Friday, May 27, 2011

WR Mardy Gilyard Is Possibly Asking For A Trade

Rick Venturi of St. Louis' ESPN 101 reported that the Rams' wide receiver Mardy Gilyard may have requested a trade from the team's front office.

"It's rumored that he's asked for a trade", the show stated. "What would you give up for him? An old used kicking ball and a ticket to a fourth quarter preseason game in the NFL?"

Although the allegations have not been acknowledged by either Gilyard, or team officials (obviously, given the work stoppage), there are certainly factors that make the scenario believable.

The Rams used their 3rd and 4th round draft picks last April to draft wide receivers Austin Pettis (Boise St.) and Greg Salas (Hawaii). Those two picks were not exactly ringing endorsements for team's faith in Gilyard.

Also, the team held a player-organized mini camp this past week.

Attendance for the camp was not mandatory, as it was not a team-sponsored activity due to the lockout. However, attendance was certainly encouraged, and Gilyard was one of the players that failed to attend- possibly a result of disinterest.

The only problem with the whole trade scenario, however, is that Gilyard has almost zero trade value.

Gilyard was drafted by the Rams in the 4th round in 2010 with the No.99 overall pick. He was part of an electric offense during his college career at Cincinnati, and fans hoped his abilities would translate into NFL production.

St. Louis fans were nothing short of disappointed with Gilyard's rookie campaign, as he finished the season with only six catches for 63 yards. It was also reported that he greatly struggled to mentally grasp the playbook.

Author's Verdict:
If Gilyard thinks he's trade bait, then he does not only struggle learning playbooks, but he also struggles with grasping reality.

However, whether or not the rumors are true, it was a long shot for Gilyard to be part of the 2011 roster either way. And if he quits at the thought of a tough training camp battle, then can anyone expect him not to quit during a tough game?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

NFL Shenanigans' Top 9 Moments

9) Bud Adams Flips Buffalo The Bird
We can rest assured that the 88 year old Tennessee Titans' owner Bud Adams is not yet suffering from severe arthritis.

Just two years earlier, during the 2009 season, he was able to youthfully raise both middle fingers towards the Buffalo Bills' sideline as a result of his team defeating the Bills 41-17, and he was caught doing it on camera.

Yes, he was overreacting, since it's not really a great accomplishment to defeat the Buffalo Bills.

But you have to hand it to Adams- he knows his business. Surely we'll be seeing Celebrex advertisements featuring Bud's middle fingers, and the ad will boast about how he was able to flip off the Bills pain free.

8) Tim Tebow's Fashion Statement
Hazing of the new comers is a practice that is repeated all across the country, in all walks of life.

The NFL is no different, as the veterans of the 2010 Denver Broncos decided that proper haircuts would be required for the rookies.

It was a simple, yet fitting route of initiation that led to a truly golden moment in NFL shenanigans.

The veterans likely debated amongst one another... The more cruel hearted ones probably suggested a mohawk for the rookie quarterback Tim Tebow, while the merciful ones argued for simply shaving his head.

But in accordance to the beliefs of the great Aristotle, the truth is found in the middle.

So the veterans found their compromise, and the result was the atrocity known as Tebow's Friar Tuck haircut.

7) Mark Sanchez Eats A Hot Dog
During his rookie season in 2009 against the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ate a hot dog on the sidelines and was caught on camera doing it.

It sparked an avalanche of the same stupid headline on news papers all across the country: "Mark Sanchez Hot Dogs It". While "hot dog" is of course slang for being boastful.

Do we truly not have anything better to do than to make news out of an athlete eating food on the sidelines?

Whether it's a Twinkie, Ho-Ho, hamburger or hot dog, you can bet on one thing... If someone famous is eating it on camera, then it's news.

6) Chad's Desperate Plea
In 2003 against the San Francisco 49er's, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco (known as Chad Johnson at the time) made a desperate plea, which politely asked the NFL fat cats to refrain from fining him once again.  

