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Thread: Iside Slant
He had been a head coach with the New Orleans Saints only to come to St. Louis to be the Rams' defensive coordinator. But through the first three weeks of training camp, Jim Haslett was doing the silent treatment because assistant coaches were kept off-limits to the media by coach Scott Linehan.
But Haslett was illuminating Aug. 17 when the muzzle was taken off him and offensive coordinator Greg Olson by Linehan. Amazingly, the republic was still in one piece after their sessions with reporters. While the coordinators will be available weekly during the season, Linehan explained why he was doing things this way.
"Because they have a job to do," he said. "Right now, everyone will wait for them to watch film until they are done. Also, I just feel it's important, especially early in any kind of program that there's one messenger. It's not because those guys aren't competent and can't give you the information you need. That's a big part of my job description and I feel it's the role that I ought to take.
Said Haslett, "Actually, it has been refreshing. To be honest with you, not dealing with the media on a day-to-day basis and focusing on football has been good for me."
Asked about his feelings early in the process about how Linehan is handling being a head coach, Haslett said, "Scott has handled it very well. He's very intelligent, and he thinks about things before he does them. That's the way he reacts. I enjoy watching him work.
"But, I'll say this about this football team, compared to where I've been. I don't think there's a lot of problems and a lot of issues that Scott has to deal with. I know it's easier said than done because there are a lot of hidden things, but he's handled it very well."
As for how he has dealt with being in the trenches again, Haslett said, "I'm enjoying myself. It's been more than I expected, I can say that. I thought I might struggle with it because I haven't done it in six years, but being around (assistant coaches) Willy Robinson, Rick Venturi and Joe Baker, guys that I have been with before, made it an easy transition for me."
The reality will begin Sept. 10 when his goal will be to radically improve a defense that was very poor last season. Haslett said, so far, so good.
He said, "What are we? What kind of team are you going to be? Are you going to be an up-the-field, run-around team that can only play with the lead? Or can you stick in there when someone's going to stick it up — you know — try to grind it on you? That's what we're going to find out here in the next couple weeks. But I like what I've seen so far. I think they're a bunch of tough-minded individuals."
The Rams have blitzed often in the first two preseason games, and showed multiple looks, especially with their first unit. Haslett said this current group is "as smart and willing as any team I've been around."
"That's what we're going to be," Haslett said of mixing it up. "And I'm not going to say we're going to blitz like that every single game. But we're going to do what it takes to win games, whether it's preseason or regular season. That's kind of what we are. I come from a background where I was in Pittsburgh and played in the 3-4 where you did a lot of blitzing. ... We're also smart enough to know that if we can't get there, or if a team is running certain formations that we can't blitz, then we'll end up playing straight defense and coverage.
"We're always going to do multiple stuff. Multiple defenses. Move them around. I think the guys like it."
—In the first preseason game against Indianapolis, the Rams had just four penalties and no false starts. Against Houston, however, there were 13 penalties, including three false starts, two defensive penalties for lining up in the neutral zone and one for being illegally downfield on a punt. The latter cost the Rams 34 yards in field position after a re-kick.
"The penalties obviously were a little bit of a problem for us," coach Scott Linehan said. "They nullified some gains. The bottom line is that the keys to winning weren't there. We weren't as smart and as aware a football team. I just don't think we played as smart and as tuned-in as a week ago."
Noting the yard differential after the penalty on the punt, Linehan said, "It's a field position game. That's as bad a turnover. I don't want us to all suddenly think we've got it figured out. I think every day we do this we want to improve in some way, but continue to handle the little things well, the details of the game. The game management situations, whether it be a coach or a player. How we tackle. How we secure the ball. All the things that we talk about, that you hear me till I'm blue in the face talk about."
—Coach Scott Linehan said he isn't concerned about a first-team offense that has moved the ball, but hasn't turned it into touchdowns yet in five possessions over two games.
"Nah," he said. "I think if we had executed a couple things, I don't think there's any question we would (have scored). You want to score a touchdown. But we're moving it relatively good. I've got no concerns about how our offense is going to do once we start kind of putting it together and staying in there full time."
