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  1. #1
    evil disco man's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Linebackers should help Rams defense

    Linebackers should help Rams defense

    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    05/11/2005


    In a two-day period in early March, the Rams added 14 years of NFL experience and 1,759 career tackles to a tattered defense that yielded more points than all but seven other units in the 32-team league last season.

    The defensive help came in the form of free agents Chris Claiborne, 26, and Dexter Coakley, 32, who are expected to join Pisa Tinoisamoa as first-team linebackers. Claiborne, 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, figures to supplant Robert Thomas, an underachieving first-round draft pick in 2002, in the middle. Coakley, 5-foot-10 and 236, takes over the strongside spot left vacant when Tommy Polley, a second-round selection in '01 who has been inconsistent, was let go.

    "I like the organization, and I thought the team was going in the right direction to win the Super Bowl with the offense that we have," Claiborne said Wednesday during a break in organized team activities at Rams Park. "We've just got to pick it up on defense, which we will. I stepped into a great situation."

    Coakley played all eight of his previous seasons in Dallas. He started each of his 117 NFL games after being drafted in the third round in 1997 out of NCAA Division I-AA Appalachian State.

    "You want to think you're going to finish your career with the team that drafts you, but unfortunately that's not the case," Coakley said. "Football is a game, but obviously it's a business, too. They made a business decision, and I accept it. There weren't any hard feelings. They're moving in a new direction, and so am I."

    Tinoisamoa, 23, led the team in tackles (145) and tackles-for-loss (seven) last year. But overall, the Rams' linebacking corps was considered undersized and a bit soft.

    Coach Mike Martz and defensive coordinator Larry Marmie set out to change that by hiring Claiborne, who has averaged 119 tackles in six seasons and will be the team's biggest linebacker since it moved from Los Angeles in 1995, the day after Coakley arrived. Martz was so impressed with Coakley, a fierce hitter who averages 130 tackles a year, that he quickly appointed him a captain.

    "Hopefully the guys won't ride me too hard for just coming aboard and already being a team captain," Coakley said, smiling. "I want to show them my leadership, I want to show them my work ethic, I want to show them how to be a true professional. That's on the field, off the field, in all walks of life."

    Despite three Pro Bowl seasons with the Cowboys, Coakley became expendable this offseason when coach Bill Parcells decided to switch to a 3-4 defense. Coakley, who had a career-low 91 tackles last year, when his playing time was cut, wasn't interested in being a nickel-down defender. He signed a five-year, $14.5 million contract with the Rams.

    Coakley noted that the two teams' defensive schemes (when Dallas played a 4-3) didn't vary much.

    "It's just terminology; X's and O's are going to be the same," he said. "The game of football, defensively, is just running and tackling the guy with the ball, stopping the opponent. Football is football ... I just want to help this defense get better."

    Claiborne, who was with Minnesota the past two seasons, is facing a stiffer transition after playing all but one of his previous NFL seasons on the outside. He was an inside linebacker in college at Southern California, and Detroit made him the ninth overall pick in the 1999 draft. But Stephen Boyd was entrenched in the middle for the Lions, and Claiborne wound up on the perimeter.

    "I could still play there if I had to, but I'm happy to finally be back in the middle where I want to be," said Claiborne, who was in Detroit for four seasons before joining the Vikings as a free agent. "On the outside, you're not allowed to be as aggressive. I like to bang and hit and make big plays ... that change the game. If they want to run in the middle, they're going to have problems with me."

    Unlike Coakley, Claiborne scouted several teams before accepting a three-year, $10.5 million deal with the Rams. He explained that he didn't want to forgo an opportunity to be a catalyst for a unit that he believes can develop rapidly into an effective complement to an offense that ranked sixth in total yards during the 8-8 regular season in 2004.

    "What I liked is the fact that when you have a high-powered offense, it puts pressure on teams to keep up," Claiborne said. "That allows you to blitz, and that's what you want to do. You want to be able to dictate the tempo. And once we get up on people early ... then we're going."

