Friday, February 18, 2011

Rams Cut Safety Atogwe

The St. Louis Rams made a move today that was somewhat of a head-scratcher when they released free-safety O.J. Atogwe. Atogwe was the defensive captain for the Rams in 2010, and was considered possibly the best veteran player on the defense.
The motivation seems obvious enough, as Atogwe was due an $8 million roster bonus if the team wanted to keep him for 2011, and it would not be outrageous to say that Atogwe is not worth that much money. This could all just be a risky attempt by the Rams to bring back Atogwe for a more reasonable amount of money. 
Even so, the Rams are not really in a position to be creating more needs this off-season. Last year the team made a great improvement (7-9) over their 2009 campaign (1-15), but even so, there are still a lot of holes on the roster (Wide-receiver, offensive-guard, outside-linebacker, strong-safety, and back-up running-back).
So therefore, despite the fact that Atogwe was due a hefty amount of cash, it may prove unwise to add free-safety to the wish list, especially considering that the Rams pass defense was considered the weak point of the overall defense. The St. Louis pass defense ranked 26th in completion percentage, and 19th in average yards per game.
However, it would not be smart to consider Atogwe as 'out of the picture' for the Rams in 2011. General Manager Billy Devaney, and the rest of the front office, proved that they knew what they were doing when they let Atogwe hit free-agency a year ago, only to bring him back for a lot cheaper than what seemed possible at the time.   

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gilyards future?

Many fans were thrilled with the selection of Mardy Gilyard. The electric receiver out of Cincinnati was one of the most impressive receivers in the NCAA in 2009; and on top of that, his intriguing rags-to-riches life story was certainly a testament to his overall character and work-ethic.

However, even though fans love the Cinderella stories in the NFL, professional football is not a fairytale world. Teams in the NFL strive to put together the best 53 players possible, and although high-character players certainly have an advantage over the thugs, it is still a business in the end. A business that requires production.

Mardy Gilyard greatly struggled in 2010, and his future is likely in jeopardy. 
Unfortunately for Mardy Gilyard, production was not something the contributed in his rookie season. In 11 games played, Gilyard only had six catches for 63 yards. He had 356 kick return yards, with a 22.3 yards per return average, but it was not enough to beat out Danny Amendola as the primary return man.

It's not like he didn't have any opportunities. With the injuries to Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton, Danario Alexander, and Laurent Robinson, Gilyard was put in an ideal position to get some playing time, but he did not find himself on the field. He struggled to learn the play book, and he actually took a step backwards towards the end of the season, as he did not even dress for the last few games.

So this off-season, I have heard (on several occasions) some fans discussing the possibility of Gilyard having a breakout year with McDaniels. No one can deny that McDaniels loves slot receivers, and that is one thing the Rams have an abundance of (Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola, Mark Clayton, Mardy Gilyard). But despite the fact that McDaniels uses slot receivers frequently, does anyone honestly believe that Gilyard will beat out Avery, Amendola, and Clayton, and at the same time learn a new play book, even though he greatly struggled to learn the plays last season?

Gilyard is a high character guy. He showed a lot of ability in college, and he may develop into a solid player in time. But he is not eligible for the practice squad next season, and the Rams would be crazy to cut one of their more productive slot receivers to keep Gilyard. In the end, it is a game of numbers, and Gilyard will likely be the odd man out.