By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
08/31/2006

If not exactly a flair of the dramatic, the NFL schedule-maker at least had a sense for history -- Scott Linehan's history -- when making out the Rams' 2006 schedule.

On Dec. 31, the Rams close out the regular season in Minnesota, where Linehan got his start in the league as an offensive coordinator from 2002-04.

And tonight at Dolphin Stadium, the Rams close out the preseason in Miami, where Linehan worked as offensive coordinator last season.

As an added bonus, Linehan also will renew acquaintances tonight with quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who enjoyed his greatest success with Linehan in Minnesota before being traded to the Dolphins in the offseason.

"When I think about Daunte, individually, I'm happy for him that he's at home," Linehan said. "He's home in a lot of ways. For him to be able to go back down to Florida and play in his home state is -- to him, I'm sure -- a huge relief. Then, to be around a familiar system and philosophies that were a big part of his success will make it twice as nice for him."

Even though Linehan coaches the Rams, the Dolphins still are using much of the offense Linehan installed last season in Miami.

Beyond Culpepper, there will be plenty of Dolphins players and coaches that Linehan will say hello to tonight, not the least of which is Miami head coach Nick Saban.

"I've stolen a bunch of stuff from him, trust me," Linehan said. "His organizational skills are outstanding. And he's got great experience.

"I think he just does a great job of preparing the team and giving the team the best chance to be successful week in and week out. Great toughness. Demands nothing but your best every day and every week. I think those are things that I tried to emulate a little bit from him."

Linehan said he talked with Saban frequently in the offseason, but not so much since training camp started. "I don't talk to my wife much during the season," Linehan joked.

Linehan's first trip to south Florida with the Rams isn't some kind of reunion tour. He made that point clear this week to St. Louis reporters, and on a conference call with reporters who follow the Dolphins.

"We're going down there to win the game," Linehan said. "I think it's insignificant who we're playing at this point. We're really evaluating the middle and kind of the back half of our roster right now, trying to figure out in a lot of ways who's going to fill out that 53-man roster and possibly be our practice squad candidates."

There isn't one starting position up for grabs, but there are numerous backup jobs for the taking and question marks that need to be removed in the return game.

As is usually the case throughout the NFL, Rams starters figure to play a lot less in this, the final exhibition game. But the starters want to get some momentum established, particularly on offense, while they're in the game.

"We've got to sharpen up," offensive guard Adam Timmerman said. "We definitely have to do better than we did (against Kansas City) across the board."

Although the Rams may run into some rain tonight at Dolphin Stadium, it appears Tropical Storm Ernesto will have minimal impact on their trip. The team pushed back its departure from Rams Park by two hours Wednesday but still left St. Louis by mid-afternoon.