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News » St. Louis Rams Strategy and Personnel 2008-08-28


St. Louis Rams Strategy and Personnel 2008-08-28


St. Louis Rams Strategy and Personnel 2008-08-28
The Rams reduced their roster to 76 Tuesday since RB Steven Jackson is exempt and does not count. Rookie CB Justin King was placed on injured reserve with a toe injury, while PK Justin Medlock, WR Shaine Smith and RB Tavarus Giles were placed on waivers. Assuming Jackson's exemption is not lifted for Thursday's game, 23 players must be knocked off the roster by 3 p.m. Central Saturday.


PLAYER TO WATCH: DE James Hall -- Acquired in a trade last year from

Detroit, Hall played through injuries and was never able to provide the pass rush expected. Released early in the offseason, he was re-signed and then watched as the Rams selected Chris Long with the second pick in the draft and announced him as the starter. That seemed to motivate Hall, and he had a productive camp. In combination with Long, he can be a contributor to what the team hopes will be a better pressure on the quarterback.

DRAFT PICKS TO STICK

Rd. 1/2, DE Chris Long, Virginia -- Has been adjusting to switch from 3-4 defense, and is a work in progress. He will make plays with sheer hustle and determination.

Rd. 2/33, WR Donnie Avery, Houston -- Missed two weeks of practice because of an injury to his pelvic bone, but should bring speed and big plays to the offense. That might not happen until he learns a position other than the one Torry Holt plays.

Rd. 3/65, G/T John Greco, Toledo -- Has played both spots in the preseason, but is seen eventually as a guard.

Rd. 4/128, WR Keenan Burton, Kentucky -- He could be the steal of the draft, and could get playing time early if Drew Bennett isn't available.

Rd. 5/157, G Roy Schuening, Oregon State -- Got off to a slow start, but received significant playing time after Mark Setterstrom's knee injury and did well.

Rd. 7/228, LB Chris Chamberlain, Tulsa -- Showed athletic ability and savvy learning the offense, and should be a key producer on special teams.

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Marc Bulger. Backups -- Trent Green, Brock Berlin, Bruce Gradkowski.

Bulger is trying to build his confidence back after a 2007 season in which he received little protection and his mechanics suffered. An accurate passer, Bulger likes the rookie receivers the team added, and is developing rhythm in coordinator Al Saunders' system. Green was with Saunders for five seasons in Kansas City, and has a good feel for the offense. He isn't worried about the concussions that ended his previous two seasons. Berlin and Gradkowski have been very close in the competition for the No. 3 job. Berlin is more accurate, while Gradkowski runs well. It will be a tough decision.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- Steven Jackson, FB Dan Kreider. Backups -- Antonio Pittman, Brian Leonard, Travis Minor, Lance Ball, FB Russ Weil.

The only question is how long it will take Jackson to adjust to being hit in a game again. He missed 27 days of training, and won't have had any snaps in the preseason games. The absence of Jackson resulted in numerous opportunities for the other backs, and they benefited. Pittman runs with confidence, as does Leonard, who can also be used as a receiver. Minor is solid, and is one the team's best special teams cover guys. Ball impressed during camp, and will likely land on the practice squad. Kreider has experience as a blocker, but Weil, an undrafted free agent, has showed potential. Weil is a candidate for the practice squad.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Randy McMichael. Backups -- Anthony Becht, Joe Klopfenstein, Richard Owens.

Saunders is intent on getting the ball to McMichael, and that has been evident all summer in practice and in preseason games. He should be a potent weapon in the passing game. Becht missed a lot of time with a hamstring injury, but was back this week and should help the blocking in pass protection and short yardage. Klopfenstein showed improvement this summer. Owens has a history in college and at the Vikings with Linehan, so that could earn him a job.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Torry Holt, Drew Bennett. Backups -- Dante Hall, Keenan Burton, Donnie Avery, Dane Looker, Derek Stanley, Brandon Williams, Reche Caldwell.

