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Fletcher Earning More Opportunities
Fletcher Earning More Opportunities
Friday, October 16, 2009
By Nick Wagoner
Watching as fellow rookies James Laurinaitis and Jason Smith have made starts at middle linebacker and right tackle, respectively, cornerback Bradley Fletcher had been biding time and working hard in an attempt to join them in the starting lineup.
Finally, in game No. 5, the third-round selection joined the two players drafted above him against Minnesota last week.
“We wanted to give Bradley a chance; he had done some things in previous games,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “There is always going to be competition at all these spots and he got his chance (Sunday). When the defensive coaches and I sit down more, we’ll decide where to go from here based on performances and then we will decide how we go and again we have a bunch of guys at corner I think that can play for us.”
After the preseason trade of Tye Hill to Atlanta for a draft pick, Jonathan Wade was elevated to the starting spot in his place. But even at that time, Spagnuolo emphasized that he wanted to see continued competition at the spot opposite Ron Bartell if for no other reason than to accelerate the learning curve of the team’s young corners.
Fletcher has been an active participant in that competition, improving his game on a weekly basis and regularly looking to Spagnuolo for extra guidance.
Drafted in the third round of this year’s draft, Fletcher fits the bill of what a cornerback in Spagnuolo’s system should be. At 6 foot and nearly 200 pounds, Fletcher has the size and reach to become a prototype press corner.
And though he’s had some growing pains along the way in his early development – even in last week’s game against Minnesota, Fletcher has competed in a way that bodes well for his future.
“I know people are just going to remember the long pass and all that, but what I want people to take away from that is that Bradley Fletcher was stride for stride (with the wideout on a long completion),” Spagnuolo said. “That is what I see. Now, do we have to work on some things that will not lead to either a catch on their part or a penalty? Yeah. And we will get there but the other side of the corner would be people were running by us and that didn’t happen. It is certainly correctable.”
Spagnuolo isn’t prepared to call anyone a starter but said he will continue to use a variety of players at a number of positions, and did say Friday that Fletcher has earned another start this week against Jacksonville. It’s a practice he’s used since his days in Philadelphia as a defensive backs coach.
“We feel like we have some quality guys there; guys who have experience, guys who can play,” Spagnuolo said. “They are all playing. I think it is important to keep those guys playing, in my opinion. Everybody is an ankle turn away from being a starter in the game so when, and if maybe that happens, it is always nice to have some plays under your belt. I kind of like it; we’ve got tackles rotating, we’ve got defensive ends rotating, corners rotating.”
AN OLD FRIEND: The Rams got a little used to seeing one of their all time greats in a different uniform last year when they saw Isaac Bruce move on to the *****.
On Sunday, that feeling will come back when they see Torry Holt in Jacksonville’s black and teal uniforms.
“It will be different,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “I didn’t realize how different it was going to look last year when I saw Isaac Bruce in San Francisco just because his body type didn’t look right in that uniform. Working with those guys for eight years, I kind of know what they look like in a uniform. To see a different one on it’s just going to be odd. It will be good to see him though. I haven’t seen him in six months or so.”
Bulger is among one of many Rams that still keeps in touch with Holt. Running back Steven Jackson credits Holt with showing him how to be a professional, same for safety Oshiomogho Atogwe and cornerback Ron Bartell.
Defensive end Leonard Little knows Holt as well as anyone.
“He’s a great friend,” Little said. “We are both from North Carolina and we kept track of each other when we were in college and high school and stuff like that so he’s a great friend of mine. He’s still doing well and catching balls and stuff like that so he’s doing the things that Torry does.”
The Rams and Holt parted ways early in the offseason after 10 years together. Holt says he wouldn’t trade his decade in St. Louis for anything after he won a Super Bowl and went to seven Pro Bowls as a Ram.
“I spent a lot of time up there with you guys, a lot of memories, a lot of relationships built. To be able to see the people I built those with and shared a lot of time with and be able to see them for the short amount of time, it will be emotional,” Holt said. “I’m just going to ride the wave. I’m just going to ride the wave and take it as it comes and enjoy it.”
Holt also wanted to make a point to thank the fans in St. Louis for their support throughout his time in the Gateway City.
“I’m mostly happy and proud that I was able to play in front of the fans there in St. Louis who treated me and my family so well,” Holt said. “St. Louis will always be dear to me. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Rams as well as the city of St. Louis and the fans there.”
BATTLE OF CAVS: Entering Sunday’s game, Jacksonville boasts the youngest tackle tandem in the league, starting a pair of rookies as the bookends in the form of Eben Britton and first-round pick Eugene Monroe.
In many cases, it can be hard to prepare for players you have never seen, even if they are rookies. But in the case of Monroe, the man that lines up across from him regularly on Sunday is someone who knows him very well.
Rams defensive end Chris Long played with Monroe at the University of Virginia and practiced against him almost every day in practice.
Monroe has had some ups and downs in his first season, missing some time with illness. Monroe and Long are still good friends and will renew acquaintances in Jacksonville.
“We keep in touch,” Long said. “He text me (Wednesday). We probably won’t talk about the game because we don’t want to have to deal with that until it happens on Sunday but he’s a great player, I’m sure he’s doing good things there. I’m beginning to watch some of the things on those guys. They have a good offensive line all together with guys like Tra Thomas and good young guys like him and the other tackle (Eben Britton) so it’s going to be an interesting challenge.”
INJURY REPORT: The Rams will likely be without safety James Butler (knee) and receiver Ruvell Martin (hamstring) this week. Butler did not participate in Friday’s practice and Martin was limited. Neither did much in practice this week to indicate they will be ready to go this weekend. Both are listed as doubtful.
Safety Anthony Smith was limited and he is questionable against the Jaguars. He would likely serve as the backup to Craig Dahl, who will replace Butler in the lineup again at strong safety. Smith is listed as questionable.
Quarterback Kyle Boller (concussion) has been fully cleared to go and he will be the backup to starter Marc Bulger against the Jaguars.
Defensive ends C.J. Ah You and Leonard Little came down with illnesses last night and were sent home as a precaution today.
“I haven’t been led to be concerned,” Spagnuolo said. “I didn’t see them today. I trust the doctors that if there’s anything that might spread to the rest of the team (to take care of it). I think that’s smart right now.”
RAM BITS: Spagnuolo said Adam Goldberg would get the start at right tackle as Jason Smith continues to work his way back from a knee injury…Spagnuolo also said Smith would work his way back into the mix this week and get some time in the game…The Rams practiced outside for the first time this week on Friday.
Re: Fletcher Earning More Opportunities
*Cough* Told you so. *Cough*RamsFan16
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