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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    BY BILL COATS • Friday, December 10, 2010 12:10 am

    At 6 feet and 198 pounds, Rams cornerback Bradley Fletcher was giving up 3 inches and 20 pounds last Sunday to Arizona's Pro Bowl wideout, Larry Fitzgerald. But that didn't stop Fletcher from muscling his way past Fitzgerald and into position to pick off a pass late in the third quarter.

    The interception, a team-high third for Fletcher this year, led to a field goal in the Rams' 19-6 victory. Still, you won't see the reserved Fletcher hopping around the field in self-celebration. That's not his style.

    "I'm just trying to make the plays that come my way," he said.

    Despite a couple of glitches along the way, Fletcher is becoming a mainstay on a Rams defense that ranks 14th in the 32-team NFL after finishing 29th a year ago.

    "He's one of those guys that goes a hundred miles an hour every single snap, all the time," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "It doesn't matter whether it's in practice or in the weight room or whatever."

    A third-round draft pick out of Iowa in 2009, Fletcher by the fifth game of his rookie season had ousted veteran Jonathan Wade from the first-team lineup. Fletcher was making just his third start on Oct. 25, 2009, when he tumbled awkwardly to the Edward Jones Dome turf after breaking up a deep sideline pass from Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning intended for wide receiver Pierre Garçon.

    Two knee ligaments were torn, and two operations were needed to repair the damage. The prognosis was that Fletcher wouldn't be back for at least a year.

    But just like his uncompromising interception vs. Fitzgerald, Fletcher was having none of that.

    Road to recovery

    Fletcher was a constant presence in the training room at Rams Park, where he endured a grueling rehab regimen. It was tedious and painful, Fletcher acknowledged.

    "It was a long process ... a lot of weights, a lot of treatment," he said.

    By the second preseason game, vs. Cleveland on Aug. 21, Fletcher was ready to go, at least two months sooner than forecast.

    And when the season opened Sept. 12 against the Cardinals, Fletcher was right back where he was before he was injured — with the first-team defense.

    But Fletcher wasn't the same raw youngster. While he was sidelined, he attended meetings and studied film, trying to pick up as much as he could to better prepare himself for his second season.

    "I was able to learn a lot from last year to this year, just knowing where your help's coming from and how we're doing some things on defense in our schemes," Fletcher said. "That's helping me out right now."

    Fletcher is an enthusiastic student, veteran cornerback Ron Bartell emphasized.

    "You get a lot of younger guys, they think they have it all figured out," Bartell said. "Bradley listens, he asks questions, he soaks it up like a sponge, he tries to learn from his mistakes. I think his willingness and his eagerness to be a better football player, just to listen and learn, is probably his biggest attribute."

    Family atmosphere

    Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, as the second-youngest of Carl and Vikki Fletcher's four sons, Bradley learned early to assert himself. "We always played out in the yard, played basketball, raced each other," he said. "We were very competitive. But we had a lot of fun."

    Fletcher was a running back as well as a defensive back at Liberty High. On the basketball court, he played everything from point guard to small forward. And he could dish out some punishment — his career high was 35 points.

    "I could do a few things with" the basketball, he said, smiling. But he didn't generate nearly as much interest from colleges as he did in football. It took just one campus trip for him to decide on a destination.

    "When I took the visit (to Iowa) my junior year, it really had a good family-based system there," Fletcher said. "I really liked the coaching staff and Coach (Kirk) Ferentz. I just knew I wanted to go play ball there."

    Later, Ohio State dangled an offer, a strong lure for an Ohio native. "It was a little tempting," Fletcher conceded. "But I gave my (acceptance) to Iowa, and I wanted to stay with my word."

    Back on track

    After starting the first eight games this year, Fletcher found himself on the sideline at the start of the Rams' Nov. 14 contest at San Francisco. According to word around Rams Park, the coaches didn't like the way he was practicing, so they replaced him with veteran Kevin Dockery.

    Burned for receptions of 32 and 65 yards on the *****' first two series, Dockery was yanked and Fletcher was reinserted. He's maintained his spot since then.

