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Adjustments Could Improve Special Teams
Friday, November 26, 2004
By Nick Wagoner
In any dire situation desperate means eventually become necessary. For the Rams’ special teams, the predicament has gotten so difficult that coach Mike Martz has reached his boiling point and changes are set to be made for Monday night’s matchup at Green Bay.
Amidst speculation for various changes on each special teams unit this week, most alterations won’t be evident until the teams take the field Monday night.
After a brisk Thanksgiving Day practice at Rams Park on Thursday, defensive end Leonard Little hinted at one important addition to the kickoff coverage units.
“You might see me on kickoff coverage,” Little said with a wink and a nudge. “I used to do that a long time ago. I might have to come out of retirement. Be on call, be on watch for that, and see me on kickoff coverage on Monday.”
Little is probably the Rams most valuable defensive player, but was a special teams dynamo when he first arrived in St. Louis. In 1998, Little’s rookie season, he made eight special teams stops, but he became that group’s most consistent performer soon after.
In just six games in 1999, Little made nine tackles on special teams, but 2000 was his best season on the special units. He made 18 special teams tackles that season before making 11 in 2001. He made enough of an impression with his nonstop motor and speed during that season to start taking more snaps with the defense.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Little racked up 14.5 sacks that season and established himself as one of the league’s best defensive ends. The following season was his first as a full-time starter.
Now, Little is likely going to get back to his roots on the special teams. His addition certainly can’t hurt, but Martz said earlier this week that he would prefer not to have his starting defensive players pull double duty.
Martz said his biggest problem with the special teams struggles is just that, seeing the starters forced to help in areas they normally wouldn’t.
“Not only is it hard, it’s unfair,” Martz said. “There are guys who should be doing a better job. That’s what I am angry about. That’s really disturbing.”
A prime example of a player who has struggled doing both is middle linebacker Trev Faulk. By all accounts, Faulk is the Rams most consistent performer on special teams, but when he took over the job from Robert Thomas, he was forced into doubling his output.
His performance on both units has suffered because of the extra workload. Not that Faulk has been bad; it’s more a matter of being able to keep his energy level up, according to Martz.
“He’s been on special teams, but he’s also started, (so) he’s exhausted,” Martz said.
That physical wear and tear attributed to Thomas getting his job back this week. With a more-rested Faulk and Little on kickoff coverages, there will definitely be more speed and attitude than in recent weeks.
Other changes are possible as far as personnel. The Rams brought in Kevin Stemke to punt in a workout Thursday. Punter Sean Landeta has struggled in recent weeks.
Whatever decisions are made this week, they certainly can’t hurt an already ailing unit. Perhaps a couple of familiar faces on kick coverage and a new face punting could make all the difference.
INJURY REPORT: The injury report remained the same from Wednesday. Receiver Torry Holt did more in Thursday’s practice than Wednesday, but is still questionable for Monday night with a knee injury.
Cornerbacks Travis Fisher (knee) and Kevin Garrett (concussion), safety Antuan Edwards (groin), defensive end Anthony Hargrove (neck) and tackle Grant Williams (shoulder) are probable.
Guard Chris Dishman (knee) is out and cornerback DeJuan Groce (knee) it doubtful. Among Packers’ notables on the injury report, RB Ahman Green did not practice for the second straight day.
Re: Adjustments Could Improve Special Teams
Yeah, we've heard that how many times?
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