance to showcase his abilities in an attempt to secure a roster spot with the New York Giants, and luckily, he was blessed with a surplus of play-making opportunities. 


He put on a performance that was admirable for any receiver, let alone an undrafted rookie. He caught six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. And to add to the insult, his dominance was captured by HBO's Hard Knocks, which led to a minor humiliation of Rex Ryan and the Jets on national television.


Unfortunately, he didn't record a single reception during the 2010 regular season and appeared in only three games. So regardless of the obvious potential, he was a major question mark heading into the 2011 season.


The Giants didn't know what they were getting. But fortunately for them, the receiver was Victor Cruz. Cruz finished the season with the third-most receiving yards in the NFL (1,536) and helped the Giants win their second Super Bowl ring in five years. 


Cruz was off everyone's radar and wasn't even guaranteed a roster spot last season. Yet somehow, he was able to transform into a top-tier wideout practically overnight. 


These types of stories happen every year in the NFL. A player is a complete unknown on the national level and finds his way into the spotlight. 


So with that in mind, which current unknown players have a shot at repeating history? 


This slideshow will outline 11 unknown or off-the-radar players who are capable of walking in Cruz's shoes under the right circumstances.


READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

10 Early Winners and Losers of the St. Louis Rams' Offseason

As fans, we judge the team's offseason based on what kind of players were acquired through the draft and free agency and whether or not we're excited for the season to start based on those acquisitions.


We're looking for recognizable names and blue-chip prospects who can better the team and improve the entertainment value.


For the players, who approach the NFL as a profession rather than a source of entertainment, they judge their team's offseason based on whether or not their job is now easier thanks to the added talent.


Not only that, but the players can also hold resentment against the team if the offseason was spent finding their replacement.


So based on the roster moves that have been made over the last several months, which St. Louis Rams players have benefited from the offseason? And which players are likely to suffer as a result of the offseason?  


This slideshow will look at the 10 winners and losers for the Rams this offseason.




Read Full Article Here


Predicting 2-Deep St. Louis Rams Depth Chart, Pre-Training Camp

After a highly disappointing 2-14 campaign in 2011, the St. Louis Rams are doing every thing they can to bounce back and take the league by storm in 2012.


Jeff Fisher and his crew will enter training camp towards the end of July and see their newly acquired free agents and draft picks in action with the remainder of the team.


After careful analysis of the team and the current situation, Fisher will weigh his options and cut the dead weight as he molds together the official roster for the 2012 season. 


In an attempt to predict what the roster will look like, this article will look at the top two players and each position on the team.




Read Full Article Here

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

St. Louis Rams: Positions Still In Need of Upgrades

With OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and minicamp nearing a conclusion in a few weeks, the St. Louis Rams are pretty much set on who will be joining the team for training camp in July. 


The Rams had six draft picks in the top 100, so they'll enter camp with a considerable amount of young talent. Also, with several key free-agent signings (Cortland Finnegan, Scott Wells, Kendall Langford, Jo-Lonn Dunbar), they've added an impressive group of veteran players as well. 


The new additions to the team will allow Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff to solve some of the problems that haunted the team last season, but there are still several gaping holes in the roster that can be filled between now and the start of training camp. 


Here are some units that could still use reinforcements: 


Left Guard 


Every spot on the offensive line has a starter penciled in expect for left guard. And although the opening-day starter is unknown at this point, Fisher has already indicated that their starter is already on the roster. 


One option is Rokevious Watkins, who was the team's fifth-round pick last April. He's a promising talent, but his inexperience may require the coaching staff to develop him for several years before he's truly ready to start. 
Bryan Mattison, who started four games last season after the line suffered a swarm of injuries, is one of the top candidates, but he'll be competing with veterans Robert Turner and Quinn Ojinnaka. 


Fisher feels that the team has options, but don't be surprised if he goes back on his word if there are several promising veterans released from other teams during training camp. 


It's vital that the team protects quarterback Sam Bradford before he becomes permanently shell-shocked. If Fisher feels that a free-agent veteran can get the job done better than any of the current options, then he won't hesitate to pull the trigger. 


