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    Nick's Mailbag: June 17

    Nick's Mailbag: June 17
    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Nickís Mailbag Ė June 17, 2009

    Sean Murphy

    Hey Nick, thanks for reading my question. You may not have much of an answer for this but, I'll ask anyway. From what I've seen outside of his early fumbles Darby has impressed me more than Pittman. He seems to have more juke-ability. I know Pittman is a little more experience but, do you think Darby has the talent to be our #2 RB?

    NW: Itís going to be a tightly contested battle because so far Pittman has looked quicker than he did in the past and he seems to really feel comfortable for the first time since he arrived in St. Louis. That said, Darby does have the tools to be the backup to Jackson. Itís important to remember that Jackson is going to get the bulk of the work barring injury so there are certain talents you are looking for in the backup. Pittman and Darby are comparable as runners but Darby is the better pass catcher and probably the best at blitz pickup among all of the running backs on the roster. Should be a fun battle to watch in training camp.

    Eugene Bard

    Now that Mark Sanchez has signed his deal, have you heard anything about the rams draft picks signing? And do you think the other first round picks will start to sign?

    NW: No timeframe on this but I donít expect anything to happen right away. Maybe something by the end of the month on some of the picks but the market still needs to set itself. Teams are more eager to get quarterbacks drafted so highly signed right away because itís imperative that they donít miss any opportunity to learn on the job because more often than not, they are going to get thrown in the fire right away. Thatís tough for a quarterback.

    Scott Bundren

    Hey, Nick. Thanks, as always, for the great mailbag. This is more of a rhetorical question. Why are so many Rams fans so quick to throw Marc Bulger, in particular, under the bus? Because he's had a couple down years? Is it all on him? In that case, why don't we get rid of Steven Jackson? He's been underproductive the past couple seasons, too. Come on! Can't you see that it's more than coincidence that their stats, along with some other playmakers' stats have dropped off the past couple years? Whether it was the coaching staff or the personnel (or both) that were lacking, I believe this new regime is on the right track to rebuild the Rams' legacy. Thanks, again for a great forum and GO RAMS!!

    NW: Well said, Scott. The fact is, this is a results-oriented business and when the results arenít up to standard, people will want to vent about it. I get that, too, but it doesnít mean thereís anything wrong with actually trying to understand that this is the ultimate team sport and how one person performs directly affects the rest.

    Eric B.

    One of my favorite moments in Rams history was Jim Everett to Flipper Anderson at The Meadowlands to beat the Giants in the playoffs. Where would you rank that play in Rams history and what is Anderson doing after his playing days?

    NW: As far as recent memory, which I would say is the past 20 years or so, itís probably the biggest play for the Rams aside from any of the big ones that happened in the 1999, 2000 and 2001 seasons.

    Anderson is currently living happily in Atlanta

    Anthony Martella

    Where is Tony Becht This year? Thanks.

    NW: He signed with Arizona, joining another former Rams tight end, Dominique Byrd, out in the desert.

    Shane Taylor

    Did Samkon Gado re-sign?

    NW: He did indeed. Gado will be in the mix for a backup running back job in training camp.

    Ram Rick Terrill

    THANKS for great insight on our Team. I am a 35 plus fan and really like the direction of the new coach & management. My question is related to our defense, specifically the front four. Do you believe the Rams have enough depth at this position? And what's the latest on Wroten. (Huge potential) Has he "found his way" and is coming back as a productive member of the team?

    NW: The short answer to your question is yes, I believe there is enough depth, assuming everyone is healthy. One more big body inside wouldnít hurt but beyond that, there is quite a bit of talent on the defensive line. The question is whether that group can put it together. There is a lot of young talent that has breakout potential including Chris Long, Adam Carriker, Clifton Ryan, Victor Adeyanju and rookie Darell Scott. If some of those guys develop under Spagnuolo like so many young defensive linemen did in New York, you have to like the potential.

    As for Wroten, nothing new to update but he probably doesnít figure into the plans for 2009 and beyond.

    Mark Mercurio

    Hey Nick,
    I am a big fan of your column. I was wondering if you had heard any more on the status of Atogweís contract situation. I had the understanding that signing him was a top priority this season. I think that his presence or lack of will be crucial to the effectiveness of the Rams defensive scheme under coach Spags. Any thoughts or updates? Keep up the good work.