He did so by holding a poster up to one of the broadcast cameras that stated:

"Dear NFL, 
PLEASE don't fine me AGAIN!!!!!"

Surprisingly the NFL refused his request, and they slapped him with a $10,000 fine. 

The fines collected by the NFL from misbehaving players goes towards helping retired players, as well as other charitable organizations. 

Chad's career is on its last legs, so soon enough he'll join the retired players and perhaps he'll start collecting some of the money he lost in fines. 

It's like a social security system for showboat receivers. 

5) Joe Horn Makes A Call To The History Books

In 1941, New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio completed a 56 game hitting streak, which is arguably the most untouchable record in all of sports.

That same year, Boston Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams completed the season with a .406 batting average, which was a truly remarkable accomplishment that would be difficult for any other player to match outside of the dead-ball era.

In 2007, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw an NFL record 50 touchdown passes and led a team that went 16-0 during the regular season.

But of course, one accomplishment that Americans can truly hang their hats on was that of Joe Horn, a former wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints.

Horn joined the ranks of the previously mentioned athletes during the 2003 season against the New York Giants, when he became the first athlete to make a fake phone call with a cell phone on the playing field.

After scoring a touchdown he reached into the padding surrounding the goalpost and pulled out the cell phone that he had previously planted there, and then pretended to make a phone call. 

The phone call was fake, but little did he know he was calling up the authors of history, as his epic accomplishment will always be viewed as an athletic milestone.

4) Albert Haynesworth Fails His Conditioning Test
At the start of the 2010 training camp, the Washington Redskins' newly hired head coach Mike Shanahan required that his athletes pass a physical conditioning test.

Defensive tackle Albert Hanyesworth's test consisted of running a 300 yard shuttle, in 25 yard increments, in 70 seconds or less.

Haynesworth, who recently signed a $100 million contract before the 2009 season, failed the test on multiple occasions.

To make matters even more hilarious, retired 48 year old NFL defensive tackle Mike Golic, who is now a correspondent with ESPN, was able to pass the conditioning test with flying colors on his first attempt.

Whether Haynesworth has invested some his millions of dollars towards treadmills and workout equipment is unknown, but what we do know is that even if he did he wouldn't use those things.

Another thing we can be sure of is that after he retires Americans will have another overweight citizen on their hands. We can all agree that's something we desperately need.

3) Terrell Owens Mocks The Dallas Star
On September 24th, 2000, San Francisco 49er's wide receiver Terrell Owens reminded us all of a valuable virtue that we so often forget- Sports is not just about winning. 

It's about making the opponents feel really really bad about themselves, as well as pissing off their entire fan base.

Owens celebrated a touchdown by running to the Dallas Cowboy's star logo at the 50 yard line and spreading his arms in a disrespectful fashion.

Then, after a second touchdown, he ran to the Dallas logo once again and spiked the ball. But luckily, Dallas defensive back George Teague chased him down and laid him out in return.

Terrell Owens is truly an example for the youth of America.

When will we finally admit to ourselves that unsportsmanlike conduct is just flat out more entertaining? Seriously.

2) The Labor Dispute
God forbid that an NFL owner be forced to wait a month before buying a multi-million dollar yacht.

And the NFL should be ashamed for making running back Adrian Peterson live the luxurious life of a modern day slave.

But while the two sides attempt to work out the most crucial dispute of the century, fans can rest assured that we are simply pawns to them.

While teams constantly betray us by moving away to greener pastures, and repeatedly raise the prices of everything, we can certainly look the other way and ignore it as fans. We can sacrifice what we make in order to support the excessive life styles of the owners and players.

Nothing feels better than being an ant. We are all totally expendable assets in their quest for riches, and we should all be thankful for the opportunity.

I just wouldn't be able to live with myself if an NFL superstar had to settle for a $50,000 Cadillac Escalade instead of a $200,000 Ferrari.

1) Jamarcus Russell

Sir JaMarcus Russell pursued a degree at the institute of higher learning known as Louisiana State University.

