Nickís Mailbag Ė July 8, 2009

B.K.

Nick, one simple question for ya, what are the chances of Ian Campbell making the team, and if so, any possible playing time and Special teams or D-Line??

NW: It would seem there is an opportunity for a defensive lineman to potentially squeeze his way on to the roster. Havenít seen enough of these guys to know who could emerge but if you figure the team keeps eight defensive linemen, you have Leonard Little, Chris Long, Victor Adeyanju, James Hall, Adam Carriker, Clifton Ryan and Darrell Scott seemingly in the best position to land on the roster. That would leave an opening for another end like Campbell or possibly a tackle like Gary Gibson or Orien Harris. Regardless, Spagnuolo likes his players to be versatile so the guy that emerges there will likely need to be able to contribute inside and out as well as on special teams.

Miguel Iniguez

Hopefully you can answer one of my questions Nick. I read a story on the internet that stated the Rams are looking into playing some games with throwback jerseys. Is that true? And if so when? Also which colors will they be the blue and white? Or the Blue and yellow?

NW: Indeed, the Rams will be wearing the blue and gold throwbacks to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Super Bowl championship team. The games have not yet been determined but apparently, it will happen on three occasions this year. Iíll be sure to get the information out there when that determination is made.

Dennis Quijadas

Hey Nick. First off I want to thank you for the great insight for all us RAMS Fans. I see that Billy D. has finally brought over Renardo Foster from Atlanta. How does he pan out for the Rams? Is he just a big back up or a possible replacement if they can't sign Alex Barron at the end of the year? Saying that, would Alex Barron most likely be tagged after the season?

NW: I havenít seen Foster play in person but I met him when he was here recently and I do know heís a large man. Because he has some experience and has been in the league, one would think he has a legitimate shot to stick on the roster and provide some depth at tackle but without having seen him, itís hard to make that determination right now. If nothing else, heíll provide some depth and competition at the spot. As for Barron, the approach is to wait and see how he performs when the lights come on this year before anything is decided on his future. This is a big year for him.

Jeff Jordan

I recently discovered "Nick's Mailbag" and really appreciate the info. Thanks. I am a transplanted Rams fan living in the Bay Area of California and all I hear is ***** this and ***** that. And no, nobody here really cares about the Raiders. Or at least believes in them. What in your opinion is the area of improvement most needed that will put the Rams back above the ***** in the standings? I see it as the defense. Or is our offensive line the key? Thanks! Keeping the faith where ever I live.

NW: Good to have you aboard the Mailbag train, Jeff. To your question, I wouldnít pinpoint one area necessarily as the thing that will turn it all around. When youíre 2-14, you have more than one leak that needs to be plugged. Iíll offer this, though, as a sign of hope and something that could improve: the Rams have to finish games better. At the end of last season, this team was in position to win a bunch of games and couldnít close the deal. If Spagnuolo can get them to believe in each other and puts them through a hard training camp that improves conditioning (all signs point to this being the case), this team should be better closers.

Hey Nick,
How was your Vacation? I hope you enjoyed so when does training camp start for us? And will they require all players to participate? Will there be open practice or closed to the public? It feels good for us to have you back; I missed (last week) my morning coffee with Nick W sessions.

NW: Vacation was good and was nice to get away for a little bit. Still kind of working in some down time here and there (including next week) but I wonít be gone long. Training Camp is set to start at the end of this month with rookies, selected veterans and quarterbacks reporting first followed by the rest of the team the next day. The official schedule has not yet been released for the public but it is coming soon. There will be plenty of open practices for fans to attend. Weíll have the complete breakdown as soon as itís available, I promise.

Mark Sokol

Hey Nick, welcome back from vacation. Hope it went well for you. A friend of mine was in St Louis last week on business and he said he heard Michael Vick was in town to visit the Rams. I searched and found no evidence of this being true. Can you put this rumor to rest?

NW: Not true.

Roy Bristol

Have been wondering/what happened to Brian Leonard? Heís not on Roster/no Depth Chart, showing Injured Reserve???

