Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Theo Chen, Irvine, Calif.: I think the Rams did an adequate job in the draft considering where they were drafting. One position they did not fill though was strong side linebacker. Who is going to fill this position?

NW: As it stands following the draft, the Rams have Pisa Tinoisamoa at weakside linebacker with Will Witherspoon in the middle. Dexter Coakley will back up Pisa and Trev Faulk and seventh-rounder Tim McGarigle sit behind Witherspoon. Brandon Chillar and Raonall Smith will battle it out for the strong side spot if things continue as they are. The coaching staff is high on both, but it appears Chillar is the leader in the clubhouse should he fully recover from injury. Smith might have more upside if he can stay healthy, so it should be one of the more interesting battles to keep an eye on as camp approaches.

Andrew Calloway, Edwardsville, Ill.: What do you think the coaching staff saw in Hill over the other top CB taken in the first round? The guy from FSU seemed to have more raw potential but were the Rams scared away by his injury?

NW: I think the thing with Hill is that he has one major trait that allows him to stand out above not only the other corners, but most of the players in the draft. That thing is speed. Hill ran in the 4.3s in the 40-yard dash at the combine and has been clocked as low as 4.15. That's scary speed. In addition, he was the best in press coverage of all of the corners in the draft and is probably the best in terms of pure coverage. Put it this way, if Hill had the same type of game and speed and was about three or four inches taller, he would have been a top five pick. As for Antonio Cromartie, the staff liked him, but he was never really in the discussion unless Hill was gone. He was too big of a risk coming off serious injuries. In addition, he only started one game at corner for Florida State. It's hard to know how much success someone like that would have without a pattern of success in his past. Other than Michael Huff, there wasn't a defensive back on the board the Rams wanted more than Hill.

Tim Hummel, Waterloo, Ill.: What happened we had Cutler right in our finger tips and we didnt take him. If we wanted him so bad why did we "trade" him away. Do you think Hill is a good fit or would you have preferred Greenway?

NW: The reality is that the Rams didn't want him "so bad." Yes, there was legitimate interest in a quarterback in the draft, but in the end it just didn't make much sense with all of the needs on defense and at tight end to take one. If Matt Leinart had slipped that one extra spot, it would have been interesting to see if the Rams would have taken him. For Vince Young, I think they certainly would have made the move. As for choosing between Hill and Greenway, there was some decision to be made there and clearly Hill won out. Had I been forced to make the pick between that pair, I would have done the same thing the Rams did, take Hill.

Jarvis Robinson, Indianola, Miss.: Now that the draft is over, what's the next step in the Rams preparation for the season?

NW: There are still a few nagging questions and moves that probably need to be made. Scott Linehan has shown interest in adding a veteran tight end who can run block, perhaps another nose guard for the defensive line and possibly another tweak or two at linebacker or safety. In terms of the actual schedule, the Rams have two more minicamps, one in a couple of weeks and another in mid-June. When those are complete, the team will turn to training camp and focus on finding the final 53. Believe it or not, training camp isn't that far off.

Eric Nagel, Seattle: Are both Cornerback starting positions up for grabs? Personally I think with some work and practice Ron Bartell and Tye Hill should start. Is there any chance of this happening?

NW: As of now, I have to believe that Jerametrius Butler has one of those spots fairly secured. However, there is no doubt that before all is said and done, both spots could be up for grabs. In an ideal world, Bartell will come to the forefront and become a starter next to Butler, allowing Hill to be the nickel back where he can use his superb speed against slot receivers then take over a starting job next season. With Butler and Travis Fisher coming off serious injuries, it's not out of the question for both jobs to be completely up for grabs when training camp begins. I don't think your duo is all that outrageous, for what it's worth.

Ryan Baker, Kansas City, Kan.: How many of the Rams Rookies do you see comming in and starting right away?

NW: Well, looking at it logically and with a couple of hunches, I would have to say that there will be three immediate starters in this class. I believe Hill will ultimately win one of the jobs because of his closing speed and willingness to tackle. With all of the moves made at tight end, it's a no brainer that Joe Klopfenstein or Dominique Byrd will win that job. I'd put my money on Klopfenstein because of his versatility and athleticism. Then, if you want to count it, I believe Marques Hagans will win the punt returner job, though he has a lot to prove to make the roster. As for others, Claude Wroten will likely learn the three technique behind starter La'Roi Glover before he is ready to be a starter himself. Jon Alston could surprise and slide in at strong side linebacker should the Rams choose to go that way. The sleeper of the group is defensive end Victor Adeyanju. Yes, he is raw, but he could give Anthony Hargrove a run for his money right away. He's that talented.

Andy McCool, Lebanon, Ohio: I know Mike Furrey was only on a one year contract last season and the Rams picked up some key defensive backs, but what happened to Mike? Just curious on his whereabouts.

NW: Mike re-united with coach Mike Martz in Detroit where Martz is the offensive coordinator. Furrey moved back to wide receiver and will get a shot to contribute on special teams. He was an all around good guy and class act in his time here, so best of luck to him in Detroit.