    "He's done good for us," defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. "I think 'Fletch' will be the first one to tell you it's really his freshman year from a mental standpoint. All the reps and game experience that he lost after the (Indianapolis) game is hard, but you (have to let him) get back on the horse again."

    Spagnuolo estimated that Fletcher still is only about 95 percent recovered from the knee injury. Fletcher would only say that he "could always be better, but it's feeling pretty good overall."

    Which would be an apt way to describe his game, too, Bartell noted: pretty good overall.

    "He's growing; he's definitely getting better," Bartell said. "He still has a long way to go, still some things he can improve on. But for him to be where's he at, coming off a major knee injury, you can't help but be impressed."

    Typically, Fletcher remains unmoved by his rapid comeback. "I'm just happy to get back," he said, "and help the team out any way I can."


  2. #2
    RuffRams's Avatar
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Good article. I am pleasantly surprised with Fletcher. Like bartell said there is room for improvement. I have seen him give up plays, unnecessary P.I.s not playing the ball etc etc. But it is not a understatement to say I think fletcher could be our solid second corner for years to come. The way he is maturing at the position, shoot he could turn into a very nice number 1, you never know.

  3. #3
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Fletchers development is one of the main reasons rams D has turned around

  4. #4
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Fletcher and Bartell should be a solid cb tandem for years to come. Neither may ever be a true lockdown corner but I could see both making a pro bowl or two.

    It will be great to see how Fletcher develops. If he's playing this well as kind of a redshirt freshmen think how good he'll be next year.

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    KoaKoi is offline Registered User
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    yeah... Rams have spent quite a few picks for the corner spot in recent years hoping someone will stick.

    it'll be nice if he keeps developing and the knee gets back to par

  6. #6
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    I can see him as a solid corner in future years. He and Jerome Murphy will come along together. They will get veteran help from Bartell and Dockery.

    I hope Bartell and Fletcher become even better. We could really be a scary defense soon.

  7. #7
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Ive been impressed watching Fletcher this season. You can tell sometimes who's going to be good corner. Even when beat Ive noticed he has been very close to making a play on the ball. He seems to be a hard-nosed type, who isnt afraid of contact. I believe he will be a keeper for the Rams.
    The Rams have a some good, young, defensive backs. Many have a similar playing style, all drafted to fit in Spag's system. Which mean's they can all tackle. Beautiful.

  8. #8
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Didn't he do pretty well last year until he banged his knee into the turf last year?

  9. #9
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post

    The interception, a team-high third for Fletcher this year, led to a field goal in the Rams' 19-6 victory.
    0.o


    Yeah, that's not good...

  10. #10
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldenfleece View Post
    0.o


    Yeah, that's not good...
    I'd be interested to know how many players are sitting on three. If we're spreading the love around, then I don't have a problem with that. I'm pretty sure that in 2003 or 4 when we went to the playoffs on the back of a lot of defensive takeaways, Jeremetrius Butler was the interceptions leader with four or five.

  11. #11
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Good article, except Rams fans need to get a hold of reality. The Rams "14th rank" defense is a little mis-leading.

    The Rams have played one of the easiest schedules in the NFL this season. They've played two winning teams, both losses. They were slaughtered by the Lions and beaten soundly by the Falcons. Sure, they held the Cardinals to 6 points, but that was more because of bad Quarterbacking on their part, not great defense by the Rams. They're showing signs of improvement, but I still believe the Rams are in the bottom third in the league in overall D. Maybe in a year or two, IF the young kids on D can stay healthy, this team might be a top 10 defense, but not yet.

    ...and it may be uncovered this Sunday in New Orleans. With our best CB out, and another LB down for the season, it could get ugly.

