Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rams Inside Slant

It can be a quick rise to the top of the heap in the NFL, but the fall can occur even faster.
Rams quarterback Marc Bulger understands that, and knows the importance of rebounding from a year he would like to forget.

"I'm just trying to get as far away as I can from last year," he said. "I'm focusing more on this year and what we're going to do better than reminding myself how terrible I was last year."
After being in the Pro Bowl after the 2006 season and parlaying that into a big contract last season, Bulger suffered broken ribs and a concussion, while the offensive line collapsed around him because of injuries. Bulger had a 70.3 passer rating and had more interceptions than touchdown passes after being intercepted just eight times the year before.

Everything was thrown off, including his mechanics.

"I was just doing the best I could to help the team win," Bulger said. "My footwork was off and I thought maybe I could get rid of the ball quicker. Whether it was right or wrong, I don't know, but at the time I was just trying to do something. (Now) it's April and we are already working on that stuff and I have five months to get into it to get back to the point where when September comes around, I am just playing. I am not thinking about footwork anymore, it's about reads and coverages and moving guys around.

"I have to play better, we can all say that. I have to do a better job of preparing — mentally, physically, everything. There's no reason to go back and beat ourselves up. We know how bad it was and we have to learn from last year but we are going to focus on this year."

Said coach Scott Linehan of his two years with Bulger, "We saw two ends of the spectrum. We saw his best year (in '06) and his toughest season (in '07). We'd like to get back to his best year.
"He got to the point — he's human — where he didn't even know who was in the game or whether those guys were going to be able to hold them off. Even he got to the point where you started seeing him get into (bad) habits. So I think by fixing that, getting our personnel back to where it needs to be, Marc Bulger's going to be back to the Pro Bowl level."

Linehan also believes the addition of Terry Shea as quarterbacks coach will help.

"Terry's a great teacher, No. 1," Linehan said. "I guess the biggest misnomer about quarterbacks and a guy like Marc Bulger is he's been to a couple Pro Bowls. He's 30 years old, and he's played a lot of high-level football in this league. But the bottom line is he still needs to be taught and coached just like as if he was a young player. I think some of that may have got away from us somewhat as I look at it. Marc would be the first one to tell you that he noticed some things about things about him technically that had fallen off from his '06 season and prior to that.

"Terry's one of those guys, meticulous, organized, he just has a great knowledge of the quarterback position and developing not only young quarterbacks, but also working with older quarterbacks or guys that have been in this league like Trent (Green), and to have them play at a high level. It's a great match, too, because he's worked very well with (offensive coordinator) Al (Saunders) in Kansas City. We're in a real similar position, where we've got a quarterback in his prime like Marc in our opinion. And if you build things around him, and get that line squared away for him, and get that run game dominant, a guy like Marc can be consistently at a Pro Bowl level, just like Trent was when he was in Kansas City."

Bulger said of working with Shea, even this early, "He's really thorough. Nothing's taken for granted, from the way I put my hands under the center's butt to how my stance is ... the smallest things.

"It's nice that it's early in April and we're already working on that stuff. We have time to get that to the point where once September rolls around, I can just play and I'm not thinking about (fundamentals) anymore. It'll be just ingrained in me."

Bulger, who just turned 31, also has been in St. Louis for virtually the entire offseason rather than going home.

"This is the first year I really didn't go to Pittsburgh, I stayed here all year round," Bulger said. "I don't know if it comes with age, (but) I'm happier treating it like this is my home and this is where I come to work. I have been coming in the last couple months pretty much five days a week. It's a routine that I've gotten into.

"When you're younger, you don't want to come back. You want to stay with your friends. I'm just trying to get as far away from last year — and get this year going — as I can."
He also understands how NFL quarterbacks are judged.

"You've got to prove yourself every year," Bulger said. "I'm two years removed from a Pro Bowl, but when you lose, it might as well be 10."

—Until injuries to Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte last season, the Rams had just two quarterbacks on the active roster. Brock Berlin finished the season on the roster and Todd Bouman was around for two weeks.

After Trent Green was signed to back up Bulger, coach Scott Linehan said he plans to open the season with three quarterbacks this season.

"Yeah, we'll carry a third this year," Linehan said. "The guy's going to be an able capable guy. If it's not Brock Berlin, somebody else. I would like personally to get a young player, even draft a quarterback if possible. You'd like by the time Trent's about done to have this guy kind of there. That'd be a good scenario while Marc's still in the prime of his career."

—With a decision getting closer on where the Rams will have training camp this summer, a site in Madison, Wis., emerged as a possibility. The University of Wisconsin formerly worked at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Center, which has the necessary facilities that includes dorms and practice fields.

What led the Rams to investigate is the fact that assistant coach Jeff Horton was an assistant at Wisconsin from 1999-2005.

—Call him prepared. When QB Trent Green arrived in St. Louis for the start of the team's offseason program, he was just that. Having played under Rams offensive coordinator Al Saunders in Kansas City, Green brought a few old playbooks with him.

"I have several of them from my years in Kansas City," Green said. "The terminology I'm sure will be very familiar for me. Some of it will be pretty familiar for Marc (Bulger), because it's similar to what Mike (Martz) ran when he was here.

"Al tweaked it a little bit when we got to Kansas City, just to make things work with o-line coaches and those kinds of things. And I'm sure Al's couple of years in Washington, and now with the coaching staff here, there are going to be tweaks here and there. But for the most part, it's going to be the basic offense than I ran in Kansas City."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Unfortunately, we are in the position we are, but I don't think there is a bad player in the top four or five picks. Whoever we get — there's (Glenn) Dorsey, there's Chris Long, there's Jake Long. I don't think we'll take (Darren) McFadden, and I hope we don't take a quarterback. One of the Longs or Dorsey, I don't think we can go wrong with that one." — QB Marc Bulger on prospects for the second overall choice in the draft.

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