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Defensive line rookies lick chops
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
FILE PHOTO: Rams defensive tackle Keith Jackson maneuvers around Adam Carriker in a drill.
Given their bulk, it's doubtful whether rookie defensive linemen Clifton Ryan (6 feet 3 and 310 pounds) and Keith Jackson (6-0 and 315) have missed many meals. Still, their appetites remain strong, and that's what Rams coach Scott Linehan likes most about them.
"They're very hungry," Linehan said. "I think they see a great opportunity, and hopefully they'll seize that."
The opportunity was created a week ago, when the Rams traded nose tackle Jimmy Kennedy to Denver for a sixth-round draft pick next year. Suddenly, a job was open behind projected starter Adam Carriker, the Rams' first-round draftee this year.
"It's exciting, but you've got to keep it all in context," said Ryan, a fifth-round pick (No. 154 overall) from Michigan State. "This is a business, and I've got to earn my keep. They're giving me this opportunity, but at the same time I can't get complacent and think I've made it."
Ryan was part of the No. 2 unit this week in minicamp at Rams Park. Jackson, a seventh-round selection (No. 248 overall) from Arkansas, worked mainly with the third team.
"We've just got to go out there and give the coaches what they want, and show our teammates that we can play ball and we can handle the pressure," Jackson said.
The team is expected to seek another veteran defensive lineman through free agency or trade. For now, however, the newcomers are competing head to head.
"They're doing very well," Linehan said. "They're young, and they make mistakes. But I don't see the same mistake being made twice, which is what you're looking for."
What did Linehan think of quarterback Marc Bulger's performance during the three-day minicamp?
"Terrible," Linehan blurted.
After a slight pause, he added, "No, he looks great. Marc's playing at a high level; he's an extremely gifted thrower. All that first year, new coaches, whatever ... that's all gone, and now he's just kind of tuning his game up."
Defensive end Eric Moore and tackle Ken Shackleford were excused from Thursday's practice because of deaths in their families. ... In preparation for his move inside from defensive end, Carriker has bulked up to 313 pounds. He played at about 295 last year at Nebraska. . . . Wide receiver Drew Bennett caught three scoring passes in red-zone work Thursday.
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