NW: Suppose you missed it but Leonard was traded to the Bengals for defensive tackle Orien Harris earlier in the offseason.

Tyler Byers

Hey Nick,

Being in the Marine Corps makes it kind of hard to keep up with news on the Rams, but your mailbag helps keep me informed, thanks. My question is now that Adam Carriker has a few NFL seasons under his belt, and with the additions of Coach Spags and Ken Flajole do you expect him to have a breakout year this year? Also what would it mean for the teams DTs if he doesn't put up big numbers?

NW: No, Tyler, thank you for all that you do. As for Carriker, I think a break out season is certainly a possibility for a variety of reasons. First, itís important to remember that Carriker had a pretty solid rookie season but played all of last year injured. That made it hard for him to continue his ascent. Second, heís played everywhere and never really had the chance to get comfortable. In this defense, he wonít be asked to be played nose or three technique, heís just a defensive tackle with responsibilities. And last, Spagnuolo has showed a wonderful ability to use his defensive linemen in many ways and maximize their potential. And he loves versatile guys like Carriker. Iím not saying heís the next Justin Tuck but he would seem to be a logical guy to fill a role that enables him to play all over the line.

Tom Hawkins

Nick,
I've been a Rams' fan for many years, since the late 50's/early 60's ... as loyal as they come. Retiring Deacon's jersey/number 75 was overdue.

I had a discussion with a fellow Rams' fan about who the all time best Rams' running back was. I said Eric Dickerson and my friend said Marshall Faulk.

In your opinion, who's the best?

NW: Fun question, Tom. Iím probably a bit biased because I got to see Faulk up close for a few years but I would probably lean toward Marshall. The thing to remember though is that they were very different in their styles of play. Dickerson as a pure runner was probably as good as anyone but what sets Marshall apart was his versatility. Heís the best pass catching running back of all time and the things he could do in the open field were unbelievable. He was a good blocker as well. I personally believe Marshall Faulk is one of the five greatest running backs of all time and is the best all purpose back to ever play. Thatís not to slight Dickerson; itís just how great Faulk was.

Dean Rowell

Hi Nick,
UK based Ram's fan here.
Given that the rams had holes throughout the roster, and were committed to Marc Bulger under center, and had tied up Kyle Boller as backup in free agency, I was extremely surprised at the Rams 6th round choice, QB Keith Null.
For this to make sense, Keith must have shown "future starting QB" potential.
We have no exposure to college football over here, so what can you tell us about this guy that can justify his being picked when potential contributors were possibly still on the board?

NW: The Rams made no secret that they wanted a ďdevelopmentalĒ quarterback. That means a guy who probably wouldnít push to play right away but might have a chance down the road to be a starter. That was and is the intent with Null. He wonít play right away but the team likes his intangibles, his size, his decision making, all of the things that could turn into real, legitimate NFL skills. He put up insane numbers in college (albeit at a small school in a spread offense) but those numbers were so good, itís hard to ignore. And from what Iíve seen with my own eyes in a little bit of offseason stuff, he doesnít seem like heís scared of the step up in competition.

Pete Curto

Hi Nick, Love that Deacon will have his number retired...long over due. If Dickerson and Faulk have their numbers raftered, when might we see Slater and Mack and other legendary Rams so honored? We have a long tradition! I am a life long fan on the west coast.
Thanks...

NW: Thereís an important distinction to make here. Like most teams, the Rams have a ring of honor to recognize past greats. Itís hard to retire a bunch of numbers because then you canít use those and you need them for the players on the roster. Otherwise, at training camp you might end up with three guys running around with the same number. Most teams, Rams included, save the jersey retirement for the all time greats. Not just the all time greats in the organization but the all time greats in the league, players that defined a position. In the case of Jones, he essentially invented the sack. Faulk revolutionized the way running back was played. I donít know when the next number will be retired but there will be some strong candidates coming down the pipe, no question about that.

Steve Smith

Hi Nick

Do you know how Justin King is doing with his rehab from last year? I remember when he was in high school he was a great running back. Do you think he will get a chance in the return game?

