Compiled By Jeff Gordon
ONLINE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Monday, Sep. 26 2005

Rams coach Mike Martz is understandably enthusiastic about rookie tackle Alex
Barron, who shored up the offensive line during Sunday’s 31-27 victory over the
Titans.

He dressed for the first time as a NFL player and tagged in for beleaguered
right tackle Blaine Saipaia.

“When we put (Barron) in one-on-one (practice) situations . . . his protections
in one-on-ones against Leonard Little and our better players, he’s had good
success,” Martz said. “Then we started to rotate him in with our offense. He’s
been very successful in practice. That’s why we had him up.

“I thought, physically, he was ready to play. Physically, from a technique
standpoint, he is very good at his point. He is outstanding. Making sure he
doesn’t leave somebody unblocked, he is doing the right thing, is the thing I
worry about. He’s further along than I thought he would been.”

“We felt like he was ready in the event we needed a pass protector to deal with
a defensive end by himself, because of his ability.

“We had some real protection issues. Blaine was struggling, to be blunt about
it. We’re trying to get things going and we couldn’t.

“When we drafted Alex, you watch a guy on tape, you kind of get a feel for the
tenacity and how much he likes playing, the passion, how he plays the game. He
was awful rough around the edges. When he came through mini-camp, I was
concerned about the toughness. I just didn’t see it.

“Since the day he stepped onto this facility in camp, he’s remarkably different
that what I remembered in mini-camp. Everything he’s done, he’s exhibited the
toughness and that physical part of the game I didn’t know if he had or not.
That has allowed him to go where he is right now. That’s all to his credit and
credit to the line coaches for getting him ready.”

Here were some other highlights of the Martz news conference:

On the overall state of the team: “I’m really pleased with the way
the team finished the game. We had some breaks go against us, particularly in
the second half. We had some momentum going offensively. We felt like we were
in position to really take control of the game. Defensively we got better as
the game goes along. We made plays at the end of the game to keep them out of
the end zone to win this game.

“There is a toughness there that exists in this football team. We’re still not
doing enough things right, technically. We still have some blown assignments. I
think we did find a right tackle in this game, which is awfully big for us.

“We’ve got a long way to go both sides of the ball. We’re not anywhere as good
as we should be. They are playing hard, they are playing with a great deal of
enthusiasm and effort. If they continue to do that, they will get better.”

On the team’s ability to force turnovers this season: “There are a
lot of things that make a difference. The upgrade at linebacker and the
secondary from a personnel standpoint, no question about that. I think
everybody is on the same page defensively. We went through that last year,
where we were kind of this, kind of that.

“The defensive line is playing very well. They are putting a lot of pressure on
the quarterback, making him throw off-balance. They are getting the ball
knocked out of there. We’re playing fast. You go fast on defense, you go chase
that ball carrier, you get more than one or two guys on the pile, good things
happen.”

On the health of receiver Isaac Bruce: “I don’t know what Isaac’s
(injury severity) is at this point, we’ll take a look at that on Wednesday.”

On the so-called “fumble” that was really an incomplete pass: “I was
anxious to see it on tape this morning. You think about it all night long,
especially if we had lost that one.

“It’s not a lateral. There’s no question about it. It’s a forward pass. It’s
obvious. It’s close. It’s a lot closer than it looked on the replay. But his
foot is on the white line and the ball is being released behind his foot . . .
the ball lands right on the white line. It’s not a lateral, no question about
it.”

On Steven Jackson making a touchdown-saving tackle after the recovery:
“Let me tell you whose presence of mind it was. We all sort of turned
around and started walking away from that one. (Defensive line coach) Bill
Kollar was standing on the sideline and he was going nuts. He’s hollering, ‘Get
on the ball, get the ball, get the ball.’ That’s when they all turned to go get
the ball.”

On the play of safety Adam Archuleta: “I think there is real
confidence, an understanding, knowledge of his position in this defense. It was
a dramatic change for him. In college, he was a linebacker his whole career. So
when he came into the NFL for us, he was strong safety for us in Lovie (Smith)’
s system. That’s all he knew. That was his security blanket, his comfort zone.
Now Larry (Marmie) comes in and things are dramatically different. It’s hard
for him. He’s made that change now, completely. That allows that natural
ability to kind of take over, rather than always beomg back on your heels
trying to see things, think about things. Now he just reacts.”

On the toughness of quarterback Marc Bulger: “He took a forearm to
the throat. The guy came through, the guy deliberately took his forearm and hit
it right into the throat. I watched that again. It was very clear on tape. I
guess it would have to very evident on the TV copy . . . after that last
touchdown throw, I did see the hit on his legs. He just went right after his
knees, he sure did. It sure appeared that way. I don’t know what his intent was.

“He’s getting sacked and drilled back there to begin with. That normally would
rattle any quarterback, no matter how good you are. And then all of sudden you’
re behind by 10 points. That can be disillusioning to any quarterback. Then to
come back and do what he did, the way he did it, I thought was outstanding.”

On the play of defensive tackle Ryan Pickett: “He’s playing at the
highest level at his position in the league. He had a terrific game. He’s very
disruptive inside. If they aren’t doubling him, they’re tackling him. They’re
doing what they can to account for him.”

On the play of cornerback DeJuan Groce: “This was DeJuan’s best
game. He had an exceptional game. He’s right in position on all those big
plays.”

On the play of safety Michael Hawthorne: “I’m very pleased with his
progress. He is a factor now on defense, making nice plays for us. He is a
corner moved to safety. That physical part, coming up and trying to hammer
somebody – he’s got the size to do it – is kind of contrary to being that cover
guy on the outside. He’s learning that and is willing to do it.”

On the play of offensive linemen Adam Timmerman and Andy McCollum:
“Timmerman, once he got going, this is one of his best games. He and
Andy, both played very, very well. The whole offensive line, with the exception
of the right side, played very well.”

On the play of running back Marshall Faulk: “What you saw was
vintage Marshall. He’s trimmed down. I think he’s in great shape. I don’t think
the skill has diminished at all. If he’s lost any speed, maybe you could see
it, I couldn’t see it. The only issue about Marshall is the durability factor.
That’s why we had him in the situation he’s in. Is he capable of doing all
those things? Absolutely. How long would he last? That would be the only
consideration.”

On improvements in the red-zone play: “In the beginning, I did a
terrible job in the red zone in terms of play selection. I think our offensive
line is getting better, which always helps you in terms of running the ball. We
probably had too much stuff ready for the red zone earlier this year, which
made it difficult. We didn’t execute it very well.”