    NW: Nothing new to report on Atogwe. He still has the franchise tender offer on the table and both sides would still like to complete a long term contract. The deadline to sign the franchise tender is July 15. If he doesnít sign the tender by then, he can still sign a one-year deal later but canít sign a long term contract during the season. If he signs the tender by then, a long term deal can still be worked out. And I donít think you should worry about him being on the field. Atogwe has been present for the offseason program with nary a complaint and will be a Ram this season one way or another.

    Brian Copeland

    I've heard a lot about Wade and King both taking reps at the Nickel Back position. My question is what exactly is the Nickel Back position? Is it just the 3rd CB spot, or are there other responsibilities that come with the Nickel Back job.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions every week. I look forward to Wednesday to read up on what has been going on.

    NW: The nickel cornerback is the third corner but itís essentially a 12th starter because itís a very important position. More often than not in the NFL, defensive personnel is dictated by what the offense has on the field. In this day and age of spread offenses and teams using multiple receivers, the nickel back is on the field more often than not. Essentially, if a team has a third wide out on the field, the defense adjusts accordingly by removing a linebacker and putting the nickel corner in the game as part of the ďNickelĒ defense. The Jim Haslett defense used to call out ďCincoĒ when it went to the nickel package. The nickel corner can be used in a variety of ways but always lines up in the slot. There, he is assigned to cover the slot receiver more often than not but also can be an effective blitzer (Jason Craft and Ricky Manning showed some chops doing this last year). Hope that helps.

    Cory Radford

    When are the Rams going to release their 2009 Training Camp Schedule? I know a lot of Rams fans plan vacation time so they can attend some practices. I assume they will report sometime around July 30th because of the late start to the season. But when will the full schedule come out?

    NW: The actual, day by day schedule will be released soon. The team is announcing today that rookies will report on July 29 with the veterans coming in on the 30th. Sorry I donít have the full schedule yet but that should be forthcoming shortly. If you want to tentatively plan your schedule, you can make safe assumptions that there will be an open practice pretty much every day after those dates with the actual times still to be released.

    Ken Dunlap

    I didn't see it the dome improvement article but I know I heard this past Friday on Fox 2 that the Rams were installing a "state of the art and new type of field turf". Is this true and if so was it at the practice facility and not the dome?

    NW: To clarify, the FieldTurf that will be used at the Edward Jones Dome is new but it has been new every season since the Astroturf was removed. It is still FieldTurf and isnít any different from what has been used in the past few seasons. What happens is, each year the surface is used during the year and then taken out so that the dome can host other events. Then, instead of re-using the previous yearís surface, a new one is brought in.

    Jack Fenton

    Hey Nick, fun question for ya. Iím in a fantasy football league coming up in august and there are twelve teams and Iím set on drafting a running back in the first round, only I donít know where I am picking. Can u give me a top twelve running backs in your opinion from 1-12? Thanks

    NW: Without taking a long look at it or knowing what your leagueís scoring system is, this is how I would rank them.

    1. Adrian Peterson, MIN
    2. Steven Jackson, STL
    3. Michael Turner, ATL
    4. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX
    5. DeAngelo Williams, CAR
    6. Matt Forte, CHI
    7. Brandon Jacobs, NYG
    8. Frank Gore, SF
    9. Brian Westbrook, PHI (assuming health)
    10. Chris Johnson, TEN
    11. Steve Slaton, HOU
    12. LaDainian Tomlinson, SD

    Iím reserving my right to change and revisit this as we get closer to the season, though.

    Eric B.

    Long shot question here Nick. I just read that Brandon Marshall wants out of Denver. Let me start by saying that it is a long shot that he even gets out. I also know that he has displayed some troublesome personal quality issues. As I write to you almost every week, we are in dire need of a WR. Marshall is young, big and very talented. Is this an avenue the Rams would consider looking at should he become available? Is he a Spags type guy, salary cap issues etc....or should I just zip my lip? Thanks as always for my Wednesday reading!

    NW: Marshall is a super talented receiver, of that there is no question. But his personality and off the field issues are just too much of a headache. I hate to be redundant on the pillars issue but which of the four does Marshall represent? Heís probably best being reunited with Jay Cutler in Chicago.