A very deep position where some good players will be cut. Holt's knee seems healthier than it was last year at this time, and he loves Saunders' offense. After that there are questions. Bennett has been inconsistent since coming to the Rams in 2007, and aggravated a groin injury in the third preseason game. Burton has been practicing in his spot, and could be the opening-day starter. Hall is looking forward to being used more by Saunders in the slot, but he injured an ankle in the third preseason game. Avery has not gotten reps in the slot, so Looker could be there if Hall can't play. Stanley has potential, but the receiver depth could make it tough for him to win a job. Williams is in

the same position. Caldwell has experience, but the numbers game could doom him as well.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Orlando Pace, LG Jacob Bell, C Nick Leckey, RG Richie Incognito, RT Alex Barron. Backups -- LT Adam Goldberg, C Brett Romberg, G Roy Schuening, G/T John Greco, C/G Dustin Fry.

The key for the line is to keep their intact and consistent. Pace remains=

a question in terms of his durability for an entire game, but Goldberg did will there during the preseason. Leckey has been the surprise of the summer, and looks like the opening-day starter as Romberg's snapping hand has been slow to heal. Bell is solid. The right side of Incognito and Barron has talent, but both have to reduce needless penalties. Depth could be an issue with two

rookies -- Schuening and Greco -- and Fry, if he makes the team.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: LE Leonard Little, UT La'Roi Glover, NT Adam Carriker, RE Chris Long. Backups -- DE James Hall, DE Victor Adeyanju, NT Clifton Ryan, DE Eric Moore.

Little returns from toe surgery that limited him to one sack in 2007 after having 13 the season before. He will be 34 in October, but said he felt better this summer than in years past because of issues with the toe. Long and Hall will likely share time, and both have been used inside at times. Adeyanju is excellent against the run, and improving his pass rush. He also could see time inside. Glover is still productive when not over-used. Carriker will play his spot at times when Ryan is on the nose. Moore will only make the team if it is

decided to keep eight linemen.

LINEBACKERS: WLB Pisa Tinoisamoa, MLB Will Witherspoon, SLB Quinton

Culberson. Backups -- Chris Draft, WLB Chris Chamberlain, MLB Tim McGarigle, MLB Marc Magro, OLB David Vobora.

Witherspoon is the leader of the defense, and can make plays anywhere on the field. The biggest goal this season is to keep Tinoisamoa healthy, something he hasn't been the last two seasons. Culberson has the edge on the strong side, but Draft could be there in certain matchups. Draft can back up every linebacker position. Chamberlain has had a solid summer, and shows solid potential. McGarigle, Magro and Vobora are competing for one, maybe two jobs,

depending on whether six or seven linebackers make the team. Vobora missed time with ankle injury and is a candidate for the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: LCB Tye Hill, RCB Fakhir Brown, SS Corey Chavous, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe. Backups -- CB Ron Bartell, CB Jonathan Wade, CB David Macklin, S Todd Johnson, S Eric Bassey, S Jerome Carter, S/CB Tanard Davis.

It is hoped that Brown will be available for opening day. He was injured in the first practice of training camp, and except for some individual drills in the last week, has done little because of a shoulder problem. If Brown can't play, Bartell will line up opposite Hill in the base defense with Wade the nickel back. Brown's injury could result in Macklin being on the roster. Atogwe is the play-maker in the secondary, but he missed a lot of practice time with a hamstring injury. Chavous sometimes misses tackles, but his veteran presence helps the younger players. Johnson is a solid backup and

special teams producer. Bassey has shown improvement, but Carter has never lived up to expectations. Davis was signed during camp and might earn a spot because of his athletic ability.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Josh Brown, P Donnie Jones, LS Chris Massey, KOR
Dante Hall, KOR Donnie Avery, PR Brandon Williams, PR Dane Looker.

The Rams are as good any team in the league with Brown, Jones and Massey. Avery has shown some flashes as a kickoff returner, and could be used if Hall isn't totally healthy. If Hall isn't available, the punt returner is unknown. Williams is a longshot to make the roster, so Looker might have to handle the duties until Hall is able.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 28, 2008

Rob Petitti Name: Rob Petitti
#71
Position: OL
Age: 26
Experience: 4 years
College: Pittsburgh
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