Said quarterback Marc Bulger, "It's preseason. If we had scored all five times, it's nothing. It doesn't mean anything until the regular season starts."
—OL Todd Steussie started at left tackle against Houston with Orlando Pace sidelined by a leg injury.
"That's the spot I'm most comfortable with," Steussie said. "I enjoy being out with the (starters). It's nice being around some guys that have accrued some playing time and I'm not the old man hanging out with the young guys."
For most of training camp, the 13-year veteran has been practicing as a backup tackle and guard. As far as being a backup, Steussie said, "It was an adjustment at first. But I still enjoy the game, I still like being around it. And when my number's called, I get a chance to compete again. I always joke that it's better than growing up and working for a living."
Steussie has missed just two games since 1994, and works out hard in the off-season as his competitors seem to get younger. "It's always been important," Steussie said of off-season work. "But when you're competing with guys whose birthdays are in the '83, '84 range, it's a little staggering. You realize that you have to make sure that you're taking the time to invest in the off-season, get in good shape and stay in good shape."
As for Pace, Steussie is amazed. "He's a tremendous athlete," Steussie said. "It's sometimes frustrating because he makes it look so easy. You fight your butt off and then you see him do it, and he just looks like he's floating out there."
—OG Claude Terrell continues to be bothered by the residual affects of a wrist injury that has bothered him since last season. Coach Scott Linehan said the club is trying to get a brace for the wrist so Terrell can practice.
Asked about the diagnosis of the problem, Linehan said, "They've all come back with the same opinion that he can play with it. It might have pain. Then if it doesn't get any better by the end of the year, there's an experimental type of surgery that they can do. You'd have to ask a doctor on this one, but it does some kind of a shortening of the ligament in his wrist that could potentially make it more pain free. It's overwhelming. There's the potential to at least put some kind of brace on there and play with it. It's not going to make it worse or injure it more. That's the hold-up right now.
Hopefully we'll figure out a way to get that thing padded up or braced up so he can play or he's going to have to deal with this other surgery which would obviously put him out. It's very stable and it's the pain that's in there that's causing the biggest problem."
—PK Jeff Wilkins has not kicked at all in the first two preseason games, but could get some work in next Saturday against Kansas City.
Said coach Scott Linehan, "It should be this week. I don't know if he'll go through the whole game. Usually the last preseason game is his tune-up. I'm OK with that. We've made that decision and it has worked well for him. He's managed his leg so well to this point and the proof's in how he's done in the last three or four seasons that it's worked well. I'm OK with that. I think it's a unique position and guys find out ways to get themselves ready. As long as we get the results we're looking for I have no problem with it."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not an egotistical guy in any sense. You know how that is in this business — I think everybody has one. But I enjoy the game. I enjoy the X's and O's. To be honest with you, it's something I've done my whole life. I went right from college into playing and then right from playing into coaching. I know nothing else. Some day, if that (head coaching) opportunity ever comes again, if it's the right situation and you have a chance to win, then I may do it. If not, I'm fine doing what I'm doing right now." — Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Punter Matt Turk has continued to distance himself from Andy Groom in competition for the job. Turk averaged 54.0 yards on four kicks, and had one downed at the 5-yard line, only to have it negated by a penalty.
"I thought he did great," coach Scott Linehan said. "Matt's been doing real well recently. He's been really hitting it."
—FB Madison Hedgecock did not play against Houston and it's unknown when he will return because of a high ankle sprain. Hedgecock has been out for almost two weeks, and could miss another four. Said Hedgecock, "I had a little pain in the lower part, and that was from the bones being bruised. I kept trying to come back too early and kept re-injuring it. That kind of set me back. I just need to take my time with it and get it 100 percent healthy."
—WR Torry Holt will be limited for a few days after suffering a bruised sternum when he fell on the tip of the ball against the Texans. X-rays were negative. Asked when Holt will be back, coach Scott Linehan said, "We'll make that decision probably by Tuesday or Wednesday how much he does in those practices, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's not full speed by Wednesday and back at it. I think it's more just until the pain subsides. There's not a lot of swelling; it's just painful. He worked in the pool this morning, got some lifting in and he looked good."
