Atogwe Settling in as Starter
By Nick Wagoner -- Senior Writer, stlouisrams.com
Wed, September 20, 2006
According to the roster, Oshiomogho Atogwe is entering his second season as
an NFL safety.
Why, then, does it seem like Atogwe is just beginning his rookie season?
After an offseason that saw the Rams spend money to upgrade nearly every
other position on the defense, there was nothing done to make a move at free
That's because new coach Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett
believed they had the guy they needed to take over a position that was
nothing less than a revolving door for the past two seasons.
That player is Atogwe. That's right, the same Atogwe who might as well not
have been on the roster with the exception of maybe two or three weeks in
"A lot of good came out of last year," Atogwe said. "It taught me to be more
professional at this game, first and foremost. (It taught me to) play every
play like it's your last play."
Atogwe's rookie season wasn't that much different from many rookie seasons.
But, it's safe to say it was a bit of a disappointment for a player who was
a high third round choice in the NFL Draft. Even though he wasn't
necessarily expected to be a starter, many thought he would be in on special
After all, Atogwe was one of the top safeties taken in the draft. Perhaps he
was at a disadvantage because of Stanford's trimester system which cost him
many practices and workouts in the offseason.
When the season began, Michael Hawthorne started at free safety and Atogwe
was active for special teams. In the opener against San Francisco, Atogwe
made a few mistakes on special teams.
Instantly, Atogwe found himself in the doghouse. He was inactive for three
games and played in 13, with little of that action coming on defense. Things
were so bad for Atogwe that he couldn't play above Hawthorne, who was an
unmitigated debacle at the position.
Even when Hawthorne finally fell out of favor, converted receiver Mike
Furrey took over the starting job. It was a tough time for the rookie out of
"One or two plays on special teams, and you're inactive," Atogwe said. "You
never know when you're going to get your next chance to play."
Atogwe did get a chance finally in week 12 against Houston. There, he showed
flashes of what could be by coming up with a big sack late in the game.
In the season finale against Dallas, Atogwe got his best opportunity and
took advantage. He made three tackles and added a fumble recovery and an
interception. By the end of the year, he had just five tackles with the
sack, fumble recovery and interception and seven special teams tackles.
"It's a tough experience to go through, but it was also a needed
experience," Atogwe said. "The NFL is a tough game to play. You have to take
your hills with your valleys. You have to keep rolling and pushing through
it and keeping the faith."
When the Rams made the move to bring in Linehan and Haslett, Atogwe got new
life. He was about to get his first full season under his belt and he knew
that he would at least get an opportunity to compete for a starting
Little did he know, though, that he would not only get a chance to compete,
but he would start out as the leader for the vacant free safety job. The
Rams informed Atogwe of his depth chart standing on the first day of the
"It takes faith to make a guy a starter who didn't get much experience as a
rookie," Atogwe said. "It definitely takes a lot of faith, but I feel it's
not going to go unwarranted. I'm going to make some plays."
Atogwe has done just that now that he has taken a hold of the starting job.
He is expected to hold that job and start next to Corey Chavous in the
secondary. Fakhir Brown and Travis Fisher will join them as starter in the
defensive backfield with Tye Hill, Jerametrius Butler and DeJuan Groce
helping at cornerback.
Behind Atogwe, the Rams have Dwaine Carpenter and Ron Bartell in
competition. Jerome Carter seems safe in his spot as a backup to both Atogwe
So far, Atogwe has taken advantage of his opportunities. Aside from a
coverage error in the preseason opener against Indianapolis, Atogwe has
proved to be a more physical presence than many expected.
Atogwe slammed Kansas City receiver Samie Parker to the ground on the Rams'
2 after a long completion in the third preseason game, a play demonstrating
Atogwe's physical approach to free safety.
"I think O.J.'s done outstanding," Linehan said. "Free safety's like corner
or quarterback. If they make a mistake, it's pretty obvious."
That one mistake has been the only one to stand out for Atogwe so far and
this time a single mistake won't land him on the bench. For better or worse,
the Rams might have finally found the answer to their free safety conundrum.
If nothing else, Atogwe can't be worse than the likes of Hawthorne, Antuan
Edwards, Tom Knight and Kwamie Lassiter, some of the players who have tried
to fill the large shoes left by Aeneas Williams.
So far, all signs point to Atogwe being the guy that makes the revolving
door at free safety come to a stop.
"He hasn't acted or looked like a guy that didn't play last year," Linehan
said. "He's maturing and he's improving every day."
Re: Atogwe Settling in as Starter
OJ doesn't look half bad out there, but keep in mind he did blow his zone coverage allowing Antonio Bryant to make that deep score. Travis Fischer was also in on that fun, too. Speaking of Fischer, I've just about had it with him. Why aren't we using Jeremetrius Butler? Butler is much more aggresive in his coverage. Fisher just seems to sit back and let catches happen, then he tackles. When was the last time Fisher got an INT...or any big play for that matter?
Re: Atogwe Settling in as Starter
I agree...Atogwe made great plays in week one where his gambles paid off leading to the INT...against the niners, his gamble did not pay off, because he obviously missed the INT giving Bryant an easy run to the endzone. He needs to learn making the highlight reel is not as important as the win. From what I saw of Haslett giving it to him on the sideline after the play, I can only assume Haslett was making sure he knew this.
Originally Posted by MATEOBURRITO
I think Fisher and Butler are both just filling a slot that Hill will be taking soon anyway. Hill looks good from what I've seen so far. When Hill was put in on goal line situations last week, I knew the coaches believed in him too.