While perusing a degree, he also committed to becoming accomplished within the school's athletic programs, particularly American football.

He won a National Championship, and the Oakland Raiders made him the first overall pick of the 2007 NFL draft.

A truly accomplished young man.

Early in his career, however, he decided to hang up his cleats and pursue the purple drink, naturally.

Although Sir JaMarcus has temporarily set aside his athletic career, he will still continue to impress.

Sweden's Nobel committee is keeping a sharp eye on JaMarcus, as he attempts to find the perfect combination of codeine and cough syrup, which will result in the most flawless brand of purple drink the world has ever known.

God's speed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Feature Article- James Laurinaitis: A Pick For the Ages

The Rams Made A Black Hole On Defense

Coming off their 2001 Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, the St. Louis Rams had a difficult roster decision to make.

Middle linebacker London Fletcher was a special player for the Rams. As an undrafted player, Fletcher was able to help solidify the defense and protect them from runs up the middle.
Letting linebacker London Fletcher leave haunted the Rams for years.

He also put up admirable stats during his four year tenure in St. Louis (13 sacks, six interceptions, four forced fumbles).

Despite the undeniable success of the young athlete, the Rams mistakingly thought he was a replaceable asset, and they allowed him to leave the team to sign with the Buffalo Bills.

They likely assumed that they could stick any semi-talented linebacker in Fletcher's place and receive similar results given the surrounding talent on defense, and it would save the team the cost of offering Fletcher a long term contract in the process.

It was an error in judgement that resulted in a long term void, and it left a gapping hole up the middle for years to come.

But they certainly made attempts to correct the mistake in the meantime.

In 2002 they invested a first-round pick in Robert Thomas, but he was undersized and ineffective. They also signed Chris Claiborne away from the Minnesota Vikings in 2005 as a free-agent, but he lacked the work ethic required to succeed in the NFL.

Their efforts to replace Fletcher were futile.

The one decent attempt to fill Fletcher's shoes came when the Rams signed Will Witherspoon prior to the 2006 season.

Witherspoon was a capable linebacker for the Carolina Panthers prior to coming to St. Louis.

He was viewed as a young player with his best years still ahead of him. He was 24 years old when the Rams signed him, and he was thought to have possible pro-bowl potential in his future.

Despite the hype surrounding Witherspoon, he was nothing more than an adequate player for the Rams.

It was not entirely his fault, as he's physically built as an outside linebacker, but was forced to play in the middle as part of an attempt to finally solidify the position for the team.

But the Rams had to do a better job at replacing Fletcher.

A Pick of Shock and Awe

During the 2008 season, Rams' head coach Scott Linehan was fired and replaced with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

The Rams chose not to retain Haslett as their head coach for 2009, and instead hired Steve Spagnuolo of the New York Giants.
The hiring of Steve Spagnuolo brought a defensive
mindset that the St. Louis Rams required. 

The defensive guru, Spagnuolo, was known for masterminding a Giants defense that was able to defeat the vigorous New England Patriots offense led by Tom Brady during Super Bowl 42.

It was an offense that had a perfect 16-0 season, but they could not handle the pass rush created by Spagnuolo's defense, as they were able to sack Brady five times during the game.

He was precisely the defensive mind that the Rams required if they wanted to revamp their team.

With a defensive minded coach, every Rams fan was wondering what kind of defensive weapons he would add to the roster, and they assumed that he would eventually address the hole at middle linebacker.

The end of the linebacker drought seemed near during the 2009 draft.

As the first round of the draft began to wind down, fans could feel the solution to the problem creep up almost within reaching distance, as the Rams owned the third pick of the second round.

But the solution might not have been who the fans were expecting.

James Laurinaitis was a hard working lunch pale type of player for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

His stats in college- 376 tackles, 13 sacks and nine interceptions in three years as a starter- made him a popular guy around Columbus, Ohio, but he already had some name recognition due to being the son of the famous wrestler- Road Warrior Animal, also known as Joe Laurinaitis.

