"We lost our love of football," says Robinson. "We had things to overcome, and we just didn't overcome 'em. You used to put a film of the Rams on, and at least you saw guys playing hard. Last year we didn't play hard."
Everett should have a much better year in '88. Look who he'll be throwing to: Henry Ellard and two nifty rookies. Flipper Anderson and Aaron Cox, instead of Ellard and Ron Brown; tight end Damone Johnson, a pass catcher, instead of David Hill, a 270-pound blocker; and in the backfield, an eyecatching fifth-round rookie, Robert Delpino, who some say was the steal of the draft. He runs, blocks and catches.
The defense will have a new look. Fritz Shurmer, the coordinator, has always been an old-fashioned type who believed in a carefully controlled system. But now his eyes light up as he describes his attack formula, the Eagle, which calls for only two down linemen and five linebackers, some—and occasionally all—of them crashing in from crazy angles. Which could be another way of saying the Rams don't have enough defensive linemen. But why knock them? They're trying.
Lost in the forests of the night could be a major talent. Chris Miller, who as a rookie quarterback for the ATLANTA FALCONS last year brought a lot of NFL people straight up in their chairs. Miller saw action in the last three games, in which he completed only 42% of his passes, but he showed a real love of the deep. The problem is building a team around him.
In '87 Atlanta might have set a league mark for worsts: worst record, worst offense, worst defense, worst rushing offense and defense, worst time of possession. The reason the team's passing game wasn't the worst is that when you can't run the ball you put it up a lot. Even so, the completion percentage was second worst.
On draft day, though, coach Marion Campbell, an old defensive coach, looked at the '87 worst that bothered him the most—an anemic sack total of 17. So he went for a pair of fleet-footed, pass-rushing linebackers in the first two rounds—Aundray Bruce, the first player chosen, and Marcus Cotton in the second round. Then Campbell devoted four of his next five choices to helping the offense, or rather Ken Herock did. Herock, the veteran personnel director whose drafts built Tampa Bay into a contender in the 1970s, was hired after the '87 draft. That was a sensible move for an organization that no longer seemed able to compete on a professional level. Herock's first draft was a dandy, with at least nine players given a chance to make the team. Bruce, although he had knee problems in the preseason, and Cotton should provide immediate impact. The rest of the show is wait and hope.
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