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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Rams Camp: Walker is pushing other tight ends

    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/14/2006

    Draft picks Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd have garnered most of the attention at the tight end position during Rams training camp. But Aaron Walker just won't go away.

    "It's perseverance, man. That's all it is," Walker said. "I came in here late last year as an unknown name or whatever. So I just wanted to make a name for myself -- try to prove myself every day."

    So far, he's doing just that. Two and a half weeks into training camp, Walker has wedged his way into the picture at tight end. Klopfenstein, a second-round pick from Colorado, continues to hold the starting job. But Walker has moved into the No. 2 spot, ahead of Byrd, a third-round selection from Southern California. And in the Scott Linehan offense, the second tight end plays a lot.

    "Walker's been really consistent," Linehan said. "He's blocked well, and he's been a more than adequate pass receiver when called upon. ... Right now, we're looking at Joe and Aaron as No. 1 and 2, and then (Jerome) Collins and Byrd are kind of battling for that third spot. It's still very early, just like it is for all the positions. But that tight end spot, I'm keeping a pretty close eye on it."

    Walker, 26, easily has the most NFL experience of the four. A fifth-round draft pick out of Florida by San Francisco in 2003, Walker played in all 32 games -- including six starts -- for the ***** in '03 and '04. Over that span, he caught 18 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown.

    But that was with Dennis Erickson as head coach. When Mike Nolan replaced Erickson as head coach in '05, Walker found himself out of a job.

    Walker was on the 53-man roster after the final round of cuts last September, but only briefly. After claiming Trent Smith off waivers from Baltimore, where Nolan had coached from '02 through '04, the ***** cut Walker.

    "It was kind of a shocker," Walker said. "They said they were bringing in somebody else they were more familiar with. It was a situation where I was kind of hearing one thing from my tight end coach, and then something totally opposite from the head coach. So it kind of blindsided me."

    Walker subsequently had tryouts with Buffalo, Houston, Jackson, Seattle, Tampa Bay and the Rams. In the meantime, he helped out with his dad's construction business in his hometown of Mims, Fla. Walker was signed by the Rams on Dec. 21 but didn't play in the final two regular-season games.

    Walker moved up to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart for Thursday's preseason opener against Indianapolis and played well enough to keep the spot this week.

    "I'm going to do whatever I can do to make this football team," he said. "And I'm going to do whatever I can do to help this football team win a championship."

    Walker moved ahead of Byrd on the depth chart because of his overall blocking ability, and his ability to play both the "in-line" and "move" tight end positions. Byrd has struggled with his blocking and hasn't really had much work playing on the line of scrimmage. What Byrd does best is catch the football, and he had a drop Thursday against the Colts.

    Improved play by Collins this camp has gotten him into the mix as well. But if the Rams keep only three tight ends on the 53-man roster, he will have a hard time beating out Klopfenstein, Walker and Byrd. Even if Byrd's struggles continue, it seems unlikely the Rams would cut him given the financial investment represented by his $466,000 signing bonus.

    "So it's an uphill fight," Collins said. "I've just got to keep pushing."

    At least Collins looks more comfortable at the position than he did as a rookie last season, when his conditioning -- or lack thereof -- raised the ire of Mike Martz. Collins probably was Martz's No. 1 whipping boy last year in camp, and the verbal attacks often were brutal.

    But in the long run, getting blistered by Martz helped, because Collins made sure he reported to training camp this season in much better shape.

    "I wasn't going through that again," Collins said.


  2. #2
    UtterBlitz's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Camp: Walker is pushing other tight ends

    At least Collins looks more comfortable at the position than he did as a rookie last season, when his conditioning -- or lack thereof -- raised the ire of Mike Martz. Collins probably was Martz's No. 1 whipping boy last year in camp, and the verbal attacks often were brutal.

    But in the long run, getting blistered by Martz helped, because Collins made sure he reported to training camp this season in much better shape.

    "I wasn't going through that again," Collins said.
    Look a visit to Martz's doghouse can be a effective training tool.

    Klopfenstein - I must admit that I love this name. I has a good sound to it and I want to repeat it over and over.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  3. #3
    coy bacon is offline Registered User
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    Re: Rams Camp: Walker is pushing other tight ends

    The thought just occured,
    "If Walker beats out Byrd,
    was it a waste of a 3rd?"
    Cause what I inferred,
    is from Thomas' word.

  4. #4
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    Re: Rams Camp: Walker is pushing other tight ends

    Somehow, I doubt they'll give up on Byrd so quickly.

    That said, I remember Walker in college at UF. He was a pretty good player then, so I'm not entirely shocked that he's making a good showing now.

  5. #5
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Camp: Walker is pushing other tight ends

    If Walker in fact does beat out Byrd for the #2 tight end position, then I'd like to hear from those posters who a while back called for Byrd to be the starter above Klopfenstein, a notion I had to bat down like a volleyball hovering over the net. Byrd has potential, but there's a reason the guy dropped from being a late first early second round tight end to barely squeezing in on the first day. Byrd is hot and cold like a bad faucet; we saw exactly that when he dropped an easy pass when called upon on Thursday. Based on his M.O., he'll come back with a big grab or game here and then disappear again. Hopefully he grows out of it, but he's going to have to show something in order to beat out a quality blocking tight end, which is what this offense needs.
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  6. #6
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    Re: Rams Camp: Walker is pushing other tight ends

    It's refreshing that we finally have not one but two and possibly three TE's that can play. I think Byrd will make it as #3 unless he has a total melt down.

    With four solid WR's, and two TE's to stretch the field, the O is looking like it has the potential to do some damage to opposing defenses.
    JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS


    "HIT HARD, HIT FAST, AND HIT OFTEN"
    Adm. William "Bull" Halsey

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