Outside Linebacker 


The Rams signed Jo-Lonn Dunbar and 32-year-old Mario Haggan in free agency, but the depth behind them consists of pretty much all rookies. 


Aaron Brown was drafted by the team in the seventh round, and he's expected to provide some depth behind the veterans. However, if Brown and the other rookies are unimpressive in training camp, then Fisher might explore alternative options. 


The Rams seem to be set at the moment, but if the rookies are causing headaches, then don't be surprised if the team brings in a third veteran linebacker for depth. 


Safety 


Quintin Mikell and Darian Stewart are solid players and are capable of fulfilling their duties as the team's starting safeties, but the depth behind them is quite alarming. 


Craig Dahl is the third safety, and as Rams fans have discovered over the past three years, he's a liability in coverage. 


Right now, undrafted rookies Matt Daniels and Rodney McLeod are the only other options besides Dahl. So needless to say, it's a bad situation for the Rams if either of their starters go down. 


At this time, the team has been unwilling to try third-year cornerback Jerome Murphy at safety. Murphy would be a solid option as a backup safety, but there have been no reports of him getting reps at the position. 


If the coaches are reluctant to give Murphy a shot, then don't be surprised if they bring in a budget-friendly veteran to provide some competition.


Financial Advice For 2012 NFL Rookie Class


For the typical NFL rookie, starting a career in professional football is not merely a chance to achieve a dream and play a great sport for a living, but it's also a catastrophic lifestyle change. 


Those of us who have attended college, even for a short period of time, can recall a daily life that featured microwaved noodles, a collection of quarters for laundry, as well as a car that was consistently stuck with only an eighth of a tank of gas. 


Many people rise above the penny-pinching lifestyle after graduation, but it's hardly an overnight change. It takes years to earn a comfortable life by saving money and rising through the corporate ranks. It's a gradual process. 


But imagine yourself sleeping on a futon one night, and the next night you're suddenly living on a $390,000 dollar salary (the minimum salary for an NFL rookie). Or better yet, what if your bank account is empty one day, but the very next day you're a millionaire? 


This is the scenario that NFL players face upon entering the league. 


Ex-athletes receive zero sympathy for financial troubles because of the gross amounts of money they earn over the years. However, adapting to a life of wealth is certainly a difficult task. Budgeting $100 over a month is much simpler than budgeting $5 million over 50 years. 


So with that in mind, what can the 2012 rookie class do to insure financial success?




READ FULL ARTICLE HERE




NFC West Rankings: How the Rams Compare with Their Division

The St. Louis Rams undoubtedly have a long way to go before they improve their heavily-damaged reputation.  


They have a surplus of promising young talent to develop, but they won't garner league-wide respect until they replace potential with production and force their win/loss column to do a back flip.


You don't have the luxury of the doubt when 15 wins is all you can accumulate over a five-year period. So if the Rams want to be relevant once again, they must produce wins. And if they want to win, they must be competitive within their division. 


As it stands, knowing what we know now, how do the Rams stack up against their NFC West opponents?


This article will power rank each unit and determine which NFC West team dominates each category.


READ FULL ARTICLE HERE



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rams: Best And Worst Moves of 2012 Offseason

The opening kickoff for the 2012 season is still months away, but the major departures and acquisitions of the offseason are complete.


 The free-agency feeding frenzy is long gone, and the NFL draft also reached a conclusion weeks ago. The rookies and newly-signed veterans are in the middle of OTA's (organized team activities), and the official roster of the 2012 St. Louis Rams is beginning to take shape.


About five months ago, near the conclusion of last season, there were numerous unanswered questions regarding the team's future after a disappointing 2-14 campaign. 


No one knew which veterans would be retained or which positions would receive reinforcements during the offseason. And for a short amount of time, the team didn't even know who the new head coach would be. 


