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  1. #1
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    Rams explore options for backup to Jackson

    Rams explore options for backup to Jackson
    BY JIM THOMAS | Posted: Saturday, January 29, 2011 12:15 am

    MOBILE, ALA. • Another offseason, another search for a change-of-pace back behind Pro Bowler Steven Jackson.

    "Isn't it amazing?" Rams general manager Billy Devaney said earlier this month. "We've had the toughest luck filling that. We'd like a game-changer there. Or a change-of-pace back."

    For what the Rams asked of Kenneth Darby, Devaney said, "I thought Darby did a really good job. But any time that you can add a third-down back type of guy, change-of-pace, who can score from way out. Absolutely. That hasn't changed."

    Keep in mind, too, that new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has a history of using more than one back. So maybe this is the year the Rams actually fill that need at running back. If so, the Senior Bowl features lots of candidates — scatbacks, waterbug types — who can turn the corner, catch passes and return kickoffs. All should be available sometime in rounds two through five of the draft.

    One of them, DeMarco Murray, even got some advice on the pre-draft process from a former teammate at the University of Oklahoma — Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.

    "I talked to him (Monday) night, actually," Murray said. "He just said take it in, enjoy this process, but at the same time you're here for a job interview and compete at the highest level. Have your mind right day in and day out. Don't take anything for granted."

    Besides rushing for 3,685 yards and 50 touchdowns for the Sooners, Murray also got a lot of work as a receiver. Over his college career, Murray caught 157 passes for 1,571 yards and 13 TDs.

    "I've been playing receiver since high school days," Murray said. "It's just somewhere that I'm comfortable, just as comfortable as running back. I feel I can run between the tackles as well as line up out there and catch fades, slants, anything at all. They used me quite a bit at receiver at Oklahoma, which I loved. It's a part of my game."

    Although he did most of his return work early in his college career, Murray also had two TDs on kickoff returns.

    When it comes to versatility, Murray has some competition in Mobile. Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter, West Virginia's Noel Devine and Kentucky's Derrick Locke all piled up numbers running from scrimmage and catching passes. All had at least some college experience returning kickoffs, although Hunter had only eight returns. Locke had two kickoff return TDs.

    Devine and Locke both said they had met with the Rams in Mobile, which doesn't mean Murray and Hunter didn't, they just hadn't talked to the Rams when interviewed by the Post-Dispatch earlier in the week.

    At 6-1, 207 pounds, Murray is closer to "normal" size than Hunter (5-8, 200), Devine (5-8, 180), and Locke (5-9, 190). But the smallest backs in the group, Locke and Devine, are the fastest. Both are expected to run near 4.3 seconds in the 40 at the NFL scouting combine next month — or better, they claim.

    "I'm trying to make history in this process," Devine said when asked what time he might run at the combine.

    Growing up in Oklahoma, Locke was a state champion in the long jump and the 100 meters, and he came to Kentucky on a track scholarship before switching to football.

    "Once you get in the open, it's not football any more, it's track," Locke said. "So having the ability to lift my legs and actually run properly when I get out in the open, you're not going to catch me. You'll see 20, or whatever number that it's going to be (in the NFL), and that's all you're going to see."

    Devine had more rushing yards in college (4,317) than Murray, Locke (2,618), and even two-time Big 12 rushing champion Hunter (4,181). After averaging more than 6 yards a carry in each of his first three seasons, Devine's average dipped to 4.5 yards last season, when he played through a nagging toe injury. Devine didn't miss any games but just wasn't as effective because of the injury.

    He'd love nothing better than to end up in St. Louis, complementing Jackson in the backfield.

    "My agent (Eugene Parker) has him as a client, so that would be exciting," Devine said. "That would be somebody that would be great to be up under and have as a mentor; follow after him and learn."

    What could Devine bring to an NFL team? "Speed, explosiveness and excitement," he said.

    Which are three pretty good qualities. But so is durability, which is always a concern for smaller backs when moving up to the bigger, more physical NFL. Locke, for example, missed four games in 2010 with shoulder and elbow injuries. As a junior in 2009, Hunter was limited to only 89 carries because of a foot injury.

    Durability questions can't be answered in one week at the Senior Bowl. But when it comes to pass-blocking, and even the ability to run inside, practice drills and what happens in today's Senior Bowl game can provide hints. On Wednesday, for instance, all the small backs struggled in varying degrees going up against linebackers, who in most cases were 40 or 50 pounds heavier, in a blitz pickup drill.

    But when it comes to overall play, they all point to successful smaller backs in the NFL as proof that it can be done.

    "I like all the small backs, especially Darren Sproles, Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, Chris Johnson," Locke said. "The list goes on. ... It helps me out a lot because they're doing their thing and that just gives me motivation that I can do it."


  2. #2
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    Re: Rams explore options for backup to Jackson

    i would love to have murray

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    Re: Rams explore options for backup to Jackson

    Well, we might as well face it... Steven Jackson's in the twilights...He's not getting any younger with alot of mileage on those tires.
    Talks of exploring options for a change of pace Back is code for 'Steven Jackson is obviously a Great Back, but something needs to be done to increase success to the Rams run game as a whole'.

    To be fair to SJAX, any talks of another Running back for the Rams, the word 'Compliment' is used.
    Though it may be hard to imagine, it shouldn't be a surprise to everyone that the Rams are actually looking for the next 'Feature' back for their Offense. The time is now to start to prepare of the future for the Rams....No disrespect to SJAX!
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Re: Rams explore options for backup to Jackson

    Quote Originally Posted by xkidflowx View Post
    i would love to have murray
    i concur. also it would be great because he already has what looks like a good relationship with Sam and good production together in the past.

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    Re: Rams explore options for backup to Jackson

    I'm a sooner born and bred. I love murray but i don't think he's going to work out in the NFL. Sam hurt his shoulder once then didn't let it heal and got it banged up worse. Everyone was so worried about sam getting hurt to easy in the NFL.

    Murray has been injured a lot!! missed every bowl game but this last one. I fear DM is injury prone. but you don't really hear much about his injuries.

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    Re: Rams explore options for backup to Jackson

    I'm not as concerned about a replacement/backup for Jackson as I am getting an improved interior of the O-line. The O-line had some games this year (especially towards the end) where they got almost zero push up front, making whoever was the RB work hard just to find a hole.

    Jax still has several good years left, and I would say at least 2 where he can perform at this level... it could be more if we can fix the O-line.

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    Re: Rams explore options for backup to Jackson

    Murray was conspicuosly absent in the Senior Bowl game with only two carries: 7 yards and -1. I think he's definitely on someone's radar and the coaches were asked to keep him safe. It's all about the practices in Mobile anyway, not the game.

    He got rave reviews for accelerating through the hole throughout the week. And he's a premier receiver. DESPITE his injuries he always came back, and he played at a high level for a full senior year with no indication of compensating for previous injuries.

    Don't know if he's on St. Louis' radar, but I sure wouldn't mind it.

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    Re: Rams explore options for backup to Jackson

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    "Isn't it amazing?" Rams general manager Billy Devaney said earlier this month. "We've had the toughest luck filling that. We'd like a game-changer there. Or a change-of-pace back."
    "Or just anybody, really."

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    Re: Rams explore options for backup to Jackson

    Derrick Locke this kid really looked good. He is a balanced back, so I don't know if that is what we would want for 3rd down.....lots of good options in the DRAFT for RB #2 aka 3rd down back.

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