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Thread: Inside Slant
When the regular season opened, Tye Hill was one of the Rams' starting cornerbacks and Fakhir Brown was the nickel back. Brown missed most of training with a shoulder injury and was nearing 100 percent when he was released by Coach Scott Linehan on Sept. 24 in an apparent attempt to shake things up.
Jason Craft was signed, and after the team lost to Buffalo, Linehan was fired. New coach Jim Haslett wanted to bring Brown, and it took two weeks. In the interim, Craft started, and Ricky Manning was the nickel back. The one constant was Ron Bartell.
The need for Brown became more dramatic when Manning was lost for the season after breaking a bone in his foot Sunday against Washington. Brown was signed the next day.
Said Haslett, "It's good to have him back. I thought he was one of our better defensive backs. When he's healthy, he's a pretty good corner."
Asked how Brown was playing when he was cut, Haslett said, "I thought he was paying pretty well. He just had (recovered from) the shoulder injury and he was fighting through that. He was probably just a couple weeks away from being 100 percent, so it looks like to me, talking to him, he's 100 percent ready to go."
Early in the week, Haslett wouldn't commit to naming Brown a starter, but he was working with the first unit in practice Wednesday.
Asked how he did, Haslett said, "Well, I didn't really hone in on him, but I thought he was fine. We worked him out yesterday. (Secondary coach Ron) Milus put him through a workout and he's in great shape and obviously he knows the defense. The limited time I watched him I thought he moved well and obviously he has a good understanding of the defense."
Brown has played for Haslett in New Orleans and St. Louis, and was glad to be back.
"Me and Jim Haslett have been real close for a long time," Brown said. "He had been loyal to me so I wanted to be loyal to him. We are friends; he's not just my coach. There were teams that called me before I talked back with the Rams so I was preparing to go somewhere else. When coach Haslett and I talked, that's when I decided to come back here."
Brown's presence is needed Sunday when the Rams face the Cowboys, especially after the addition of wide receiver Roy Williams.
Said Haslett, "He's a good receiver. He's a big guy that can go up and get it. We played him when he was in Detroit; there's a reason why they give up all these draft picks and money for him, so that's another weapon. This is a good football team; there are a lot of Pro Bowlers. On offense you have to deal with those two receivers now, then you have the tight end, you got the running back, a huge offensive line. It's the most talented team in pro football, I think."
SERIES HISTORY: 21st regular-season meeting. Series is tied, 10-10, and the teams have also split eight playoff games. In the last nine meetings, the teams have alternated victories, with the Cowboys winning last season, 35-7. The teams have met only once in St. Louis, with the Cowboys winning, 13-10, in 2002.
—Coach Jim Haslett praised the job Rick Venturi did as defensive coordinator in Sunday's win over Washington.
"He was calm, actually he did a good job; he was nice and calm, I was kind of surprised, I kept looking at him, I didn't have to yell at him to get off the field and he did a great job. He's an animated guy. I called two plays, they screwed up, but everything else was pretty good.
"After that (two bad calls), I said, 'All right, you got it. You can tell that he's done it a long time and he's been in pro football, he's been a coordinator for a long time. It's just like riding a bike for him, he just got back on it and did a good job of calling the game."
Asked if he feels obsolete, Haslett said, "That's all right. As long as we win, that's good. And Rick and I have been together for so long that we kind of think alike and we see things a lot alike, so that's a good thing."
—Television cameras caught coach Jim Haslett and Redskins cornerback Leigh Torrence jawing at each other in last Sunday's game, and at one point nose tackle Clifton Ryan shoved Torrence away from the Rams sideline.
Haslett explained that Torrence was the gunner on Washington's punt coverage team, but he was pushed out of bounds. When that happens, the player is supposed to stay in the "white" area of the sideline, so Haslett moved back. However, Torrence went deeper, and trying to get back on the field was heading right toward Haslett.
So it was that the coach decided to be the aggressor, and gave a shoulder to Torrence. Said Haslett, "He was coming at me, so I figured it was me or him. If he was going to run me over, I was going to get him. So I got a good shot on him. I didn't want to get run over. You see those coaches that get toppled? That wasn't going to be me. ... It's not a big deal. But really, I was not going to get run over."
—Haslett joked how quickly it was that his team would be tested on what he had preached for two weeks. Asked what his emotions were like heading into Sunday's game, he said, "To be honest with you, I was kind of excited to see how our team would react to everything. It's been a long two weeks. It was a hard two weeks and getting on a plane and to travel and go into that environment. I was kind of anxious just to see how they responded.
