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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Danny Amendola Is Latest Return Man For St. Louis Rams

    Danny Amendola is latest return man for St. Louis Rams

    By jim thomas

    Take a number, Danny Amendola. You're the next in line. And actually, that number is 33.

    Since the dynamic Tony Horne returned his last kickoff for St. Louis in 2000, the Rams have had no less than 32 players return at least one kickoff. We're talking bona fide return men only, not wedge blockers, etc., who may have fielded a short kick.

    Amendola, signed off the Philadelphia practice squad Tuesday, will be No. 33. The Rams signed him to the active roster to fill the role of the man he replaced, return man/wide receiver Derek Stanley. On Wednesday, coach Steve Spagnuolo wouldn't flat-out confirm that Amendola would return punts and kickoffs in the home opener against Green Bay.

    "It just depends on how quickly we can get him oiled up," Spagnuolo said.

    But it's not like there's an extensive playbook to learn for a return man. So it will be a surprise if he isn't in action Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

    "It's an opportunity that they say everybody gets once in their life," said Amendola, who wears jersey No. 16 and has been assigned Dane Looker's old locker stall. "I'm going to try to make the most of it. Try to run with it. Try to make some plays, and try to help the Rams get better."

    When it comes to returning punts and kickoffs it's hard to imagine things getting any worse. Particularly on kickoffs, the bar hasn't been set high in St. Louis for most of this decade.

    Since Horne's departure, the Rams have allowed 11 kickoff returns for touchdowns, while scoring only one themselves. (A 99-yarder by Chris Johnson in 2005.)

    Check out this partial list of returnees since Horne's departure: an aging Dante Hall; a pair of Harrises Kay-Jay and Arlen; St. Louisan Brandon Williams; Southeast Missouri State product Willie Ponder; Trung Canidate; and a rookie named Steven Jackson (in 2004).

    You want highlights? Fans yelled "Yo!" every time Yo Murphy returned one in 2001 and '02. In 2005, the aforementioned Johnson stepped out of bounds at the 1 on the season-opening kickoff against San Francisco at Candlestick Park. (Mike Martz threw out the challenge flag on that one, exactly 1 second into the season. And lost.)

    And then there was Terrence Wilkins, whose signature moment was being spotted at halftime of an '02 game buying a hotdog at a dome concession stand. (He was in street clothes as pregame inactive that day.)

    In 2007, when Hall briefly flashed his vintage form, the Rams finished ninth in the NFL in kickoff returns. But that was merely an oasis in an otherwise barren landscape. In every other year this decade post-Horne the Rams finished no higher than 15th and as low as 31st in kickoff returns.

    Punt returns have been slightly better over that span, but like they have with Horne, the Rams have been trying to find a replacement for the electric Az-Zahir Hakim (fumbles and all) since Hakim departed after the '01 season. The Rams have scored only two TDs on punt returns in the seven-plus seasons since Hakim's departure; they've yielded six punt returns for scores over that span.

    Echoing a theme trumpeted frequently by Spagnuolo, new special teams coordinator Tom McMahon says he isn't worried about what happened in the past.

    "If you wanted to change yesterday, you should've done it then," McMahon said in an interview with the Post-Dispatch at the start of training camp. "So I don't look back. What's in this building, I like, and the guys are going to work hard and they're going to play hard."

    When asked about his philosophy and goals in the return game, McMahon said, "We want to make vertical cuts. We don't want returners that are going to make lateral cuts and get wide across the field and try to make a touchdown every single time. We need a 10-yard punt return, and we need a 30-yard kick return."

    Stanley actually averaged 12.3 yards per punt return, albeit on only three returns. Surprisingly, he was not given an opportunity to return kickoffs in the Rams' first two games. Surprising because his career average based on 45 returns in '07 and '08 was 25.1 yards per return. That's an average that will put you in or near the top 10 in the NFL most years.

    "We were both shocked," Stanley's agent, Kevin Van Ry, told the Post-Dispatch, speaking of Stanley's release. Although Detroit had expressed some interest in claiming Stanley, he went unclaimed when the 24-hour waiver period expired Wednesday afternoon.

    In any event, the Rams went with Donnie Avery and Samkon Gado in the opener on kickoff returns and used Kenneth Darby this past Sunday against Washington. Avery fumbled away the season-opening kickoff in Seattle. After two games, the team's average is 16.2 yards per kickoff return, little more than half of McMahon's target of 30 yards per return.

    Entering the Green Bay game, the Rams are tied for 24th in kickoff returns and tied for 14th in punt returns. So can Amendola, undrafted out of Texas Tech in 2008 despite putting up big numbers as a receiver, ride to the rescue in St. Louis?

    "All I can really say is I'm excited, and I'm ready to go," he said.

  2. #2
    unorthodox1999's Avatar
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    Re: Danny Amendola Is Latest Return Man For St. Louis Rams

    Well, hope all goes good with Amendola..Field position could be a major game changer.
    Last edited by unorthodox1999; -09-24-2009 at 12:53 AM.

  3. #3
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    Re: Danny Amendola Is Latest Return Man For St. Louis Rams

    i wish this kid the best..he is what actually has me excited this week. i want to see him return kicks

  4. #4
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    Re: Danny Amendola Is Latest Return Man For St. Louis Rams

    Hmm hopefully let's make him return a lot of punts, not kicks. The more kickoff returns, the more mad I'll be.

  5. #5
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    Re: Danny Amendola Is Latest Return Man For St. Louis Rams

    Hopefully he can start us out with good field position for the year.............

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