SI Vault
September 18, 1967
The shuffling over, revived Los Angeles is eying a bright new era. But it has two problems it won't solve easily: San Francisco and Baltimore
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 18, 1967

Rams' Year In Coastal

The shuffling over, revived Los Angeles is eying a bright new era. But it has two problems it won't solve easily: San Francisco and Baltimore

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6

There are no startling changes on the defensive unit. Elbert Kimbrough, one of the starting defensive backs, was picked up by New Orleans in the draft of veterans, but he is replaced by a good young player in Al Randolph. The defensive line is intact and should be better this season with improved play by Defensive End Stan Hindman. The linebackers, if 12-year veteran Matt Hazeltine holds up for the full season, are sound, and Christiansen has potentially good reserves at this position.

His starting four in the secondary—Jim Johnson, the most underrated corner back in the league, Kermit Alexander, Randolph and George Donnelly—are excellent and he has adequate replacements for them.

If the 49er defense progresses normally and the offense continues its prolific point production, the 49ers might edge out the Rams, but they cannot match the Ram defense, and most championships, as the clich� goes, are won on defense.

Should Johnny Unitas have one of his good years, the Baltimore Colts could win. Their only problem, other than Unitas' chronically sore right elbow, is an offensive line that does not match San Francisco's. Although the Colts are high on Johnny U's replacement, Jim Ward, they probably could not win with him consistently. Ward was drafted 14th in 1966 from Gettysburg, and he has not yet played a down of NFL football, having spent last season on the taxi squad. Yet Coach Don Shula is optimistic.

"We have no doubts about Ward," Shula said recently. "He's a tremendous boy. Last year he never even played in a preseason game but he sure looks good now."

Ward looked poised in completing five of six passes for 96 yards in a preseason game against the Boston Patriots, but he is still a rookie and the only other backstop the Colts have for Unitas is another rookie, Terry Southall of Baylor. So the Colts are walking along the narrow edge of disaster at quarterback, and it is too much to hope that Unitas, at 34, will go an entire season unscathed. He threw on a reduced schedule during training camp, resting his arm. He won't be able to afford that kind of luxury during the season.

Elsewhere, the Colts are more improved than any other team in the division. Massive Bubba Smith, the No. 1 draft choice, for whom they traded Gary Cuozzo to the New Orleans Saints, should eventually be another Big Daddy Lipscomb or Gino Marchetti in the defensive line, which is already strong. Their linebackers, despite a wholesale raid by the Saints in the veteran draft, are still good, if not as deep as before. The team will, however, miss Alvin Haymond's defensive play. He will be lost for half the season with an injury.

The running backs—Tony Lorick, Jerry Hill, Tom Matte and Lenny Moore—are all experienced, but they lack the size and speed of the 49ers and the shiftiness of Mason and Bass of the Rams. John Mackey, the excellent Colt tight end, may move into the backfield for some plays this fall in a new I formation Shula has developed. Mackey was a running back in college and has remarkable moves for so big a man.

The Colts have scrimmaged much more often in training camp than in years gone by. "We had an awful lot of work to do when we came to camp and we're getting it done," Shula explained. "This has been a good camp."

Said Lorick, "Physically we should be ready for anything. This extra contact work has got all of us wanting to do some damage to somebody besides our own teammates. I'm tired of hitting our guys. I want some fresh meat."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6