Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Astros hand the Cards their fourth straight loss 3-0

The Cardinals continue to miss Ryan Ludwick's bat. Considering he was the team's best hitter with runners in scoring position, his absence has been noticed. Jon Jay, Brendan Ryan, and Matt Holliday were the only players to get hits. Holliday's double in the 9th inning was the only extra base hit by the Cards. Last night, I was willing to give Astros' starting pitcher J.A. Happ some credit, since he only gave up two hits, and pitched a complete game shut out. So it might be appropriate to give tonight's starting pitcher for the Astros, Wandy Rodriguez, the same credit. But I'm not going to do that, because I don't think those pitchers are that talented, I just think the Cardinals' offense is THAT bad right now.

Overall, Cardinals' starting pitcher Chris Carpenter had a solid outing. In seven innings he gave up 6 hits, and kept the Astros in check for the most part. But in a sloppy 3rd inning, Hunter Pence hit a triple off of Carpenter with two runners on. The triple was somewhat of a blooper, as it landed on top of that ridiculous center-field hill in Minute Maid Park. Instead of the ball rolling back down the hill (or bouncing off the wall, if it was a normal park), the ball stayed put at the top of the hill, until Colby Rasmus was able to retrieve it. The Astros scored 3 runs that inning (3rd), but only two of those runs went down as earned runs for Carpenter. 

About a month ago (maybe longer), most Cardinal fans were looking forward to the playoffs, because there was just no way a team this talented wouldn't make it. But now, the upcoming off-season is becoming the main topic of discussion amongst Cardinal fans.

Hopefully, General Manager John Mozeliak feels some pressure to make some solid moves, and increase the payroll. He's going to have to do something, if not for the fans, then for Albert Pujols. If Pujols doesn't sense any urgency to improve the team, then why would he stay in St.Louis?

But the worst thing that can happen this off-season is nothing. If Mozeliak pretends that they have all of the pieces, but they just under-performed, then the Cardinals are in trouble. Another mistake Mozeliak could possibly make is acquiring another worthless player, and pretend it is an answer (Westbrook). But as fans, all we can do is hope that they figure something out. A real third-baseman that actually wants to play baseball, and a middle-infielder who can actually hit (Dan Uggla?) would be a start.

Rams WR becomes dangerously thin, losing two more after Avery

Rams WR Keenan Burton has a history of knee problems. Burton was the Rams' 5th round draft pick in 2008, and he has not been able to stay healthy for a significant amount of time since entering the league. His latest injury (swollen knee) will likely keep him sidelined against Baltimore, and should force the Rams management to question whether or not he will ever be healthy.

The Rams current #1 WR, Laurent Robinson, is also being held out of practice due to a mid-foot sprain. It is questionable if he will be ready for the Baltimore preseason game.

With Burton and Robinson sidelined, the Rams receiving core is now dangerously thin, especially since their top receiver, Donnie Avery, tore his ACL against New England, and will be out for the entire 2010 season. With Burton and Robinson down, the Rams are left with Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, and Mardy Gilyard as the starting receivers; and back-ups Brandon McRae, Dominique Curry, Denario Alexander, and Jordan Kent remain on the roster.

San Diego Chargers star WR Vincent Jackson is possibly available for trade. But obtaining Jackson would require trading draft picks, paying him a big contract, and dealing with his 3-game suspension. Jackson is currently holding out, demanding that the Chargers to offer him a larger contract.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cardinals continue losing streak, losing to the Astros 3-0

The Cardinals continue to fall, losing to the Astros 3-0 at Minute Maid Field, in Houston. The season's outcome continues to look very grim for the Cardinals. The Astros' first run came off a blooper pop-fly that landed on the right-field foul line. Other than that, the offense for both teams was quiet; until the Astros scored 2 runs in the 7th inning. 

Jake Westbrook had one of his better starts as a Cardinal, but he still gave up 9 hits and 3 runs (all earned). He just couldn't compete with J.A. Happ, who had a phenomenal 2 hit outing, shutting out the Cardinals.  The only other pitcher to play, between both teams, was the Cardinals' reliever Mitchell Boggs. Boggs had a good one inning appearance, getting a strike-out, and giving up 0 hits.

The Cardinals offense was non-existent. Randy Winn, and Yadier Molina, were the only Cardinals to get a hit. So far, when the bats come alive, the pitching is awful; and when the pitching is decent, the bats are nowhere to be found. That is the story of the 2010 Cardinals. And, unless they can sweep the Cincinnati Reds at home, and have a red hot month in September, the Cardinals season will be over.

Rams trade Davis

The St.Louis Rams traded DE Hall Davis to the Washington Redskins for rookie TE/FB Dennis Morris. But the trade was actually structured like this: Rams send Davis to Washington in exchange for a conditional draft pick; and Washington sends Morris to St.Louis in exchange for a conditional draft pick. Meaning if one of the players exceeds expectations, then their former team will get better compensation (the "conditional draft pick" is determined by the players' performance).

This is likely bad news for the Rams FB Mike Karney. Karney was a pro-bowl full-back for the New Orleans Saints, but was cut by New Orleans during the 2009 off-season; he was then signed by the Rams. Karney has not been very dependable for the Rams. He was slowed down by injury during the 2009 season, but he was a poor lead-blocker when he was playing. Karney also had trouble catching the ball.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cardinals continue to slip, losing to Washington 4-2

The Cardinals scored only 2 runs on the afternoon. 3B Pedro Feliz was able to hit a HR in the 9th inning, inspiring a comeback effort that got Yadier Molina on base, and brought Colby Rasmus to the plate for his first at-bat since his injury; Rasmus represented the tying run, but he failed to take advantage, striking out for the third out.

Matt Holliday, Molina, and Feliz, all had multiple hits. Outfielder Jon Jay had an RBI, and Feliz got the only other RBI for the Cardinals, from his HR in the 9th.  

Starting Pitcher Adam Wainwright failed to get his 18th win of the season. He gave up two runs in both the 2nd, and 3rd innings. He pitched for 5 innings, giving up 6 hits, and 4 runs (all earned) including a HR. He also had 7 SO on the day, and his ERA remains respectable at 2.30.

The 9th inning drama should fire up the team. The key word there being "should", I think it will take a lot more than that to get this team going. I am referring to Washington Nationals' base-runners- last night, Nyger Morgan violently "bulldozed" into Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson. And today, another base-runner did the same to SS Brendan Ryan. This caused speculation that a 9th inning wild pitch, by Nationals pitcher Drew Storen to Matt Holliday, nearly hitting Holliday, might have been intentional. This cause manager Tony LaRussa to get into a heated argument with the umpires. But unfortunately, just like the Brandon Phillips incident, nothing seems to effectively inspire this team. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cardinals get blown out by Washington Nationals 14-5

The St.Louis Cardinals, supposedly a "play-off contender", continue to make the Washington Nationals (one of the worst teams in baseball) look like the New York Yankees. They lost 14-5 in Washington.

The game really fell apart when Mike 'The Twig' McDougal continued to pitch in the 8th inning. McDougal has absolutely no business pitching in the Major Leagues. He gave up 6 runs (4 earned) in the 8th inning, including 5 hits, and a HR. He raised his ERA to 7.15. Relief pitcher Jason Motte needs to return, or else the Cardinals are in big trouble.

Starting Pitcher Kyle Lohse gave up 11 hits, 8 runs (all earned), and raised his ERA to 7.12. Even though he is trying to return from an injury, he is still showing Cardinal Nation that he was a terrible signing. With the payroll as thin as it is, from paying Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, the team can absolutely not afford to waste money on an overpaid, has-been, junk pitcher like Kyle Lohse.

On the offensive side, Jon Jay hit a HR in the 1st inning. Pujols, Lohse, and Lopez all had RBI's as well. Skip Schumaker was the only Cardinal to have multiple hits on the night.

Unless this team can sweep the Reds again, at home, and carry that momentum for the rest of the season, then the playoffs are a pipe-dream. General Manager John Mozeliak better get real busy this off-season, because the fans of St.Louis expect, and deserve much better than this pathetic excuse of a team.  


Rams 2010 Season Prediction

If someone asked me how many games the Rams are going to win in 2010, I would probably give one of two answers. My pessimistic side would say "2-4 wins", and my optimistic side would say "5-8 wins, due to their easy schedule". But surprisingly, when I look at the season one game at a time, it is easy to lean towards the optimistic side. They play seven games against teams that had five wins or less in 2009 (Seattle twice, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Washington, Detroit, and Oakland). And they play four games against teams that are clearly on the decline (Arizona twice, Denver, and Carolina).

I don't think the Rams are going to have a miraculous comeback season, and make the playoffs, like the '07 Atlanta Falcons, or the '08 Miami Dolphins. But their schedule definitely doesn't hurt their chances. There is a good chance the Rams will be drafting in the top 10 again in the 2011 draft, but I don't think it will be in the top 5 this time (which might put them in a perfect spot to draft Georgia WR AJ Green, but that's another story). So here is my prediction for each game in the 2010 season:  

The Rams start off at home against the Cardinals. Both teams will come ready to play, given it's the opener, but the Rams have the home field advantage. Expect the Dome to be a factor; with Sam Bradford's debut, and the buzz surrounding the team after beating the Patriots, it should be a stadium full of Rams Fans.

Arizona is not the same team from the last two seasons (and even those teams were not dominant during the regular season). They have two mediocre options at QB (Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson), and they aren't sure which one will be the starter. WR Anquan Boldin is gone, making double coverage on Larry Fitzgerald an option (Fitzgerald has already struggled against CB Ron Bartell alone). They will have to rely on their running game, and so far in the preseason, the Rams defense has been dominant against the run. And we saw how weak Arizona's defense can be, when they played Green Bay and New Orleans in the playoffs. So I think the Rams take the 'W' opening day.