But now that we have a general idea of what the new and improved Rams will look like, let's recall the events of this past offseason and identify the best and worst moves of the year.
Continue Reading Here

Monday, May 14, 2012

The 2012 NFL draft has reached a conclusion. And not only that, NFL teams are basically done with the signing of undrafted rookies as well.


The June 1 cuts will allow the St. Louis Rams to make a few more veteran additions to the team (if that's what they desire), but for the most part, the members of the official 53-man roster are hidden within the current 84-man roster. 


Over the next several months, the 84 players will put forth their best efforts as the coaching staff chips away at the roster. And by Week 1, we'll know which players collectively formulate the official 2012 St. Louis Rams. 


Some players are long shots when it comes to making the team, but some position battles will force coach Jeff Fisher to make difficult decisions (read more on the anticipated training camp battles here). 


There's still plenty of practices remaining, so it's impossible to perfectly predict the final roster at this point. But this article will review each position and take a guess at the Rams' 2012 roster.


Read On Here

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gregg Williams is Bad... But is Sean "The Rat" Pamphilon Worse?

When Tony Soprano was tipped off that his "business associate" and long time friend, Big Pussy Bonpensiero, was doing the simulcast, Puss found himself out on a boat standing in front of three loaded guns being carried by Tony, Paulie Walnuts and Silvio. 


After several awkward and frantic shots of Jose Cuervo, the three men fired a dozen bullets through Puss' purple jogging suit and dumped him into the ocean, where he still remains today (although, if you ask Tony, he'll swear that he went into the witness protection program). 


But mob justice doesn't apply to the NFL, and for that, Sean Pamphilon is grateful. 


As many already know, Pamphilon is the man who released the latest and possibly the most damning evidence against Gregg Williams—an audio clip that captured Williams addressing his players in the locker room before the NFC Divisional playoff game between the Saints and the 49ers last January. 


In the audio clip, we heard Williams partake in typical coach speak. For the most part, I'd be shocked if I walked into an NFL locker room and didn't hear the type of things Williams said on the audio. 


However, there's no question he crossed the line when he encouraged his men to test Kyle Williams' concussion and aim for the ACL's, but overall the speech would have only been slightly concerning had it been released before Bounty Gate became public knowledge. 


But since we now have that knowledge, and know about Williams' participation in the incentive program, the latest evidence is understandably troubling.


WIlliams was in the wrong. He knows it. Everyone knows it. There are few (if any) people willing to challenge that. On the contrary, the argument and the debate has always concerned how wrong it was, as well as the extent of the punishment.  


It is the opinion of this writer that Roger Goodell exceeded what could be considered a rational and fitting punishment, but that's open for debate.  


The injury lawsuits against the NFL, as well as Goodell's safety crusade, is the reason for the thorough and severe punishment against Williams (indefinite suspension). Is there any doubt that the sentences would've been significantly less severe had this exact situation occurred ten years ago? 


The sentencing was formulated by someone with a clear and obvious personal agenda. Even if the punishment fits the crime, it's still absurd to put the outcome in the hands of someone who's top priority has more to do with maintaining a consistent public image rather than justice. 


But regardless, Williams openly admitted that he was in wrong and has accepted his punishment with no resistance whatsoever. 


That's more than we can say about Pamphilon, who will never be forced to admit that he was in the wrong and will likely never see anything even resembling punishment for his actions. 


The documentary that Pamphilon was filming at the time, the piece that allowed him to capture Williams' rant, was meant for his documentary on Steve Gleason. 


Gleason is a former member of the Saints who tragically suffers from ALS. He allowed Pamphilon to document his struggles, but claims that all the material that was filmed or recorded belongs to him and his family as part of an agreement. 


"The Saints trusted me and gave us unlimited access in filming, and I, in turn, trusted Sean Pamphilon," Gleason said to the media. 


In other words, Pamphilon had no right releasing the audio without Gleason's permission. As a journalist, he took advantage of his subject in return for personal gain, and for that he should be disgusted and ashamed of himself. 


Of course, Pamphilon is still clinging to the idea that he released the audio because it was the right thing to do, but it's pretty clear that his motives had more to do with making a name for himself. 


