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  1. #1
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    10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    BY JEFF GORDON
    STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
    08/09/2006

    For most Rams veterans, the preseason opener against Indianapolis will be just a light rehearsal. The top players will get a feel for how the new staff operates on game day.

    But the practice game will be vital to the bottom half of the depth chart -– the guys fighting to earn a roster slot or a spot on the practice squad. And this will be a big night for some more prominent players, too, given the competition for jobs.

    Here are 10 players to keep an eye on Thursday night:

    1. Richie Incognito, G: The Rams drafted him in ’05 hoping he could step up in ’06. Now the time has come. The fiery Incognito is healthy again and making a big mark in practice. But what can he do in an actual football game?
    There will be a lot of eyes on him when he squares off against the Colts.

    “He’s a heck of a football player,” Rams coach Scott Linehan told reporters Tuesday. “He’s young and still has some things he needs to improve on and mature as a player and a person. He’s certainly made a lot of great strides as far as his approach. His offseason was night and day from his offseason last year. He’s one of those guys that you hope and think will go out and really shine in a competitive environment.”

    2. Claude Terrell, G: Injuries forced him into the fray last season, when he wasn’t fully prepared for the job. He became notorious for false-start penalties -– which are one of Linehan’s pet peeves. Now, with a full year of work behind him, he should be a more polished blocker.

    Linehan gave Terrell and tight end Aaron Walker more work with the first unit earlier this week.

    “We want to take a look,” Linehan explained. “They certainly have the ability and giving them more chances with the first unit is always just another opportunity. It’s just adding to the competition we’re creating at both of those positions.”

    3-4. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Dave Ragone, QB: Fitzpatrick became Mike Martz’s favorite camp project last summer. And for one week of the regular season, he sure looked like a budding star. Then reality set in.

    Now he is fighting Ragone for the No. 3 spot behind Marc Bulger and newcomer Gus Frerotte. This game is HUGE for both players.

    “Ryan’s certainly playing much better than he did in the offseason program,” Linehan observed. “Dave is at a little bit of a disadvantage coming in here without being here for 25 practices that we had, but he’s working very hard to get there. Between the two of them, they’re making a lot of progress. That’s what happens when you have a real healthy competitive situation. Both players usually, if they’re players like these, are going to respond to the competition and they certainly have.”

    5. Marques Hagans, WR-PR: The Rams’ eternal search for an impact punt returner in the post-Az Hakim Era continues. Hagans is trying to scrape off his kick-return rust while also making the move from quarterback to wide receiver. He and wide receiver Brad Pyatt are getting the first shot at this job.

    “They know it’s a big role on this team and it’s an open job,” Linehan said. “So they’re competing just like a lot of these other guys are to win a job on this team.”

    6. Tye Hill, CB: Travis Fisher is enjoying a splendid camp. There are great expectations for free-agent pick-up Fakhir Brown. Jerametrius Butler has been solid, when healthy, and Dwight Anderson and DeJuan Groce are fighting for their NFL lives. Ron Bartell moved to safety, but he could return to the corner if needed.

    All this creates a highly charged atmosphere for Hill, the ultra-confident first-round pick. Can he earn a starting assignment? And if so, can he become an impact defender?

    7-8. Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd, TE: The Rams drafted this tandem and traded veteran Brandon Manumaleuna, dramatically changing their look at this position. Both rookies are wonderful athletes. Both have intriguing offensive potential.

    But can they master their blocking assignments, thus allowing Linehan to feature them extensively in the offense? Thursday is their first chance to gain some seasoning.

    9. O.J. Atogwe, FS: By the end of his rookie season, he appeared capable of holding this spot. This summer he is one of the second-year players the Rams are counting on to progress.

    He didn’t get much game experience in ’05, so the preseason games will be big for him.

    10. Tony Fisher, RB: When the Rams failed to land Michael Bennett, Fisher’s preseason progress became that much more important. The team did add Moe Williams, but he is more of a situational back.

    Fisher needs to prove himself on first and second down during the practice games. If he doesn’t, Fred Russell could get a longer look in the near term and the front office could shop for another back at the end of camp.
    Last edited by STLRAMSFAN; -08-09-2006 at 11:01 PM.


  2. #2
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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    I would add punters Turk and Groom. We've absolutely got to get that position solidified.

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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    Also Brandon Chillar, Dexter Coakley and the other new additions at linebacker


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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    I'm looking to see Jackson's contribution tonight! Unless is is out for this game.
    I stopped going to the dentist.......I got tired of the cavity searches!

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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    Quote Originally Posted by theodus69
    I'm looking to see Jackson's contribution tonight! Unless is is out for this game.
    Pre-season games barely even have the starters anyway, they don't even last a full first quarter, so I doubt we'll be seeing much from Stevie


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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    Quote Originally Posted by Varg6
    Pre-season games barely even have the starters anyway, they don't even last a full first quarter, so I doubt we'll be seeing much from Stevie
    Yea, the starters won't even break a sweat. This game (most of preseason for that matter) will be for the 2s, 3s, and the "hopefuls". Rookies, back-ups, UFAs.........that's where the evaluation process begins tonight.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    I'm really gonna watch out for bartell at FS at the game. I think he's gonna do a good job. And is Butler going to play alot or he's projected as a starter so he'll only play 1 drive against colts.

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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    Call me crazy, but I'm going to keep my eye on Marc Bulger. I want to see how far he's come since his latest injury. I'm also interested in seeing how our new head coach plans to keep our star qb up-right.

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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Defense
    Call me crazy, but I'm going to keep my eye on Marc Bulger. I want to see how far he's come since his latest injury. I'm also interested in seeing how our new head coach plans to keep our star qb up-right.
    Well, look quick, cause about 7 minutes into the game, he'll be on the bench.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    i think gordo wrote a nice column, but i dont see how anyone could not put jimmy kennedy at the top of any list like that. He is the most crucial swing guy on the team. How he plays is going to affect us a lot more than who is our tight end.

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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    GC knows my view on Kennedy so I won't go into that but what I'm interested in tonight is how the rookie TE's do in the blocking game. Blocking wasn't why the two rooks were drafted but that's what TE's do in the running game and if Linehan wants to put the ball in Jackson's hands more, the TE's are going to be a key factor in the running game.

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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    TIM McGARIGLE
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    :ramlogo: :ramlogo: hope Jackson plays

    this new coach better be good even better than mike
    Last edited by RamDez; -08-10-2006 at 05:48 PM. Reason: that give it some substance

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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan
    GC knows my view on Kennedy so I won't go into that but what I'm interested in tonight is how the rookie TE's do in the blocking game. Blocking wasn't why the two rooks were drafted but that's what TE's do in the running game and if Linehan wants to put the ball in Jackson's hands more, the TE's are going to be a key factor in the running game.
    Agreed. Even though the starters will likely not play more than a series or two, I hope the rookie tight ends get to stay in and see a good bit of action. Very anxious to see how Klopfenstein does on the field.
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    Re: 10 Rams to keep an eye on vs. the Colts

    Personally, I want to see how the new coach's gear looks on Linehan. I mean, style does count for something. Don't you think?
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