The Rams will be on the road in Oakland, against a team with a good defense. Raiders QB Jason Campbell is much better than JaMarcus Russell, and Campbell will have some weapons at his disposal that he didn't have last season in Washington (McFadden, Heyward-Bey, Zach Miller). I don't think the Raiders have a completely better team than the Rams; but they have a better defense, and they have the home field advantage. I think this will be a circumstantial loss.

The Rams have played the Redskins in 2008 and 2009. In 2008, the Redskins were one of two teams that the Rams beat. And in 2009, they lost in the final seconds of the game. I think the 2010 Rams have the talent to finish the job with ease this time around. And I'm not buying into ESPN, I don't believe that the Redskins are suddenly a contender in the NFC East just because they added  Donavon McNabb.  I think McNabb will be under the same pressure from the pass rush that Jason Campbell was in '09. I'm not buying it, the Rams take this game, especially since they are at home.

The Rams have not beat the Seattle Seahawks since the playoffs in 2004. That's pretty pathetic actually. But the Seahawks continue to get worse, and the Rams have built a pretty solid foundation. I think the Seahawks are more like the Rams of 2007; they are on their way down, and the current Rams are on their way up. I think this time, at home, the Rams finally beat Seattle; and they start off the season 3-1.

Some people might disagree with this prediction, but I think the Lions pull off this win. The Lions were the only team the Rams beat in 2009, but I think the Lions get their revenge. The Lions have possibly the most talented WR in the league in Calvin Johnson, and he will give the Rams' weak defensive backfield trouble. The Lions also have other weapons on offense, like TE Brandon Pettigrew, WR Nate Burleson, and explosive rookie RB Jahvid Best. And a defensive line featuring Kyle VandenBosch and Ndamukong Suh could give the Rams o-line some trouble.

San Diego has a very powerful offense that is capable of putting up points. They do have some question marks on defense, but I don't think it matters. San Diego is a playoff team, and possibly even a Super Bowl threat. The Rams are just not at that point yet. Even if it is a home game, I don't see the Rams pulling off a win this week.

Tampa Bay is a very weak team. Second year QB Josh Freeman did not have a very promising rookie performance, and I think he continues to struggle in his second year. RB Cadillac Williams is a shadow of his rookie form, and #2 RB Derrick Ward has been extremely disappointing so far for the Bucs. The Bucs had a good draft, obtaining DT Gerald McCoy, DT Brian Price, WR Arrelious Benn, and WR Mike Williams. They have some young talent to build on, but I think the Rams have the means to dominate the Bucs.

They are not the same Carolina Panthers that went to the Super Bowl. The lost QB Jake Delhomme, and Steve Smith is not the dominating WR he use to be. But Delhomme's replacement, Matt Moore, was 4-1 as a starter when he stepped in (beating both New Orleans and Minnesota). I think this has potential to be a very close game. But I think that ultimately Carolina will pull of a victory.


San Francisco is the favorite to win the division. They have a defense that will potentially be one of the best in the league. I think their weakness is QB Alex Smith, and I think that QB should have been their first priority this past off-season, especially with Donovan McNabb and Jason Campbell available. But they still have weapons on offense in Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, and Vernon Davis. The 49ers have been rebuilding for a long time, and they are finally ready. I don't think the Rams can compete with the 49ers until 2011 at the very earliest.

Atlanta, much like Carolina, is a team that I think the Rams could possibly upset. But Atlanta has Michael Turner and Roddy White on offense, with a solid QB in Matt Ryan. The Falcons don't have a very strong defense (ranked 21st in 2009), but I think that their offense will be just a little too much for the Rams in week 11.  


I just don't agree with the moves head coach Josh McDaniels has made for the Broncos. The team failed to make the playoffs last season, so McDaniels responded by letting go of their best offensive player in Brandon Marshall, and dropped a solid TE in Tony Scheffler. Bronco fans must be going crazy. Hopefully, by week 12, Josh McDaniels will go completely insane, and decide to start Tim Tebow at QB. That would seal the deal for the Rams. McDaniels destroyed this team, and I think it will show in 2010.

This is where Arizona gets their revenge for week 1. They will be at home, and whichever QB they choose will probably be much more comfortable with the offense by week 13. The Rams also have thin depth, and I think that will begin to show by week 13.

New Orleans has a pass happy offense, and the Rams secondary is pretty weak. I think the reigning Super Bowl champs pull of a win, and expose the Rams defensive backfield all day. The Rams had a pretty good showing against New Orleans in 2009, keeping the game close through the first half, but I think the outcome will be the same as it was in '09.

The Chiefs were 11th in the NFL in rushing. And the addition of RB Thomas Jones can only help. Jones will probably take the majority of the carries, and share time with Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs currently lead the NFL in average rushing yards per game, for the preseason. However, they were 25th in the NFL in passing offense in 2009. So given their lack of a passing offense, and the way the Rams defense has been playing against the run, I don't see the Chiefs offense over powering the Rams in any way. The Chiefs have a lot of potential on defense in Eric Berry, Tyson Jackson, Glenn Dorsey; and some proven veterans in Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali. But despite the potential they have on 'D', the Chiefs defense was ranked 30th in total yards allowed, which was even worse than the Rams last year (29th). I don't think Matt Cassel is the answer for them at QB, and their defense is too young to flourish. The only thing they have going for them is their running game, but that's not enough to win on the road against the Rams.

Again, the 49ers are a very strong team, and have the talent to have a top defense in the league. Mix that with their offensive weapons (Davis, Gore, Crabtree), and the Rams won't beat this team, even in St.Louis. The only way the Rams win this game is if the 49ers have clinched home field advantage (in the playoffs) at this point, and bench their starters.

The Seahawks are trying to put band-aids over major wounds, but they need a complete makeover. The Seahawks are on the decline, and the Rams are on the rise. I see the Ram rolling over them in 2010, and I think we will see the Rams end the season on a high note.   


Friday, August 27, 2010

Cardinals beat the Nationals 4-2

The Cardinals pull off a much needed win on the road in Washington against the Nationals. The Nationals were shut out for the majority of the game, until they picked up their first run in the 8th inning. Then they made things interesting in the bottom of the 9th, scoring their second run (making it 4-2) and getting two men on base, which brought Ivan Rodriguez to the plate, representing the leading run with two outs. Closer Ryan Franklin managed to pick up the save, as Rodriguez hit a ground ball for the final out.

Starting pitcher Jaime Garcia pitched a good game, picking up his 12th win of the season. He threw 5.1 innings, and gave up 8 hits. But he had 7 SO, and 0 ER. Garcia continues to make a good argument for the Rookie of the Year award. Relief pitcher Kyle McClellan and Franklin made things interesting, they both gave up 2 hits, and they each gave up a run (both earned).

OF Matt Holliday probably had the best night at the plate for the Cards. He was 2-for-4 with a HR (23rd on the season). Albert Pujols managed to hit his 401st HR of his career (35th of the season) in the 1st inning, but it was his only hit of the night. OF Jon Jay was the only other player to get an RBI.

The game got sloppy at the end. But it was nice to see the team pull off a much needed win. It didn't help that C Yadier Molina was held out of the game; as well as Colby Rasmus. And it also didn't help that Pujols was still banged up from his ankle injury from last night. But despite those set-backs, the team pulled off a needed win.

The Cardinals still have two games remaining in Washington for the series. Tomorrow at 6:05 Central, and Sunday at 12:35 PM. 

Bradford will start last preseason game against Ravens

Rams rookie QB Sam Bradford had a phenomenal showing against the New England Patriots, and he will get a chance to start his second game in a row against the Baltimore Ravens, for the final preseason game. According to the Rams, the reason for this is still AJ Feeley's injured thumb, Feeley might not be 100% in time for the game.

It is hard to believe that Bradford would not be starting this game either way. If his performance against the Patriots didn't knock Feeley out of the picture, then what will? This is really not a surprise, Bradford should be the starter, even if Feeley is ready week 1 against Arizona (Sep. 12th). 

Rams WR Donnie Avery out for the season

It has been confirmed that the Rams' leading WR of 2009, Donnie Avery, tore his ACL last night against the New England Patriots. Avery will be out for the entire 2010 season.

Avery was the Rams best WR. But this will give guys like Mardy Gilyard and Denario Alexander a chance to step up. WR Laurent Robinson is more than capable of replacing Avery as the #1 WR, but Robinson has been under-performing the entire preseason. I fully expect him, and the other receivers (Gilyard, Alexander, Danny Amendola, Keenan Burton, and Brandon Gibson) to step up to the plate, and carry the Rams offense. Although Avery is the best WR for the Rams, he is not significantly better than the others.

The younger guys will step up, the momentum from last night will carry into week 1, and hopefully the Rams' offense will not skip a beat from the loss of Avery.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cardinals/Nationals game heads into extra innings

Cardinals first-baseman Albert Pujols hit his 400th HR tonight, and only the 2010 Cardinals can ruin a moment like that. Their play against the MLB bottom feeders never fails to amaze. I started writing this article before the conclusion of the game; because it doesn't matter if they win or lose. Their play tonight was inexcusable. Their play against junk teams is inexcusable. They are not even coming close to meeting the expectations of the coaches(at least I hope not), the fans, and the city of St.Louis. And if this team does not do a complete 180 in the next day or two, then this team will NOT make the playoffs, they won't even sniff the playoffs.

I don't care if Pujols hits a beautiful walk-off HR to end this game, and it turns into the most exciting game of the season. The fact that this team, during a crucial part of the season, has to go into extra innings against one of the worst teams around, is a complete joke. You know it's bad when a Rams' preseason game is more exciting than a Cardinals "play-off hunt" game.

