GORDO: Bartell tops list of Rams to watch this week
By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Rams fans ought to get their first look (however brief) at new return specialist Dante Hall Saturday night at the Edward Jones Dome.
Rookie tackle Ken Shackleford hopes to be well enough to play, too, since he is running out of time to earn a roster spot.
The first offensive unit ought to play into the second quarter, unless it stays on the field for an inordinate number of plays early in the game. The first defensive unit will face a severe test against the Chargers rush offense, even with running back LaDainian Tomlinson sitting out the entire preseason.
In this corner of cyberspace, here are five players we will take a good look at:
Ron Bartell, CB: After getting burned for a couple of big passing plays at Minnesota, he settled down and finished pretty well. But can he really become more than a nickel back?
We’re still trying to find out. If he can’t fill in while Fakhir Brown serves his four-game suspension, the Rams may have to start rookie Jonathan Wade across from Tye Hill.
“I think Ron has progressed very nicely,” Rams coach Scott Linehan said Thursday afternoon. “It’s great when you see a guy given an opportunity. It is a tough thing for us and Fakhir and us defensively to start the year with a guy not being in there for four games.
“It is also very gratifying to see a guy go out working like he is going to start, preparing to start. I see him improving every day. Is see him working really hard on the things that he may not be where he wants to be or where we want him to be.”
Clifton Ryan, DT: Why haven’t the Rams picked up a veteran run stopper to play nose tackle and defensive tackle? So far, nothing the marketplace has excited the Rams coaching staff.
And the rookie Ryan HAS turned some heads, locking down the back-up nose tackle position until further notice. Let’s see if he, Adam Carriker and Claude Wroten can continue learning tricks of their trade from veteran La’Roi Glover.
Dominique Byrd, TE: We got lots of West Coast inquiries about Byrd, owing to his USC career. But he is still an enigma here. He made a mental mistake at Minnesota that led to an interception. He has unusual physical ability – and potentially lots of versatility – but the staff needs to see if he is a football player.
The last few weeks of camp have gone very, very well for him. He is listed ahead of veteran Aaron Walker on the depth chart and he could earn a spot even if the team goes with just three tight ends.
Victory Adeyanju, DE: On the outside, he is strictly a run stopper. He just doesn’t have much ability to apply pass pressure. The staff has worked him some at defensive tackle to see if could also back up at the position – and perhaps add some pass rush on the inside.
Defensive end isn’t one of the team’s deeper positions, so we could still see another veteran join the mix before the season starts.
Jon Alston, LB: Sometimes he looks like he could be something special. And sometimes he looks lost. Like Byrd, he is a great athlete with fascinating potential. But like Byrd, he didn’t get on the field much as a rookie.
Week 3 will tell us a lot more about how this team is coming along as a whole. But this practice run against the Chargers will be interesting nonetheless – especially for these five.
“They are all equally important in terms of what progress we want to make as a team,” Linehan said. “We don’t put any more importance on any of the games. We might put more emphasis on who’s playing. But it’s really important we approach each game the same way.”
Re: GORDO: Bartell tops list of Rams to watch this week
I really do believe that Bartell started off worrysome cold, but as the game went on his game really settled down and he made a few good plays down the stretch such as when he stopped that tightend dead in his tracks.