"I didn't want to come to Philadelphia.
"Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options." Those two teams wanted him and would've allowed him to start, but after meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell and other reps from the NFL, Vick was convinced—and granted league approval—to sign with Philly. "And I commend and thank them, because they put me in the right situation."
The big revelation from Will Leitch's interview with Michael Vick in GQ magazine, hastily denied by all parties quoted or otherwise, was that Vick was somehow "steered" away from two of the least stable franchises in football and toward one of its granite foundation teams.
Of course it's true. I've called Roger Goodell a lot of things, but he's no dummy.
The NFL Commissioner made his legacy on player discipline, coming down hard on perceived bad actors for overly aggressive play on the field ("for safety") and countless indiscretions off of it ("for conduct"). It's nothing personal. He's simply following in the footsteps of NBA power czar David Stern, taking ownership of everything having to do with the broadcast image of the league away from players and into his office. As we saw in the early battles of the Lockout, the enormous pile of TV money was the big prize everyone was fighting over. And the size of that pot for a league is directly proportional to the way that league broadcasts into the world's living rooms, and what price advertisers will pay to ride along.
When Vick was indicted for dogfighting -- long before he was proven guilty, the now-obsolete standard for justice in this country -- Goodell watched as the story exploded across the media, and readied his hammer. The day Vick admitted guilt, the hammer came down and he was suspended "indefinitely" from the NFL. Vick became the ultimate badguy, and the commissioner broadcast a "zero-tolerance" message into the living rooms on that day.
That decision was easy. The decision to let him back into the league, nearly two years later, was not.
Obviously, Goodell wanted to broadcast a message of redemption, but again, he's no dummy. A man's redemption takes time. But forgiveness from the people he's hurt takes longer.
Vick needed to land on a team where he would almost be guaranteed of not playing. Not for his own sake, but for the league's. The NFL needed to go an entire season with Vick kept out of the news cycle before his radioactive public personna would start to cool off. Goodell is not the dumb one here, we are. After a full year, we forget.
The only people still holding a grudge after that long would be people who like holding grudges, those who felt personally wronged by Vick's destruction of animal life. And most of those folks aren't football fans. Or Eagles fans, anyway.
Is that a cheap shot at Eagles fans? Yes, and no. More on that in a moment.
Opening day is finally here! In Week 1, the St. Louis Rams face off in a home match-up with the Philadelphia Eagles. While the Rams are coming off what can be seen as a successful year compared with past years, and are looking to make a name for themselves, the Philadelphia Eagles aka the "Dream Team" have loaded up on talent in hopes of making a run at a Lombardi Trophy. The Rams had a great overall showing in preseason, especially against the Colts and Chiefs, showing a renewed vigor and ability in running the ball. They also showed just how much of a potential threat rookie TE Lance Kendricks will be. Will we see that in this first game?
While the Rams remained somewhat low key with their free agent signings, the Eagles made room for players such as DT Cullen Jenkins, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, RB Ronnie Brown, and even trading for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, all who were starters for their respective teams last year. Everyone seems to be overlooking the Rams in this game, although Team Spags has built a solid defense centered around MLB James Laurinaitis and DE Chris Long. The free agents brought in on defense were signed for their ability to help stop the run, but will our cornerbacks be able to keep up with the likes of the speedy wideouts Desean Jackson and St. Louis' own Jeremy Maclin? Will our linebackers be fast enough to contain the threat that is Michael Vick?
As always, here's three things to watch for:
Containing Vick-ster the Trickster
The most arduous task the defense has today is stopping Michael Vick. Although he has aged some from his Atlanta years, he is just as fast, and even more dangerous. He's more dangerous because Any Reid has finally taught him how to be a quarterback first before running. Vick is finally taking time to go through his progressions before he chooses to run. With possibly the strongest arm in the league, and two receivers who run 4.3 40 times, it becomes very easy for the Eagles to stretch the field and allow him to take off running.
The Rams have...HAVE...to maintain their gap assignments. In the past years, our linebackers have been known to over-pursue a play, allowing the cutback side of the field to be wide open for running. If that continues in this game, the team could be in trouble. The defensive must continuously bring pressure from Vick's front side and force him to his right, where he isn't as dangerous throwing the ball. Look for a linebacker, or even possibly a third safety to come down into the box and shadow Vick at certain points in this game.