Rams beat Patriots 36-35... 8/26 post-game

NOTE: This article is in reference to first string players, and primarily the first half of the game. 

Rookie #1 overall pick, QB Sam Bradford threw his first 2 TD passes as a Ram (and to make it even better, it he did it on the same night Albert Pujols hit is 400th career HR), and had an impressive performance overall.

I think it is fair to say he made a heck of a case for himself, as the potential starter for week 1. He went 15-for-22 (68%) with 189 yards and 2 TD passes, against the New England Patriot's starters (they have one of the more solid defenses in the league). The question now is: Where do the coaches go, QB wise, from here? With a performance like that, against one of the better teams in football, I don't see Bradford riding the bench week 1.

Let's look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; and talk a little more about Bradford, and the rest of the game...

The Good: Steven Jackson looked as good as most thought he would in his limited time. He had 5 carries for 22 yards; and his presence was (as expected) a major factor for the offense. Bradford was able to throw his first TD as a Ram, and I believe part of that is due to the pressure that Jackson took off Bradford. The TD pass was to rookie TE Mike Hoomanawanui.

But Bradford certainly didn't require Jackson. He continued to tear up the Patriots with Jackson on the bench. He threw his second TD of the game (once again, to big Mike H.), and over 100 yards after Jackson left the game. And he damn near threw his third on the last drive of the first half, but led WR Laurent Robinson a little too close to the sidelines.

Another good thing, was that the offense did not turn one-dimensional after Jackson left the game. RB Kenneth Darby was able to establish an inside running game, he rushed for 35 yards on 13 carries, taking some pressure off Bradford.

The defense was also able to establish a strong presence. The Pats scored a TD on the opening kick-off, and then the Rams scored 17 unanswered, until late in the 4th quarter. The half-time score was not really a good indicator of how dominate the Rams were in the first half. The Patriots had virtually no run game (16 yards total in the first half). And their pass game, though consistent, was not very potent until the end of first half.

Although I usually don't mention the back-up's, QB Keith Null, and QB Thad Lewis deserve some credit for hanging on in the second half, and sealing the victory. There is nothing better than beating the Patriots.

The Bad: The defense, once again, was unable to establish consistent pressure in the pass rush. They were able to pressure at moments, but it lacked overall, as Brady was able to go 8-for-10 in the first half. And that completion percentage is also reflective of the defensive backfield having another poor game (although they seemed a little more physical than last week).

When you are coming off a 1-15 season, you can not allow teams to get their points from special teams. The kick-return TD was inexcusable. A team as weak as the Rams can not afford to lose momentum that early in the game.

The Ugly: Donnie Avery injured his knee towards the end of the second half; and it looked nasty. We will have to wait and see what the doctors say, but he was carted off the field, and it did not look good. Not good for a team that is already thin with WR talent.

The Patriots were also ugly overall. But I am hoping it has more to do with the Rams playing good, than the Patriots playing bad. But take away their special-teams TD, and the score was 20-7 Rams lead at half-time. And you know a team is desperate when they play their first team offense against the Rams' (worst team in '09) second string defense. Nice class Belichick. It looks like he cheats in the preseason as well.

Overall: It was a very encouraging performance by the Rams, and it will be hard to expect that anyone other than Bradford will be lining-up under center week 1. If this performance didn't earn him the starting job, then I don't know what will.

The offense looks like it is ready to roll. It is unknown how much the loss of Avery will hurt. He is a good WR, but this will give Denario Alexander or Mardy Gilyard a great opportunity. God knows both of those guys have the talent, they just need to make the plays. It's not like Avery was light-years better than the other wide-outs. Trent Green also got injured in the preseason against the Patriots, and that turned out alright. We'll have to wait and see. This is an offense capable of putting points on the board. Certainly more than 10.9 points per game (the offense's average in 2009). The only thing that can stop this offense is stupid mistakes (but remember, Richie Incognito and Alex Barron are gone), and injuries.

The Defense looks like a much improved unit over last year. The defensive backfield might cause some concern, but hopefully coach Spagnuolo will improve the pass-rush throughout the year, therefore taking pressure off the backfield. It might not be an elite defense, but I think the Rams can definitely win some games with this unit.

If every team underestimates the Rams, like the Patriots did tonight, then this team will turn some heads this year.

Pujols hits number 400

The St.Louis Cardinals' first-baseman Albert Pujols has just hit his 400th home-run of his career tonight (Aug. 26th) off of Jordan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals.  He is only the 47th player to do so in the history of Major League Baseball.

Hitting his 400th home-run might not be his only milestone of the season. Pujols has a legitimate shot at winning the first NL triple-crown since the Cardinals left-fielder Joe Medwick did it in 1937. And it would be the first triple-crown won in the MLB since the Boston Red Sox' left-fielder Carl Yastrzemski won it in 1967.

And if he finishes the season with a .300+ BA, 30+ HR (check), and 100+ RBI, he will be the only player in baseball's history to do so for ten seasons in a row.

His stats, as of now are: .319 BA (3rd in NL, Joey Votto is 1st with .323) , 33 HR (1st in NL), 92 RBI (1st in NL).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cardinals lose 2nd in a row to Pirates, 5-2

Starting pitcher Jake Westbrook continues to disappoint Cardinals Nation. Westbrook ran into trouble in the 3rd inning when he loaded the bases, and then gave up a triple to Neil Walker, scoring 3 runs. He then gave up one more run in the 4th inning, making the score 4-0. All four of the runs were earned, and his ERA is now at 4.57.

I've always been opposed to the Ryan Ludwick/Westbrook trade; but since Ludwick is slumping in San Diego, I'll lay off that subject. But it doesn't change the fact that Westbrook has not been getting it done for the Cards. And it just emphasizes how important it is for the team to pick up wins when either Adam Wainwright, or Chris Carpenter, throws a gem; but they lose many of those games due to stupidity, such as errors, or poor base running (like last night).

But Westbrook is not the only one at fault. You know it's a terrible series when Kyle Lohse is the guy that saves the team from a sweep. The offense has been dead the past two nights. But tonight in particular, the offense took the day off, until the 7th inning, when Felipe Lopez hit a HR. They then managed to get 2 more base-runners in the 7th, but they were stranded. Their second run came in the 9th, when Aaron miles got an RBI, scoring Pedro Feliz. Other than those two innings, things were very quiet. 

The team has greatly struggled struggled against sub-.500 teams, and on the road. The Cardinals play 14 of their next 17 games on the road, and 10 of those 14 away games are against sub-.500 teams. The crucial month of September is just around the corner, making this road-trip possibly a "do-or-die" situation.

Kroenke is King!

After months of anticipation, Rams Nation can rest easy. They now have solidity in the Front Office. The NFL owners have officially approved billionaire Stan Kroenke's bid to purchase the St.Louis Rams, making him the new majority owner.

The Rams' stability has been in question, ever since previous owner Georgia Frontiere passed away in 2008. The team was then inherited by her children; Chip Rosenbloom, and Lucia Rodriguez. Neither of her children had any interest in running an NFL franchise, so they put the team up for sale. Illinois billionaire Shahid Khan made an offer for the team; but Stan Kroenke, who was already a 40% minority owner of the team, executed his right of first refusal, and then announced he would make a bid for the team.

The NFL rules do not allow an owner to own another franchise (in a different sport), in a different market. So Kroenke's bid was not a sure thing, given he is also the owner of the Colorado Avalanche, and the Denver Nuggets.

But the NFL decided to make an exception in Kroenke's case, approving his bid, and making him majority owner of the Rams. This is great news for Rams fans. Free Agent spending was very limited this past off-season, due to the ownership issues. A new and dedicated owner will allow the Rams to be more aggressive in signing top-tier talent, especially since Kroenke is one of the wealthiest NFL owners. It is also possible that a new stadium could be in-store for St.Louis.

It will be interesting to see what Kroenke's first order of business is, and what visions he has for the team. But Rams fans can rest easy, as there is finally some stability.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cards end winning streak in Pittsburgh, losing 4-3

The Cardinals lost to the Pirates tonight (8/24) 4-3, ending their 3 game winning streak. The Cardinals will look to win the series tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. 

For the majority of the game, the Cardinals had only two runs, from a 2-run HR by Matt Holliday in the 1st inning. But they fought back in the top of the 9th, nearly sending the game into extra-innings. The comeback started with Skip Schumaker hitting a single; Schumaker was then advanced to 2nd base after a base hit by Randy Winn. Aaron Miles then pinched hit (for Brendan Ryan), and advanced both runners one base with a sacrifice bunt. Jon Jay then got a base hit with 1 out, scoring Schumaker, and making the score 4-3. Then Albert Pujols stepped up with two on and one out, he singled, but for whatever reason, 3rd base coach Jose Oquendo did not send Winn home, even though he would have easily scored and tied the game. Felipe Lopez then came to bat (batting in the 5th spot, for some unexplainable reason), and made the last out with an infield pop-fly.

Starting Pitcher Adam Wainwright had a good game, despite getting the loss. He gave up 7 hits in as many innings, and had 6 strike-outs. However, he did give up 4 runs, all earned, raising his ERA to 2.18. It was not his best game, but there was no reason for the Cardinals to lose, and it should have gone into extra-innings at the very least. September is nearing, and the Cardinals can't afford to lose any more game because of stupid base running. 

Spags says Feeley is still the starter; NFL Finance committee recommends Kroenke's approval

Yesterday, head coach Steve Spagnuolo announced that veteran QB AJ Feeley remains the starting QB; despite the fact that rookie QB Sam Bradford will be starting Thrusday against New England, in place of the injured Feeley (thumb).