    Gabe Anderson

    Hey Nick, I'm getting sick and tired of getting no respect from other analysts. Yahoo sports thinks the Rams are going to stink. I think they have a very good coach and made some key moves to improve this Rams team especially with the offensive line. I hope the Rams come out and have an 11-5 year and shut these critics up!!!!

    NW: I understand where youíre coming from Gabe but remember these analysts base a lot of what they believe on what has happened in the past. Thatís understandable too. But most people should also recognize that things can change on a dime in this league and nothing is out of the question. Nobody knows that better than Rams fans.

    Doug Lawslo

    Hey Nick,
    Do me a favor and tell everyone that Brandon Marshall is not coming to the Rams. Iíve been a Rams fan my whole life, Iíve coached High School football, and I know that players donít win games: teams do. My heart goes out to you fielding all of these, ďWhy donít we get (insert overpriced free agent here)?Ē Rams Nation listen to a guy that sat at the Coliseum watching Gabriel and Brodie: Trust our coaches, trust our organization, and keep the faith. I firmly believe in what it seems, from an outside perspective, the team is doing. A Question: Who was the better actor: Merlin Olson or Fred Dryer?

    NW: As stated above, Marshall is not going to happen. Also, I like the question but Iím going to go outside of your two choices and go with my main man Jack Snow.

    Thad Smith

    Hey Nick,
    I am currently deployed to Afghanistan and you are the only real source of info I get. Well here goes this is my question. I really love what the Rams are doing in the off season and I say it every year but I think the Rams can win the Super Bowl, but who is out on the free agent market that the Rams are still interested to upgrade.

    NW: Thad, first and most important, thanks for all you do. People like you are the reason, I have the freedom to provide the information you crave. As for free agents, I donít know that thereís anybody specific that is super desirable at this point on the market. Not many teams are still snapping up free agents because there simply isnít much out there. The Rams will keep their eyes open as guys shake loose but nothing appears imminent.

    David Tomlin

    Nick, How worried should we be about K. Burton and his injury situation? I know it is early, but is there any buzz about any of the young players good or bad? Do any of the undrafted players have a chance? Thanks for your time.

    NW: Itís way too soon to worry about Burtonís hamstring issue. I would expect him to be recovered and ready to go in time for training camp. The only worry there is that his pattern of getting hurt so far would seem to limit his progress. For him, thereís a big opportunity to win a starting job alongside Donnie Avery and every missed practice is a missed chance to cement that position.

    No real buzz on the young players because most of the coaches are waiting until the pads come on to make any kind of judgment on how these guys are coming along. There will be some undrafted guys in the mix until the very end, it seems there is every year and I wouldnít expect that to change this year.

    Russ from Phoenix

    Hey Nick! I know a lot of Rams fans are looking at the WR situation as a problem. I've seen many posts about signing various FA WRs to gain experience on the team. From a strategic point of view though, this could be a great Ram advantage. NFL defenses generally will choose to stop either the run or the pass. With Steven Jackson running the ball and a group of "unknown" WRs, I see defenses stacking up to stop #39. This strategy will free up the WRs into more one-on-one opportunities. So, initially, I see the Ram PASSING offense having an early season advantage. Your thoughts? Agree/Disagree?

    NW: Itís an interesting and valid theory, Russ. Clearly, teams will recognize Jackson as the bellcow of this offense. One would have to assume that initially at least, teams will load up on the run to try to stop Jackson and leave some favorable matchups for the receivers. There would certainly seem to be an advantage there but I also donít think that will scare the Rams away from running the ball. The key is, when the Rams do throw it, can those young wideouts step up and make the plays to take some of that pressure off Jackson?

    Nick I.

    After OTAs are completed and before training camp starts, how are players held accountable for continuing to work, or is it understood as their professional responsibility that they will do what needs to be done?

    NW: For the most part, the players are on the honor system to continue to work out and stay in shape. Some players have weight clauses in their contracts about when they report to training camp and things of that nature but the main message is that these guys have put in months of work this offseason already, so why throw it away a month before the real action begins?

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    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Nick's Mailbag: June 17

    For Fantasy football purposes I would have put Steven Jackson as the #1 ranked RB. Adrian Peterson #2.

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