By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Friday, Nov. 09 2007

For those still brave enough to watch the Rams play, the final eight games will
present an opportunity to watch back-up players attempt to become something
more.

Amid all the frustration of the 0-8 start is an opportunity for players like
Victor Adeyanju, Trevor Johnson and Dustin Fry.

Adeyanju is a hard-working, run-stopping defensive end, one of coach Scott
Linehan’s favorite players. He is a smart man and a diligent worker. Linehan
wishes he could fill the room with players with such commitment and character.

Unfortunately, Adeyanju isn’t much of a pass rusher -– and now he is starting
in place of Leonard Little, who will miss the rest of the season because of toe
surgery. Adeyanju will have to find ways to pressure the quarterback in passing
situations.

“I’ve got to work on my edge, using moves that work for my body, my style, that
I can make effective -– those are things I’ve got to do,” Adeyanju said. “We’re
working on angles and ball get-off, stuff like that. It’s definitely a big time
in my career. I’ve got to make the most of it.”

Johnson is a pass-rushing defensive end still trying to establish himself as an
NFL regular. He has also played linebacker in 3-4 sets, without great success.

“I feel a lot more comfortable at end than outside linebacker,” Johnson said.
“It was just all new to me. I had played defensive end since my sophomore year
at Nebraska. I was a lot more familiar with the reads I got at defensive end. I
was maybe a little undersized when coming into the NFL as a defensive end. I
gained some weight, that helped me also.”

With Little out, Johnson figures prominently in Jim Haslett’s plans for the
final eight games of the season. As the No. 3 defensive end, he will play in
both running and passing situations, working in a rotation with Adeyanju and
veteran James Hall.

“I try to prepare to be ready for anything,” Johnson said. “I’m preparing to
play a lot. I’m not promised any number of snaps. I’ve got the mindset to go in
there and take advantage of every opportunity I get.”

Fry is an Offensive Lineman of Last Resort. A fifth-round pick from Clemson in
the ‘07 draft, Fry flopped during the summer drills at Rams Park. “I had a
terrible training camp,” Fry admitted. “It was awful for me, I knew that.

“I don’t know if I was out of my element or what. Everything seemed to . . . I
don’t know. It was different for me, trying to learn a new system. Playing
center, I struggled doing it. When I watched films every day, I cringed. I knew
I could play better.”

The Rams kept him around on the practice squad, mostly using him at guard -– a
position he hadn’t played before. Week after week after week, the Rams brought
in other lineman for auditions and jobs. Finally, Fry got the nod.

“I just had to keep working hard in practice,” Fry said. “They kept bringing
guys in, it was ‘I guess I’m not ready yet.’ Just keep working hard and you’ll
get ready. By now, there was just nobody left out there or it was just my time.”

This week, he has gotten reacquainted with the center spot in practice. Will he
play against the Saints?

Probably not. Fry is still playing catch-up.

Will he play later this year? Probably, given the steady attrition on the
offensive line. Somebody else is bound to get hurt, given the team’s luck this
year.

At least Fry has the body to play guard and some experience there; centers
Brett Romberg and Nick Leckey look out of place when they play there. Back-up
tackle Rob Petitti has a big body, but no meaningful experience at that
position.

For Linehan to win some games with the players he has left, the Rams will need
big contribution from unexpected players. Which of these guys will step up?