The only other weapon we've faced that is as dangerous as Michael Vick on the ground in recent years is Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans, and we are a much better defense now. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.
Establish the Run
If there is anywhere the Eagles are weak, it's in their linebacking corps, where rookie Casey Matthews looks to start at middle linebacker. The Rams must put their new free agent guard Harvey Dahl to use and attack this weakness with Steven Jackson all game. Jackson has looked especially productive running behind Brit Miller on the right side of the line, where Dahl and Jason Smith are blocking.
The other benefit to establishing the run is keeping the Eagles high powered offense off of the field. The Eagles have the ability to score in quick strikes, so keeping them off of the field, and tiring their defense out with long drives like we saw against the Kansas City Chiefs in the preseason would do wonders for the Rams success in this game. In addition, Steven Jackson is like a juggernaut, in that he only gets stronger the more carries he gets. Keep pounding the rock and let him beat up on those defensive linemen and linebackers.
Establishing the run might also open up some space to throw through play-action. The Eagles field the best combination of cornerbacks in the NFL in Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asante Samuel. Any advantage they can gain in passing is one they need to jump on, because the passing game may not be there for most of this match up.
Heart. You've Got to Have Heart
If anything, this matchup will give a good gauge as to whether this team is ready to match up against the big boys, or whether the first 7 weeks of the season are going to be very long. The last game of last season showed a team that simply was just not ready to compete on the big stage both talent-wise, and mentally. Is this team there yet? The Rams brought in a lot of older veterans, who have all been there before. A number of them have Super Bowl rings, including CB Al Harris and LB Brady Poppinga. These older veterans have to support this team if they get down by some points, and keep them fighting until the end, because this game is winnable by all standards.
They Rams must show they have the gumption, the heart to compete against the big boys, and this first game is a step in that direction.
Prediction: I think this game will go down to the wire, and I really think the Rams establish the run and take this game from an Eagles team that will struggle to find themselves in the early parts of this season (a la' Miami Heat). Rams win 24-21
Last minute decisions can often make the difference in Fantasy Football. This is especially true going into week one. who do you start, who do you sit...who do you take a chance on. With only preseason to base this decision on, rookies are often left out of the mix.
To make this decision blindly for all rookies however would be a mistake. To hastily make this decision for Lance Kendricks could be an even bigger one. As I touched on in a previous article, Kendricks has gone from a potential sleeper with a late-round pick to someone Fantasy owners should consider as a starter.
While it was just the preseason, Kendricks showed plenty of promise, and it's clear Bradford plans to use him often (he had four targets against the Jaguars and TD’s in the final two preseason games, both with the 1’s). Many other Fantasy Football experts are jumping on the Kendricks bandwagon as well. Not merely suggesting he be drafted, but suggesting he be starting in week one against the Eagles.
If your line-up needs a last minute tweak don’t just take my word for it, (though you should and it’s kind of rude that you’re not) listen to what some others are saying and start Lance Kendricks.
Where the other experts weigh in on starting Lance Kendricks:
@Dr_Ram_ breaks down the Eagles' defense. Check out what he has to say about their pair of rookie linebackers:
"Casey Matthews is their starting Mike backer and is smallish at 6’1 230pounds, he is a 2 down backer who plays pretty well on running plays, he is a downhill guy, who reads and reacts pretty fast and fills. He is susceptible to the play action pass and a liability in coverage. Another rookie, Brian Rolle, comes in for Matthews on obvious passing downs, he is pretty fast and athletic, but he’s small at 5’9 227 pounds. I think this is an obvious weakness and attack point for Josh McDaniels. I would put my rookie Lance Kendricks against their two rookies at linebacker any day of the week and more than twice on Sunday."
@Dr_Ram_ also grades their safeties poorly, with the loss of Mikell. Could add up for a big day for the rookie TE. Of course it's a huge gamble to play him week 1, but one that could pay off.
Yahoo Fantasy Projection:
3 out of 5 stars: Tough to rely on but Eagles have historically struggled with athletic TE and he had a great summer.
