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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Claiborne, Coakley Take Active Approach

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    When the Rams added linebackers Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley in the offseason they expected the investments to pay off immediately.

    During the preseason, both showed plenty of moxie, but halfway through their first season in St. Louis, the duo is still attempting to find its way.

    Of course, it’s hard for any player to make much of an impact when he is spending the majority of his time on the bench.

    The biggest reason for adding Coakley and Claiborne was to help the team’s ailing run defense. It appeared early in the year that the signings would do just that, but when teams adjusted to the Rams’ base defensive packages, they began to have big success on the ground again.

    St. Louis normally runs a base 4-3 defense with Coakley and Pisa Tinoisamoa as the outside linebackers and Claiborne in the middle. But that package being on the field is dependent on what kind of package the offense is using.

    For instance, teams have recognized that they can spread the Rams out by sending in three or four-receiver sets. In that instance, St. Louis has to go to a “sub” package, bringing in extra defensive backs.

    More often than not, the Rams go to a nickel or quarter package that uses four defensive linemen with Tinoisamoa and Adam Archuleta near the line of scrimmage. That brings an extra safety and cornerback on the field, usually Jerome Carter and Mike Furrey. The alignment basically leaves the Rams with three safeties, three cornerbacks, a linebacker and four linemen, though Archuleta is technically a linebacker in that package.

    Teams have then proceeded to run the ball almost at will, leaving Claiborne and Coakley on the sideline to watch in frustration. The Rams are 25th in the league against the run, allowing 127.1 yards per contest.

    “Obviously you are surprised, especially if you are the caliber of player that I have been, I have always been a guy who has always been on the field, but unfortunately teams are finding themselves in situations to get us off the field,” Coakley said. “Obviously, that’s the defense and the schemes that we play. When we go to the sub packages, we have guys coming in and doing a good job in that. It gets a little frustrating at times, but it’s something we can’t control.”

    The idea behind the defensive sub packages is to provide better coverage against the pass by using the extra safety or plugging in linebacker Brandon Chillar next to Tinoisamoa in the nickel. But Coakley and Claiborne have played plenty of outside linebacker in the NFL and neither is exactly poor in coverage.

    The situation has been worse for Claiborne than Coakley, as Claiborne has had games where he has played (unofficially) less than 12 plays in an entire game. Claiborne was brought in to be the big, physical run stuffer the defense has lacked for some time.

    Claiborne spent the first part of his career working on the outside for Detroit and Minnesota, but is the man in the middle for the Rams.

    After investing in big-money deals for Claiborne and Coakley in the offseason, it has been hard for either to make much of a difference without being on the field. Claiborne has 37 tackles (fifth on the team) and Coakley has 33 stops (eighth).

    Those numbers, though, have risen in recent weeks. After weeks of watching Claiborne and Coakley sit on the sideline while backs gashed them, the Rams finally decided to find ways to keep Claiborne and Coakley on the field, even in sub packages.

    “He’s performed well,” coach Joe Vitt said of Claiborne. “He’s a good tackle-to-tackle player. He gives us a physical presence in the middle. He’s a little bit better on his pass-drops then I give him credit for.”

    Coakley began to get more repetitions in all packages against Indianapolis and that has continued. His tackle numbers are up and the Rams plan to continue to use their free-agent linebackers, even in those sub packages.

    “We’ll do the same thing,” Vitt said. “We’ll mix our sub-package and our base-package in when they go sub and try to keep them off balance. We did it in both games.”

    Of course, it remains to be seen how much more Claiborne and Coakley are used in those sub packages. One reason they were on the field more against Jacksonville and New Orleans was the fact that those teams elected to use more basic offensive formations.

    “People are coming down the track and playing more base offenses,” Vitt said. “Two tight ends, one back, two backs, one tight end, so the reps are up.”

    For their part, Coakley and Claiborne have dealt with the hand dealt them without complaint.

    “Players’ jobs are to go and play the game,” Coakley said. “A coach’s job is to make that decision. We are not caught up in all of that. If I try to worry about why I am not on the field then I am not going to be focused about my assignment when I do have the opportunity. I just try to be ready for when my number is called.”

    ANOTHER WILLIAMS AT TE: While the Rams lost tight end Roland Williams to a leg injury against the Giants, they have added another Williams to pick up the slack at the position.

    St. Louis signed Darius Williams to take the place of the expected to retire Jeff Robinson. Williams is an imposing presence at 6’6, 270 pounds and looks the part of a defensive end. But there he was, wearing No. 82 and running routes in Thursday’s practice.

    Williams spent some time with the Giants and Buffalo and played collegiately at Georgia Tech.

    “He’s a big guy, really good blocker,” Vitt said. “He has to work on his route running but as you can see he was kind of feisty in practice, he can block a defensive end. We are going to evaluate him and see what he is. Other than that, who knows?”

    VITT’S TIES RUN DEEP: Vitt has been in the NFL for 27 years so pretty much any coach or player in the league has had some sort of encounter with him at one point or another.

    Seattle coach Mike Holmgren is no different, though his experience with Vitt was probably more poignant than most.

    “Joe’s one of the good guys in this business,” Holmgren said. “I got to know him a little bit over the years. He’s the consummate professional in my opinion. But more than anything regarding football, when Kathy, my wife, contracted cancer a few years ago, Joe was one of the first guys to come up and talk to me about it. He had some experience with that himself. He gave me a little prayer card, and I’ll never forget that about him. That has nothing to do with football, I know, but Joe Vitt’s one of the good guys in this business as far as I’m concerned.”

    INJURY REPORT: The Rams’ injury report had one addition Thursday in the form of left guard Tom Nütten.

    “He’s got a little stinger in his neck,” Vitt said. “He woke up with it this morning. He’s getting evaluated now.”

    Nütten missed Thursday’s practice and arrived about halfway through in street clothes. He is listed as questionable for Sunday.

    Receiver Isaac Bruce is also questionable because of a toe injury that has kept him out since Sept. 25. Receiver Torry Holt is probable because of a knee injury.


  2. #2
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Claiborne, Coakley Take Active Approach

    Nice article, Wraith. Lots of good info in there.
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    Re: Claiborne, Coakley Take Active Approach

    Interesting article.....love all the Marmie quotes on the defense...oh wait, there were none.
    Marmie:moon:

    I hope that someone (cough..vitt..cough) sees a way to keep Claiborne and Coakley out on the field for more plays.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Re: Claiborne, Coakley Take Active Approach

    I hope this new TE pans out. We really need the help.
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    Re: Claiborne, Coakley Take Active Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by UtterBlitz
    Interesting article.....love all the Marmie quotes on the defense...oh wait, there were none.
    Marmie:moon:

    I hope that someone (cough..vitt..cough) sees a way to keep Claiborne and Coakley out on the field for more plays.
    Excellent observation, Utter. Is Marmie of ANY value at this point?
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  6. #6
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    Re: Claiborne, Coakley Take Active Approach

    How anyone can read this without grabbing a pitchfork and torch to go after Marmie is beyond me.
    "I'm not going to hide my opinions. They're coming to you between 7000-4000 Angstroms for all the world to see. Oh yes, you will be enlightened."

  7. #7
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    Re: Claiborne, Coakley Take Active Approach

    you guys are right, these guys need to be given the chance to make plays, they cant do that on the sidelines,marmie needs to man the gatorade buckets and thats it.

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