Fisher has lead in battle to replace Wistrom
Fisher has lead in battle to replace Wistrom
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Aug. 21 2004
Grant Wistrom was a five-year starter for the Rams at right defensive end. A
hustler. A hard-nosed player. And later in his tenure in St. Louis, a locker
room leader. But whatever mourning period there was following his free-agent
departure to Seattle has long since passed.
"That's the way it works," defensive captain Tyoka Jackson said. "No one's
sitting around saying, 'Oh, Grant's gone.' He was a great player. Great locker
room guy. Great friend. But he's on the wrong side of the ball now."
As for replacements, Jackson says, "We've got some guys. People may not know
who they are, but we've got some guys."
At the moment, Bryce Fisher and Erik Flowers are the top two ends on the right
side. Both were washouts in Buffalo - the team that originally drafted them -
but both appear intent on making the most of the opportunity in St. Louis.
Talented but raw rookie Anthony Hargrove eventually could work himself back
into the picture at right end. But for now, the team has been looking at him at
For all of his contributions in St. Louis, Wistrom was never an elite pass
rusher. He had superior speed and effort, but not much in the way of moves.
Fisher and Flowers have the potential - repeat, potential - to be at least as
productive. They combined for three sacks in the preseason opener against
Chicago - one by Fisher and two by Flowers off the bench.
"Bryce has got real good instincts," defensive line coach Bill Kollar said. "He
plays with pretty good strength most of the time; plays with leverage so he's
able to end up hanging in there against the bigger players."
Fisher isn't as fast as Wistrom but has a good short burst. And like Wistrom,
effort has never been a problem.
"That's how I made it into the league," Fisher said. "And that's how I plan on
staying in the league, just by being that guy that keeps on hustling."
Claimed off waivers from Buffalo just before the start of the '02 season,
Fisher appeared in only four games for the Rams that year. But he talked his
way onto special teams last season, including coverage units - which aren't
normally the domain of defensive linemen. That got Fisher on the field on game
day, and eventually got him in the defensive line rotation. He finished with 47
tackles and three sacks.
"Last year, I was really focusing on being the very best special teams player I
could, and then trying to get as many reps on defense as I could," Fisher said.
"It kind of worked out where as the year went on, I got more and more reps on
This year he has loftier goals. He entered training camp as the starting right
end, and so far, has held on to the job.
"I'm getting some hard competition from Tony (Hargrove) and from Erik Flowers,"
Fisher said. "It's important for me to keep on improving every day.
"I need to work on a more consistent pass rush. I'm playing the run pretty
good, but I've got to work on being more consistent in the pass rush, working
on getting to the quarterback every play."
As for Flowers, his performance against the Bears may have been one reason the
Rams decided to try Hargrove inside. After recording one sack, Flowers was
squashed by the Bears' 370-pound offensive tackle, Aaron Gibson, and
temporarily left the game.
"It was painful," Flowers said. "All I remember is trying to turn the corner
and he fell on me. I just folded, like you fold a sheet of paper. It was
unbelievable. It knocked the wind out of me. I couldn't catch my breath and
panicked a little bit."
Not only did Flowers return later in the game, he registered another sack. "I
have some God-given talent, and I'm just trying to get the most out of it,"
Kollar and the Rams have taken notice. Flowers got some work with the first
unit earlier this week. Although listed at 273 pounds on the team roster,
Flowers' playing weight is around 255. So far, he has shown himself to be
strong enough to play the run, but speed - as in speed rusher - is his game.
"He's been doing a good job," Kollar said. "He is definitely in contention
there to push for a starting position, or definitely end up being a backup."
But with three preseason games still to be played, the right end situation
remains in flux. Hargrove could end up moving back to end. Veteran Sean Moran
could make a move. And, of course, injuries could change the picture.
"Right now, it's still pretty far up in the air," Kollar said. "But no matter
how it ends up working out - what player, or how many players - I definitely
think we should be pretty productive at the right end position."
Re: Fisher has lead in battle to replace Wistrom
First off, the mourning period isn't over for all of us. Second, Wistrom didn't have much chance to become an elite anything because teams recognized the threat he posed early on and double-teamed him. The "effort" was all he needed to throw a QB off his game. That's hard to measure in the stats. They don't keep track of "scares".
Originally Posted by RamDez
As for his replacement, they both show signs of being able to fill his shoes (and big shoes they are to fill). So having either as starter and either as backup would be fine with me. I think they both see they've been given a second chance and won't squander that away on complacency.