ESPN Fantasy Projection:
He was quite the sparkplug during the preseason, and make no mistake, he will be utilized in the regular year, even so soon as Week 1. Kendricks could get work in two-/three-tight end sets, and if you need a deep sleeper ...
Kendricks caught three passes for 73 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville in the Rams final preseason game. Spin: Sold yet? Kendrick accumulated his numbers while Sam Bradford was on the field, with the highlight being a 44-yard touchdown catch. Kendricks has conclusively shown strong chemistry with Bradford all preseason, and is looking like one of the strongest TE2 options in the NFL.
“I rank him 11th. Great play vs. PHI”
“Worth keeping in mind that the Eagles annually struggle against TE’s. No reason to think they’ve fixed that.”
“I don’ think it’s Crazy. Concerned that Kendricks may play ~60% of snaps 6 targets max”
Despite all the offseason acquisitions made by the dream team, Philly’s LB corps will be a source of problems all season. They allowed a league worst 10 FPG to opposing TEs last season giving rookie Lance Kendricks a chance to surprise in his NFL debut. The 2nd round pick from Wisconsin led the Rams in receiving in the pre-season finishing with 11 catches for 155 yards and three scores. We expect a pass heavy approach under first year OC Josh McDaniels giving Kendricks a chance to shine.
This weekend's opening game against the Eagles represents a big test for Coach Spagnuolo's rapidly improving Rams. However, the reverse is true as well -- the suddenly more-potent Rams have the capability to put the Eagles' preseason "Dream Team" hype as championship contenders to the test as well.
This was the surprising theme that came out of our Q&A session with Thomas Jackson of EaglesEyeBlog.com on the Bloguin network.
RamsHerd: Now that this is "Michael Vick's team," have you seen Andy Reid unveil any new wrinkles to the Eagles' offense to take further advantage of his skills?
EaglesEye: If anything of a "new wrinkle" nature is being planned to showcase Michael Vick's arm and legs, I haven't seen it.
I think the main idea this season is to keep Vick in one piece, perhaps even to dial down his spontaneous playmaking decisions into more of a ball-control offense with a lot of underneath stuff...more involvement by the tight ends and running backs on screens and sweeps.
RH: The Eagles are being widely trumpeted as a Super Bowl contender this year. Are you on the bandwagon or are you playing it cautious?
EE: The "Super Bowl" hype is insane... Only 2 out of 32 teams survive the long season to even get there for the chance to lose the big one... so many things have to go right and fall in place for that to happen. Right now the Rams have as much chance of making the Super Bowl as the Eagles. That's the way a serious football fan has to look at it.
I think the Eagles players are focused enough to know you don't get an advance reservation for the Super Bowl. It's really about getting a little better every week, adjusting to losses along the way, minimizing key injuries, and peaking late... just as the Packers and Steelers did last year.
RH: Few teams were more active this offseason than Philly. Which addition to this team, whether via free agency or the draft, will have the biggest impact in 2011?
EE: In my estimation, adding Nnamdi Asomugha as a premier lockdown corner is NOT the biggest impact acquisition for the Eagles... the most noticeable impact will come from defensive tackle/end Cullen Jenkins (former Packers FA) and from 4th-round draft pick Casey Matthews (middle linebacker)... The Eagles just got a whole lot better in pass rush and intermediate pass coverage with those two guys.
RH: Aside from Trent Cole, the Eagles didn't appear to generate much pass rush last year, which could bode well for Bradford and McDaniels and the Rams on offense. Is this still an area of concern?
EE: The Eagles brought in defensive line coach Jim Washburn from the Titans to improve their pass rush. He has installed a completely new scheme for the Eagles called a "Wide 9" set, where the weak-side defensive end lines up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. This gives the Eagles DE rotation a chance to play in space and get downfield quicker... something they were not able to do much last year.
Besides Trent Cole, the Eagles have also added former Titan Jason Babin, who had a Pro Bowl year in 2010 in the "Wide 9" scheme. I think you'll see a greater emphasis on the Eagles getting pressure on Bradford and the Rams backfield, whereas last year they'd be content just to absorb blocks and plug holes.
