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Avery's Debut Tonight; Bennett Has To Step Up
By Howard Balzer Saturday,
August 23, 2008
What a night in St. Louis! With the headlining showcase obviously insideSTL.com's third anniversary party at Lumen, other lesser events on the entertainment menu include the Bruce Springsteen concert at Scottrade Center and the Rams and Ravens at the Edward Jones Dome.
Springsteen and Steven Jackson might haveAveA been "Born to Run," but there haven't been many "Glory Days" at the Dome in recent seasons.
With Jackson not playing tonight, and left tackle Orlando Pace questionable, fans at the Dome will still be looking for some life from an offense that has scored only two touchdowns in the preseason. And both of those drives were led by Brock Berlin and Bruce Gradkowski, who are competing for the No. 3 quarterback job.
While it's important for quarterback Marc Bulger to develop his rhythm in the new offense ("that's my job," offensive coordinator Al Saunders said), the preseason is about finding out about all players and creating consistency and chemistry in the offensive line. In addition, players have to become accustomed to the way Saunders wants them to play.
Wide receiver Torry Holt is expected to play tonight after missing last week's game because of a tight back. The offense also has to get better production from wide receiver Drew Bennett, who had two passes go right through his hands against San Diego.
Still, asked about Bennett, coach Scott Linehan mentioned other aspects of his game that most of us don't often notice.
ďI think his camp has been really good," Linehan said. "I donít think his second preseason game was as good as his first, for sure, but he has been very consistent. I think one thing he has really shown is exceptional effort. He made a number of very, very key blocks in last weekís game. Those guys are really doing a good job on the perimeter of getting on their man so instead of a six- to seven-yard run, we get that 10-, 15-, 20-yard run, because you eliminate that safety or corner or whoever it is. Thatís where Drew has really, really improved in a lot of ways and I think he is one of those guys we are counting on and has been working very hard and has proven to me that we can count on him.Ē
Linehan and Saunders also hope they can start counting on second-round pick Donnie Avery, who will play for the first time tonight after injuring his pelvic bone early in training camp. It's possible he will get a chance to return some kickoffs.
Avery wanted to play against the Chargers after returning to full practice the Monday before that game, but Linehan said, "We decided not to play him because we didnít want him to have a setback. Iíd like to see him play the most of any receiver this week. This is going to be big for him.Ē
ďI am excited about going out there on Saturday and playing on it," Avery said. "I thought I was going to get a chance last week but they wanted to be careful with it. Now I have got more time on the practice field with it so I am cool now. It feels good.Ē
As for falling behind while not practicing, Linehan said, ďI donít think he could help but be a little behind missing practice but heís got a great work ethic and he stayed in it mentally very well. Heís always one of the first guys at those meetings and the last one to leave and works on his game. That will benefit him. We have to accelerate his development here in the next couple of preseason games.Ē
Said Avery, thinking back to his first minicamp in May, ďI was like a chicken with his head cut off when I first got here. Now, I can see the light. I can see what Iím doing now.Ē
Avery knows there are skeptics that question why the Rams selected him with the 33rd overall pick in the draft, making him the first wide receiver taken on draft day.
Not to worry, he says, ďThese guys think I was supposed to be taken where I was, and I think I was supposed to be taken were I was. Iím just excited about getting out there and showing everybody what I can do.Ē
The things the Rams like most about Avery are his work ethic, character, and, of course, speed. When asked if his injury has slowed him down, Avery laughed and said, "From a 4.26 to about a 4.28. Not that much."
Everyone hopes he'll begin showing that tonight.
PITTMAN'S LAST HURRAH?
Running back Antonio Pittman knew the day was coming when Steven Jackson would return to the team. But tonight, with Brian Leonard sidelined by a shoulder injury and Jackson standing on the sideline, Pittman, along with Travis Minor and Lance Ball, will get the bulk of the work.
"Every one of the running backs gave the coaches a better look at what we all can do," Pittman said about the 27 days when Jackson was AWOL. "The opportunity was good for us."
Pittman became the main guy to spell Jackson toward the end of last season, and now he's even more comfortable in that role. He also knows what having Jackson back means to the team.
"It's good that he's back," Pittman said, as he then referred to another Springsteen song. "Now that he's here, we can get the ball rolling and add some more 'Fire' to the offense."
Re: Avery's Debut Tonight; Bennett Has To Step Up
i thought Avery looked good he had a few drops but he'll get better and Burton looked even better how about that one handed catch and oh yeah Bennett was terrible once again
-08-24-2008 #3Registered User
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Re: Avery's Debut Tonight; Bennett Has To Step Up
If Bennett continues to play like he has so far it's a real bummer we gave him that big contract, he'll also take up a roster spot that someone more productive could have had instead. On the other hand his contract makes it very hard to get rid of him, so we really need to think twice before we kick him out. Let's see how he does in the real season - for now I'm onboard with the idea that Bennett shouldn't play the #2 WR spot, split the snaps more evenly between him and our rookies, don't just hand Bennett the job. He hasn't earned anything on this team yet.
Very encouraging game by our rookie WR's and even more encouraging to see Bulger playing like that again.
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