HOW THE RAMS LINE UP FOR ’94 : ANALYSIS : Rams Forget Past, Find Confidence


The Rams are back to work, and aren’t you thrilled.

The team that went 5-11 a year ago after finishing 6-10 and 3-13 campaigns has reassembled to try, try again.

While most observers have them pegged to go to Baltimore or St. Louis, the players and coaches seem to think they are headed for the playoffs.

You laugh, but facts are the Rams took this business of football seriously during the off-season. Apartment dwellers who overlook Rams Park immediately noticed the difference--they no longer lived in fear of misguided footballs once Jim Everett was banished to New Orleans.


Now that the Rams really do have some guy named “Chris” starting at quarterback, and one to back him up, too, they have positioned themselves to play old-time Seattle Seahawk football.

In Chris Miller and Chris Chandler, the Rams have the arms to complete high-percentage passes, while not ignoring Flipper Anderson deep.

“Our team goal is to complete 58% of our passes, but I’d like to hit 62 to 65%,” Miller said. “I think it’s very reasonable to reach those numbers based on what we’re going to do.”

To date, Miller has been everything the Rams wanted in a quarterback. He not only completes his passes, but also compliments his receivers for fulfilling their assigned duties. Anderson went diving for a Miller pass the other day, and as one Ram official noted, “You didn’t see him doing that a year ago.”

For Miller and the Rams to succeed, however, something will need to be done with the offensive line. This is no Great Wall and now there are plans to employ a rookie at left tackle to protect Miller’s blindside.

Wayne Gandy, the team’s No. 1 draft pick from Auburn, was too tired to make it to the team’s Saturday afternoon practice after signing a $5-million-plus contract. No hurry, it seems, because in the meantime some guy named Clarence Jones is protecting Miller.


“We have the potential to challenge for a playoff position if certain things happen,” Coach Chuck Knox said. “One, we need to stiffen our offensive line . . . “

Did he say, “stiffs”? The Rams will start Darryl Ashmore in Jackie Slater’s place at right tackle and will position Indianapolis reject Bill Schultz to beat out Tom Newberry at left guard. Offensive line coach Jim Erkenbeck will earn his paycheck this year.

The search for a second, third and fourth receiver to accompany Anderson also will dominate the Rams’ summertime fun, but if all else fails, there’s always Bettis, Bettis and more Bettis.

Defensively, the Rams have the potential to be exciting and successful. The addition of Dallas defensive tackle Jimmie Jones, Raider linebacker Joe Kelly, Charger safety Marquez Pope and Cleveland cornerback Terry Taylor should help keep the Rams in every game.

Sacks could come in bunches with Robert Young and Sean Gilbert on the prowl. And if the equipment manager elects to issue hands to the secondary this season--after a year in which their cornerbacks and safeties combined for seven interceptions--the Rams will have a chance to improve their NFL last-place finish in takeaways.

The hiring of special teams coach Wayne Sevier, which might have been the team’s best off-season acquisition, will allow Knox the luxury of relying heavily on that phase of the game as he did previously in Seattle.


“This has been an excellent off-season in terms of filling some holes and in the off-season conditioning work we’ve gotten done,” Knox said.

The Rams have more team speed, appear deeper and won’t be forced to start Wymon Henderson at cornerback.

But season-ticket sales, which are off more than 30%, indicate fans do not share Knox’s enthusiasm. The team hasn’t had a winning season since 1989 and a move elsewhere appears a certainty.

“None of that should take us off track,” Knox said. “You handle that by winning. It would be great for us to win and attract fans to that stadium.

“But we have to give them something to tie to, and that’s winning. And then maybe, when it’s all said and done, we can help give some people reasons to stay here.”