RH: What's your game prediction?
EE: Game Prediction? Wow... first games are tough to call...
I'm sensing there will be a slow start for both teams... adjustments made at the half...Bradford gets hot late... Eagles get a running game going with LeSean McCoy and Ronny Brown... I think this one comes down to which team has the best conditioning and the best field goal kicker performance... I'm calling it Rams 24, Eagles 20... and a major wake-up call for Philadelphia.
For those who aren't following @RamsHerd on Twitter -- first of all, you're missing out on a whole 'nother firehose of Rams conversation in addition to what you get on the site -- you might not have noticed that I have a new gig now on Bloguin, writing for This Given Sunday, our new welter of quality NFL coverage.
This week, I was asked to write an article on the Rams' chances of making the playoffs. and as our four-part season preview shows, even without playing perfectly the team can get to nine wins and a likely division title in the mottled NFC West.
But are they ready to BE a playoff team? If they follow Sam Bradford's example, they will be.
The end of a typical football game looks a lot like a wrap party at the end of four-act play. The actors who were mortal enemies acting out generations-old grudges with murderous passion for the last three hours take off the helmets, hug, slap hands, and make plans to meet up later. For these professionals, the heat of gameday comes with a switch that turns off after the whistle blows.
Sam Bradford doesn't have that switch yet. And I don't think he wants it.
Read the rest of the story at TGS. And stay tuned to our site here at RamsHerd all season long. We're ramping up our effort to bring you graphic content and coverage that you can't find anywhere else.
After three quarters of the season, Rams enter the final stretch of the season at .500, 6-6, and presumably have the division title in their reach, adding an allure to this prime time matchup. This is the time when a team that's learning how to take the next step forward needs to bear down and simply focus on gameplanning and executing for the task at hand.
Under the lights of Monday Night Football, though, the Rams will find themselves awash in the media's story machine, full of comparisons to last year's disaster in prime time. It will be the primary storyline, and it will be Seattle's primary motivation to play spoiler before a national TV audience in their home stadium. This may be their super bowl, and as such, the biggest opponent the Rams may have to contend with is the still-formidable "12th man" in Seattle.
The Rams brought out speakers on the practice field this summer, to practice under hostile conditions. But considering I could still talk with the fans next to me while these practice sessions were going on, and my fillings were failing to rattle out of my teeth, I'm not sure that this simulation adequately prepared the offense for the challenge they'll face at the Clink.
However, by this point in the season, the Rams will have faced much more adversity than simple noise or atmosphere or bright lights. At this point, they'll know a little bit about whether they can execute their offense and defense under adverse conditions. I'm betting that they can, and if so, will easily be the better team on the field.
Derek: "Having faced tough road battles already in 2011 going to Seattle is no new feat. At this point McDaniels has the offense clicking along. Lance Kendricks has shown to be a favorite target of Bradford it again opens up the running game for Steven Jackson to break for over 100 yards."
This game will test the Rams in ways that few others on the schedule will. We don't play in the best division, but division rivalry games are always heated and tightly contested. We have only recently shucked off the "doormat" identity, and it's easy to have sympathy for teams like the Bengals that have, and let's put it nicely, very little going for them.
Marvin Lewis can't be superstoked to be leading ultra-raw (and red-headed) quarterback Andy Dalton into battle, with his own job security most certainly on the line, while his employer engages in yet another pissing match with a star player.
Carson Palmer has vowed never to play another down for this franchise, and I can't say I blame him. But essentially keeping him around in a portable doghouse chained to the back of the team bus just underscores the gulf in leadership that is plaguing this franchise, and makes December road trips like this one painfully depressing for the team and its fans.
The challenge for the Rams? Keeping that empathy off the field for the 60 minutes of gametime it will take to dispatch this clearly inferior opponent. You can shake hands afterwards and commisserate, but not until you've posted a W. Anything less will haunt this team for a long time.
Tim: "The poor Bengals come to town at the wrong time. On the day the Rams celebrate Marshall Faulk and with the Dome rockin', the Rams go out and destroy the lonely Bengals. Clinching the division and the playoffs with their 8th win."