This further emphasizes my comments earlier- stating that Bradford's start against the Patriots in Foxboro, for the third preseason game, is crucial for Bradford if he is going to start week 1 against Arizona. If Bradford plays well against a team as good as the Pats, then it will be difficult to bench Bradford week 1. If he has another sub-par performance, like he did against Cleveland, then the Rams will likely keep him on the bench, until they feel he is ready.

Meanwhile, the NFL Finance Committee believes that it makes sense, money-wise, that the NFL owners approve Stat Kroenke's bid to own the St.Louis Rams. The NFL owners will vote on Wednesday, and that vote will decide whether or not Kroenke will be approved as an owner. Kroenke will have a chance to plead his case to the NFL owners. The common belief it that he will get approval from the owners on Wednesday.

Rams vs. Patriots Preview

In three days (Thurs. Aug. 26th), the Rams will travel to Foxboro, to take on the New England Patriots. Starting QB AJ Feeley will be held out of the game with a thumb injury, giving #1 overall draft pick QB Sam Bradford a chance to earn the starting job for week 1, against the Arizona Cardinals (Sept. 12th).

Starting against the New England Patriots will be one hell of a test for Bradford. The third preseason game, is the game where teams typically play their starters more than the other preseason games. It is considered the "dress-rehearsal" preseason game. It will be very challenging for Bradford to go against the Patriots' 1st-string players. Lets just say that the Pats' roster is pretty loaded.

So let's compare...

QB: Like I said, Bradford will start, and he will probably play over two full quarters. Bradford looked sharp against Minnesota when he had a chance to throw; but he struggled against Cleveland, almost throwing two picks, and he had a pass tipped; although, he was hurt by dropped passes from the rainy weather. But hopefully, Bradford will have the luxury of Steven Jackson, for at least part of the game. Jackson will take some pressure of Bradford, and might create 'one-on-one' match-up's, if the opposing 'D' stacks eight men in the box to stop Jackson.

QB Keith Null will probably play in over half of the 3rd quarter, and into the 4th quarter. Rookie QB Thad Lewis will probably finish the 4th quarter.

The Patriots will start their star QB Tom Brady. Brady had a decent year in '09, but most of his stats came from three games (Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay),  and Brady was wild at times. However, he was recovering from knee surgery, and he was adjusting to a new offensive coordinator. Brady will likely be better than he was in '09, but probably won't have the stats he had in '07.

We will also see the Patriots' back-up QB Brian Hoyer for a good quarter. Hoyer is inexperienced (2nd year), but has been solid in his limited playing time in '09. Their #3 QB, Zac Robinson (7th round, 2010), will finish the game for the Patriots. Robinson is still trying to establish himself.

RB: The Rams' running game will be solid, as long as Steven Jackson is in the game. But even though starters play the most in the 3rd preseason game, it's still not known how much Jackson will play. The Rams' offense will depend almost solely on Jackson this season, so risking injury seems foolish.

Other than Jackson, the Rams have nothing at RB. Chris Ogbonnaya has played terrible in his first two preseason games. He is averaging just over 1 yard per carry between the last two games. He has been somewhat of a threat as a receiver, but still not very dangerous at all. Kenneth Darby was able to move the ball last week, but still averaged under 3 yards per carry; and rookie Keith Toston averaged less than 2 yards per carry. The Rams desperately need a back-up RB for Jackson, because as soon as Jackson leaves the game, the offense will be very one-dimensional.

The Patriots' running game will be solid. They have five backs, and operate by a "RB by committee" approach. Laurence Maroney is probably their primary back, Fred Taylor is their veteran #2 back, Sammy Morris is the third, and Kevin Faulk is their 3rd down receiving back. Third-year RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis figures to be the 5th RB they will keep on their roster. Having four RB's that will see the field on a regular basis, means that their RB's will stay fresh the whole game. Their 'multiple RB' strategy could very well wear down our defense.

WR: Denario Alexander just signed, but it is unknown where he will fit into the game plan. Laurent Robinson, Donnie Avery, and Danny Amendola will be the starters. Alexander would be a nice presence, given that our WR's were over-powered against the Browns, and they failed to get decent separation. Hopefully they will have better hands this week, if there is no rain. Also, Mardy Gilyard made his debut Saturday, though he was a non-factor at WR (but he carried the ball as a kick-returner); Gilyard will, hopefully, get a better look Thursday.

Last year the Patriots had very little behind Randy Moss and Wes Welker; and that could have been potentially problematic, considering the possibility of injury (Welker was placed on IR in '09). Welker has returned from his injury, but it is unknown how much he will play on Thursday; he only played six snaps against Atlanta. But, both Moss and Welker will be active Thursday, for at least a portion of the game.

Rams fans will not get to see the Patriots' WR Torry Holt, as he is now on the IR. But other WR's to watch for are: Julian Edelman, who was an adequate replacement for Welker in the slot at the end of the '09 season; and Brandon Tate, a second-year WR who is physical, making him ideal for the outside.

It is also worth mentioning that the Patriots have a solid TE core. Veteran Alge Crumpler leads the way- he's a decent receiving TE, and former pro-bowler. Rookie 2nd round pick Rob Gronkowski has flashed some promise as a blocker; and rookie Aaron Hernandez has shown a play making ability as a receiving threat. So given their TE's, and star WR's, the Patriots certainly have some weapons at Brady's disposal.

Offensive Line: The Rams' o-line had an awful first game against the Vikings. But they improved against the Browns. Our interior line will have their work cut out for them, while facing the monstrous pro-bowl NT Vince Wilfork.

The return of starting LG Jacob Bell helped last week. Jason Smith also improved a little bit, and hopefully he can improve a little more each week. Roger Saffold continues to look like a lock for the LT spot. Center Jason Brown had a holding penalty against Cleveland, but he has been solid for us so far. Adam Goldberg will likely start at RG. It will be nice to see our starting o-line play together for a second week in a row; they need to play with each other if they want gel, and gain experience. 

The Patriots have some solid players on their o-line, but no one that dominates. Their line is not as dominating as the Cleveland o-line (that featured Joe Thomas and Alex Mack), but is still pretty serviceable. Matt Light is their LT- Light is old, but solid; and he is certainly not dominate. Dan Connolly is their LG, he is filling in for Logan Mankins (contract hold-out); Connolly has shown promise in training camp, but has yet to prove himself. Center Dan Koppen is a weak spot, he is an aging veteran that struggles against strong DT's. Stephen Neal is the RG- Neal is old, and also has a long injury history. RT Sebastian Vollmer is a bright spot on their line; Vollmer is inexperienced, but he has convinced Pats fans that he is the long-term answer at LT.

The way our d-line has been playing, it is not out of the question to expect our 'front four' to create havoc. The Patriots' o-line seems like it is one of their weaker spots. Our defense must take advantage, and put Brady under pressure.

Defensive Line: If Chris Long is looking for a break-out year, and wants to be a star, then the Pats are the type of team he needs to show something against. Rookie DE George Selvie was held out of the Cleveland game with a leg injury, and he will not play Thursday. Selvie has been very impressive, as a 7th round pick he has already earned a place with the 1st team 'D' on passing downs, so his presence will be missed. DT Fred Robbins had a sack and a forced fumble Saturday; so with the Pats' weak spot at Center, he will have an opportunity to create some damage.

Our d-line has been very good at stopping the run so far; but their pass rushing has been inconsistent. It will be interesting to see if how they will do against the run Thursday; since the Pats have four RB's that will keep each other fresh.

The Patriots d-line will be a challenge, especially since our team does not see a whole lot of 3-4 defenses. Wilfork will be the biggest challenge, he can occupy multiple blockers, and create pressure. Veteran Gerard Warren has had an above average, yet consistent, career; he does not dominate, but he is a solid player. Veteran Mike Wright will be the starting right-side DE, he is solid against the run, and has some pass rushing ability, as he recorder 5 sacks in '09. Second year player Ron Brace (2nd round pick, 2009) had a disappointing rookie campaign, but he looks to be an improved player overall in his second year. Former Rams' DT Damione Lewis will add depth for the Patriots, as well as Brandon Deadrick, and Myron Pryor.

LB: MLB James Laurinaitis will obviously be our star LB Thursday. But surprisingly, not far behind is OLB Larry Grant. Grant has had a phenomenal camp, and preseason. Na'il Diggs will be our third LB. Just like the d-line, it will be interesting to see what this group (that has been good against the run) can do against multiple RB's. I would also like to see this group get involved in the pass-rush some more.

Tully Banta-Cain, and Derrick Burgess, will likely start at DE/OLB for the Patriots. Banta-Cain is a solid force, he had 10 sacks in '09, and might cause problems for our o-line that has been struggling to pick up the blitz. Derrick Burgess is not the same caliber pass-rusher that Banta-Cain is (at least not anymore), he is a solid player overall, but he is suspect because of his age. Rookie DE/OLB Jermaine Cunningham will be out of the game due to injury.

Inside linebacker's for the Pats are led by third year player Jerod Mayo. Mayo had a sophomore slump, due to a knee injury; but he will likely bounce back to his rookie-star form. Rookie Brandon Spikes will be their other starter. Mayo and Spikes will be backed-up by Gary Guyton.

DB: Ron Bartell, our leading CB, was carted off the practice field Tuesday with an ankle injury. Bartell was also dinged up in the Cleveland game- the incidents are likely related. He will might be held out of the game Thursday, just to be on the safe side. Bradley Fletcher will likely be one of the starters; and Jerome Murphy, and Quincy Butler will likely get a decent amount of snaps at the other CB position. OJ Atogwe will start at FS; and Craig Dahl, who led the team in tackles last week (6), will start at SS.