    Somebody on D really needs to step up for the Rams to even stay in the game Sunday. With all the injuries, I'm not liking their chances. I sure hope they prove me wrong and go out and knock the bejesus out of Brees and the Saints.
    Last edited by RAMFANRAIDERHATER; -12-11-2010 at 01:44 PM.
    Faithful Rams fan since 1968

  12. #12
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Fletcher is developing great and hopefully he can continue.Him and Bartell make a good team they just both need be on the field at the same time more often.By that i mean health wise,they need to stay healthy.

  13. #13
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Bar-bq View Post
    I'd be interested to know how many players are sitting on three. If we're spreading the love around, then I don't have a problem with that. I'm pretty sure that in 2003 or 4 when we went to the playoffs on the back of a lot of defensive takeaways, Jeremetrius Butler was the interceptions leader with four or five.
    Per NFL.com:

    Bradley Fletcher: 3
    Oshiomogho Atogwe: 2
    James Butler: 2
    Craig Dahl: 1
    Jerome Murphy: 1
    James Laurinaitis: 1

    Glad to hear that Fletch's knee is holding up and he is a promising young corner...but wasn't it just a couple weeks ago that Spags had replaced him in the starting lineup with Kevin Dockery?

    Quote Originally Posted by RAMFANRAIDERHATER View Post
    Good article, except Rams fans need to get a hold of reality. The Rams "14th rank" defense is a little mis-leading.

    The Rams have played one of the easiest schedules in the NFL this season. They've played two winning teams, both losses. They were slaughtered by the Lions and beating soundly by the Falcons. Sure, they held the Cardinals to 6 points, but that was more because of bad Quarterbacking on their part, not great defense by the Rams. They're showing signs of improvement, but I still believe the Rams are in the bottom third in the league in overall D. Maybe in a year or two, IF the young kids on D can stay healthy, this team might be a top 10 defense, but not yet.
    Yes, well, we should have beaten the Bucs (the other winning team we've played besides the Falcons), and there are 3 other teams we've played who are at .500 and could be winning teams by the end of this week's games. More importantly, though, how many of the 11 defenses we've played against so far would you say were clearly better than ours? In order for our team to be bottom 1/3 of the league, there can't be more than 10 defenses in the league worse than others.

    I think 14th is about right for our defense, just a little bit above average but not quite as good as our 8th place rank in points against might suggest.

  14. #14
    ZiaRam is offline Registered User
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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    I just pray that the tandem wont be messed up with injuries!!! Stay healthy guys!!

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    Re: Bradley Fletcher thrives in Rams’ 14th-ranked defense ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldenfleece View Post
    Per NFL.com:

    Bradley Fletcher: 3
    Oshiomogho Atogwe: 2
    James Butler: 2
    Craig Dahl: 1
    Jerome Murphy: 1
    James Laurinaitis: 1

    Glad to hear that Fletch's knee is holding up and he is a promising young corner...but wasn't it just a couple weeks ago that Spags had replaced him in the starting lineup with Kevin Dockery?



    Yes, well, we should have beaten the Bucs (the other winning team we've played besides the Falcons), and there are 3 other teams we've played who are at .500 and could be winning teams by the end of this week's games. More importantly, though, how many of the 11 defenses we've played against so far would you say were clearly better than ours? In order for our team to be bottom 1/3 of the league, there can't be more than 10 defenses in the league worse than others.

    I think 14th is about right for our defense, just a little bit above average but not quite as good as our 8th place rank in points against might suggest.
    Again, ranking any team in the NFL in just about any category is a crap-shoot. It's like the BCS. When teams don't play the EXACT same schedule, how do you predict, or rank, a team? The playing field isn't level. SO to say that the Rams (or any team) is ranked (wherever) means little. The Rams have had one of the easiest schedules in the league this year, and yet they're only 6-6. They've played some pretty poor offenses which kinda makes the D look better than it is. Rush D looks good because the pass D is not good. Teams know to throw the ball against the Rams and do. I would. I'd pick on the nickel and dime packages of the Rams all day long.

    Look, they've gotten better, but ranked 14th? Nah. Put this team in the NFC South or East with one of their schedules and the Rams would be more like 21-25th. IMHO.
    Faithful Rams fan since 1968

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