NW: King came along fine in the offseason activities. Heís full speed for training camp. The Rams are open to any and all comers in the return game and King could certainly get a look.

Paul-Andrew Cromer

I have been a fan of Chris Ogbonnaya since his high school days. I know he was drafted in the last round but what do you think his chances of making the team will be even if itís as a practice squad member?

NW: There will be an intense competition at the backup running back spot behind Steven Jackson. There are really two jobs open behind Jackson and nothing is set in stone. If Ogbonnaya has a big preseason, he could not only land a roster spot but also find himself getting some playing time.

Mel Stone

Hey Nick I was wondering if Henry Ellard is still on the coaching staff because that may be an overlooked vet for the new WR to learn from.

NW: Ellard went to the New York Jets when the coaching staff turned over.

Dennis in Sweden

Hey nick, always nice to hear from you, as usual your doing a great job keeping us in Europe informed about the rams!
I got three questions for you:

1. Is it you who picks out the questions that you answer? Cause it feels like it's the same type of questions all the time?

2. How tough is the rams schedule compared to last years? I think the rams could go 8-8.

3. There are no surprises that the rams are gonna play an aggressive defense and a run based offense. Are there any chances we'll see coach Spagnuolo mix the schemes up, like Lovie Smith did in 2003? I remember how he played Archuleta as a WLB in nickel defenses. Is there any chance we'll see Chris Long and former OLB Leonard Little dropping in zone coverages, I canít really remember the giants DE doing that.

NW: Dennis, my man, always good to hear from you across the pond as well. Hope all is well.

1. Yes, I pick out the questions each week. The subject matter is the same a lot because those are the questions I get. That means a lot of repeat questions. Itís kind of unavoidable but thatís part of the gig I guess.
2. On paper, the schedule seems reasonable though I think playing the AFC South is going to be tough. Thatís a good division. But remember, like I always say, the way a schedule looks before the season and the way it looks after the season are two completely different things. There will be a team nobody expects to do well on the Rams schedule that will have a great year. And there will be a team expected to contend that struggles. It happens every year so donít fret too much about the schedule and focus on the ways the Rams can be a better team in 2009.
3. I think thereís a strong chance you will see a lot of mixing and matching in Spagnuoloís defense. This is the same guy who made a habit of lining up four defensive ends on the line to wreak havoc. Spagnuolo is as creative defensively as any mind in the game and Ken Flajole should have some wrinkles of his own to add to the mix.

Jack Fenton

Hey Nick, any chance the Rams will play in Detroit soon? I live just across the border in Windsor and donít get to see the Rams play. Thanks.

NW: Jack, youíre in Windsor? Iím assuming youíre a big fan of Oshiomogho Atogwe then? Youíre in luck. The Rams are in Detroit on Nov. 1 this season. Come on down and bring a herd of Rams fans with you.

Sandra Avina

I would like to know if there are any events happening with the Rams from August 3, 2009 - August 7, 2009 that I could bring my 13 yr old son to; please advise for we will be in the area that week.

Thank you.

NW: The Rams will be right in the thick of training camp at that time and there will be practices open to the public here at the Russell Training Center. Final times have not yet been set but will be soon. It would be great if you and your son could make it out.

Ryan Miller

Hey Nick, I am going to be attending the Rams/Lions game this year, and I was wondering if you could give me some advice about where the good places are to eat, or maybe go have a couple beers and hang out? I'm from California, so I have no idea. Also, I'm wondering what areas of this team do you feel like could use more depth? I know WR stands out the most, but what other positions could use more depth?

NW: Ryan, are you attending the Rams/Lions game in Detroit? If so, I havenít spent enough time there to give you any good recommendations on where to go/eat. Maybe Jack or some other fans in that area could email in some suggestions and Iíll post in the next mailbag.

As for depth, youíre always looking to improve your team anywhere possible on the roster. I would think a veteran cornerback and another big body for defensive tackle would probably be enticing.

