Everett Defends His Play : Rams: Quarterback says the lousy start isn't all his fault. He says his line needs time to jell.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Blitzes and double-zones may break his bones, but Jim Everett swears that the words of his newly emerged wave of critics will never hurt him.

Wednesday, the Ram quarterback stood defiant in the face of those who say his play this season has plunged into mediocrity.

"There's probably always fundamental things that I could work on," Everett said, with an edge in his voice. "There's probably fundamental things that I could have worked on the last three years.

"Yet I led the NFL in touchdowns (with 83 from 1988-1990). What do people say about that?

"I throw the ball differently than other people, and I will continue to do so. They can say those things make a difference. I'll let things talk for themselves at the end of 16 games."

At the end of three games, Everett acknowledged that he does not have much with which to defend himself.

The Rams are the only team in the NFL that has not thrown a touchdown pass. Everett has completed 13 passes for 154 yards in the past two games, has completed one pass to his starting receivers the past two weeks and, last Sunday against the New Orleans Saints' hardy pass rush, looked jittery.

Everett is the fourth-lowest rated quarterback in the NFL.

"Right now, statistically, I'm not living up to the expectations that one, I've set for myself, and two, that I expect from myself," Everett said.

"Now the expectations that you guys (in the media) have, I don't really give a . . . about."

Everett refuses to agree with the assessments--from quarterback guru Sid Gillman's to Coach John Robinson's vague hints to other observers' suggestions that he has lost his nerve--that his game has deteriorated steadily from his 4,310-yard performance in 1989.

Last year, for the first time, Everett did not have a 1,000-yard rusher to ease the burden. He completed 55.4% of his passes and threw six fewer touchdown passes than in 1989.

"I don't think my play as far as what's going on or body language or those types of things is promoting bad play," Everett said. "Everyone has a theory on this, (but if) you look at game films of me a year ago, two years, I'm the same guy trying to get things done.

"I think there's a few times, especially against New Orleans, where I didn't have time to get the ball off."

Everett, sacked five times by New Orleans, pointed out that his whole offensive line has changed from last season, and he is playing behind five players who are learning how to pass-block on the job. Last year's starting left tackle, Irv Pankey, traded to Indianapolis two weeks ago after a contract dispute, is Everett's primary example of the sweeping change.

"I would think there's a lot of people hitting that panic button a little bit too soon," Everett said. "I feel very confident in the system we have. I don't think anyone in the NFL has five new offensive linemen in front of him.

"Those guys are developing a bond. It's taking time, but I have all the confidence in the world that they are going to be a great unit."

Everett does not deny he misses two departed Ram coaches--receiver coach Norval Turner, now the offensive coordinator in Dallas, and quarterback coach Dick Coury, now the offensive coordinator in New England--and he certainly misses Pete Holohan, his favorite target, who departed in a Plan B move after last season.

"Absolutely, all those things make a difference," Everett said.

Offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese, whom Everett suggested Sunday night might have been too predictable in his play-calling, said all the changes, most specifically the new offensive line's problems, are not entirely to blame for the pathetic passing game.

"It's not one isolated situation," Zampese said. "Hell, in '89 when we were down (in New Orleans), Jim got sacked six times. (He) got sacked five times this time. (In 1989) we won the game. We made plays and we won the game.

"Quarterbacks, when they throw the ball, are going to get hit. No question about it. . . .

"What you need to do is when you have the chance to make something happen, then you have to do it. And we had some chances. It certainly didn't look like it. But when you watch the film, we certainly had chances to make some plays in that game."

What does Everett have to do to get the passing game going again?

"Make plays," Zampese said, "and when guys get open, throw it to them, and they have to catch it.

"(But) a few plays make a tremendous amount of difference in people's confidence level. As soon as you're playing with confidence, then it seems like good things happen for you.

"When you start to think, 'Well, maybe this isn't going to work,' then I think it doesn't."

Which is as close as Zampese or any other Ram coach will get to saying Everett is not playing very well right now.

"I try to do the best that I possibly can," Everett said, "with what I have to work with."

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