"It was actually kind of funny, because we preached about field position and adversity and all of sudden we make a third-down stop, but we have 12 guys on the field. I was like, 'You have to be kidding me.' They got a couple of first downs and punted so we lost our field position right away. So we get the ball backed up, which is what we didn't want; then a fumble comes. Well, (I'm thinking) this will be a good test right here to start off. So I was actually kind of laughing. I was walking up and down the sideline telling those guys, 'Well, they are testing us early, so we'll see how we are.' We fought through it and did all right with it."
BY THE NUMBERS: 51.6 — Percentage of the team's total points scored by PK Josh Brown, who has nine field goals and five extra points for 32 of the Rams' 62 points.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Pisa came up to me and said, 'What do you think of the new coordinator? Pretty good huh.' And I go, 'Get away from me Pisa.' " — Coach Jim Haslett, talking about a comment LB Pisa Tinoisamoa made about defensive coordinator Rick Venturi.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Coach Jim Haslett explained the decision to place RB Brian Leonard on injured reserve: "His shoulder popped out, he tore some more ligaments and muscles in it, so we thought he could probably do rehab for a couple weeks and could play but it would probably happen again. I would rather do it now and get it over with and have him ready for the offseason next year. If we wait until the end of the season to get it done, it would hinder him from being ready for training camp next year. It is best for him, not the best thing for us, but the best thing for him to get it done."
To replace Leonard on the roster, the Rams signed RB Kenneth Darby off the Falcons' practice squad. A seventh-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2007, Darby played one game for the Buccaneers, was active for another game, but did not play, and was inactive for three games, including the team's playoff game against the Giants. He was also on the practice squad for 11 weeks. This year, he was released by Tampa Bay in the final cut and signed to Atlanta's practice squad. In his one game for the Bucs last season, against the Panthers, he had two rushes for nine yards and two receptions for 16 yards. Darby, who is 5-10, 211, played at Alabama and was the only the third player in school history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in his career. The other two were Shaun Alexander and Bobby Humphrey,
The Rams also released WR Matt Caddell from the practice squad and added OT Clint Oldenburg to the practice squad.
—LT Orlando Pace did not practice Thursday, but there's still a possibility he could play Sunday against Dallas. Pace said he plans to practice Friday and see how his injured quad/thigh feels. Coach Jim Haslett said it would still be a game-day decision, and that Pace could play if he hasn't practiced this week.
—QB Marc Bulger (jammed finger) threw without problems Thursday and took all the snaps with the first unit in practice.
—RB Antonio Pittman (leg), who did some limited work in practice Wednesday, did not participate Thursday with the team in full pads. Pittman is expected to be able to play Oct. 26 against New England.
—CB Ron Bartell appeared on the injury report Thursday with a shoulder issue, but he participated fully in practice and is expected to play Sunday against the Cowboys.
—CB Ricky Manning underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a broken fibula, an injury suffered this past Sunday against Washington. Manning is out for the season after being placed on injured reserve.
—WR Keenan Burton returned to practice Wednesday after missing three games because of a knee injury, and is expected to play a significant role in Sunday's game against Dallas.
—RB Antonio Pittman, who has missed two games because of a leg injury, returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, but will likely not play Sunday. He should return to play the following week against New England.
—OT Orlando Pace was limited in practice Wednesday with a thigh/quad injury and remains questionable for Sunday's game against Washington.
—OG Jacob Bell, who suffered a foot injury against the Redskins, participated fully in Wednesday's practice.
—RB Kenneth Darby practiced with the team for the first time Wednesday and is expected to be active Sunday as the third running back and special teams contributor.
GAME PLAN: The plan will still be to establish a consistent running game with Steven Jackson, while also trying to move the ball through the air against a secondary that lost CB Pacman Jones to suspension.
On defense, the Rams hope to limit RB Marion Barber, and get pressure on QB Brad Johnson, so he has trouble getting the ball to 6-3 WRs Terrell Owens and Roy Williams.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams DLEs Victor Adeyanju and Leonard Little vs. Cowboys R Marc Colombo — Adeyanju is one of the team's most improved defensive linemen. He is excellent against the run and has gotten better as a pass rusher. His development has allowed the Rams to keep Little fresh for pass-rushing situations.
Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. Rams defense — The addition of Roy Williams could create more opportunities for Witten, who leads the team with 39 receptions for 497 yards.
INJURY IMPACT: The secondary is shorthanded, and that could be an issue against the Cowboys. With CB Ricky Manning out for the season, even the re-signing of Fakhir Brown gives the team only four corners and three safeties. ... Injuries at wide receiver have resulted in there being eight receivers on the roster. ... If LT Orlando Pace (thigh/quad) can't play, Adam Goldberg will get the start.
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