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    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
    be OK.


    * 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
    job.


    * 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
    every week.”


  2. #2
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    Re: Gordon - It's early, but we've already learned plenty about the Rams

    Thanks for the article. it was a good reading.
    RamsFan16

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