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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Inside Slant

    Posted 2/17/2007 1:49 AM ET
    With the scouting combine approaching, and free agency to begin about a week after the combine ends, it's time for a new name at Rams Park to make his mark.
    Former Carolina Panthers personnel man Tony Softli came to the Rams during the summer to be vice president of player personnel. Softli is ready to dive into the time of year that can be hectic but rewarding.

    Said Softli, "What we're trying to do here is build a championship base, a foundation. And it's going to start with this draft. This draft and this free agency period are going to push us forward. ... I think coach (Scott Linehan) did an outstanding job to push, to keep these players together when we had the losing streak (last season). To keep these guys focused and finishing strong with a chance to get in the playoffs.

    "(Now) it's like a tag team. 'Tag, you're it. Let's go get some players to make us better.' "

    Softli loves to get out in the field and see the college players during games. His goal is to see in person the top 150 draft eligible players each year, noting that should be the first five rounds of the draft.

    Talking about watching college games, he said, "You go down on the field before games and you get to see that fevered pitch. You get that attitude, that mind-set, before a game. To me that's really important because that's what's going to come to our team."

    Softli planned his year to also be able to see the Rams.

    "Like when we're playing at Green Bay," he said. "I went and watched a Wisconsin game, then drove up to Green Bay, watched our game and flew back with the team."

    There were about 35-40 colleges he visited during the week, just watching film and practice.

    As for free agency, Softli is putting together a lost of the top five players at each position. He does that with an eye for what Linehan is looking for in a player.

    Softli concluded, "This is our first year. (Linehan's) feeling me out, and I'm feeling him out. What he needs and what he wants. It's all out on the table now. It's a matter of just putting it all together, working together and moving forward."

    To say the least, it was frenzied finish to the season for Rams running back Steven Jackson.

    Running with a passion difficult to harness, Jackson had 89 rushing attempts for 419 yards in the final three games of the season, all Rams wins.

    A 59-yard run for a touchdown in the season finale against Minnesota accomplished a few things. It prevented the Vikings from setting an NFL record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a season.

    On a personal level, it enabled Jackson to finish the season with 2,334 combined yards from scrimmage, the most in the NFL. He one-upped San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson in that category by 11 yards.

    Jackson rushed for 1,528 yards, fifth in the NFL, and also set a club record for running backs with 90 receptions. He ended up with 16 touchdowns, including seven in those last three games.

    Yet, Jackson fell short of his own season goal of 1,600 rushing yards, although he did reach his goal of at least 2,000 combined yards.

    "You shoot for the moon, and you never know what will happen," Jackson said. "I just came up a little shy."

    But he got to the Pro Bowl and hopes to make 2007 even better than this past season.

    He acknowledged the help Stephen Davis provided, showing how to take advantage of his power.

    Said coach Scott Linehan, "I think we all know he has some exceptional skill and talent, but some of it he needed to refine somewhat as far as being an inside or a downhill runner. I think there was a perception that because he was a big back that he was this physical downhill runner. At times he was, but at a lot of times he was a perimeter player. He developed a willingness to go inside and not always be looking for that big play. I think what he's able to do now, is be able to hit the play inside pre-snap because he has an idea that they're playing him a certain way, or he knows that he's going to have three or four hard, four-yard runs and that's going to give him the ability in the third and fourth quarter to create big plays out in the perimeter.

    "I think he (became) one of the better short-yardage carriers in the league. Going into the year, I wouldn't have thought that would've been his strength. I think that says a lot about him making adjustments in his style. I don't think anybody would have thought that he was going to be the receiver that he was, coming into the year. He worked very hard in becoming a dual-threat player, and I'm not surprised he was able to do it, but I'm surprised at how effective and dominant a receiver he's become, to go along with his running skills. I think he's one of those guys that has backed up his commitment in having a great year and taking his game to another level."

    Said Jackson, "There's more to come ... I'm only 23. This is something to build off. I've set the bar pretty high for myself coming back next year. But it's a challenge I'm looking forward to.

    "I'm here trying to prove that I'm No. 1. I know that it'll come over time as the yardage racks up, but right now I'm striving to be No. 1."


    In the final statistics, the Rams allowed 335.1 yards per game (23rd overall) and 145.4 yards per game on the ground (31st).

    "Obviously, that's the biggest disappointment and an issue we're going to have to address," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "To play really well in this league, you have to stop the run.

    "We'll assess our own personnel, and then who's available in the draft and in free agency. We have some needs, and we'll fulfill them. And I know the club's willing to do that."

    The Rams' punting situation was solidified in 2006, and the man that made it possible, Matt Turk, hopes he's back for another season. Turk signed a one-year contract with the Rams last off-season.

    "I was talking with my wife and I honestly believe it was my best year," Turk said. "We were one punt from being my first punt team to net 40 and if you take that (Nate Burleson's return for a touchdown in Week 10) and the blocked punt (in Week 16) out, we are above 40 in net average. That has been my goal my whole career.