But James Laurinaitis didn't need a famous wrestler father to become a hit amongst NFL scouts and draft analysts, as they were frequently comparing him to All-Pro linebackers Brian Urlacher and Keith Brooking.

However, some felt that he was slightly lacking in strength, and they also felt that he didn't possess any game changing playmaking ability.

And besides, there was another middle linebacker from that draft class stealing the attention away.

Rey Maualuga was the centerpiece for a group of juggernaut USC Trojan linebackers- a group that also featured Clay Matthews (Super Bowl winner) and Brian Cushing (2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year).

Maualuga was known as a defender capable of delivering devastating blows to the ball carrier, and analysts had him rated as a lock for the top 20 picks of the draft.

So when the 2009 draft was inching towards the Ram's second round pick and Maualuga was still on the board , he became the primary focus for Rams fans watching the process from coast-to-coast.
USC linebacker Rey Maualuga was a tempting alternative.

When the pick was announced from the podium, and fans heard a name that was not "Rey Maualuga", there was an initial shock. But the shock rapidly submerged after the brain was given time to process that the name that was actually announced was "James Laurinaitis".

It was like burning a finger on the stove, and then feeling an instant relief after sticking it under ice cold water.

Apparently Rams' General Manager Bill Devaney, and Spagnuolo, felt that Maualuga was too slow, which made him a guy that could only play on first and second down in order to avoid pass coverage situations.

Laurinaitis, however, had all of the tools to be an every down defender.

And not to mention- Maualuga had some red flags relating to his personality, such as issues with alcohol that surfaced after he was arrested during a Halloween party in 2005, and he also had questions surrounding his overall attitude.

It's often very difficult for Devaney to overlook character issues, especially with high draft picks. It's a philosophy also shared by Spagnuolo, so the disinterest the Rams showed really came at no surprise.

Time To Walk The Walk  

It's one thing for St. Louis fans to discuss with each other why Laurinaitis might have have a better pick than Maualuga, but it's another thing for him to actually show it on the field.

The signs became increasingly evident during OTA's (Organized Team Activities) and training camp prior to the 2009 season.

It was being reported that Laurinaitis was steadily climbing the depth chart.

He was getting reps with second-string players, while the other highly touted rookie Jason Smith, who the Rams spent a No.2 overall pick on during the draft, was still with the third-string players; and Laurinaitis was practicing with the starters while Smith was with the second-stringers.

That's not a knock on Smith necessarily- it just shows that Laurinaitis was progressing at a very high level that would've been hard for any player to match.

Fans really got excited after Witherspoon was moved to outside linebacker in order to make room for Laurinaitis in the middle.

Witherspoon was always viewed as a talented player that was clearly out of place in the middle, so with a natural middle linebacker like Laurinaitis, and with Witherspoon going to his natural position, fan were hoping for a rejuvenated linebacker unit.

Thing didn't exactly play out in that fashion for the 2009 campaign.

Witherspoon was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles mid-season for wide receiver Brandon Gibson and a fifth round pick, and the defense hardly resembled a unit with a promising group of linebackers, as they ranked 27th in the NFL against the run, and 29th in overall defense.

But the overall futility of the defense didn't stop Laurinaitis from throwing together a promising rookie campaign.

He had 120 tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble, which bought him a slight amount of consideration for the Rookie of the Year award, and he was able to start all 16 games for the Rams.

The fantastic rookie season was more than enough to excite fans for Laurinaitis' future, but the team's horrid 1-15 performance in 2009 was bound to create a few skeptics- especially people outside of St. Louis.

Those who were skeptical questioned whether or not Laurinaitis had a very high ceiling, meaning that his rookie season was possibly the best anyone could hope for, and perhaps he would struggle to develop into a top NFL linebacker.

They also thought that maybe he accumulated the stats he did simply because someone on the team had to make the tackles on that awful defense.

