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Thread: Inside Slant
New Rams coach Scott Linehan gave a significant glimpse at what his offense will look like during a chat with reporters at the recent NFL meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Given the voluminous playbook developed over the years by former coach Mike Martz, Linehan made it clear his system will be easier on the players.
"The more you shoot free throws in basketball, the better you get at it," Linehan said. "And the more you run the same play (in football), the better you're going to get at it. It's going to become more efficient. You're going to know where to go. You're going to know the problems with it.
"That's the only way I've ever known how to approach it. I think players get better by running the same things over and over — and that's not being critical about how they did it (before).
"You cannot deny the success of St. Louis in their glory days offensively. It was probably one of the most unbelievable things I think any of us have ever watched as far as an offense. ... But I'm more inclined to say that we're going to be able to score points and be as productive a different way. Maybe a few more runs in there. Maybe a few more quick passes. Not as much of the hold the ball, hold the ball, throw it."
Joking that "I'm not smart enough to do that," when talking about the previous offense, Linehan added, "I've got to keep mine a little more simple. In Mike's defense, he's brilliant — probably a genius — as far as offense. You can't deny his ability to dissect a defense with some of those things he did offensively. I think what happens, though, is you get caught up in doing things and changing, and being innovative and all that. And sometimes that can be too much for some players."
Citing the running game as an example, Linehan said, "We're only going to have three basic runs that we run different ways — hopefully over and over again."
Linehan said after talking with the team's offensive players, some things will remain the same.
"We're going to keep a lot of the concepts that they ran," he said. "The first thing we did, we went in and kept all the personnel groupings the same. Called the formations the same. I was explaining it to Isaac (Bruce) and he said, 'It sounds to me like you want to set the table so you can eat.' And it makes sense. It's a great way of looking at it.
"If we can go out to our first mini-camp and call a formation, and all of our players can immediately line up and get in that formation — and running simple motions — to me, that's half the battle."
The tempo, he said, will also be very quick.
"You'll see us break the huddle fairly quick coming up to the line," Linehan explained. "I like maximum time at the line, minimum time in the huddle. You'll see us do a lot of no-huddle, as I think a lot of teams do. You see a lot of teams that don't necessarily run no-huddle, but they don't huddle. They get to the line and they call a play. They get to the line and have a lot of time to look at the defense. If they need to change a (pass) protection, you can change it. I think that's really where the game is evolving because the defenses are getting so good at showing you one thing and giving you something else. So you've got to kind of change it, and try to make them more simple."
But within that simplicity will be more power for quarterback Marc Bulger than he had under Martz, meaning the ability to audible.
"It (audible system) will be fairly simplified," Linehan said. "But we'll have a lot of different tools to use. On first down, if they're playing the run, if they're anticipating the run, I want to be able to have a simple way of getting to a pass. And vice versa. It's much easier to call plays when your quarterback is controlling that element of it.
"He's going to have automatic things he can go to. If all of a sudden we're playing a team, and they run a 'Bear' defense, the quarterback's got to know that this (pass-blocking) protection has too many holes in it against the 'Bear' defense. He's going to have to know how to get us out of a bad situation.
"He's going to have much more to do with our run game. That'll be a big change as far as (changing) runs, or runs to pass, or passes to run."
Fewer seven-step drops? Not as many four-receiver formations? A no-huddle? Yes, offense will be the focus, but it will be different.
Concluded Linehan, "We won our last six games at Miami, and we opened up probably our last seven games in no-huddle and did quite a bit of it. We're not strictly a no-huddle team. We're not going to be Indy. ... But there's going to be a time and place for it, and I would think every week it's going to be part of what we're doing."
—Following a visit that didn't result in a signing, the Rams eventually added Raonall Smith for linebacker depth.
Smith is expected to compete for a job on the strong side against Brandon Chillar, who is trying to return from a rotator cuff injury.
"That's a definite competitive situation," coach Scott Linehan said. "No question. (Smith has) got some size and speed. And he's been a very good special-teams contributor. I think he's still an ascending player."
