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Thread: Inside Slant
When Al Saunders was the Rams' receivers coach in 1999 and 2000, players marveled at how he was always on the go, running down the field to talk to receivers and constantly being in their ear.
Wide receiver Dane Looker remembers his first training camp in 2000, when he caught a pass and was slowing down and easing up down the field.
"All of a sudden, here comes Al from behind, knocking the ball out of my arm," Looker said. "That taught me a valuable lesson."
After hiring Saunders as offensive coordinator, coach Scott Linehan said he heard the stories. After the first day of minicamp, Linehan said, "It was pretty famous, the lore around here about Al. I asked him if he was going to still chase the receivers. He said he had been training. He said, 'You'll see.'
"I was pretty impressed. I don't know how old Al is, but at his age I hope I can run that well."
Saunders is 61, but that didn't stop him from being a whirling dervish during practice. He wore a T-shirt that said "Gotta Go to Work," (the team's slogan in 1999) and really opened the eyes of the rookies.
Said wide receiver Keenan Burton, a fourth-round pick, "He runs up and down the field like a maniac."
Added second-round pick Donnie Avery, one of the fastest players in the draft, "He's pretty fast. I think he probably has a step on me."
Saunders was just one example of a heightened intensity within the team, something needed after a 3-13 season.
"I was really pleased with just the tempo and the attitude, the whole deal," said Linehan. "They came out here with a whole new life and energy, and it was really inspiring for me to see that. It came from the leadership of the team, the core leaders, and the young kids followed them. That's what we need.
"There's a pretty refreshed feeling around here. It's amazing what a new season and some new faces will do to everybody's attitude."
Concluded quarterback Marc Bulger, "Where is last year? We don't want to mention that much more. We started clean; we're not going to look back. We learned what we had to from last year, but as of a couple of months ago, I'm not going to learn anything more from 2007. We're just going to move on and expect good things from us this year.
"We have the talent; it's just a matter of playing as a unit and staying healthy."
—Veteran Chris Draft has gotten most of the work so far at strong-side linebacker, but coaches still have high expectations for Quinton Culberson. An undrafted free agent last year, Culberson played well all season on special teams, then had 14 tackles in a start against Arizona in the season finale when Brandon Chillar was out with an injury. Chillar signed with Green Bay in the offseason.
"It's going to be a good battle, and it will be one to keep an eye on," coach Scott Linehan said. "Either way I feel great about the fact that we have two guys who we feel really comfortable with.
"Chris has the experience and the versatility to play all three positions, and now he is in the position where he can get back into a starting role, which I know he likes. The thing about Quinton is that he gets around the ball a whole lot. He had one start for us last year in the last game of the year, and I think he led the defense in tackles that day. That is hard to do in the NFL."
—DT Adam Carriker isn't participating in team drills, but did take part in most individual work after undergoing shoulder surgery in January to repair a torn labrum. Originally, it was estimated Carriker would be unable to anything for at least four and maybe six months.
Said coach Scott Linehan, "It's amazing. Generally with an injury like that, it's four to six months before you can do anything. He'd probably be able to play a game if we had to. I think a lot of it has to do with work ethic and want-to. That guy has been busting his butt since the end of the season, and it's really paid off."
—C/G Dustin Fry was back at OTA practices after missing the minicamp because he was getting married. Originally, the minicamp was to be only for rookies, so Fry scheduled the wedding.
Joked coach Scott Linehan, "He actually checked with me in the winter time and this was going to be our rookie minicamp. I changed it on him, so I guess I allowed him to get married. His wife owes me."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's a lot of energy, a lot of excitement. I can see where people want to draw the comparison (to the 1999 season). But as good as we thought we were going to be that year, I don't think anybody could've predicted that type of success. We're all hoping that happens; that's what everybody's goal is. But I don't think I want to put that type of pressure on this year's team." — QB Trent Green, when comparisons to 1999 were made, a year after the Rams were 4-12 and brought in a new offensive coordinator.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Following the team's mandatory minicamp, the Rams waived three rookie free agents and re-signed a player that was with them in training camp last year.
Released were defensive end Rodney Hardeway, wide receiver Josh Hyman and fullback Brandon McAnderson.
Signed was wide receiver Shaine Smith, who was waived by the Rams in the final cut in 2007. He was with the Jets in the offseason before being cut in late April.
MEDICAL WATCH: Tackle Rob Petitti won't be able to run for about six months after suffering a torn Achilles tendon during the offseason conditioning program ... FS Oshiomogho Atogwe has sat out recent drills after suffering a minor hamstring injury in the May 9 minicamp practice. ... OT Mark LeVoir is sidelined with a strained calf ... Undrafted free-agent RB Yvenson Bernard was released before minicamp after failing his physical because of a knee injury.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
-05-17-2008 #2RamOfDenmark Guest
Re: Inside Slant
That's hilarious, picture Al Saunders closing in on Dane Looker from behind and forcing the fumble, I would've paid good money to see the look on his face when that happened. Not exactly what you expect.
