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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Byrd is waiting to fly

    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    10/19/2006


    Early in the second quarter against Seattle, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger threw incomplete to Torry Holt on a deep sideline pattern. It was a relatively inconsequential play in a highly entertaining game.

    Inconsequential to everyone but Dominique Byrd, that is. For the rookie tight end from Southern California, it was his first NFL play from scrimmage.

    On the play, Byrd went in motion behind the offensive line and ran a 5-yard hitch route away from where Bulger ended up throwing. OK, not exactly highlight-reel material for Byrd, but certainly one for the memory vault.

    "Hey, it's a play from scrimmage," Byrd said. "It's a start."
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    It has been a slow-go for Byrd, and really, all of the Rams' third-round draft picks this season.

    Defensive tackle Claude Wroten, taken 68th overall, played sparingly in the first three games, was inactive in Game 4, but has become a regular part of the defensive line rotation the past two games.

    Linebacker Jon Alston, taken 77th overall, has yet to dress for a game. He missed most of the offseason program because Stanford's senior class didn't graduate until June. By NFL rules, that meant Alston couldn't participate before then in workouts at Rams Park, and that put him behind.

    Byrd, taken 93rd overall near the end of the third round, didn't dress for the first four games. He finally saw action against Green Bay on the Rams' kickoff return team. And then Sunday against Seattle, he played on special teams as well as a handful of plays on offense.

    "It was just exciting to be on the field for the first time on the offense," Byrd said. "Hopefully, things are looking up from here."

    Despite his lack of playing time, Byrd said he hasn't gotten frustrated.

    "Patience is a virtue. I just stick to that," he said. "Nothing is given, and nothing's easy. I just look forward to the next opportunity that I get."

    To a large degree, any jobs that are up for grabs are earned during training camp. Fellow rookie Joe Klopfenstein, a second-rounder, nailed down the starting tight end job in August. Veteran Aaron Walker, in a bit of a surprise, beat out Byrd for the No. 2 spot. At the time, the knock against Byrd was his blocking.

    So has Byrd's blocking improved?

    "That's hard to tell right now," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "At this point in the season, you're not seeing the full contact (in practice) that you do see during training camp. We're not really hitting at a full-speed tempo. Techniquewise, he's working at it and seems to look better. But he still hasn't had a lot of opportunities in a live-game situation to see that."

    If nothing else, head coach Scott Linehan notices that Byrd is trying to get better as a blocker.

    "Like I've always said, blocking is 10 percent technique and 90 percent desire," Linehan said. "Especially when you're talking about the guys that play out in space. He plays in space more than he plays in the box. So I think he's grasping that concept and understands what it's going to take for him to play more and more."

    Because of the injury situation at fullback, Byrd may get even more opportunities to play. Paul Smith is coming off eye surgery and has missed the past two games. Although Linehan was more encouraged with recent medical reports on Smith's progress, it's uncertain if he will be available for the Rams' next game, Oct. 29 in San Diego. Madison Hedgecock's status for that game also is iffy after he had thumb surgery Tuesday.

    Byrd has been working on the fullback position in practice recently, in addition to his tight-end work.

    "So anywhere they need me, I'm ready," Byrd said.

    "With our fullback situation right now, that enhances his position to play," Linehan said. "He's always been a gifted receiver, and we're going to continue to find ways to utilize two tight-end sets with him included. ... He's earning his way out there, slowly, but surely."


  2. #2
    RamOfDenmark is offline Registered User
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    Re: Byrd is waiting to fly

    I wouldn't feel very good with Byrd at FB, not with the blocking problems he has. I'd rather see some of our O-line or even D-line backups (someone who can simply go out there and smash into the first player in his way) playing FB if both our 2 real FB's are out. With that said, what ever happened to our #2 TE Aaron Walker? I remember him having 1 nice catch, but other than that I haven't noticed him out there at all? Is he getting significant playing time or?

  3. #3
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Byrd is waiting to fly

    This is good, we can always use more depth at any position.

  4. #4
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    Re: Byrd is waiting to fly

    Funny thing is that in Madden I moved him to fullback

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    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Byrd is waiting to fly

    ...What ever happened to our #2 TE Aaron Walker? I remember him having 1 nice catch, but other than that I haven't noticed him out there at all? Is he getting significant playing time or? -- RODenmark
    Good question. I've seen Walker play sporadically; all of a sudden No. 87 appears on the TV screen. The occasional blocking assingment.

    I hope he and Klopfenstein get more involved in pass formations and as receivers too. // As for Byrd, I don't know. I favor Hedgecock at FB duties (get well soon Madison). Not sure if Byrd will develop as TE as expected.

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    Re: Byrd is waiting to fly

    I don't think what a lot of people realize is byrd is a better catcher than Klopfenstein. The only reason Klopfenstien is playing ahead of Byrd is simply his blocking ability. Byrd is much faster and agile. How do I know this? I've watch him play the past three years at USC. The guy has amazing hands, his hands are like glue.

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    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Byrd is waiting to fly

    Well Jjigga, maybe Coach Linehan will soon put him -- D. Byrd -- to work on pass routs. I mean playing in actual games. Klop is apparently developing confidence as a receiver and as you said, he already has blocking ability. It should turn out to be a healthy competition between him and Byrd at TE.

    And may the best man win for the Rams!

  8. #8
    viper's Avatar
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    Re: Byrd is waiting to fly

    RealRam, my friend, I would assume Klop will remain the starter. The competion, if any, would be between Byrd and Walker.

    I haven't seen much of Walker lately either. I think our offense, in the red zone in particular, would be much harder to stop if we could get more passes to our tight ends. I know this has been said before. I'm just wondering why we haven't made a greater attempt to do it. Maybe they're trying to keep them in to block?

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    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Byrd is waiting to fly

    I think our offense, in the red zone in particular, would be much harder to stop if we could get more passes to our tight ends. -- Viper
    That's correct, Viper :r I would find it hard to believe that the TE system is so difficlt to learin. too hard to put into practice; hopefully they will begin to produce via the paas. // You're also correct in the TE competition being between Byrd and Walker.
    Last edited by RealRam; -10-20-2006 at 02:29 AM.

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