DF: Marc Bulger’s had limited participation with the pinkie injury. How is he doing, and is he estimated to start? If not, what was the thought process behind bringing Kyle Boller in as a backup?
RVB: Bulger resumed throwing a couple weeks ago and took his first snaps under center this week. By all accounts, things look well. The pinkie doesn't seem to have a negative impact on his ability to feel and throw the ball. His accuracy has been sharp through camp and in his brief play against the Jets in the preseason opener. Bulger will start this week.
The benefit of having Boller as a backup is his experience and age, no small consideration after having Gus Frerotte and Trent Green as backups. Pat Shurmur's playbook features plenty of short passes and dump-off options with tight ends and running backs, something that should, hopefully, mitigate his propensity to overthrow downfield and some of his questionable decision making. Boller can also scramble his way out of trouble much more so than Bulger.
DF: Between Pat Shurmur’s Philly resume and Steven Jackson being the epicenter of the offense, will the Rams be more West Coast or smashmouth? And is there any reason for every defense not to stuff eight in the box on every play?
RVB: The assumption among the chattering classes says smashmouth, up the gut. Obviously Steven Jackson will be running the ball plenty, but this won't be Marty-Ball. Shurmur will call for the pass more than most realize precisely to prevent teams from stacking the box. We saw that happen a few times in the preseason, when the playbook actually got opened up for a series or two. They even passed more than once on 2nd and short. Jackson will get plenty of work as a receiver too; he did catch 90 balls in 2006.
DF: With Torry Holt gone, the perception is that it’s now Donnie Avery and the Pips. Is there a surprise sleeper in the Rams’ receiver corps?
RVB: Laurent Robinson, acquired on the cheap, has looked sharp in preseason. Behind him the Rams have a decent assortment of possession, lesser-known types guys that populate similar offensive systems, like Philly's.
DF: There have been many changes along the offensive line – Orlando Pace gone, Alex Barron to the left side, Jason Brown and Jason smith brought in. How have things been working out there? Is this going to be a decent line, and how is Smith adjusting to the three-point stance (something we’ve both written about before)?
RVB: After the last three seasons, nobody thought the offensive line would be a strength for the Rams. It just seemed impossible. The addition of Jason Brown between Incognito and Jacob Bell gives the Rams a nice middle. I am slightly dubious of Bell, but we have good depth in the middle. Jason Smith struggled, getting schooled by Leonard Little in practice some and then giving up some tough plays against the Jets and Falcons in preseason play. However, he noticeably improved, and already looks like he be a top-tier pass blocker by season's end. He has learned to get lower in his stance, but will struggle some as he learns the technique against live opposition. Barron's the one we're all watching closely. There are some questions about him on the left side, but if he doesn't work out, Smith will slide over.
DF: The Rams have put a lot into their front seven, but results have been mixed. With Adam Carriker out for the season and Chris Draft gone, who are the leaders?
RVB: James Laurinaitis has really come into his own, and already looks like a seasoned player. He is the real leader of the front seven. Chris Long has a lot riding on this season; if he looks like they player they drafted him to be (Patrick Kerney is a good comparison for expectations) then he'll be a key guy as Leonard Little rides into the sunset. The Rams are really lacking at DT, with or without Carriker.