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Thread: 'New Day' for McMichael
'New Day' for McMichael
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
By Nick Wagoner
As a few reporters gathered around him in the moments following the Rams’ full squad minicamp last weekend, tight end Randy McMichael’s first order of business was clearing up a confusing situation that repeated itself over and over during the previous three practices.
The burning question centered on a certain No. 84 who repeatedly sliced holes in the middle of the defense, catching as many or more passes than the receivers or any of his fellow tight ends.
With a laugh and a megawatt grin, McMichael identified that masked man as none other than Randy McMichael.
So, what gives? Well, McMichael’s excitement was easy to understand after the offseason hire of new offensive coordinator Al Saunders.
“As soon as I found out that they'd hired Coach Saunders, I got really excited; this is the kind of offense I've dreamed of playing in my whole career,” McMichael said. “I'm just having a good time right now. Hopefully I can expand my role and do the things I like to do.”
A fun year would be a welcome respite for McMichael and teammates after a tumultuous 2007 season.
The Rams quickly scooped up McMichael as a free agent after he was released by the Miami Dolphins in March.
Coach Scott Linehan had grand plans for McMichael, hoping to use him as a large target in the red zone and a guy who could open the middle of the field for the receivers on the outside.
As injuries continued to decimate the offensive line, though, McMichael might as well have switched his number to something in the 70s. Dutifully, week after week, McMichael accepted his role as a de facto sixth offensive lineman, usually lining up on the right side to help whoever was forced into starting action that week.
“It was a miserable year, not just for me,” McMichael said. “As a team, it was a miserable year. It seemed like everything that could go wrong went wrong for us last year.”
Like the rest of his teammates, McMichael has taken all of the necessary steps to put last year deep in the rearview mirror. He finished with just 39 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns. The catch total tied the lowest output of his career and the yardage total was a career low. Helping in the cause to forget last season are a few moves that helped McMichael declare a “new day” at Rams Park.
McMichael said from the first play of the full squad minicamp he could feel a new energy in the team from all angles, offense, defense, special teams and the coaching staff. Injecting much of that energy into the offense and especially McMichael is the addition of Saunders.
Saunders is notorious for his relentlessly positive attitude and perpetual motion on the practice field. In fact, in McMichael’s first meeting with Saunders in the offseason, Saunders gave him a not so subtle reminder about the tight end’s role in his offense.
“Coach Saunders said the funniest thing to me the first time I met him,” McMichael said. “He was like, “I’ve had a Pro Bowl tight end eight straight years.’ So I am just looking forward to the challenge. I think he is going to make me a better player because he really pushes you to be the best. I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Linehan also would like to see his tight end get more involved and follow in the Pro Bowl footsteps of the likes of Washington’s Chris Cooley and Kansas City’s Tony Gonzalez.
“I’d like it to be nine,” Linehan said. “I think Randy knows this is a great opportunity for him in this system. I think he will play very well in this offense. Randy was a guy who, like a lot of guys came into last year with expectations and last year was last year. But this year he can really step up and play great in this offense. He is going to have plenty of opportunities for sure.”
A couple of other steps were taken during the offseason to ensure McMichael can be a more active component of the offense.
First and foremost, the offensive line is returning to health and has added talented guard Jacob Bell. A healthy line means less in line blocking and more route running for McMichael.
“That’s going to be the biggest thing for our entire football team is to keep those guys upfront healthy,” McMichael said. “It’s really valuable that we keep those five guys in a rhythm. We need those five guys to play a lot of football together.”
In addition, the Rams added big, hulking tight end Anthony Becht to the mix in free agency. Becht impressed Rams coaches with his dominant run blocking in a loss to Tampa Bay in 2007.
With Becht available to work in many of those blocking situations, McMichael will be free to move around as he did during the minicamp, lining up on the line, in the slot and moving around.
“It’s definitely going to help out a lot,” McMichael said. “They told me we were going to sign Becht and he was going to help with the in line blocking to take some of that pressure off you. It’s going to be really big for me, him and Joe to solidify the tight end position this year.”
Re: 'New Day' for McMichael
Dont get me wrong, I like McMike as much as the next guy, but doesn't there seem to be a lot of articles about how his role will be different in Saunders' offense??? The whole offense will be better i would think. He wouldn't be the only guy who would stand to benefit from this hire. Just a thought