Probably the most promising rookie so far for that Patriots this season, has to be Devin McCourty. McCourty was not the flashiest pick when he was drafted, but he has turned some heads in Foxboro. Leigh Bodden was a solid starter for New England last season, and he will be the other starter, opposite McCourty. Darius Butler will be #3 CB. The Patriots have one of the best FS in the league in Brandon Meriweather; and second year SS Patrick Chung was somewhat quiet his rookie year, but is looking to establish himself as a hard hitting SS in his sophomore year.

We have had some poor play out of our defensive backfield these past two games. There was some poor tackling against Cleveland, and opposing WR's have been making it look easy. The defensive front has to get some pressure to help out, but our d-backs have to be more aggressive. The Patriots have a far superior defensive backfield, and it will be interesting to see how Bradford, and our WR's, play against them.

OVERALL: If the Rams want a chance at winning this game, then they have to attack the Patriots' weak point- their offensive line. This will be a huge test for our d-line, because they need to learn how to apply consistent pressure. And our DB's have to be physical enough to make plays, if Brady makes a mistake.

This will be a huge challenge for Bradford, but if he has a good game, then you can bet on him being a starter week 1. Bradford needs to take advantage when Steven Jackson is in the game. Jackson will move to ball, and keep pressure off of him, but Bradford has to do his part.

The Rams are a young team that needs to develop some form of confidence. If they have a rock-solid game against a team as good as the Patriots, then that could go a long way in giving our players some swagger that they definitely need.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cards start road trip off right, beating Pittsburgh 10-2

The Cardinals' offense stays alive for a second game in a row, and they win their third in a row after dominating Pittsburgh 10-2. The Cardinals are entering "do or die" mode, as September nears, and they are 1.5 games behind Cincinnati. The Cards are coming off a victorious series vs. the Giants, and are looking to win this series against the Pirates.

The highlight of the game was, of course, Albert Pujols' 3-run HR (33rd of season, 399th of career) off of Sean Gallagher in the 1st inning. Yadier Molina had a couple of RBI's off of a ground-rule double in the 5th inning. Matt Holliday, Brendan Ryan (coming off the bench), Jon Jay (base hit in the 9th), and Brian Anderson (base hit, 9th inning) all had RBI's as well. 

Lohse has a decent game, considering he is still getting settled after coming back from injury. He pitched 5.1 innings, and gave up 6 hits and 2 earned runs. He gave up a HR to 1B Garrett Jones; but he also had 4 SO and got the win.

Pujols hits numer 399...

Pujols hit is 399th HR tonight off of Pittsburgh's Sean Gallagher. It was his 33rd HR of the season. Barring injury or serious decline, Pujols will join the 400 club this season.

That's not the only significant milestone he will likely achieve this season. Only two players in history have hit .300+/30+HR/100+RBI's in nine seasons, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols. If Pujols has those stats this season, he will be the only player in history to do it ten seasons in a row.

It is clear that Pujols will go down as one of the best hitters to ever live.

Cards and Rams update 8/23...

-Relief pitcher Jason Motte will take on a rehabilitation assignment this week, his assignment will likely be with the AAA Memphis club, or the AA Springfield club. Motte was placed on the DL Aug. 3rd, with a right shoulder sprain. He is expected to return to the team this weekend, for the series against the Washington Nationals.

-Outfielder Colby Rasmus will not play tonight against Pittsburgh. Rasmus has a strained calf muscle. It is unknown, for now, when he will return. But it is not likely that he will be out for a great length of time.

-SS Brendan Ryan will sit out tonight (8/23) against Pittsburgh. He will be available on the bench if needed.

-Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo confirmed that QB AJ Feeley will be held out of the team's 3rd preseason game at New England. QB Sam Bradford will be the starter.

-WR Danario Alexander had his first practice today. Today's practice was the second-to-last training camp practice; Alexander reportedly took 1/3 of his snaps with the 1st teams offense, and took the rest of his snaps with the 2nd string offense. But, it is still not clear if Alexander will play Thursday against the Patriots, but he is in practice now, and fighting for a roster spot. Also, Alexander's new jersey number is #84.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bradford could start Thurs. vs. Patriots

The Rams' third preseason game will be on the road against the New England Patriots this Thursday. But Saturday night, against the Cleveland Browns, starting QB (for now) AJ Feeley injured his thumb, and was removed from the game. And since the next game vs. the Patriots is Thursday (instead of Saturday), it will only give Feeley four more days to heal.

It is logical to believe, especially after Sam Bradford's questionable performance Saturday, that the Rams will keep Feeley on the bench, to avoid further injury. The third preseason game is typically the game where the starters get the most playing time, it is sometimes referred to as the "dress rehearsal game". Bradford will likely play for over half of the game, into the 3rd quarter. If Bradford is going to start week 1 (Sept.12th) against Arizona, then this is his best (maybe last) chance to claim that starting job.

Rams sign WR Denario Alexander

The Rams have signed undrafted free agent WR Denario Alexander. Alexander played college ball at Mizzou, where he led the NCAA in receiving yards, with 113 receptions for 1,781 yards and 14 TDs. Alexander could provide a big target for Bradford that the Rams desperately need. At 6'5" and 221 lbs., he was able to run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.

The Rams cut their 2009 5th round pick WR Brooks Foster, in order to make room for Alexander on the roster. Alexander was rumored to be at least a 3rd round prospect in the 2010 draft, before going down with a knee injury (requiring surgery) after the Senior Bowl.     

Cards win series against Giants

The Cardinals won earlier today 9-0, winning their series (2 games out of 3) against the San Francisco Giants in St.Louis. Starting Pitcher Jaime Garcia picked up his 11th win on the season, pitching a complete game and a shut out. Garcia's record on the season in now 11-6.

Allen Craig had 3 RBI's on the day, two of them coming from his 2nd HR on the season. Jon Jay went 3-for-4 on the day with a RBI and a run scored. The Cardinals' new third baseman Pedro Feliz has had 2 hits in each of his three games so far in St.Louis. 

Albert Pujols, Matt Holiday, Felipe Lopez, Yadier Molina, and Brendan Ryan all had RBI's on the day, as the Cardinal offense was finally revived.

Starting tomorrow at 6:05pm Central, the Cardinals will be on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cardinals break five game losing streak...

The Cardinals played the San Francisco Giants tonight for the second game of the series. The Cardinals, with Chris Carpenter on the mound (vs. Tim Lincecum), were able to end their five game losing streak with a 5-1 victory.

Pedro Feliz was impressive in his first game for the Cardinals last night, going 2 for 4; and he was able help out again tonight, once again he went 2 for 4 with a triple, 2 RBI's, and a run scored. Brendan Ryan also got an RBI with a double. And Randy Winn hit his 4th HR of the season.

The Cards will conclude their series against the Giants tomorrow at Busch Stadium, at 1:00pm Central. On the mound tomorrow: Jaime Garcia (10-6) vs. Barry Zito (8-7).

Rams vs. Browns Post-Game

NOTE: This article is meant to focus on the 1st string players, and is meant to anticipate the regular season. So some of the good and bad plays by no-name players are not mentioned. 

The St.Louis Rams entered the game with swagger, taking a 13-0 lead in the first quarter. But as the game progressed, and the 1st team players began to exit the game, the Rams slipped and lost their momentum. It is clear that the Rams need some improvements, but nothing from this game is worth panicking over. Despite the slacking by some units, it is clear that this team (especially the defense) still has that intensity they had last season; the intensity that caused them to play hard late in the season, despite only having one win. 

The Good: Steven Jackson looked very dominate during his first action of the season. He had 20 yards on 4 carries. Despite what I might say about the offense later in this article, it is true that Jackson is an element that can change everything; such as play calling, receiver separation (due to one-on-one coverage), and the overall pressure on QB Sam Bradford.

 The Rams' defense looked very solid the first three drives. But just like last week, poor pass defense resulted in drop off of overall defensive performance later in the game. The run defense remained solid, keeping Browns' primary RB Jerome Harrison in check, but the bruising FB Peyton Hillis gave them some trouble. But after Hillis' first several carries, the Rams defense seemed to figure him out and keep him under control. And also, it was nice to finely see new DT Fred Robbins play; he had a big night, recording a fumble recovery and a sack. 

QB AJ Feeley had a very good night, before getting pulled due to a thumb injury. He was 5 for 6 with 45 yards and a TD. The offense was really clicking on their first drive of the night. It was also nice to see the offensive line play better this week (though they still have some work to do). 

The Bad: The WR's were not effective. All night they failed to get separation, and there were numerous drops. I don't care if it was raining, a professional WR needs to catch the ball when it hits him in the hands. The WR's were also over powered on a few plays; Donnie Avery lost the ball on two plays due to a lack of physicality, and Laurent Robinson was over powered in the end-zone on a deep pass that hit him in the hands. Bradford didn't do a lot to help them out. He had a ball tipped at the line, and he missed a few throws. But four or five of Bradford's incompletions were due to drops.

The defensive backfield was very poor tonight. They allowed the Browns' QB Jake Delhomme to complete all of his first 9 pass attempts. I also noticed some poor tackling in the secondary. They were not helped out by the pass rush, for the most part. The pass rush showed some flashes, but overall they were not able to get consistent pressure.

Rams RB Chris Ogbannaya was absolutely brutal, again. He averaged less than a yard per carry (6 yards on 7 carries). I know it wasn't all his fault, because he didn't have a lot of room on some plays, but it is clear that he has no speed or power, and he can't find holes. NFL RB's have to be able to do at least one of those three things. And I'm not buying any of the excuses for him, because Jackson, RB Kenneth Darby, and RB Keith Toston were able to move the ball and gain some yards. 