That's not to say there was a great amount of people who held that view, but a select few certainly did.

A Repeat Performance and A Pick For the Ages

Laurinaitis wasted no time progressing even further during the 2010 season.

Clearly there were not a lot of fans that had faith in the Rams after the 2009 debacle that resulted in a 1-15 record.

They didn't expect the team to compete, and the talk of the town was the newly drafted quarterback Sam Bradford.

So even though Laurinaitis was still on the fan's radar, he was not the center of their focus, since it's not everyday that your favorite team uses a No.1 overall pick on a quarterback who's meant to save the franchise.

Every day during the team's training camp, people wanted to know only one thing- How is Bradford progressing?

The answer to that question was more and more evident after Bradford began to put on a show during the preseason, which led to him winning the starting quarterback gig over veteran A.J. Feeley.

Bradford's preseason led to a lot of hype surrounding him personally, but fans were not prepared for what they'd witness during the regular season.

Everyone had expectations for Bradford, but no one knew how vital the play of Laurinaitis would be towards their season's outcome.

The Rams bounced back from the gutters of the NFL and put together a 7-9 record, and they missed the playoffs by one game.

Bradford was a big (maybe the biggest) factor in that turnaround, but that shift of momentum was also due to a surprisingly rejuvenated defense, which won the Rams a lot of their games.

His contributions took a back seat to Bradford's success, but Laurinaitis evolved from being a rookie with solid stats to the keystone piece of a shockingly solid Rams' defense.

He had a second year of solid stats (114 tackles, three sacks and on interception), and suddenly opposing running backs were no longer able to explode up the middle for 30 yard gains.

And it was cemented into the Rams' minds that they now have a leader that will be the face of their defense for years to come.

So while Maualuga might turn it around someday and become a solid contributor for some team, he is lacking the ability to do something that Laurinaitis has already started doing for the Rams, something that can't be measured at the NFL Combine.

He has become a player that can not only produce, but he is someone that the team can depend on and build around.

He is a franchise player that is a representative for the team, on and off the field.

Those are the type of players you'll find on Super Bowl winning teams, and those are the type of guys that help the franchise even after they're gone.

So given what current years have done to the Rams, James Laurinaitis is a pick for the ages.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rams: Where Do They Go From Here With Mark Clayton?

There is no denying that wide receiver Mark Clayton enhanced the play of quarterback Sam Bradford, and vice versa. But was their connection authentic, or merely a mirage?

The Rams traded a sixth round pick for Clayton following Donnie Avery's season ending knee injury at New England during the the 2010 preseason. So Clayton was basically forced into the mix despite not practicing with the team during training camp.

Regardless, he answered to the pressure.

In only four complete games, Clayton was able to accumulate 23 receptions for 306 yards, including two touchdowns. He also had at least one reception of 30 or more yards in three of those four games, and served as a reliable "bail out" option for Bradford.

So is it safe for fans to invest some faith into those four games? Wide receiver Laurent Robinson says 'no'.

In 2009, Robinson played in only three games before going down with a season ending leg injury. During those three games he had 13 catches for 167 yards and a touchdown, which was impressive enough to get fans excited for his return in 2010.

The anticipation was somewhat similar to what the fans are feeling now regarding Clayton.

But Robinson was nothing short of disappointing upon his return. He had 34 catches for 344 yards in 14 games, and he struggled to get playing time (which is saying a lot, given how bad the team's receivers were in 2010).

Now the team drafted Austin Pettis (Boise St.) and Greg Salas (Hawaii), so Robinson is not expected to make the team, which begs the question- Will Clayton's situation play out in a similar fashion?

Clayton was a first round draft pick by Baltimore in 2005 (No.22 overall), and it is safe to say that he hasn't lived up to his first round status. His five seasons of mediocrity in Baltimore are hard to overlook based on his four games in St. Louis.

Here are his stats from his career in Baltimore...