I love the '99 T-shirt with the slogan - if that does not get you FIRED UP I don't know what will! He's reminding everyone around him what happened the last time he was here and telling them if they bust their butts all season good things can happen once again.
It's going to be very very interesting to see what Saunders does this season, I can't wait. If I were him the first play in the first game of the season would be a LONG homerun bomb type pass-play just to show to the fans "No more horizontal passing, there's a new sheriff in town!" whether it works or not I bet that would get the fans fired up too!
-05-17-2008 #3DistantRam Guest
Re: Inside Slant
If the offensive line can stay fit, there's no reason why we can't have a great season on that side of the ball. SJ is as good a running back as there is, while Leonard has been working hard and is raring to go. Throw in a choice of tight ends, and Saunders' impeccable record with players in that position, and the variety of our wide receivers (the pure quality of Holt, the height of Bennett and the pace of Avery) and we could see some good play this year.
To expect another miracle, like that of 1999, is unrealistic but this team, if it can get some early wins and the consequent confidence flowing, could sneak into the play-off picture.
Re: Inside Slant
DistantRam, i agree with your entire post, except for the last part
Why shouldn't we all expect a Super Bowl this year from the Rams?
I'm serious, we have arguably one of the best running backs, a pro bowl qb, a receiver who is still one of the best in the league, a tall possession guy and a quick deep threat, a te that can make some plays, hopefully a solidified o line, and a defense with a good young d line, average linebackers, and a young secondary that can make a few plays.
Plus, we are playing in the NFC. We have as good a shot to win our division as anyone, and once we get into the playoffs, anything can happen, i.e. NY Giants. Dallas is about the only NFC team that is dominant, and they go where Tony Romo takes them(Go EIU Panthers!!!). That's the beauty of the NFL, fans of 3-13 teams really do have something to look forward to
I'm not going to let an injury filled season lower my expectations, but hey i think the glass is half full too.
-05-17-2008 #5Dominating D Guest
Re: Inside Slant
This team has the talent it's just a matter of putting players in the right situation to show case the talent something Al has been doing for years....
Also, like Bulger said they just need to put in the time together so they can become a cohesive unit and then the sky is the limit...
-05-17-2008 #6DistantRam Guest
Pace is an all-time great but his injury record is woeful. Would you trust Barron to fill in adequately at left tackle? Greco can come in on the right but his college performances don't inspire much confidence in his ability to be the dominant tackle on the left. Our offensive line is fantastic on the left, if Pace and Bell stay fit, but the right needs work: Cogs will need to step up, and Barron will need to stop giving away so many penalties, while Schuening and Greco are unproven in the league.
On the other side of the ball, we'll need Long to justify the hype from day one. Carriker will need to improve on last season, even though he did well and was our Rookie Of The Year (not that there was much competition in that category), while Glover and Little are both getting on and I don't have much faith in their replacements. Witherspoon is a possible Pro Bowl selection but how many games will Pisa start? There's no proven depth at linebacker, either, despite the acquisition of Chamberlain and Vobora. In the secondary, Chavous is past his best and the cornerbacks are erratic, to say the least.
As I said, if our starting line-ups can stay fit throughout the season, we could go a very long way. However, we know that such a scenario is unlikely, in all honesty.
Getting back to the topic of this thread, Al Saunders is obviously a talented coach and has proved that he is capable of extracting great things from initially unprepossessing offenses in the past. However, even his skills can't prevent players from getting injured and we'll need Haslett to perform equally well on the "D" if we are to get into the play-offs this year. Let's not forget that we don't have the easiest of schedules, either....
Last edited by DistantRam; -05-17-2008 at 02:51 PM.
-05-17-2008 #7Mooselini Guest
Re: Inside Slant
Even if Marc Bulger wants to forget about 07, reporters and media will just keep throwing it in his, the team's and the fans' face. We all want to forget that horrible season, but the sports stations won't allow us.
Al is going to definately bring great things to the table. I'm glad we got him as our OC, sure he's old, but he owns a play book the size of the bible.
-05-18-2008 #8Dominating D Guest
Re: Inside Slant
Injuries is a problem for every team in the NFL. These are obstacles the team has to overcome. No 1 team has the best quality back up at each position that is impossible with the draft or salary cap. All you can hope as a fan is that your team is very fortunate and if you do have injuries hopefully it's at a position that you have depth....
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