The Ugly: Offensive play calling. Coordinator Pat Shurmur called a run play to Ogbannaya on a 3rd and long, knowing Ogbannaya at the time had only -1 yards on 6 carries. The pass plays were very mild, with multiple one and two yard routes. During the so-called "hurry-up offense" at the end of the 2nd half, the focus was on receivers running routes in the middle of the field, leaving the clock ticking after the tackle. I understand that Shurmur might be limiting deep plays because of a lack of talent. But that doesn't mean you can't take a few chances on deep balls with a new QB, especially since it is only the preseason.   

Overall: The Rams definitely made some improvements over last week. I'm not too worried that they looked bad at times during this game, because a lot of starters were used sparingly, and back-up players were mixed with the starters. But when all the first stringers were on the field, both the offense and defense looked very sharp and confident. This team was frustrating at times tonight, but it is easy to forget that it is only the preseason.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cardinals vs. Giants Post-Game Thoughts

The Good: Albert hit a HR... And there was some good hitting in the 2nd, 8th, and 9th innings. But even in the 2nd they didn't cash in potential runs; and the 8th and 9th were decent efforts, but it was too little, too late. It was also encouraging to see our new third baseman Pedro Feliz go 2 for 4.

The Bad: Base-running was not aggressive, and it resulted in the Cards losing runs. For whatever reason, maybe I missed something, Pedro Feliz (on 2nd base) was not sent home when Yadier Molina got a base hit (2nd inning). And in that same inning, when Molina reached 3rd base (after a base hit by Brendan Ryan), he was not sent home, despite a wild throw to first base. I know Molina is slow, but there is no reason that he shouldn't have scored. That is two runs that the Cards lost to bad calls. Had the Cards got those runs, it could have been a different ballgame in the 9th.   

The Ugly: Everything was ugly about this game. Teams rarely have a lot of positives going for them after losing their fifth game in a row. The Cards' offense remains in a slump. Outside of the 2nd, 8th, and 9th innings, and Jon Jay's double in the 4th, the offense was once again barely existent.

The pitching was also terrible. Westbrook gave up a HR, and 3 runs total (all of them earned). He raised his ERA to 4.48. I may be jumping the gun a bit, but I don't care... Trading Ryan Ludwick for this guy was a complete joke. Hopefully the trade for Westbrook was not suppose to be a "blockbuster" move by GM John Mozeliak to elevate the team to the playoffs; because if it was, I have to question his abilities, as well as his sanity. Alright... that's not really fair, because I liked a lot of his past moves, but I don't know what he was thinking on this one.     

Even commentator Al McLaughlin's substitute was terrible. Nothing is good when a team has an ugly loss like this, especially after losing four in a row... now five.  All I can say is this team better have one hell of a month in September if they want a realistic shot at making a run in the playoffs. But if this team can't click on offense, and has to rely on a Pujols' HR to bail them out every single time, then the playoffs might not even happen.

Jackson might play Saturday, Giants come to town

Brian Stull of ESPN tweeted that Rams' RB Steven Jackson is practicing this week as if he will be playing Saturday against the Cleveland Browns. Jackson's role on Saturday has not been fully determined yet, but he is preparing for the possibility. If Jackson does see the field, his time will likely be limited.

Jackon's presence on Saturday could really take some pressure off rookie QB Sam Bradford. Teams typically focus on stopping Jackson on the ground, which forces them to loosen up on their pass defense. If there are in fact one-on-one match-up's with the WR's because of Jackson, then we can anticipate some big plays through the air.

Jackson could also level the playing field as far as the running game goes. Cleveland was expected to have the better running game coming into Saturday; they have a better offensive line, and they are starting their primary back Jerome Harrison. But Jackson can possibly give the edge on the ground back to the Rams, at least while he is in the game.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals look to break their 4 game losing streak tonight for the series opener against the San Francisco Giants. The series will take place at Busch Stadium in St.Louis. The Cardinals have been a much better team at home, so it's the ideal location for them to snap their losing streak. On the mound tonight: Jake Westbrook (1-0 3.32 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (4-4 3.27 ERA). It looks to be a fairly even match-up on the mound, but the Cards might have an edge because Bumgarner is a rookie.

Check in later for "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly", my Cardinals post-game thoughts. And check back tomorrow for my Rams post-game thoughts, as well as YouTube footage of Bradford's performance and all of the TD plays of the game.

EDIT: I want to give a quick thanks to the generous fans at The Browns Board (http://thebrownsboard.com). They provided some quality information for me on their team, information that is hard to find in most news articles. Thanks a lot.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

PRE-GAME: Rams vs. Browns in Cleveland

The Rams will hit the road to take on the Cleveland Browns this coming Saturday. I will match-up the units of each team to see where we stand. Check back after the game on Saturday for my post game thoughts, as well as YouTube videos of Bradford's performance, and all TD plays.

QB:  Sam Bradford looked very sharp at times in his debut, but was very limited in his last two drives by horrendous O-line play. Bradford will be looking to build on the positives he had last week. So far, when Bradford has been given a chance to throw, he has looked very impressive. I expect Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur to open up the play book a bit, if Bradford can get some protection.

Meanwhile, AJ Feeley looked terrible and almost threw two picks; if the Rams are considering (even the slightest bit) starting Feeley, then he needs to improve this week. Keith Null looked very average, completing 50% of his passes. Rookie Thaddeus Lewis looked decent, completing 83% of his passes, but he is still adjusting to NFL speed and hopefully he can improve this week. Null and Lewis are fighting for the 3rd sting QB spot.

Last week Jake Delhomme went 6 for 7 with 66 yards, those stats were accumulated on his 1st and only drive of the night. Back-up QB Seneca Wallace was impressive, given his 2 TD passes. And rookie QB Colt McCoy was disappointing; McCoy was 5 for 10, for only 25 yards and 2 INT.

Bradford seems to be our best chance when it comes to putting points on the board. But the actual outcome of the game could be determined by the play of Null/Lewis Vs. Wallace/McCoy

RB: Steven Jackson will be held out of the game. The likely starter will once again be Chris Ogbannaya. Ogbannaya was not effective on the ground (5 carries for 8 yards), but he did make some receptions for over 30 yards. Rookie Keith Toston will also get a decent amount of carries in the second half.

The Browns' rookie RB Montario Hardesty will likely be held out of the game, as he did not practice the entire past week. However, the Browns primary RB Jerome Harrison will likely get some carries this Saturday. Harrison rushed for 800+ yards in 2009, and he scored a TD last week agaist Green Bay. Other RB's for Cleveland are: Chris Jennings and James Davis.

With Steven Jackson out of the game, it is likely the Browns will have the superior ground game. The Browns also have a better o-line to block for their runners. If the Rams are going to win, it will likely have to be through the air.

WR: Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola, and Laurent Robinson will be the likely starters. Keenan Burton will also get some time with the first unit. And many Rams fans will be excited to see the debut of Mardy Gilyard, who was held out last week with a wrist injury. All of the WR's I just mentioned have displayed a lot of promise so far this season. It figures to be an intense fight for roster spots; with the names already mentioned, as well as Brandon McRae, Brandon Gibson, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent and Dominique Curry.

Cleveland's primary receiver (at least in 2009) is Mohamed Massaquoi, who had just over 600 yards in 2009. The Browns' 2nd round pick of 2009, Brian Robiski, had a very disappointing 2009 campaign. Robiskie has been showing promise as of late, and looks to be much improved. Also watch Bobby Engram, and Joshua Cribbs. However, Cribbs' primary duty is on Special Teams.

We might not have Cleveland beat as far as overall talent. But I think WR is one of the positions where we definitely have them beat.

Offensive Line: The Rams had a pitiful display by their o-line last week. Jason Smith, our #2 overall pick in 2009, looked like a "walk on" college player.  The Rams also had struggles from both OG positions (although starting LG Jacob Bell was held out of the game). Rookie OT Roger Saffold was probably the most impressive, although he did get beat on one or two plays.

Cleveland has Joe Thomas on the blind side. If Thomas had a better offense around him, he would possibly be considered the best LT in the game. LG Eric Steinbach helps to completely solidify the left side (although playing next to Thomas makes his job easier). Center Alex Mack had a promising rookie campaign a year ago, and it looks like he will improve this year; Mack should be a solid center for Cleveland for years to come. RG Shaun Lauvao is a rookie, so it is difficult to say how good he actually is, but he certainly has potential. And at RT Tony Pashos and John St.Clair will share time.

Cleveland has the better o-line. End of story. At least until we see what Saffold can really do in the regular season, and until Jason Smith decides to start earning his $33mm guaranteed.

Defensive Line: The Rams had very solid play last week from their d-line. Chris Long was a disruptive force, rookie George Selvie played like he wants to be the steal of the draft,  and we got solid penetration from the DT postition.

Cleveland will have starting DT Shaun Rogers on the bench. That is very lucky for the Rams, given our poor o-line play. However, NT Ahtyba Rubin appears to be a somewhat solid replacement. I have not found anyone else from Cleveland's roster really worth mentioning. This appears to be another position where the Rams have Cleveland beat.

LB: James Laurinaitis was a solid force for our LB core last weekend; he appears to be the leader of our defense, and rightfully so. LB Larry Grant was also impressive against the run, and made the tackle of the night last week against the Vikings' KR. Na'il Diggs will be the third starting LB.

Cleveland has a very solid LB in D'Qwell Jackson, but Jackson will not see the field Saturday. LB'ers Matt Roth and Marcus Benard will get significant playing time, and are said by some Cleveland fans to have potential as pass-rushers.

The linebacking cores of the two teams look even. But I think the fact that Jackson will be on the bench, and Laurinaitis will be on the field, will put the Rams ahead as far as linebackers go.

