NFC West: On the record

On the record: Protecting Bulger

August, 7, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

As much as the Rams need Steven Jackson in camp, they need quarterback Marc Bulger in one piece. With that in mind, I asked Bulger about pass protection during a recent stop at Rams' training camp at Concordia University in Mequon, Wis.

Al Saunders, your new offensive coordinator, has promised to protect you better. How can he make that happen?

Marc Bulger: We got (guard) Jacob Bell (in free agency) and we're getting 'Big O' (Orlando Pace) back and so we have some better personnel coming back if we can stay healthy. I think the way he does that is through different kinds of protections. Because of our personnel last year, we were limited to five or six protections. The defenses started attacking the protections rather than just doing normal blitzes. They would see our one-back set and know who we were assigned and they would know how to attack it. This year, we have between 40 and 50 protections. It's more of a crapshoot for the defense to know who is releasing and who is staying in and whether the tight end is blocking. We can confuse them more and dictate to them more rather than letting them just come up and tee off.

Do the improvements reflect the scheme or personnel?

MB: It's both. This offense is known for having a ton of protections, putting more pressure on the quarterback (to master them). But certainly with five linemen on IR and Alex Barron was the only one who didn't miss any games last year on the line, you have a guy coming off the street and he has to start the next week ... we had to go back to bread and butter: scat, turn jet, everyone knows those protections. There is not much you can do when you have that many injuries and in the NFL. They are going to exploit that.

Note: "Scat" and "jet" are terms used to describe basic pass-protection schemes. Terminology can change across coaching staffs.

Posted by's Mike Sando

 Getty Images
 Al Saunders expects TE Randy McMichael to have a "very, very, very profound impact" on the Rams' offense this season.

A recent visit to Rams camp allowed for an interview with new offensive coordinator Al Saunders. I asked him about the second and third receiving spots, the tight end position and keys for the offensive line. Here are his unedited answers:

How are the second and third receiving spots shaking out?

Al Saunders: Right now it's a battle all the way through the lineup. We have two young players we really like in Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton, but those guys have been hobbled up with injuries. They haven't been able to practice as much as we would like. So we haven't had a chance to really see them in a competitive environment. We like what they bring to the table and hopefully they'll develop into guys who will be very good players for us.

We have a large group of receivers competing for those spots. Dante Hall has had an outstanding training camp, Dane Looker has had an outstanding camp, Reche Caldwell is working very hard and he has done very well. Derek Stanley was on this team last year. It's going to come down probably to the last week of the preseason to know who those backup guys are going to be.

How do you feel about the tight end situation?

AS: Randy McMichael has been spectacular this training camp and I would expect him to have a very, very, very profound impact on our offense. He's done an extremely good job. Having Anthony Becht here has been excellent because he provides us with a real blocking dimension at the tight end position. Joe Klopfenstein is coming into his own. We feel that may end up being one of our strongest positions.

The offensive line was a mess last season. What needs to happen this season?

AS: The first thing is they stay healthy. We had a number of injuries last year that hurt this football team. We have got a couple, three guys coming off surgeries. We have to manage those guys, choose our best five and let them play together and get a rhythm together as one unit. That is probably the most important thing together with Orlando Pace's health. He is looking very good. Cardiovascularly, he's doing a great job. His shoulders look well. We're excited about the direction we're going. We just need to maintain our level of performance.