Gordon - It's early, but we've already learned plenty about the Rams
It's early, but we've already learned plenty about the Rams
BY JEFF GORDON
Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
Wednesday, Aug. 17 2005
As the local NFL team prepares to break training camp -– moving back to Rams
Park from, um, Rams Park -– we’ve already learned plenty.
Here are some of the observations:
* We know cornerback Jerametrius Butler won’t be around, a development that
forces DeJuan Groce to assume a leadership role on the defense. To nobody’s
surprise, Butler has opted for season-ending knee surgery that should allow him
to return full strength in 2006.
Even if he had tried to play hurt this season, how well would Butler have
performed? Wednesday’s announcement was inevitable.
This injury, along with the exit of cornerback Dwayne Anderson for disciplinary
reasons, dramatically reduced the competition at this position. Don’t be
shocked if the Rams shop for veteran help at the position, just to be sure.
* With Groce now running at No. 1 left cornerback in place of Butler, Martz
should remove him from the kick return mix. That gives Terry Fair an
opportunity to make the team as a return specialist and spare cornerback.
How has Fair looked so far? “He needs to get himself in the kind of condition
he’ll need to be in to play outside,” Martz observed. “The last few days, he’s
made a move.”
Martz said it’s not uncommon for veterans to practice and play their way back
into top speed after being away from the game for a while.
(Fair played just three games in 2002 before suffering an ankle injury that
also cost him the 2003 season. He went to camp with the Steelers, but got cut
and sat out a second consecutive season.)
* The Butler development could also help Aveion Cason make the team as a spare
running back and kickoff return specialist -– since Groce was a candidate for
the latter job, too. But Cason must make up for time lost at training camp by
making some big plays in preseason play.
* Rookie Claude Terrell showed enough early in camp to alleviate Martz’s
short- and long-term concerns about offensive line depth. He played enough
early on to run No. 1 at left guard on the depth chart.
Blaine Saipaia could settle into the backup spot with Adam Timmerman manning
the right guard post and Rex Tucker trying his hand at right tackle.
Tucker and veterans Matt Willig and Tom Nutten have had reassuring camps to
date. If Grant Williams is too banged up to earn a tackle spot, the Rams should
* Rookie Alex Barron will eventually start at right tackle, but it may take a
while. His one-on-one work has been fine, but the practice time he spends at
left tackle won’t help his acclimation to right tackle -– a position he has
expressed some reservations about.
It’ll take Martz a few weeks to get over his holdout.
* Jamie Martin provides Martz considerable peace of mind as the No. 2
quarterback, given his knowledge of the offense and his solid Week 1 preseason
performance. Rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick is flying past Jeff Smoker for the No. 3
* Former Jaguar Brandon Green made a big push for defensive end work during
the preseason victory over the Bears. As defensive coordinator Larry Marmie
sorts through all the extra defensive linemen, linebackers, cornerbacks and
safeties in camp, he’ll gravitate toward the playmakers.
Job applicants can help themselves in practices, which are closely monitored,
reviewed and graded. The level of attentiveness during meetings is also noted.
Past success or failure is also factored in, since Rams scouts had a book on
everybody invited to camp. But the preseason games, THAT is where jobs are
often won or lost. Cornerback Corey Ivy finds himself in that game, too.
“It’s different out there,” Green said. “You see things you don’t see in
practice. Everything is a lot quicker. Every little detail is just magnified
when you are out there.”
Green rose to the occasion in the first exhibition game, earning one sack,
forcing an intentional grounding penalty and generally wreaking havoc from the
right defensive end position. Rams Nation was excited to see another No. 93
getting in the quarterback’s face.
* Otherwise, the defensive line looks pretty set. Anthony Hargrove and Leonard
Little are at the ends, Jimmy Kennedy, Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis are set
in the middle, utility man Tyoka Jackson should stick to play both spots and
recently signed John Parrella looks capable as a run stopper.
If Parrella sticks, Jackson will mostly play defensive end -– making it that
much tougher for a newcomer to stick at defensive end.
* Martz was relieved that Brandon Chillar will recover from his shoulder
injury in the near term, which will keep the Rams’ numbers at linebacker and
special teams at the appropriate level.
* The Rams' kick coverage should be a LOT better than last season. But then
again, how could it not improve?
The units looked much improved against the Bears on Friday night.
“Michael Stone is probably one of the top one or two special teams players in
the league,” Martz gushed. “Hopefully, he can do those sorts of things for us
Re: Gordon - It's early, but we've already learned plenty about the Rams
Thanks for the article. it was a good reading.