I'm working on a look at matchups for this week's game against the Jets. To start the day though, it's worth taking a summary look at what's going on. Exciting, I know.
Item 1: DeAngelo Hall
No dice for the Rams, and no surprise, really, as Hall signs with the Redskins. The team also assured him they'll work out a long term deal after the season. Oh, and they're in playoff contention. Speaking of playoff contention, as much as I would have liked to see Hall in a Rams uniform, signing surprise free agents in the middle of the season is really a game reserved mostly for playoff contenders. I'd like to see the Rams get in the market for a top-flight cornerback when the offseason rolls around (CB Chris Gamble maybe), but nabbing a guy like Hall in November just didn't seem very realistic. In fact, the more I think about free agency, I'd also like to see the Rams make a move for a middle linebacker, freeing the Spoon for life on the outside...linebacker that is.
Item 2: Steven Jackson
We worry about Steven Jackson an awful lot 'round here, no? With good reason. Jackson is the Rams top offensive player, and without him in the lineup the team's chance suffer. News that Jackson won't play this weekend got salt rubbed in it with speculation rising that SJ might not play for a week or two afterward. His replacement this week, Kenneth Darby, might surprise us all though. He certainly has the college pedigree and the right attitude. Bill Coats from the PD even had this to say about Darby: "The Rams might’ve unearthed a diamond in the rough here." That's true, but he still has to get some blocking against one of the better run defenses in the league.
Item 3: More Rams running backs
RB Antonio Pittman does have the green light this weekend, though Darby still gets the official starting nod. Darby, Gado and Pittman... I'd like to see some smart game planning that uses these guys in a few plays that surprise the Jets defense. Maybe the Wild Hog isn't realistic, but a speedy reverse might be nice and putting two of three on the field at the same time might generate some confusion.
Item 4: Jim Haslett
For interim, mid-season replacement head coaches, duties differ quite a bit from more "normal" coaching situations. Rams new defensive coordinator, Rick Venturi, a two-time former interim head coach himself, offered this insight for an NFL.com article on the job interim coaches face:
There are only so many things you can change in what seems like 10 seconds. The biggest part is the emotional part, getting everybody on the same page.
Clearly, Haslett nailed that benchmark for the Rams in his first three games as head coach. A small benefit of a team hitting rock bottom is that the rebound can seem like a jump over Everest. Against the Cardinals, however, Haslett's team looked flat, like the team he was asked to step in and rejuvenate. More so than winning this week, Haslett has to get the Rams back to playing with a level of energy and emotion; that's his challenge now, sustaining the momentum the Rams mustered for that three week run. The PD's Bernie Miklasz echoes that as a precondition for rehiring Haslett in his Saturday column.