I was asked in the off season how much better the Rams could be in 2006. I said if the Rams were still in the playoff chase when we hit December then Scott Linehan will have succeeded in improving the team in his first season. A Rams win Sunday against Arizona keeps them in wild card contention in the weak NFC.
Did you catch Jim Haslett's mini-rant Monday? I loved it(the emotion, not necessarily the.message.) That's the kind of intensity and passion that a rebuilding defense needs. That's why he's here. The Rams need more of that kind of nasty attitude. I said last week in this column what he said in a roundabout way Monday. The run defense isn't going to get "fixed" until he gets more personnel in the off-season. Until then, he can only put as big a band aid as he can on it. I AM surprised the Rams are worse stopping the run this year than last and at times it's been so bad that we can't ignore it when we report on the team. But, that's a direct indication that the Rams have drafted poorly in the past. Five first round picks were used on defensive players from 2001 through 2003. And the Rams are still struggling to stop the run. The pick of Tye Hill in the first round this year gives me hope that this regime will acquire better defensive players than the previous regime did. One other point about Haslett: he said in week one that his overall goal on defense was to hold teams to 17 points or less. The Rams have done that in each of the past two weeks. The bottom line is they've surrendered 30 points in two weeks. So, they do get credit for that. It hasn't been pretty, but it's a bottom line league. The Cardinals are dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game--just 70 yards. They'll come out throwing the ball to their ultra big wide receivers.
Steven Jackson had his finest game of the season versus the 49ers. He was not only explosive in the open field(see his 36 yard touchdown run) but he was decisive and strong in short yardage situations. If he continues to run like that, in addition to catching passes, he may make the Pro Bowl in February. Right now, the only other guys I'd vote ahead of him in the NFC are Frank Gore and Tiki Barber.