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Rams Draw Big for Evening Practice
Sunday, August 7, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
The weather was outstanding, the crowd was large and the setting was perfect. But that is about where the perfection stopped at Francis Field at Washington University on Saturday night.
The Rams had their annual night practice in front of an impressive crowd of 4,655, giving the city its first glimpse of its team this early in the season since before the team moved its training camp to Macomb, Ill.
There were some highlights, but after the practice, coach Mike Martz had a mixed review of what happened.
“I wanted to look at just getting people off the sidelines and situations,” Martz said. “We were awful doing that Just the overall mechanics of being in a game and adjusting to situations is what this was about. We struggled at times. We have to get the bugs out here.”
Some of those bugs included the struggles of the offensive line with false starts. By most accounts, the offensive line committed about eight false start penalties, infuriating Martz further.
Also, punter Reggie Hodges did not do well in his first chance to shine. As the only punter on the roster, Hodges has been asked to take the job by the throat. But he struggled mightily with directional kicking. On one punt, Hodges kicked the ball about 16 yards and out of bounds at about the 24 from the 40.
On the other hand, Martz had some kind words for his defense, especially end Anthony Hargrove, who continued to wow the staff and fans with his burst off the edge, strength and general enthusiasm for the game.
Another spot that Martz was happy with was the play of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“We gave him a lot of things to do and I thought he handled it very well,” Martz said. “We gave him a lot things to think about and we really didn’t prepare him for this. I am very pleased with his demeanor and control of the situation.”
With backup Jamie Martin sitting out because of a groin injury, Fitzpatrick got a late opportunity to run with the second-team offense. Quarterbacks coach John Ramsdell informed Fitzpatrick about five minutes before the practice that he would be running the second unit.
Fitzpatrick’s opportunity is a result of his diligence in the football classroom as well as Jeff Smoker’s inability to grasp the playbook.
“I’m not very pleased with Jeff’s performance and his mental preparation,” Martz said. “I don’t know enough about Ryan, so we have to find out.”
Fitzpatrick took almost all of the snaps with the second team and though he struggled to connect with his receivers, he apparently impressed Martz with his approach to the game.
For his part, Fitzpatrick was disappointed in his performance, but a lot of his struggles throwing can be attributed to the fact that he hasn’t gotten many chances so far in camp.
“I’m glad about all the work I can get,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was a little rusty out there. I haven’t been working. It’s tough doing all the plays in the meeting room and not being able to get out there and do it on the field, but today I got out there and got some reps.”
Fitzpatrick did show some surprising athleticism on one play at the end of team drills. He was flushed out of the pocket and took off running, clearing space between himself and defensive end Clifford Dukes in a matter of moments.
“One thing people don’t really know about me is I ran the ball a lot in college,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was just kind of running for my life out there. I have never run a good 40 time. I was still a little bit quicker on the field especially when I have somebody chasing me, especially a 300 pounder.”
Although nothing is guaranteed about Fitzpatrick’s future with the team, he seems to be taking the proper approach to his role.
“That’s the thing about backup quarterbacks in the NFL is you have to be ready to go at anytime,” Fitzpatrick said. “If you’re not getting a lot of reps on the field you have to stay mentally sharp and ready to go. There’s a lot of stuff I need to improve on. I’m glad I got out here, got to run some things. Now we can get on film, look at it and see where I need to improve.”
There were a few other bright spots on the evening, including Isaac Bruce’s 70-yard touchdown catch, Terry Fair’s one-handed interception and just about everything Hargrove did.
Not all of the good news came on the field either. The large crowd donated 15-55 gallon drums with school supplies and $400 in donations that will be matched plus some to take the total to $1,000 for St. Louis Public Schools.
- Saturday night’s practice was by far my favorite of the young season. The weather was perfect and the crowd was outstanding. Washington University did a great job hosting and the fans in attendance did a great job providing school supplies for the drive the team set up. The final attendance was 4,655.
- It was obvious that the team reacted well to the large crowd, especially when Marc Bulger hit Isaac Bruce for a 70-yard touchdown on a play that had a faint resemblance to the game-winner from the Super Bowl in 1999.
- Terry Fair made a nice one-handed interception on a jump ball about midway through the practice. It was the first time Fair has flashed some ball hawking skills in camp, but it was nice to see that he still has at least some gas left in the tank.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick got a lot of work with the second string because Jamie Martin has a sore groin and Jeff Smoker has been less than impressive. Fitzpatrick impressed coach Mike Martz with the way he handled himself. Fitzpatrick did struggle with accuracy and had a rough night throwing the ball, bouncing or overshooting a number of receivers. To his credit, Fitzpatrick did what he could considering he found out about five minutes before the practice began that he would be running with the twos.
- Smoker just doesn’t quite seem to understand the opportunity he has. Physically, there is little doubt that he has the tools to be an NFL-caliber quarterback, but he is not grasping the offense the way he needs to. Based on arm strength, he should be the No. 2 quarterback, but on the total package, he probably is where he should be for now.
- There was a lot of work in the scrimmage on red zone plays, a sight that is a good sign for Rams fans. For as terrific as Bulger was last season, he struggled in the red zone, particularly with bad interceptions. If he corrects that problem and it looks like he will, he could have the numbers of the Marc Bulger that starts for the Rams on Madden when you play on the easy level.
- One thing that will definitely help Bulger in the red zone is the emergence of a bruiser such as running back Steven Jackson. Jackson could have been of help in that situation a year ago, but he lost some trust down there when he fumbled against Arizona in the season opener. If he proves that he can be a reliable red zone force, Jackson should ease Bulger’s burden and the options inside the opponent’s 20 will be as limitless as they are outside.
Re: Rams Draw Big for Evening Practice
Must be nice for the fans to get to watch the evening practice.
Hargrove...I love his energy and work ethic. Playing against Pace is a good challenge for him to bring up his level of play.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has some potential. We might as well give him some playing time to see if he can be a solid backup.
Isaac Bruuuuuuce...nice touchdown:up:
Ah that O line is a continuing problem. We don't need no false starts. Come on guys, cut that out.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
Re: Rams Draw Big for Evening Practice
Thanks 'Dez. Intresting about Smoker.I Thought he would have been further along,fighting for second string by now! Maybe Fitzpatrick is the future.
Re: Rams Draw Big for Evening Practice
I To Thought Smoker Would Be Better, I Hope He Gets His Act Together, I Think He Has All The Tools, But Its Tough In The Rams Offense.