DB: The Rams had solid play by their DB's in the first quarter last week, but their pass coverage seemed to dissolve as the game progressed. However, starting DB's Ron Bartell, O.J. Atogwe, and Bradley Fletcher were held out of the game, and they should all be returning this weekend.

The Browns' had some injury issues of their own in their defensive backfield. Starting CB Eric Wright was held out of last week's game, and it is questionable whether or not he will return. If Wright does not return to the starting line-up, then Cleveland will be forced to start two rookies at CB in Joe Haden and TJ Ward (reports, and fans, indicate that they both look promising). Meanwhile, Safety Abram Elam struggled last week against Green Bay.

The DB position could go to either team, but I'm leaning towards the Rams, only because they are getting 3 starters back, while Cleveland might have to rely on two rookies and a struggling safety.

Special Teams: Both team's special units are looking solid. Cleveland has the elite return-specialist Joshua Cribbs, and St.Louis has the solid return-man Danny Amendola (who took one to the house last week). It will be interesting to see if special teams play has an effect on the outcome of the game.

OVERALL: Look for Cleveland to have the superior ground game. Steven Jackson will be out of the game, so the Browns will have better RB's and a better o-line. But if the Rams can provide any form of protection for Bradford, then I think the Rams will have a superior air game. I believe if we win Saturday, it will be because the o-line steps it up and gives Bradford a chance to make something happen.

Look for the Rams' first team 'D' to swarm around like they did last week. This Rams defense will be fun to watch all season. It is likely that the Rams will have the better defense on Saturday, especially because Cleveland will be holding out some solid starters (Rogers, Jackson, and Wright). But, like all pre-season games, the final score will favor the team with better depth.

Cards acquire 3B Pedro Feliz

Feliz is known more for his defense than his offense. This is somewhat encouraging, given the Cardinals could certainly use some solid play at the hot corner. But unfortunately, the Cards main problem is still offense, and Feliz does not improve the batting line-up. This season Feliz is hitting a pedestrian .221, with 4 HR and 31 RBI.

I am under the impression that help in any way, shape, or form at 3B could be beneficial; even if it is just defensive help. It is also encouraging that Feliz has some playoff experience with Philadelphia; he was the everyday 3B for the Phillies during their world champion 2008 season, as well as their 2009 season.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Will Kroenke be King?

Next week, the NFL owners will vote on whether or not to allow Stan Kroenke to own the Rams. In the past, NFL owners have not been allowed to own an NFL team AND another professional team in a different market (Kroenke also owns the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche). But it is likely that the NFL will make an exception for Kroenke, because Kroenke already owns 40% of the Rams, and he will put his Colorado teams under his wife's name (as a technicality).

Here is how this might effect the Rams...

- Will he want to bring in his own people? Typically, new owners like to bring in their own coach and front office personnel. But since Kroenke was already 40% owner, it is possible that GM Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnualo already have his approval. If not, there could be a lot of pressure on Devaney and Spags as the season progresses.

-Free agent spending. There were not a lot of young quality free agents this past off-season, because 2010 (being an uncapped year) turned a lot of 'would be free agents' into restriceted free agents (meaning the team that signs them has to give up a pre-determined draft pick). But regardless of the lack of free agents, there should be no excuse for Fred Robbins being the best free agent signing for a team that went 1-15. The Rams' lack of free agent spending was possibly caused by the void in ownership. If Kroenke gets approved, the Rams will be very active in the free agent market in 2011 (the Rams are in great shape salary-cap wise).

-New stadium? The lease on the Edward Jones Dome requires the stadium to be a top 8 stadium in the NFL by 2015 (impossible) or else the team is free to move. It is possible a new lease can be worked out, and it is highly unlikely Kroenke has any interest in moving the team. But there will come a day where a new stadium will become a pressing issue, and Kroenke will be one of the richest owners in the NFL. Kroenke has purchased land where the old Chrysler plant use to be, this could be a possible location for a new stadium. With Kroenke's deep pockets (and possibly some tax payer dollars) a new stadium is certainly a possibility at some point in the future.       

Why are the Cards/Rams afraid of depth?

The Cards lost again today... they have now lost 2 series' in a row, to two very mediocre teams (Cubs, Brewers). The achilles' heel for the Cards (once again) is a pathetic effort by the offense. Which begs fans to revisit the question: 'why did we trade Ryan Ludwick?'.

I realize that the back-end of the rotation was/is a big question mark. Lohse has been pathetic this year, just like he was in '09; and it is unknown whether or not Penny will be pitching like himself when he returns. But even with the questions surrounding the #4 and #5 spots in the rotation, the rotation still has not lost as many games for the Cards as their offense.

Ludwick was our 3rd best player, behind only Pujols and Holliday. And he was our best hitter with runners in scoring position. So the Cards decided to trade him, despite the offensive struggles. And despite Ludwick being our 3rd best player, we still did not get Roy Oswalt, and we did not get Dan Haren; both pitchers were available for trade. Instead, we traded Ludwick for a very average Jake Westbrook. 

One reason for this trade was that our outfield was supposedly crowded with Ludwick, Colby Rasmus, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, and Allen Craig. So the Front Office was willing to part with Ludwick because of that depth. But unfortunately, Ludwick was the reason for that depth. Today we saw what little depth we actually have. Rasmus was out with an injury, so we had: Holliday, Jay, and Craig in the outfield. So now our depth relies on Allen Craig, who is hitting .161. I would say that we should end the Allen Craig experiment; because the guy is only known for one good series against the Dodgers, and has literally done nothing else. But we can't end the Craig experiment now, because he is all that we have for depth (unless you want to get excited about Stavinoha or Winn).  So we basically lost our depth in the outfield, in exchange for a mediocre pitcher that might lead us to one or two wins total on his own.

Unfortunately, the Cards are not the only team in St.Louis that does not value depth. The Ludwick situation is somewhat similar to the Alex Barron situation with the Rams. I know Barron was frustrating to watch, and that he is as dumb as a rock. But the truth is, he has been the only offensive lineman capable of staying healthy for 16 games. I'm not saying Barron should have been a starter for us this year, but I do think that having a durable back-up OT with NFL starting experience (just incase Jason Smith or Roger Saffold get injured) is more valuable than OLB Bobby Carpenter (the player we traded Barron for). Carpenter might not even make the team, so we basically traded our emergency OT for possibly nothing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cards vs. Brewers 8/17 Post-Game

The Cardinals lost tonight to the Brewers, with the final score of 3-2. It appears that the Brandon Phillips incident did not boost the team's fire as much as most thought (including myself). After losing their last series to a very sub-par Cubs team, the Cards continued their losing streak tonight. They seem to be back to their classic, under-performing, 2010 form.

THE GOOD: Albert Pujols and his 31st HR, Pujols remains a threat for the triple-crown. Also, the wild pitch by the Brewer's John Axford got Brendan Ryan home for the Card's 2nd run of the night. And because there was not much else on the "good" side tonight, I will give some recognition to Jaime Garcia. He was able to get himself out of some jams tonight. Garcia, in 6 IP, gave up 5 H and 0 ER. Garcia was hurt by errors, but was not perfect as he gave up a HR to Casey McGehee.

THE BAD: The Cardinals' bats. Brendan Ryan was the only player to get two hits tonight. The team was 0-4 with runners in scoring position, and there were 5 LOB. Once again, the Cards can't cash in with runners on base; this has been a reoccuring story all season.

THE UGLY: Felipe Lopez. It is clear that Lopez has been in over his head at 3rd base lately. His 2 errors tonight resulted in runs scored. Brandon Inge is looking like a better option everyday. Inge is injury prone, but does anyone really care at this point? Take a chance, it can't be worse than what we have at 3rd base now; and if he gets hurt, then at least we tried. In a division race that is this close, every game counts in September; and Lopez is a liability that we can not afford in September. I'm sure that batting slumps, injures, and a strggling back-end of the rotation will contribute to some losses in September; there is no room for more losses as a result of bone-headed errors on defense.

Rams go at it during practice, Lopez hurts the Cards early on...

Two skirmishes broke out during the Rams' training camp today. The brawls happened during the full-contact portion of practice. The first skirmish involve interior o-lineman Hank Fraley vs. DT Gary Gibson. The second was between Chris Long and Jason Smith. I don't know about you, but it is nice to hear about Jason Smith having some intensity after his pitiful performance Saturday. But that's the last thing I'll say about Smith for now, at least until the 2nd preseason game vs. Cleveland.

Cardinals 3rd baseman Felipe Lopez has been caught in the middle of a slump, both at the plate and in the field. Tonight vs. the Brewers, he already has two errors (by the 3rd inning). His errors resulted in runs, the Brewers are currently up 3-0 in the bottom of the 3rd. I'll update later with my post-game thoughts, covering the entire game.

UPDATE: Saffold Returns to Practice

Rams nation skipped a beat when hearing about rookie OT Roger Saffold's possible back injury. Obviously back injuries are usually serious and require missing significant time. The X-rays on his back were negative, and Saffold returned to practice today.

Some more Rams news: Safety David Roach was cut by the Rams today. He will be replaced by rookie Safety Brett Johnson. Johnson was an undrafted free agent this past spring, he signed with Buffalo but was let go by them. Johnson played college ball at Cal (California).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Saffold to Undergo X-Rays, Westbrook Signs with the 49ers

Rookie Offensive Tackle Roger Saffold (33rd overall pick 2010, Indiana) will undergo x-rays on his back; according to head coach Steve Spagnuolo. The team will wait for the results before determining his status. This could potentially be a disaster for the Rams, as Saffold has been one of the few bright spots on an already damaged o-line.

Meanwhile, veteran RB Brian Westbrook has signed with the San Francisco 49ers. This seams like a good fit for Westbrook, given the 49ers back-up RB Glen Coffee retired this past week after just one full season in the NFL. Westbrook seems to be an ideal replacement.

