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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    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
    safety.

    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
    2005.

    "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
    teams.

    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
    Stanford.

    "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
    position.

    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
    first minicamp.

    "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
    and Chavous.

    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."


  2. #2
    MATEOBURRITO's Avatar
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    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?

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    Re: Atogwe Settling in as Starter

    Quote Originally Posted by MATEOBURRITO View Post
    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?
    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.

    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.

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