Why was it the right thing to do a week ago and not a month ago? Or better yet, why was it not the right thing to do before Bounty Gate was even public knowledge? 


Pamphilon didn't know that he had possession of a major gem until the news outlets broke the story. And even then, rather than contributing the audio in an anonymous and concerned manor, he purposely waited until the story died down so that he wouldn't have to share the spotlight. 


Williams and Pamphilon were both in the wrong. You don't have to pick sides, they both deserve criticism. 


However, while Williams was immediately willing to admit the error in his way, Pamphilon will likely never step up and admit that he took advantage of a man's trust in order to increase his number of followers on Twitter. 


Promoting dirty play is arguably more serious than misleading someone for personal gain, but lets put it this way... 


Knowing that the Saints never inflicted an unusual number of injuries on their opponents, regardless of the bounties, would you rather play quarterback against that defense (assuming you have NFL talent), or let the vegan-looking Pamphilon film your life knowing perfectly well that he's willing to sell out for ten minutes of attention? 


It's a tough call, but I'd vote for shutting off the camera and lining up under center. 


With that in mind, I feel that Pamphilon owes Gleason and the Saints organization a sincere apology.


But since there's no mob justice in the NFL and no one to hold Pamphilon accountable, that will likely never happen. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

St. Louis Rams Need to Ignore Defense In the Draft and Focus on Offense

After witnessing Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray trample the Rams defense for 253 rushing yards during Week 7, it's difficult to ignore the gaping holes on the defensive side of the ball.


That is, unless Rams offense is much, much worse. Which it is.


The St. Louis offense was not just conventionally bad in 2011. They were inept even in comparison to some of the worst teams in recent NFL history.


The Rams scored a measly 12.1 points per game after finishing with a 2-14 record.


Meanwhile...


The 2007 Dolphins (1-15) scored 16.6 points per game.


The 1999 Browns (2-14) scored 13.5 points per game.


The 2000 Chargers (1-15) scored 16.8 points per game.


The 2008 Lions (0-16) scored 16.6 points per game.


But forget the fact that the Rams were outscored by some of the worst teams of the last decade, or that they're just one of five teams in the last 10 years (with the 2009 Rams being another) to score less than 200 points in a season (193).


The simple fact is that the St. Louis defense was not the reason for the Rams losing 14 games last season.


The offense was the worst in the NFL when it came to converting third-downs (28.0 percent), while converting just 64 out of 228 third-down attempts.


Just to give you an idea of how truly awful those numbers are, the New Orleans Saints converted 118 times on 208 attempts (57.0 percent), and the average conversion rate in the NFL was 38.1 percent.


On top of that, the Rams were 30th in average time of possession per game (28 minutes, 11 seconds).


With that in mind, did the defense have a realistic shot at succeeding?


The offense couldn't score and they forced the defense back onto the field 72 percent of the time on third downs. On top of that, they could not maintain possession for any significant amount of time whatsoever.


The defense had to deal with fatigue after constantly being forced onto the field, which resulted in a false portrayal of their true capabilities.


But other than being forced into an impossible situation thanks to the offense, what other factors indicate that the defense is better off?






Level of Talent


The offense has two Pro Bowl-caliber players— running back Steven Jackson, and newly-acquired center Scott Wells.


Jackson will turn 29 years old before the start of next season, and Wells is 31.


Meanwhile, the defense has four players who can perform at a Pro Bowl-caliber level— linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive end Chris Long, safety Quintin Mikell and newly-signed cornerback Cortland Finnegan.


The two premiere offensive talents are aging, while the defensive stars are all well within their prime, except for the 31-year-old Mikell.


Additionally, the defense has three up-and-coming players who are expected to greatly contribute as starters— defensive end Robert Quinn, safety Darian Stewart and defensive tackle Kendall Langford.


The defense has one more starter, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, who is expected to play at an acceptable level if injuries are no longer an issue for him.


As a result, eight of the 11 defensive starters are thought of as dependable players, but there are still questions regarding both outside linebacker positions, as well as the second defensive tackle position.


