RB Marcel Shipp (Doug Pensinger/Getty)
Ken Whisenhunt plans to use the season finale to search for the offensive balance that's been missing all season long. Scott Linehan is searching for anything that will help the Rams avoid their worst season since moving to St. Louis -- he may have to find it without Brandon Chillar.
INSIDE CARDINALS CAMP:
One of the major off-season goals will be addressing what went wrong with the running game.
It never developed as coach Ken Whisenhunt expected, although running back Edgerrin James gained more than 1,000 yards for the second straight season. A Cardinals running back hadn't accomplished that since Ottis Anderson in 1983-84.
But the Cardinals are averaging 3.6 yards a carry and have been unable to close out some games when they've had the lead.
Part of the problem was the implementation of a new scheme and a rebuilding of the offensive line.
But play-calling had something to do with it, too. Whisenhunt realized that with Kurt Warner at quarterback and Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald at receivers, that the team's strength was in its passing game.
So he called more passes than runs, about a 60-40 split. Entering the year, Whisenhunt had talked about doing just the opposite, running it 55 percent of the time or so.
It's likely the Cardinals will look long and hard for a speed back, too. James does a nice job between the tackles, dancing and sliding to find cracks and seams. There have been times, however, when holes have closed before he could reach them.
The Cardinals might be in the market for a back who does less hunting and pecking and more sprinting.
INSIDE RAMS CAMP:
It's only fitting that the Rams conclude the 2007 season with yet another injury issue hanging over the team.
Linebacker Brandon Chillar, one of the team's most improved players this season, now appears to be questionable for the season finale in Arizona. The Rams are already playing without Pisa Tinoisamoa, who has been replaced in the starting lineup by Chris Draft.
With Tinoisamoa out, Chillar was seeing more playing time than usual in the nickel defense. If Chillar can't play because of an injured calf, undrafted rookie free agent Quinton Culberson would make his first NFL start.
Chillar was injured in the Rams' Thursday night game against Pittsburgh, and he doesn't even know when he was hurt.
Said coach Scott Linehan, "We talked about it. He doesn't really know. You can't really see it on film. He thought he sprained his ankle initially, but it was more of a strain on the back of the lower part of the calf. Unfortunately it's pretty painful and not coming around very quick."
Linehan said a decision could be made Friday, depending on how he feels.
"I'll wait until tomorrow because he was feeling pretty good about it Monday," Linehan said Thursday. "Yesterday he did not feel good about it and today he didn't. Right now we're planning on having Quinton (Culberson) start if he isn't able to go."
As for Culberson, Linehan said, "He doesn't have that much experience there. He got 11 snaps in last game, so he's been in the games. He's been playing primarily special teams. It's always helpful to take all the snaps during the week of practice. If he's called upon he has a whole week of practice to get ready. It would be exciting to see, if it does happen, how he plays. He played very well for us in preseason."
If Chillar is unavailable, that could also affect the special teams units. Speaking of depth at linebacker, Linehan said, "We'd be a little light there. It's going to be fine if we don't have more than one guy have any problem during the game. We'll probably end up, if we have to go that way, carrying an extra defensive player at some point whether a D-lineman or a secondary player for special teams."
If Chillar doesn't play, he would be the seventh defensive player this season to miss at least one start because of injury or suspension.