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    His roster in place, Linehan ready to see team in actio

    n
    By Jeff Gordon
    ONLINE SPORTS COLUMNIST
    06/13/2007


    In theory, anyway, the Rams filled most of their off-season needs.

    During Day Two of the teams minicamp at Rams Park, coach Scott Linehan was all smiles while analyzing his teams progress. Many new faces have joined the mix since the end of last season and most of the most chronic under-achievers were gone.

    Im very, very happy about the progress of our football team, Linehan said Wednesday. There is a really good feel around here that weve made a lot of improvement.

    But . . .

    Ill say it until the end, now weve got to go out and put it to use on the field.

    How could the Rams be better in 07? Here are some things the coaches are counting on:

    --Sturdier play at defensive tackle. No tears were shed for Jimmy Kennedy, jettisoned to Denver for doughnuts, er, a sixth-round pick. He never became the impact player he considered himself.

    Linehan has expressed much man-love for rookie Adam Carriker, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is also high on Claude Wroten and rookies Clifton Ryan and Keith Jackson. By tinkering his scheme, Haslett can use Wroten and LaRoi Glover simultaneously in some scenarios.

    Wroten could become one of the keys to this unit. Hes a much more confident player, Linehan said. He has a little chip on his shoulder. There is talk about who will be starting at that position in the first game and hes not conceding that.

    Is the team still interesting in acquiring another big defensive tackle, like Kris Jenkins? Sure. But for now, the coaching staff is exciting about working the guys on hand.

    --Sturdier play at linebacker. Pisa Tinoisamoa hopes to have full use of both arms this season, which would be a big upgrade over last season. Will Witherspoon could show more in the middle if the defensive tackles at least occupy their blockers.

    Could new linebacker Chris Draft move into the middle and slide Witherspoon outside? Perhaps. He is a proven run-stopper.

    He is a natural leader, Linehan said. I think we knew that. Its nice to see it. He brings a lot that is hard to measure. You see that now that hes in here. He is very highly respected.

    --More consistent pass pressure. The Rams acquired James Hall to rush from the right side, giving Leonard Little a hand. I think he will bring a lot of what Leonard brings to the other side, Linehan said. Maybe a little different style, hes still a guy that brings the pash rush but is a very willing run defender.

    Jon Alston could be an X-factor at linebacker/safety on passing downs.

    --Somewhat sturdier play at safety: The Rams have new safety Todd Johnson running with the second unit, but he could become a valuable piece of the run defense.

    --There is new blood at cornerback, with more speed (rookie Jonathan Wade) and ranginess (6-foot-4 veteran Lenny Walls) replacing disappointing veterans Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler.

    --Dante Hall cant help but improve the teams disastrous kick return game. The Rams might actually start at the 30-yard line once in a while.

    --More power blocking by the offensive line. Center Andy McCollum has made a nice comeback from knee surgery, so he may anchor the middle of an otherwise offensive line. Rich Incognito could become a perennial Pro Bowler at center.

    Claude Terrell and Mark Setterstrom will battle for a guard spot and big rookie Dustin Fry could win a job as a back-up guard and center.

    With bookends Orlando Pace and Alex Barron at tackle, few teams are better at that position. Linehans offense is designed to get the big guys blocking downhill in front of big backs Steve Jackson and Brian Leonard.

    --Better red zone conversion. Quarterback Marc Bulger has full year in the system now. He has bigger targets in the red zone, with tight end Randy McMichael and receiver Drew Bennett. He has a second big running back in Leonard. His offensive line should be better, too.

    A team that moved the ball last season ought to score more this season. As an offensive coach, isnt Linehan excited about all his new weapons?

    I got to change that (label), Linehan said. Im a wins-minded coach. I want to win, like everybody else. Offense, defense, special teams are all making progress. I feel about all three phrases right now, to be honest to with.


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    Rambos's Avatar
    Rambos is offline Registered User
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    Re: His roster in place, Linehan ready to see team in actio

    Wroten could become one of the keys to this unit. Hes a much more confident player, Linehan said. He has a little chip on his shoulder. There is talk about who will be starting at that position in the first game and hes not conceding that.
    Sweet!

    Jon Alston could be an X-factor at linebacker/safety on passing downs.
    Can't wait to see what he can do

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