Hall Sparks Special Teams
Saturday, September 8, 2007

By Brett Grassmuck

The Rams looked to improve on special teams heading into 2007 by bringing in return man Dante Hall and hiring new special teams coach Al Roberts.

Although the team came up short on the scoreboard in a 27-13 loss to the Panthers in the home opener, Hall seemed to breathe new life into the special teams, which looked far beyond where the Rams have been the past several years.

“Yeah, I thought we did pretty good,” Hall said about the special teams play against Carolina. “We did well in coverages, and (the Panthers’ Ryne Robinson) is a good returner. We broke a couple of times. In the second half, it was kind of on me, and my body was cramping up and I couldn’t hit full speed. But, overall the special teams did pretty good.”

Hall did exactly what he has done throughout his career against Carolina. He finished the game with five kickoff returns for 146 yards, with his long coming on an 84-yard return to open the second half.

Hall found a crease up the middle, made a move to the outside and looked to be heading for the end zone before being dragged down from behind by cornerback Richard Marshall at the Carolina 17-yard-line.

“I came out in the second half, and I broke, but I just couldn’t get the turnover I wanted,” Hall said. “I wish I could have gotten it in, in hindsight, because we only got three out of it. That’s why it’s so important to go ahead and stick it in when you have a chance.”

It is unusual for Hall to be caught from behind once he gets an opening, but he looked to be cramping up on the play and throughout the second half as he didn’t show as much spark on returns as he did in the first half.

“People think that just because you are inside, it’s not hot,” Hall said. “I already sweat a lot anyway. So if you’re not watching your fluid intake, then you can really cramp up. Especially a guy like me, because I run so much, and I just sweat a lot. So I just have to focus more on really staying hydrated inside domes, because you can be fooled by the fact that because you’re playing inside, you don’t need to hydrate as much.”

On the opposite side of the ball, the Rams coverage units were solid. The majority of Carolina’s drives began at or inside their own 25-yard-line. The Panthers began only two drives past their own 26 after two three-and-outs in Rams territory.

The coverage units held Robinson to 21 yards on three punt returns and 64 yards on three kickoff returns. Robinson’s longest return was a 25 yard kickoff return near the end of the first quarter

Punter Donnie Jones also got his first regular season work as a Ram against Carolina, punting five times for 236 yards and a long of 57. He put two punts inside the twenty and gave his coverage units plenty of time to swarm Robinson and keep him from gaining field position.