While the defense has just three questionable positions, the offense is lacking in multiple areas— left guard, right tackle, tight end, wide receiver, and backup running back.


Clearly, the offense is desperately in need of reinforcements. More so than the defense.






Severity of the Needs


While the offense is lacking top-notch playmakers, who are typically found early on the the draft, the defense has needs that can be addressed with late-round picks.


Defensive tackle and outside linebackers are the only desperate positions on the defensive side of the ball, but neither of those positions require premiere draft picks.


The Rams run a 4-3 defense, and while the outside rush linebacker is a vital part of a 3-4 defense, there's not a lot of value in 4-3 outside linebackers.


There were 16 NFL teams who ran the 4-3 defense on a regular basis last season, which means there are 32 starting linebackers for that system.


Of those 32 starters, 21 of them were acquired in the third round or later, while 15 were drafted in the fourth round or later.


Only seven of the 32 starters were first-round picks, while just four were selected in the second round.


Of the 11 outside linebackers selected in the first or second round, Chad Greenway (Minnesota Vikings) is the only one who has been to a single Pro Bowl (2011).


In fact, of the 32 starting outside linebackers, the only one who can be considered an elite defensive talent is Lance Briggs (Chicago Bears), who was a third-round draft pick in 2003.


When taking all of that into consideration, maybe using a second-round pick on Zach Brown (North Carolina) is not such a hot idea.


Defensive tackle, on the other hand, is more of a priority in the 4-3 defense, but it's another position that doesn't require top-notch talent.


Of the 32 starting tackles in a 4-3 defense, 19 of them were acquired outside of the first two rounds.


Out of the five 4-3 teams who finished with a top 10 defense, just three of the 10 defensive tackles from those teams were first-round picks, while just one was a second-round pick.


Meanwhile, offensive production requires more of an investment.


When looking at each NFL team that finished with a top 15 offense and taking the two top receivers from each of those teams, here's what you'll find...


Half of those 30 receivers are either first or second round picks, while 20 of them were selected in the first three rounds.


Just 10 of the 30 receivers were found in the fourth round or later.




Conclusion


The Rams own four picks in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft, but there's honestly nothing more nauseating than seeing a mock draft that has the Rams using two or three of those picks on defensive players.


Obviously, mock drafts don't dictate the actual mindset of the front office, but there has to be some concern considering head coach Jeff Fisher has a defensive background.


Since the defense is the better unit, perhaps it's logical to dedicate more resources towards that side of the ball in order to build a dominate defensive team.


However, at the end of the day, no matter how "shut down" a defense is, a team cannot win without outscoring the opponent.


Also, there's Sam Bradford and his $78 million contract. As long as he's averaging $13 million per year, the Rams must do everything in their power to allow him to succeed. That means surrounding him with talent.


Out of the four receivers currently on St. Louis' roster, Austin Pettis was drafted higher than any of them (third round), which isn't going to cut it.


As long as the people in charge treat offensive production like a joke, we'll continue to get a laughable performance from that side of the ball.


Not that Fisher and Co. are striving to ignore offense, but at this point there's no reason to believe that the offense has improved compared to last year's team.


So whether it's help at receiver or help on the offensive line, the Rams will not produce more wins until they can score points.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rams Sign Pro Bowl Center Scott Wells

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense lit up the NFL after leading the league in scoring with 560 total points.


And while most are familiar with the contributions of Rodgers and his offensive weapons, it's easy to overlook the men up front on the offensive line, including the man who snapped Rodgers the ball on every play during every game in 2011.


Center Scott Wells started all 16 games for the Packers last season and was a vital part of an offensive line that produced one of the top offenses in the league. And as a result, Wells was elected to his first Pro Bowl.


On top of that, Wells also started all 16 games during the Packers' 2010 Super Bowl winning season, and he has started 100 total regular games throughout his eight NFL seasons.


He has been a Packer for his entire career, but next season he'll be wearing the horns on his helmet and snapping the ball to quarterback Sam Bradford.