Smith is the second player from the Vikings' defense that the Rams have signed since Linehan became coach. Linehan was Minnesota's offensive coordinator from 2002-2004.
Injuries severely limited Smith his first three seasons, but last year the 2002 second-round draft choice played all 16 games, started six and was second on the Vikings with 21 tackles on special teams.
—While many Rams fans fret over the age of center Andy McCollum and right guard Adam Timmerman, coach Scott Linehan said he's glad to have them.
"We're getting a little old on the interior," Linehan acknowledged. "But I'd rather be in a situation where we've got guys that have played and work on the future, knowing that they probably have a year or two left in them, than not have them at all."
—The Rams have been frequent guests in prime-time games since 1999, but coming off a 6-10 season, they have just one appearance this season. They will host the Chicago Bears in an ESPN Monday night game on Dec. 11.
In that game, Bears coach Lovie Smith return to St. Louis, where he was defensive coordinator from 2001-2003 before being named coach of the Bears. But that is not the only game on the Rams' schedule featuring the return of a prominent coach.
An Oct. 1 late game against the Lions will have former Rams coach Mike Martz returning as Detroit's offensive coordinator.
The team's schedule has several oddities. From Sept. 17 to Oct. 8, there is a stretch of four games with three on the road. That happens again after the Oct. 22 bye. But following a Nov. 19 game at Carolina, the Rams then play three consecutive games at home, against San Francisco, Arizona and Chicago.
The back-to-back games against the ***** and Cardinals mirrors Weeks 2 and 3 when the Rams travel to San Francisco and Arizona.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a tough matchup, because you can't play him one-on-one, but he's great in zone. So to me, I think Torry's different than the other two guys. ...He's a tough problem for people, because I think he's the best route-runner in the league. Quarterbacks know exactly when to throw the ball, where to throw the ball. It's uncanny." — Coach Scott Linehan, comparing WR Torry Holt to Randy Moss and Chris Chambers, two other receivers he has coached
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
1. Tight end: Brandon Manumaleuna's salary increases to $1.325 million this season and there is no other proven depth on the roster. Under former coach Mike Martz, the tight end was often an afterthought in the passing game, but new coach Scott Linehan appears to have a different philosophy. There is a need because a playmaker would help the offense, especially in the red zone.
2. Linebacker: The two free agents signed last season, Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley, were disappointments. Claiborne has already been released, while Coakley might be back if he recovers from a broken leg, it will probably be as a backup. The Rams moved quickly and signed Will Witherspoon, and said he will play middle linebacker. A strongside linebacker is still needed, though the recently signed Raonall Smith will compete.
3. Guard: Adam Timmerman is getting up in years and while there is some hope for Blaine Saipaia, he is an unknown. Claude Terrell played as a rookie last season, and needs an off-season in the weight room to build strength and stamina. But some competitive depth is necessary, as well as a tackle behind Orlando Pace and Alex Barron.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: P Bryan Barker; RB Aveion Cason; CB Terry Fair; DE Tyoka Jackson; QB Jamie Martin; OG Tom Nutten; TE Roland Williams.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): CB Chris Johnson; LB Jeremy Loyd.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Kevin Curtis; DE Brandon Green; CB DeJuan Groce; WR Shaun McDonald.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: CB Dwight Anderson; DT Jeremy Calahan; S Dwaine Carpenter; TE Jerome Collins; DE Clifford Dukes; LB Mike Goolsby.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: WR Isaac Bruce; LS Chris Massey; OG Blaine Saipaia; QB Jeff Smoker; LB Drew Wahlroos.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Fakhir Brown; S Corey Chavous; RB Tony Fisher; QB Gus Frerotte; DT La'Roi Glover; WR Brad Pyatt; LB Raonall Smith; P Matt Turk; LB Will Witherspoon.
PLAYERS LOST: S Adam Archuleta; LB Chris Claiborne; S Mike Furrey; RB Arlen Harris; CB Corey Ivy; DT Damione Lewis; OT Matt Morgan; NT Ryan Pickett; OL Rex Tucker.