The Rams have been interested in Westbrook for a while, but it seems as though Westbrook was avoiding the Rams at all costs. It is very possible that the Rams' poor o-line performance on Saturday had an impact on his decision. Either way, he was clearly waiting until a better team opened a spot at RB. This leaves the Rams' options for a #2 RB very limited. They will likely have to wait until teams are required to cut their rosters down to 53 players in late August; there probably won't be a decent option until then.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Will Brian Westbrook Sign with the Rams Tomorrow?

We all heard the reports on Saturday by ESPN's John Clayton, claiming that Westbrook would sign with the Rams on Monday. But those reports were shot down by the Rams Front Office. It doesn't mean that it won't happen, it just means that it is not confirmed by either side. But let's take a look at how Westbrook fits in St.Louis...

First, let's talk about why he might choose the Rams over the other teams with interest. The two other front runners are the Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins. Denver is probably out of the running. There has been no news in the past two weeks indicating Denver still has interest. So it will be a shocker, in my opinion, if Denver is Westbrook's destination.

Washington is still very much in the race. Westbrook said he wants to go to a winner, and although the Redskins have a better team than the Rams, it is hard for me to believe that they are suddenly a contender (coming off a 4-12 season) just because they added a veteran QB and a new coach. Westbrook isn't winning a Super Bowl with either team, that's a given, but the difference is that he will get playing time in St.Louis. In Washington, Westbrook will have to compete with Larry Johnson, Willie Parker, and Clinton Portis for playing time (along with 3 other young RB's). It is hard to believe that Westbrook brings anything to the table that those other veteran back's do not. Meanwhile, with the Rams, Westbrook will be all but guaranteed the #2 RB job behind Steven Jackson.

But why should we want Westbrook? Here is why: As recently as 2008 he had 1300+ all-purpose yards and 14 TDs; his injuries have not slowed him down, but the concussions make it hard for him to be a full time starter; last year he had a 4.5yd/carry avg. before going on the IR with a concussion; we need a 3rd down receiving threat from the back-field, I believe Jackson's receiving abilities are underrated, but he needs to rest at some point; and finally, if Jackson goes down, the season might not be a total loss if Westbrook can take over and avoid injury (it is unlikely he can carry the whole load again, but it will be at least some form of hope).

Based on the RB's we currently have behind #39 on the depth charts, I'd say it is logical to take a chance on Westbrook. The potential benefits could really put a pop into our offense; and if he gets hurt, then there is no loss, we are back to where we are now.

Why the Cards will Excel in the Post-Season...

Surely we all remember the disappointment throughout the 2006 regular season. As fans, we dealt with a very streaky team that could not ride hot streaks for very long. Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen were clearly on the decline as far as offensive performance. Co-ace Mark Mulder was plagued with injury, and had a 7.14 ERA when he did get a chance to pitch. Starting pitcher Jason Marquis also had a disappointing ERA of 6.02. The bullpen and our bats experienced cold streaks as well. Despite all of that... well the rest is history. We all know how that ended.

I am not saying that our team should plan on slumping during the season, and then save the good stuff for the playoffs.  But the point is- if a team gets hot at the right time, anything can happen. You may wonder what we have seen out of this 2010 team that gives us any reason to believe that they will suddenly get hot in the post-season (if we get that far). The answer is Brandon Phillips, and the way the team played against the Reds.

Sure, losing two out of three to the Cubbies is a let down. But given the way the Cubs have played lately,  it may be logical to believe that the Cards did not bring their 'A' game (Lohse making his first start since the injury didn't help either). As fans we expect to see their 'A' game every day, so losing a series like this is particularly upsetting. But this team showed us in Cincinnati that they can do some damage when they are fired up.

Unfortunately, that mentality (playing well only when 'fired up') will not win 100 games in the regular season. But, it very well could lead to a hot run in the playoffs. Especially considering that the Reds could likely be a playoff opponent. It is all about getting hot at the right time, that is how they won it all in 2006. It might not be the prettiest strategy, but the regular season means nothing once that first playoff game starts.

Last season, we saw what happens when a team gets too far ahead in their division. The competition becomes less intense, and it is hard to regain that intensity when the playoffs arrive. Do you remember the end of last season? They clinched the division against Colorado (Sept.26th), and then had a 1-9 record for the remainder of the season. They were unable to re-ignite that fire once the playoffs started. So what I am trying to say is: it might be beneficial (as far as playoff performance goes) to be under pressure the entire season, so that they can be "in the zone" already, come playoff time.

Rams Have Up's and Down's VS. Vikings in Opener

Bradford and the Rams completed their opener against the Vikings, resulting in a 28-7 loss. The preseason is sometimes a blurry glance at what the actual season has in-store for teams, but they are at least a partial indicator of what to expect in the regular season, at least a better indicator than training camp.

Keep in mind (when reading the following) that I am referring to the 1st string players (some 2nd string) that played in the first half of the game, I just don't have the energy to evaluate all of the no-names that won't make the cut...

THE GOOD: In a word? Defense. Linebackers James Laurinaitis and Larry Grant were rock solid in stopping the run. Actually, the defense as a whole completely stuffed the run. Pass coverage in the first quarter was solid, but it slipped the rest of the game; probably due to the fact that starting CB's Ron Bartell, and Bradley Fletcher were held out of the game, as well as starting FS O.J. Atogwe.

For the first time in a long time, the Rams defensive-line was able to get a solid push, and penetrate for decent run stopping and pass pressure. Chris Long was particularly impressive, he seemed to be a team leader on defense, along with Laurinaitis. Long was able to get a QB sack, but it was not recorded to his stats because there was a holding penalty on that play (against the Vikings) that the Rams accepted. Also coming up with QB sacks: undrafted rookie Jermelle Cudjo, and the impressive rookie DE George Selvie. Also contributing from the DT position were Clifton Ryan and Darrel Scott. Overall the d-line played well, despite starting DT Fred Robbins being held out of the game.

On a lesser note, Rookie Sam Bradford looked sharp at times in his debut, but was also very limited in his last two drives because of very poor offensive line play. The highlight of Bradford's night was a 19 yard completion that was beautifully timed and thrown to WR Laurent Robinson. Bradford also made several other completions to WR Danny Amendola, RB Chris Ogbannaya, and WR Keenan Burton. Bradford looked very promising, however it became nerve racking watching him take multiple sacks, given his shoulder injury in 2009.

The Special teams were also fun to watch. Larry Grant made the tackle of the night when he laid out a Kick-Returner for the vikings. And the return team was the only unit to score, after Amendola returned a punt 96 yards for the Ram's only touchdown.

THE BAD:   Although the defense looked good overall, the pass defense became very weak as the game progressed. This is not particularly alarming though, given the Defensive-Backs who sat out of the game (mentioned earlier).

The unit that was alarming was the Ram's Offensive-Line. Bradford's last two offensive drives were uneventful; the Viking's pass rush was (several times) all over him within one second after receiving the snap (although he was not perfect, he had two passes tipped at the line). Very frustrating, given all that has been invested into the o-line (two big free agent contracts, a #2 overall draft pick, and a 2nd round draft pick). But in their defense, starting LG Jacob Bell was held out of the game due to minor injury. However, the passing game is not all that suffered from the poor o-line play; starting RB (Steven Jackson was held out of the game completely) Chris Ogbannaya was held to 8 yards on 5 carries; including an embarrassing 4th and 1 attempt blown by Ogbannaya when he failed to run and dive forward, he instead chose to "dance" for a moment in the backfield, resulting in a turnover on downs.

THE UGLY:  Jason Smith. Ouch! Smith was the #2 overall pick of the 2009 draft. He has acquired 3 injuries in a one year period, and most recently he has lost the starting LT spot to 2nd round pick Roger Saffold. Meanwhile, Smith was completely irrelevant in the game. Well, he was relevant, but in a bad way. The #2 overall draft pick was barely able to lay a finger on his guy. His guy was in Bradford's face before he could even look up. Jason Smith has a long way to go (before he lives up to his #2 overall status). The next time Smith feels the need to miss practice due to a "boo-boo" on his toe, he might want to think twice, and realize that in the eye's of many fans, he is the most expected player to become a bust. Fans are more excited about 6th round draft pick Fendi Onobun's potential than they are about Smith's. So Smith, if you read this, just know that you aren't being paid $33million guaranteed to nurse your candy-ass toe injury; you are being paid that money to be an NFL lineman. Note to self: Do research to see if Dick Butkus or Jackie Slater ever missed significant time due to a toe injury.

OVERALL: Yes, I was harsh on Jason Smith and the o-line. But I suppose I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, until about the 3rd or 4th preseason game. I just hope fans realize that if the o-line plays like they did tonight for the rest of the preseason, then there is virtually no chance we will see Bradford come Week 1 against Arizona.

The defense is going to be a fun unit to watch. Based on what we have seen at training camp and this game, they are an improved unit overall. Lauinaitis and Long have potential to be solid stars and leaders for this defense, for years to come.

The offense will be different come week 1. If Bradford starts, then he will get much better match-ups with his receivers than he what he had tonight, because opposing teams will be stacking 8 men in the box to defend Steven Jackson, leaving one-on-one coverages for Bradford to pick apart. But this will not happen if our O-line can not gel together. That is the key for our offense. Mardy Gilyard, Amendola, Avery, and Robinson.... none of them are elite WR's, but they can all add some pop to the offense, and we know what Jackson can do; but we won't see the full potential of these players if the o-line can't give Bradford a chance to throw, or give Jackson bigger holes. If the line comes together, then this is a whole different team than what we saw in 2009, different in a very good way.