    "It was really a pleasant surprise to come here not knowing what to expect and then to be able to come to an organization like the Rams, which is really a first-class organization. I can tell this team is ready to do some good things. I am a loyal person and I appreciate the Rams signing me, giving me a job again and getting my foot back in the door in the league and hopefully now I can help get them to the next level."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know there's a name out there already, Kevin Curtis, and he's a very good friend of mine and hopefully we can bring him to Detroit. I've talked to him quite a bit. He's told St. Louis that he's going to wait and see what the market presents. He's looking to go somewhere to play and contribute and not be a 20-30 year a catch guy ... I know very well he loves this offense, so we're hoping to get this done." Former Rams receiver Mike Furrey on the chances of the Lions signing Curtis, a Rams unrestricted free agent.



    The Rams are essentially in a holding pattern until free agency starts March 2. There are no candidates for franchise or transition tags, and while their list of unrestricted free agents totals 14, the important business was done during the season when defensive end Leonard Little and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa signed new contracts.

    Wide receiver Kevin Curtis is the most attractive of the team's free agents, but he remains a No. 3 receiver with the Rams, and he will test the open market for a job as a starter.

    There are several role players the Rams would like to have back, but none are expected to attract large offers.


    1. Defensive end: Except for Leonard Little, the pass rush was non-existent in 2005, and speed off the other edge is needed. After Little's 13 sacks, right defensive end Brandon Green had 1.5.

    2. Nose tackle: Jimmy Kennedy doesn't appear to be the answer there, so a large body is needed at the position.

    3. Wide receiver: Some youth would improve the depth if the team can't find a way to keep unrestricted free agent Kevin Curtis.

    MEDICAL WATCH: OG Claude Terrell says his wrist is fine, and he looks forward to competing for a roster spot this year. Terrell missed the entire 2006 season after starting 10 games as a rookie in 2005.




    LB Jamal Brooks made the roster, was cut and then brought back because of injuries. He can contribute on special teams.

    WR Kevin Curtis will test the market and see if there are teams willing to pay him at a No. 2 receiver level. There probably will be, which means the Rams will need a replacement.

    RB Stephen Davis helped the development of Steven Jackson and will return if the price is right.

    WR Shaun McDonald had his share of big plays in three seasons, but not consistently enough. The only way he's back would be as a fourth receiver for moderate money.

    RB Tony Fisher will be coming off a knee injury, but if healthy can provide solid special teams play and a receiving threat on third down.

    CB Travis Fisher missed too many games over the last three seasons, and there will be little, if any, effort made to re-sign him.

    NT Jason Fisk is unlikely to return and he's expected to retire.

    DE Brandon Green is a high-motor player who just doesn't have great ability. Might be back if the contract is reasonable.

    LB Isaiah Kacyvenski helped improve special teams coverage, but will probably be looking for more than a one-year, minimum-value contract.

    WR/KR Willie Ponder didn't upgrade the kickoff return game as the team hoped. Still, it might make sense to bring him back unless the Rams know they have someone better.

    FB Paul Smith continued his injury history with the Rams, and just can't stay on the field.

    LB Raonall Smith proved himself to be a versatile player in situational defenses and on special teams.

    T/G Todd Steussie would like to re-sign with the Rams, but he will see if another team will offer a starting job.

    P Matt Turk was consistent all season, and the Rams should ensure that he's back for another year at least.


    S Dwaine Carpenter did a decent job on special teams, but the tender might be too high for him.

    LB Brandon Chillar was solid as the strong-side starter, and played better than has been given credit for. Could get the minimum tender.

    G/T Adam Goldberg is an excellent swingman to have around, with the ability to play every position on the line.

    C/G Larry Turner is a competitor, but the Rams might try to bring him back at the minimum salary rather than the low tender.

    TE Aaron Walker showed decent blocking ability and might return to compete for backup job again.




    DE Trevor Johnson: Waivers Saints.

    DT Tim Sandidge: Waivers Chiefs.


  2. #2
    Rambos's Avatar
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    Re: Inside Slant

    LB Isaiah Kacyvenski helped improve special teams coverage, but will probably be looking for more than a one-year, minimum-value contract

    I would like to see him back.

  3. #3
    dgr828's Avatar
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    Re: Inside Slant

    [QUOTE=RamWraith;158552]Posted 2/17/2007 1:49 AM ET
    With the scouting combine approaching,


    In the final statistics, the Rams allowed 335.1 yards per game (23rd overall) and 145.4 yards per game on the ground (31st).



    2. Nose tackle: Jimmy Kennedy doesn't appear to be the answer there, so a large body is needed at the position.

    The Jimmy Kennedy Experiment:FAILED


    WR/KR Willie Ponder didn't upgrade the kickoff return game as the team hoped. Still, it might make sense to bring him back unless the Rams know they have someone better.

    Liked what little I saw from Ponder last year, he's a keeper. Try him at receiver.

  4. #4
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Inside Slant

    Jim Haslett was in Kennedy's corner at the beginning of the 2006 season. I wonder what Haslett's thoughts are now about JK?


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