Healthier, lighter Archuleta moves to FS
By John Clayton
ST. LOUIS -- Here are five observations on the St. Louis Rams, based on July 29-30 practices:
Adam Archuleta has moved to free safety after being one of the most explosive strong safeties in game. The fact he was on the field for the first practices is an amazing story. Archuleta played last season with two bad disks, one bulging and another ruptured. His back was so painful in January and February that he had to take painkilling injections. It prevented him from working out and left him wondering about his football future. "It was scary for me back then," Archuleta said. "During the season, I had to stop working out, dating back to October. My body was deteriorating. I was a mess." As late as May, the team didn't know what to expect from Archuleta, who is known for his hard training in the offseason. In June and July, Archuleta dropped his weight to 209 and made a quick comeback. The plan is for him to be free safety and for rookie Jerome Carter, a 219-pound third-round choice, to be the strong safety, but if Carter fails, the Rams can bring in 2001 Cardinals draftee Michael Stone as the strong safety. "I feel pretty good," Archuleta said. "I'm a little stiff and tight after practice, but the pain is nowhere near where I was last year."
After his strong finish at the end of last season, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy appears to be set for a run at the Pro Bowl. Kennedy was drafted in the first round two years ago because of his ability to dominate games in the middle of the line during college. For 1½ years in the pros, he struggled and disappointed. Feeling healthier in the second half of last season, Kennedy came on, and the momentum is helping him start off camp exciting his coaches and teammates. "He's got a huge body, and he's improved," new linebacker Dexter Coakley said. "It's rare to see a big guy like him who can move so well." Kennedy's development comes at an important time for the franchise. Former first-round defensive tackles Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis are in the final years of their contracts and become free agents after the season. The Rams are ready to begin contract extension talks with Pickett, who appears to be the keeper of the two. Even though Lewis is off to a good start at the camp, it will take a good season for him to earn a lucrative contract extension.
The offensive line is again a concern, a major concern. The three solid pieces are at left tackle (Orlando Pace), center (Andy McCollum) and right guard (Adam Timmerman). The worries are at left guard and right tackle. First-round choice Alex Barron missed the opening of camp as a holdout and is considered too raw to be counted on early in the season. That leaves sleeper Blaine Saipaia as the starter at right tackle and Grant Williams as the backup. Saipaia was a surprise last year, an undrafted find off the street with good athletic skills who started five games. There had been hope 2003 sixth-round choice Scott Tercero could be an option, but he showed up weighing 260 pounds and was cut. The Rams are counting on former Bear Rex Tucker to be the left guard. He has struggled during the first couple of days of practice. Coaches are trying to push him because they need him to be solid. As insurance, the Rams brought Tom Nutten out of retirement for a second consecutive year. They would like to sign Matt Willig as a veteran tackle. Marc Bulger isn't mobile and needs good blocking to stay healthy.
The additions of linebackers Coakley and Chris Claiborne have solidified the defensive front seven. Coakley plays the strong side and Claiborne the middle. Coakley's signing was particularly important. Too many times, Rams linebackers Tommy Polley and Robert Thomas overpursued and were caught out of position. Polley wasn't re-signed after the season. Thomas remains one of the team's top backups. Coakley will play the strong side even though he thrived on the weak side during most of his Cowboys career. "Dexter has always been one of the guys who goes well through traffic," coach Mike Martz said. "He's not going to overrun, and he's going to be where he is supposed to be." The combo of Coakley and Pisa Tinoisamoa is perhaps the best in the NFC West. Claiborne arrives in St. Louis at his lightest NFL playing weight, 245 pounds. A big linebacker, Claiborne has played at as much as 270 pounds. His main responsibility is to be the run stopper in the middle of the field. The bonus is he has enough range and speed to be able to blitz and create problems for interior blocking of opponents.
Martz's contract expires after the 2006 season, and the team already has approached him about another extension. How those talks play out will be interesting. There have been rumors of tension within the organization about the future direction of the franchise. Some key front-office execs are either in the final years of contracts or working without contracts. Though controversial at times, Martz is one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. Say what you might about his style, he has kept the Rams at or near the top of the NFC West since taking over as head coach. During the past couple of years, the Rams have had to retool on offense and defense. Martz turned Bulger into a Pro Bowler. He has restocked the offense with young players such as Jackson, Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald. >From the looks of things, the 2005 offense might be the best since 2001 as long as the offensive line holds up. The Rams can't afford to let Martz's contract lapse.
Re: Healthier, lighter Archuleta moves to FS
Great info.Thanks Wraith that was good reading.