Martz Pleased with First, Second Units
Saturday, August 14, 2004

By Nick Wagoner
Staff Writer

For more than a half of football Thursday night, St. Louis dominated Chicago. The bad news is the Rams ended up losing a 13-10 decision to the Bears. Fortunately for St. Louis, though, the first half was the portion of the game it was in control.

The reason that comes as good news is that was the part where both sides played their first and second teams. The starting St. Louis offense moved the ball well behind quarterback Marc Bulger before a Jeff Wilkins’ 33-yard field goal capped its lone drive.

The beat went on after the top unit left, as Chris Chandler turned in a nearly perfect performance, going 8-of-9 for 108 yards and a touchdown. The St. Louis offense finished the first half with 190 yards of offense and a 10-3 lead.
Rams coach Mike Martz said he was happy with the top two units. “All in all, I was very pleased, particularly in the first half with both groups,” Martz said.

St. Louis entered the preseason game with quite a few concerns that needed addressing. The main concern was along the offensive line, where both starting tackles and the center were missing and one of the starting guards played center. The line held up, though, behind the leadership of veteran guard Adam Timmerman, the lone starter on the unit playing his normal position at kickoff.

Timmerman missed a pair of practices leading up to the game because of shoulder soreness, but Martz identified Timmerman’s leadership as a main reason for the first-half success. “He can play anywhere,” Martz said. “He can play in the street. It doesn’t make any difference. He’s what you’re looking for as a leader, as an example in every form.”

Martz took the time Sunday to praise another lineman, only this one doesn’t quite have the pedigree and resume of Timmerman. Tackle Scott Tercero, making his first start in the NFL, overcame some nervousness to have a strong showing. If Tercero continues to perform at a high level, some of St. Louis’ major concerns might be eased.

Martz, who has said in the past that he likes players to step up their play in the preseason and show themselves, said Tercero did just that. “I think that there’s a toughness with Scott that I didn’t realize was there because he’s such a quiet young man,” Martz said. “There’s a resolve… that you don’t know about these guys until you put them in pressure situations like we had him in. He really responded very well.”

Tercero’s emergence could prove important in the next few months. Offensive tackle Kyle Turley is out at least four weeks with a bulging disc in his back. “The doctors have said four weeks from now they’ll have an idea about how he feels and what direction we’ll go,” Martz said.

Center Dave Wohlabaugh could miss up to three months with his hip injury. Pro-Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace has yet to report because of stalled contract negotiations. In the meantime, Grant Williams is playing left tackle, Andy King is the left guard and Andy McCollum is handling center duties. Williams has impressed so far in camp, after trimming down in the offseason. King has also been solid and could see extensive time early in the season. If those two continue to play well, McCollum has another good season, Tercero continues to improve and Timmerman anchors the group, the biggest question mark on the team might become an exclamation point. “That’s why those other guys are there,” Martz said. “If you didn’t feel good about those guys, a Scotty Tercero, Grant Williams, they shouldn’t be there. Fortunately both those guys have risen to the occasion.”

THOMAS MAKES A MOVE: On the other side of the ball, Martz was extremely happy with the performance of middle linebacker Robert Thomas. Thomas had only one tackle, but was everywhere in coverage and showed that he is ready to embrace an expanded leadership role. “I think that the leadership on the field, the calls… everything was impeccable,” Martz said of Thomas. “There wasn’t any wasted motion. I think he was probably the best performance of the entire team.”

INJURY UPDATE: Martz said tailback Arlen Harris (concussion) and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (sprained left ankle) are fine and shouldn’t miss much time, if any.

BACK TO WORK: The Rams resume practice in Macomb on Sunday afternoon after a pair of days off. Rookies and first-year players returned Friday and veterans were allowed the extra time at home.