Howard Balzer Talks To JoeOctober 23rd, 2010
In Joe’s mind, when tapping into football knowledge from the Gateway to the West, there are only two people to reach out to: Howard Balzer, whose many credits Joe will cite later, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz, a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America organization.
Joe got a hold of Balzer first. Balzer, currently the editor for football content for The Sports Xchange, which is the primary content supplier for CBSSports.com, also is a period host on Sirius NFL Radio, the Rams beat writer for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and, if that isn’t enough work, Balzer hosts a weekday local radio show on KFNS-AM in St. Louis.
Joe decided to get some inside information about the Rams from Balzer.
JoeBucsFan: The inside of the Bucs defense is terribly soft. They are rotating three guys (two rookies and one second-year player) at defensive tackle, Barrett Ruud is not a run stopper at all at middle linebacker and Sean Jones and rookie Cody Grimm are the safeties. As a result, teams have gashed the Bucs on the ground the past three weeks, starting with Rashard Mendenhall, then Cedric Benson and last week the immortal Chris Ivory. With Steven Jackson, folks down here are convinced the Rams will continue this trend. How have the Rams been running inside and has the Rams offensive line improved enough to consistently run inside?
Howard Balzer: Running inside has been a mixed bag, but Jackson is always a threat to be a force. He doesn’t get big yardage, but there is always that threat. In recent weeks, the Rams have been using John Greco at right guard during games. He is considered a better run blocker than Adam Goldberg. The interior of the line is solid, with center Jason Brown and left guard Jacob Bell.
Joe: Obviously, Sam Bradford is the franchise for the Rams. Thus far he has been pretty good, especially for a rookie. Has Bradford surprised the Rams braintrust that he has developed this quickly?
Balzer: There really isn’t that much surprise. It was apparent from the start that beyond the skills necessary, Bradford had the work ethic and desire to do whatever necessary to improve on a daily basis. He would often say during training camp his goal was just to get better every day. How a rookie reacts to the regular-season intensity is also a question, but I believe the coaches would have been more surprised had he been negatively affected by it.
Joe: The loss to the Lions aside, the Rams defense has been somewhat stingy. This really shouldn’t be a surprise given Steve Spagnuolo’s background. James Laurinaitis may be the most underrated middle linebacker in the game. Chris Long appears to have finally turned the corner at defensive end. What seems to be working for the Rams defense and are there any unsung players on that side of the ball?
Balzer: When defensive tackle Fred Robbins was signed as a free agent, hardly an eyebrow was raised, but he has added not only a run-stuffing presence inside, but having played for Spagnuolo with the Giants, his knowledge of the defense has been a help to the younger players. Defensive end James Hall has also been a big plus. Hall visited New Orleans early in free agency, but chose to re-sign with the Rams. He’s another guy that is a leader on a young team.
Joe: The Bucs seemed to be on the upswing after a dreadful season in 2009, and then the Saints thoroughly manhandled them last week, running and throwing the ball at will. From your sources, what element do the Bucs possess that concerns Spagnuolo the most? Or were the three early wins by the Bucs simply done with mirrors?
Balzer: They are concerned with the Bucs’ speed on defense, and the ability of Josh Freeman to make big plays.