—DE Leonard Little did not play against Houston because of a quadriceps injury, but should be back soon when swelling is controlled. Said coach Scott Linehan, "Leonard won't practice tomorrow (Monday), but he's making a lot of strides with that strained quad."
—LB Jon Alston suffered a hyperextended knee against Houston, but isn't expected to miss much practice time, if any.
—OT Orlando Pace, who has knee, ankle and hip injuries, did not play against Houston in the second preseason game, and could continue to be limited in practice this week.
—FB Paul Smith has missed several days, including the game against Houston, because of a calf injury, and still isn't ready to return to practice.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Dave Ragone vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick for No. 3 quarterback job — It's been featured before, but it remains the biggest battle on the team. Ragone played more against Houston, and led the team to two touchdowns, although both were aided by pass interference penalties. Fitzpatrick, who beat Houston last season with a stirring comeback, tried to pull it off again, but the team was stopped two yards short of the end zone in the final minute.
Said coach Scott Linehan, "I thought both of them played well. They had different situations than they had last week. We put Dave in first; because that's how we did with Ryan the first game, and gave him some normal game situations and I thought he performed much better. He made a couple of plays and stood in there nice and showed his ability to scramble a little bit. He made a couple of throws and moved the team. We came away with a couple of scoring drives and I though that was nice to see from Dave.
"I thought Ryan did a great job in his two-minute drill. I told him he was going to go in and win the game. We were hoping to get him a couple of series. He actually did get one, but we had a three-and-out unfortunately we got a penalty on a play that put us at third and long. He primarily worked in the hurry up two-minute mode. It was nice to see him operate. I thought he looked very good running that two-minute drill. He marched us right down there. I thought he did everything we asked him to do to put us in position to win the game."
OTHER BATTLEFRONTS: Brad Pyatt vs. Marques Hagans for kick return job - Both are wide receivers, and have shown moments in the kick return game. Pyatt was better than Hagans as a kickoff returner, with three against Houston for 85 yards, including one for 35 yards. Hagans had two kickoff returns for 31 yards and one punt return for 11 yards. Pyatt was tried as a punt returner for the first time and had four fair catches.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: RB Fred Russell — He has opened some eyes in training camp and games with his quickness and ability to make plays. Working against him is that he's just 5-7. Said coach Scott Linehan, "I think Fred's really shown that he has a unique running style and kind of a knack for it. He's hard to find. He's one of those guys that gets behind the linemen and the guys don't know where he is, and he comes popping out of there. He's one of those guys that has been a real pleasant surprise for us. We didn't know much about him because he was in (NFL) Europe during the off-season. He's really had a nice camp and I've been very happy on what he's been able to do."
ROOKIE REPORT: CB Tye Hill continues to progress and is competing with Jerametrius Butler for the No. 1 nickel job. ... TE Dominique Byrd had a big 18-yard catch in the fourth quarter that got the Rams into position for a potential tying touchdown. ... WR Marques Hagans had a punt return for 11 yards, and made an impressive leaping 19-yard catch in the fourth quarter against Houston ... DE Victor Adeyanju started against Houston because of an injury to Leonard Little, and struggled against the Texans' No. 1 line.
INJURY REPORT: The Rams are frustrated by the ongoing absence of OG Claude Terrell, who continues to have pain in his wrist. Terrell has had very limited work in the off-season and training camp, and could be in danger of losing his roster spot, or going on injured reserve ... LT Orlando Pace is not expected to be out long after suffering knee and ankle injuries in practice.
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Re: Iside Slant
Its so funny to hear these reporters whining about how they don't have unlimited access to the Rams' Assistant Coaches.
Truth is, the less the team talks to the media, the better (See Last year's countless stories about internal strife that only served to disrupt the team and make the coaching staff/front office a laughing stock).Welcome to the St. Louis Rams!
Re: Iside SlantSaid quarterback Marc Bulger, "It's preseason. If we had scored all five times, it's nothing. It doesn't mean anything until the regular season starts."JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS
"HIT HARD, HIT FAST, AND HIT OFTEN"Adm. William "Bull" Halsey