As of Friday evening, the St. Louis Rams agreed to terms with Wells. The signing was confirmed by ESPN insider Adam Schefter.


Although the exact details have not been confirmed, it's been estimated that Wells will make approximately $6 million to $7 million a year.


The Rams had a need for a center ever since cutting Jason Brown earlier in the week. Brown was due $5 million in base salary in 2012, which is likely far too lopsided for a player who has generally underperformed ever since being signed in free agency in 2009.


Not only will Wells be an upgrade over Brown, even at the age of 31, but he'll also provide third-year passer Sam Bradford with invaluable insight that can only be gained after years of snapping the ball to great quarterbacks such as Rodgers and Brett Favre.


Wells will not only benefit Bradford, but his veteran presence will provide the younger linemen, such as Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, with the proper leadership necessary for them to succeed.


Wells is only the Rams second signing since the the beginning of free agency on Tuesday (the other was cornerback Cortland Finnegan), but regardless of their slow activity, they are making their dollars count with yet another solid acquisition.

Top Remaining Free Agency Targets for the Rams

The Rams inked cornerback Cortland Finnegan to a five-year deal worth $50 million, but he remains the team's only acquisition so far.


Here is a piece outlining the players currently being targeted by the Rams:


http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1107088-top-free-agent-targets-remaining-for-the-rams

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Free Agency: Day One Recap, Rams Sign CB Cortland Finnegan

The St. Louis Rams began free agency by instantly casting out multiple lines, but they failed to hook anything in the early hours.


The initial rumors focused on wide receiver options, such as Pierre Garcon (Indianapolis Colts) and Robert Meachem (New Orleans Saints), as well as Atlanta's Harry Douglas.


While most of the rumors involved receivers, there was also talk regarding cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Carlos Rogers (San Francisco 49ers), tackle Eric Winston (Houston Texans), defensive tackle Jason Jones (Tennessee Titans), safety Jarrett Bush (Green Bay Packers) and even quarterback Jason Campbell (Oakland Raiders).


Meachem, Porter, Winston, Jones and Bush remain unsigned.


However, as the sun began to set on the first day of free agency, frustration grew among the Rams fans after multiple "players of interest" were finding new homes, while no new faces were signing with St. Louis.


It was beginning to look like the Rams would conclude the first full day of free agency without any major additions, but around 8:30 PM (CST) it was reported that the Rams signed cornerback Cortland Finnegan to a five-year, $50 million contract.


Finnegan was an All-Pro in 2008 and will immediately start for the Rams, who were particularly desperate at the position after cutting veteran Ron Bartell on Monday.


The Rams had 10 total cornerbacks sent to injury reserve last season, so it's reassuring that the team now has Finnegan, who has started in 77 of his last 80 possible games.


Finnegan is the only signing today (Tuesday), but there are still several hours remaining in the day, which may allow for another signing or two before the day's end.




Of the previously mentioned free agents, defensive tackle Jones (Titans) is thought of as maybe the most likely to sign a deal with St. Louis. Rams beat writer Jim Thomas even suggested on Twitter that a deal could be done before Wednesday:


Jim Thomas‏ @jthom1:


"Deal with another Titan, defensive lineman Jason Jones, could also get done tonight by Rams."


Jones played three seasons under coach Jeff Fisher at defensive tackle and was thought of as a rising star. However, he was switched to defensive end last season and experienced a slight regression.


Fisher will presumably allow Jones to return to defensive tackle, which is where he has seen more success.


Also, offensive tackle Winston (Texans) has scheduled a visit with the Rams, which makes him a realistic option. Although, he has set up meetings with the Chiefs and Dolphins as well.


In the end, even if there are no more players brought in, it was still a very active first day with the signing of Finnegan.


It took a $50 million contract to finally seal the deal with a player, but that's to be expected when a team finishes with a 2-14 record.


There will undoubtedly be more signings in the upcoming days, but Finnegan will surely remain the biggest splash for the Rams in this year's free agency class.