  • 2009: 14 Games  34 REC  480 Yds  2 TD
  • 2008: 16 Games  41 REC  695 Yds  3 TD
  • 2007: 16 Games  48 REC  531 Yds  0 TD
  • 2006: 16 Games  67 REC  939 Yds  5 TD
  • 2005: 14 Games  44 REC  471 Yds  2 TD
Those are indeed some pretty pedestrian numbers for a first round draft pick.

However, those numbers might not indicate his true talent. Notice that the one adequate season (2006) was his only season in Baltimore with a decent quarterback- Steve McNair. The rest of those seasons were played with Kyle Boller and a rookie Joe Flacco (and St. Louis fans know how ineffective Boller can be).

We know that Clayton is not a Randy Moss caliber talent that can singlehandedly carry a quarterback to greatness. But he might be talented enough to be a No.1 receiver in this league- but only if he has a legitimate quarterback, which could be Sam Bradford.

So are the Rams getting a four game fluke that might have lingering effects from a devastating knee injury?

Or were those four games his true form? Was his talent simply cloaked beneath a streak of sub-standard quarterback play?

Either way, it would be beneficial for the Rams to find out.

Clayton will come at a reasonable price, especially since he is returning from a knee injury. He would not significantly hurt the Rams financially if he doesn't pan out- but he will be an extremely good value for the team if he does.

This is a situation where the gamble is worth the risk. The Rams need to re-sign Clayton. But if they have their eyes on a top free-agent receiver (Sidney Rice, Braylon Edwards, Santana Moss), then Clayton should not discourage them from pursuing.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Sam Bradford: Why the Rams Are Guaranteed a Super Bowl This Decade

Pop quiz... Who was the last defensive power house to win a Super Bowl?

Chances are you had to think about that question, and you still aren't even sure of the answer.

You might be thinking of the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers or the 2007 New York Giants. Or, depending on your definition, you might be thinking of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or the 2000 Ravens.

But if the question was 'Who was the last elite quarterback to win the Super Bowl?', then your brain would have to think back to no further than last January, when Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers won the Packers their first Super Bowl since 1996.

Who are some elite quarterbacks, who are currently active, that have not won a Super Bowl yet?

The most obvious answer is Phillip River in San Diego. Atlanta's Matt Ryan is another answer, but does he really count? He's only been truly lighting it up since last season.

Carson Palmer is another, but his injury stricken career has kept him from entering an elite level.

What about Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb? They are star quarterbacks, but they are not elite passers. They have above average passing stats, but they depend on their legs just as much as their arms.

Here are some of the supreme passers in this league that have won Super Bowls: Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady; also Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger (unless you want to be picky).

Here's another tidbit of info relating to my point. This is a list of the past 15 Super Bowl champions and the quarterbacks that led them.

2010 Green Bay Packers- Aaron Rodger

2009 New Orleans Saints- Drew Brees

2008 Pittsburgh Steelers- Ben Roethlisberger

2007 New York Giants- Eli Manning

2006 Indianapolis Colts- Peyton Manning

2005 Pittsburgh Steelers- Ben Roethlisberger

2004 New England Patriots- Tom Brady

2003 New England Patriots- Tom Brady

*2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Brad Johnson

2001 New England Patriots- Tom Brady

*2000 Baltimore Ravens- Trent Dilfer

1999 St. Louis Rams- Kurt Warner

1998 Denver Broncos- John Elway

1997 Denver Broncos- John Elway

1996 Green Bay Packers- Brett Favre

* Indicates a team that won the Super Bowl without a suitable quarterback, mainly due to having one of the best defensive units in the history of the game.

The key point of that list? If you don't have an awesome quarterback, then you better have one of the best defenses that the league has seen in years, or else you're not winning a Super Bowl.

'Defense's Win Championships' is an overused cliché. This is a quarterback driven era, and you're kidding yourself if you think otherwise.

