Associated Press

MACOMB, Ill. - St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz stumbled a bit earlier this week, referring to his defensive coordinator as Lovie Smith before quickly correcting himself.

Smith is now the head coach of the Bears, who'll be in town for three days of joint practices plus a scrimmage Thursday through Saturday. And Martz is looking forward to the reunion.

"Of course, I'm excited to see Lovie," Martz said. "Lovie is a very good friend and these players will be very excited to see Lovie."

But Martz is just as enthusiastic about his new defensive coordinator, Larry Marmie. The two go back a long way; Martz was Marmie's offensive coordinator at Arizona State from 1988-91.

Now, Marmie is working for Martz. So far it seems like a good fit.

"You never know," Marmie said. "I've always had great respect for Mike as a coach and have worked with him and coached against him.

"I'm excited about coaching with him again."

How excited? Only six days after Smith got the Bears job, ending his three-year stay in St. Louis, Martz hired Marmie away from the Cardinals where he had been defensive coordinator the previous four seasons.

"We share the same philosophies from a football standpoint, but the character he brings is unmatchable," Martz said. "He really should be a head coach in this league."

There will be no sweeping changes in defensive style or strategy under Marmie, 61. The Rams were in the middle of the pack overall in defense last year but they were an opportunistic bunch under Smith, leading the NFL with 46 takeaways.

They'll play the same aggressive style this season.

"I think there's a lot of similarities," Marmie said. "All we want to do is get better at what we're doing.

"We have some outstanding talent and we want to get them in position to make plays."

One change he will make is installing more multiple looks to confuse the offense.

"Philosophically there's not a lot of change, but every year you look to get better," Marmie said. "I'm sure if Lovie was still here, he would have been tweaking the defense."

The Rams also might blitz more under Marmie.

"Hopefully we blitz not because we have to," Marmie said. "I don't think there's any defense you can play that's not aggressive. You'd better be aggressive when you're not blitzing as well."

Marmie is more of an overseer than Smith, who is hands-on. He's pretty quiet on the practice field, having delegated the responsibility to his assistant coaches.

"Coach Marmie is more the type to put in the defense," said safety Aeneas Williams, who was with Marmie in Arizona. "He establishes and installs the defense, communicates with the players, but also relies heavily on the coaches."

Behind closed doors, though, Marmie's in control.

"You say something when you have something to say," Marmie said. "We do a lot of things in our meeting rooms, so sometimes what you see on the field might not be what you get in the meeting room.

"Coaching is about teaching and everybody does it a little differently."

The biggest challenge is finding a replacement for Grant Wistrom, who signed as a free agent with the Seahawks, at right defensive end. There are several viable candidates, including rookie third-round pick Anthony Hargrove and former Bills draft pick Bryce Fisher, who entered camp as the first-stringer.

Marmie said the competition will sort itself out over the next month.

"We've got some guys we've been pleased with what we've seen," Marmie said. "That's what the preseason is about, trying to get the best players lined up."


Larry Marmie: No loafing on his watch

MACOMB - It's easy to pick out defensive coordinator Larry Marmie during a St. Louis Rams practice.

Marmie is the only coach on the defensive side of the ball who isn't yelling.

"You say something when you have something to say," Marmie said. "Coaching is about teaching. I think everybody does it a little differently."

Like his predecessor, Lovie Smith, who left the Rams after three seasons as the team's defensive coordinator to become the head coach of the Chicago Bears, Marmie walks softly and carries a big stick.

But then, Marmie doesn't have to say much with three extremely vocal coaches -- defensive line coach Bill Kollar, linebackers coach Joe Vitt and secondary coach Perry Fewell -- on his staff.

"I don't think there is any questions these guys have a passion," Marmie said of his spirited staff. "The players can feel that. That's really the kind of game you want to play."

Marmie, 61, who spent the past four seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, said he has made only minor changes in the Rams' defensive scheme since replacing Smith.

"There's not a whole lot of difference," Marmie said. "I am a believer in speed. I've admired the way they have played defense here for several years now. I don't think philosophically a lot has changed."

Expect the Rams to play the same Cover 2 base defense this season. Having 11 guys flying to the ball on every play will be emphasized.

" We're basically doing the same thing, and I like that because we have some veteran players who have been doing this for at least two some of us four years now," Rams defensive captain Tyoka Jackson said. " I think that's a smart thing not to change much. He's doing some things for the better that we can work on, but basically it's the same defense. That's what this game is all about, trying to be consistent and getting better at what you do."

Like Smith, who had his "Loaf Chart," nothing less than maximum effort will be tolerated.

"We'll keep track of them," Marmie said when asked about loafs. "That's no secret in this game. Lovie wasn't the only one to talk about loafs. I think most guys that coach know something about watching their players play hard, and whether they take plays off. Some emphasize it more than others, and I am sure that was one of the things that Lovie emphasized."

Marmie also promised to be take advantage of the pass-rushing ability of strong safety Adam Archuleta, who had five sacks last season.

"We're going to blitz when we want to blitz," Marmie said. "Hopefully, we blitz not because we have to. Adam is obviously a good blitzer. He's a guy you want to turn loose. Guys like to do that. They like to hear their number called."

Marmie doesn't equate blitzing a lot with playing aggressively.

"We want to be a pressure team," Marmie said. "A lot of people ask me, 'Do you want to play an aggressive defense?' I don't know any defense that you can play that is not aggressive. Just because you blitz don't make you aggressive. You better be aggressive when you are not blitzing as well."

Archuleta welcomed the opportunity to play close to the line of scrimmage. He was used as a linebacker in the Rams' 4-1-6 defense the past two seasons.

"I like my role as it stands," Archuleta said. "As long as I continue to move around and be involved in the blitz game and the run game, as long as I feel like I'm being stretched as a player, I'm happy."

Marmie and Rams coach Mike Martz are longtime friends and colleagues. Martz was an assistant coach under Marmie at Arizona State from 1998-91.

"He's a pretty intense individual," Martz said of Marmie. "I've been with Larry for so many years. He has the intensity and focus to help these guys get to the point where they are as good as they can be.

"We share a lot of philosophies from a football standpoint, but the character he brings is unmatchable. He's somebody like Lovie in that respect. He really should be a head coach in this league."