Trey Fannin

Hello Nick, Rams Fan since birth here, (Jim and Jack Youngblood were my Favs as a kid). Watching Rams Football year in and year out I have noticed something that I believe contributes to the injuries these past couple years. Seems to me that the first teams during pre-season matches donít get much playing time and this I feel directly effects adversely to gameday readiness, especially for the guys to be at full "game speed" on opening day. Will New Head Coach Spag's approach be any different in this area of concern?

NW: Thatís a question I have not yet had the opportunity to ask him but it will certainly be covered before the first preseason game. As a side note, thatís one fun thing about a new coach and new approach, you always get to find out a different philosophy. Iím interested to see his.

Carl Sanchez

Nick, thanks for the great job! Are the rams any closer to signing any of their draft picks and do you foresee anyone holding out? Thanks!

NW: There will be some activity on this front soon.

Paul Peterson

I read the following quote: ďI told (the team) yesterday as they departed that I thought we had enough character, enough talent and enough guys that are driven that we can accomplish whatever we want,Ē Spagnuolo said. ďWhatever we decide we want to accomplish, I think we can do that.Ē

Are the players and other coaches coming together enough under Spag's new system to make you think this quote is accurate in regards to the upcoming season?

NW: Itís hard to say how deep the impact of the short period of time the team together has had yet. But I will say this: I donít believe Steve Spagnuolo says things for the sake of saying them. He seems like the type of person who says what he means and means what he says.

Pedro Canjura

Hey Nick, how was your week off, did you miss us? Anyway, this is a question directed at you. If you were to start a team with any FIVE players in the league (both offense and defensive players), who would your first 5 picks be?

NW: Pedro, I like the different type of questions, especially in July. The week off was nice and Iím about to have another next week but Iíll play your game first.

If Iím picking five players to start a team, Iím probably going to focus on the positions of the most importance unless thereís a player I just canít go without. That said, I would want a top quarterback, a dominant left tackle, a stud pass rusher (either an edge rushing LB or DE) and a lockdown cornerback. That leaves me some wiggle room for the other spot.

At quarterback, Iíd go with Tom Brady over Peyton Manning and, to a lesser extent, Philip Rivers. I know Brady is coming off the injury and heís into his 30s but to me, heís one of the best ever and knows how to win. Heís my choice there.

At left tackle, Iíll take Joe Thomas just barely over Ryan Clady and Jordan Gross. I need someone to protect Brady and Thomas is the most well rounded of the tackles out there. He gives me the added bonus of being a good run blocker.

At cornerback, itís a no brainer in Oaklandís Nnamdi Asomugha. Heís a lockdown corner who is also physical against the run and does a little bit of everything.

For my pass rusher, itís a tough choice but Iíd go with DeMarcus Ware in a close call over Jared Allen, Mario Williams and Shawne Merriman. Ware is just a force of nature and seems to be getting better every year.

That leaves me room for one more. Do I go with a stabilizing defensive force like a stud middle Ďbacker, defensive tackle or safety? Or do I opt for an exciting play maker on offense?

Tough to go against the great offensive players out there like Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson but Iím a defensive guy so Iím going to make my defense as strong as possible. For the record, Iíd likely go with Calvin Johnson if I was picking one of these guys.

Iíd probably narrow it down to a choice among Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Patrick Willis Albert Haynesworth or Kevin Williams.

Although Iíd love to take a stud middle backer, Iíd probably pass because I already have a Ďbacker in Ware. And while I love the thought of having a big run stuffer in the middle like Haynesworth or Williams, Iíd want another playmaker. So Iíd go with Reed in a close call over Polamalu. And though Reed is in his early 30s as well, he has showed no signs of slowing as a play maker and I would need a leader and quarterback for my defense. Heís the guy.

So thatís my five: Brady, Asomugha, Ware, Thomas and Reed. Would be fun to get the discussion going and get some responses and ideas from you all for the next mailbag.

Speaking of which, I am out of pocket again next week but will be back on July 22 for some pre training camp mailbag action. And from then on, you wonít be able to get rid of me for a long while.

Thanks for all of the questions everyone.