Don't get me wrong. Defense is very important, and it's vital towards winning a Championship. All 15 teams on that list had solid defensive units. But it's just not realistic to expect a Super Bowl victory out of a team that does not have a franchise passer.
So, considering that Sam Bradford had the best pro day since Troy Aikman, according to's Gil Brandt, and was considered by many to be the best quarterback prospect since Carson Palmer, what does that mean for St. Louis fans?

What does it mean to St. Louis fans that Bradford threw for over 3,000 yards as a rookie? He was only the third quarterback to ever accomplish that; Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan are the other two.

It means that Bradford has an extremely high ceiling. He has the physical tools, as well as intangibles that are out of this world. Barring injury, or a total implosion within the organization (not likely, considering the direction the team has taken), it is very likely he will become an elite passer in this league, and that is what it takes to win a Super Bowl in the NFL.

The NFL is not a world of guarantees, so excuse the title. But if the "sure thing" does not exist in football, then Sam Bradford is certainly the next best thing.

Garcia Pieces Together A Gem

Things were shaping up to be a historic night at Busch Stadium, but the fans are willing to settle for a win.

The St. Louis Cardinals' second year pitcher Jaime Garcia was perfect through seven innings. After he took the mound in the 8th, everyone could feel him inching ever-so close to a perfect game, which is arguably the most difficult task to accomplish in all of professional sports.

It was just not meant to be.

Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers lead off the 8th inning, grounding out to first base. There was a sigh of relief, as Fielder is a dangerous hitter.

But Garcia made his first goof-up of the night when Casey McGehee stepped up to the plate as the second batter of the 8th. The pressure was probably overwhelming in Garcia's mind, which is probably what caused him to walk McGehee in only four pitches.

The crowd responded to the walk with a hearty applause, which was well deserved, despite the walk. Also, they all knew that the "no-hitter" was still possible, and thats no small feat either.

Unfortunately the "no-hitter" was not meant to be either, as the very next batter, Yuniesky Betancourt, was able to squeeze a ground ball into the outfield.

What Garcia was able to accomplish, on the other hand, was pitch a phenomenal game. He pitched a complete game, giving up only two hits and one walk, and he shut out the opponent.

Many were skeptical towards to the Cardinals starting rotation after it was announced that Adam Wainwright would miss the entire season, but the rotation has been responding to the pressure, and it is fair to say that Garcia has been the "Ace" of the rotation so far this season.

Outside of Garcia's spectacular outing, the rest of the team played a solid game as well.

Colby Rasmus had a triple and an RBI; Yadier Molina hit his second home run of the season; Matt Holliday had an RBI; and superstar Albert Pujols had a three RBI night.

Tonight was the first of a three game series against the Brewers, and the Cardinals walked away with a 6-0 win. The team is also enjoying a 1.5 game lead in the NL Central over the Cincinnati Reds, who are the defending champs of the division.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Looking Ahead: Who Do the Rams Keep at WR for 2011?

The overall performance of the 2010 St. Louis Rams was less than spectacular, but there are still a hand full of receivers on the team that fans are excited about, and the drafting of Austin Pettis and Greg Salas will send some of those receivers packing. It is safe to say that there will at least be an interesting training camp battle amongst the unit.

Here is a quick summary of the current receivers, just in case you're not acquainted...

Danny Amendola- He was the the leading receiver for the Rams in both yards (689) and receptions (85). He is also considered one of the most hard working players on the team. Amendola is probably a lock for the 2011 roster, but it still would not be wise for him to let his guard down.

Brandon Gibson- Gibson was the second leading receiver in both yards (620) and receptions (53). He was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 (the Rams sent linebacker Will Witherspoon to the Eagles for Gibson, plus a 5th round pick). Gibson is one of the more underrated players on the team, and people constantly forget that he is still developing, but he is by no means a lock for the 2011 roster.

Mark Clayton- Clayton shined for the Rams in 2010. He accumulated 23 catches for 306 yards in just over four full games before going down with a season ending knee injury. He is a free agent this year, so the Rams will have to offer him a brand new contract if they want to keep him. The main question is- was his four solid games with the team enough to make people overlook his five seasons of mediocrity in Baltimore? That question still needs to be answered, but the Rams will likely bring Clayton back for another season, as his price tag will be reasonable.