    The ultimate destination, naturally, being the Super Bowl in February in Detroit.

    "To Motown!" he said. "I started in Motown, and to get back to Motown and finish it ... man, that's sweet!"
    Last edited by evil disco man; -05-12-2005 at 02:07 AM. Reason: another advertisement getting in the way... does anyone read this?


  2. #2
    UtterBlitz's Avatar
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    Re: Linebackers should help Rams defense

    To answer your question Disco Man, Yes I read the articles and yes I read the comments in the edit lines too.

    "I could still play there if I had to, but I'm happy to finally be back in the middle where I want to be," said Claiborne, who was in Detroit for four seasons before joining the Vikings as a free agent. "On the outside, you're not allowed to be as aggressive. I like to bang and hit and make big plays ... that change the game. If they want to run in the middle, they're going to have problems with me."
    Let Claiborne play in the middle. Maybe we will be able to stop the run this year.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    HUbison's Avatar
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    Re: Linebackers should help Rams defense

    Quote Originally Posted by UtterBlitz
    Let Claiborne play in the middle. Maybe we will be able to stop the run this year.
    Amen, ma'am. In fact, Claiborne is one of the best things that can happen to the Rams offense. (But HUb, don't you mean the Rams defense?) No, I mean the offense. Last year, there were too many times when our defense watched an opposing offense run up the middle on 3rd-and-4 to go to 1st-and-10. With Claiborne in the middle (not to mention a healthy Kennedy and Pickett), those 1st-and-10's go to 4th-and-1's...and bring on the opposing punt team, and get Bulger's helmet strapped on.

    That's why I say Claiborne is one of the best things that could have happened to our offense.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    sbramfan is offline Registered User
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    Re: Linebackers should help Rams defense

    Well, if somehow Hawaii 5.0 becomes our WEAKEST linebacker...then we're in really good shape!

    I'm still a little reluctant to start praising Claiborne, and declaring Ram dominance before he's done anything here. I'll believe it when I see it. As with a lot of teams recently, it's more than just putting good players out there, there has to be some chemistry, etc... so hopefully this newly constructed defense can immediately be a big improvement from last year.

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    HUbison's Avatar
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    Re: Linebackers should help Rams defense

    Quote Originally Posted by sbramfan
    Well, if somehow Hawaii 5.0 becomes our WEAKEST linebacker...then we're in really good shape!

    I'm still a little reluctant to start praising Claiborne, and declaring Ram dominance before he's done anything here. I'll believe it when I see it. As with a lot of teams recently, it's more than just putting good players out there, there has to be some chemistry, etc... so hopefully this newly constructed defense can immediately be a big improvement from last year.
    sb, you're absolutely right, but when compared with what we've had in the middle, I've got to believe Claiborne is an instant improvement.

    Over the past three years...
    Robert Thomas --- 42 games, 163 tackles, 2 sacks, 0 ints., 0 forced fumbles
    Chris Claiborne --- 40 games, 236 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 5 ints., 2 forced fumbles
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    evil disco man's Avatar
    evil disco man is offline Pro Bowl Ram
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    Re: Linebackers should help Rams defense

    The middle of our front seven [in running situations] looks downright gi-normous:

    Chris Claiborne
    6'3" 260lbs

    Jimmy Kennedy
    6'4" 320lbs

    Ryan Pickett
    6'2" 310lbs.

    Hopefully they can give the undersized Coakley, Tino, Hargrove, and Little some more room to work with. I kind of like the idea of having our big guys in the middle to stuff the gut and the quick guys on the outside to contain.

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    sbramfan is offline Registered User
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    Re: Linebackers should help Rams defense

    Size in the middle, speed on the outsides. Definitely the formula for success in the NFL.

  8. #8
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    Re: Linebackers should help Rams defense

    Size in the middle, speed on the outsides. Definitely the formula for success in the NFL.
    Exactly what I was thinking.

    I can't wait to see what Hargrove does as the full-time starter. Only thing I worry about now is our safety situation.

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