Danario Alexander- He was an undrafted rookie out of Missouri, and he missed the entire 2010 training camp. He made his debut during Week 6 against the San Diego Chargers, where he made a beautiful 38-yard touchdown reception. He has undeniable talent, which makes it hard to cut a guy like him, but his discouraging history with knee injuries is something to keep an eye on.

Donnie Avery- Avery has been forced to live under the shadow of DeSean Jackson for some time now, considering the team passed on Jackson to get Avery. The two had pretty equal rookie seasons, especially when you consider that Avery played on a terrible offense, but Jackson separated himself during the second season. Many felt that Avery was about to have a break out season before he went down with a season ending knee injury during the 2010 preseason.
Laurent Robinson- The Rams acquired Robinson in 2009 by simply swapping 5th round picks with the Atlanta Falcons. He came on strong in 2009, acquiring 13 catches for 167 yards in three games before going down with a season ending injury. The flash of potential in 2009 was enough to get fans excited for his 2010 campaign, but he was nothing short of a disappointment last season.

Mardy Gilyard- He had a lot of hype surrounding him after he was drafted in the 4th round in 2010. However, he struggled to learn the playbook, resulting in him spending the majority of 2010 on the bench. Considering the position will see some intense battles at this year's training camp, he will have to do a complete 180 if he wants to remain on the team.

Dominique Curry- Curry is an impressive physical specimen, and he made solid contributions in 2010 through special teams before landing himself on the injury reserve list.
If the past is any indication, the Rams will likely keep six receiver on the active roster, and they will keep at least one on the practice squad.

Curry is the only receiver on that list eligible for the practice squad, as players must have appeared in less that nine regular season games to be eligible. So assuming the Rams want to keep both of the receivers they drafted in 2011 on the active roster, then they will have to cut at least three players on that list.

In this writer's opinion, at least of two options are painfully obvious.

Mardy Gilyard greatly struggled to learn 2010 offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's playbook, so there is no reason to think that he will immediately grasp a more complex Josh McDaniels' offense. Not to mention, he showed absolutely nothing in 2010, not even a slight flash of ability. Consider him gone.

The other obvious option is Laurent Robinson. Robinson struggled to get regular playing time last season, which is saying a lot considering how bad the team's receivers were. He also struggled with dropped passed. Overall, he doesn't have a role to play on this team.

Brandon Gibson is a guy the team would like to keep, especially since he has experience, but if the team does not expand the number of receivers on the roster to seven, then Gibson will be in hot water. 
The next option would be to let Mark Clayton walk without offering him a new contract. However, him and quarterback Sam Bradford had great chemistry together, especially considering that Clayton didn't even practice 
with Bradford in training camp. So it's hard to see the team letting Clayton walk.

The team might decide to put either Pettis or Salas on the practice squad (depending on who wins the training camp battle), as they would both be eligible. The team wants to see these guys play, but it is not realistic to expect rookies to immediately catch on. There might be a steep learning curve for at least one of them.

But the best option, in order to ensure that the team in not cutting loose any solid receiver talent, would be to increase the number of the receivers on the roster to seven, instead of six.
Here is the likely group of receivers in 2011 for the Rams, assuming they wise up and keep seven receivers...

Flanker #1: Danario Alexander

Slot #1: Danny Amendola

Flanker #2: Mark Clayton

Slot #2: Donnie Avery

Rotational #1: Austin Pettis

Rotational #2: Brandon Gibson

Back-up #1: Greg Salas (He is either an all-around back-up, or a practice squad player, depending on if the team expands the number of receivers they keep).

Practice Squad: Dominique Curry

This would result in the team sending both Gilyard and Robinson packing, but this is probably the best line-up if the team wants to increase the amount of talent this at the position this season.