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Rams Justin Bannan embraces new role ..
By Mike Sando
Defensive tackles not named Pat Williams or Sam Adams had a tough time cracking the Buffalo Bills' starting lineup for a few years.
Justin Bannan, now entering his first season with the St. Louis Rams, would know. He was with the Bills back then. Bannan was also with Baltimore when Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata were anchoring the Ravens' defensive middle. Good luck cracking the lineup there, either.
Bannan started eight of the 54 games he played for Buffalo from 2002-2005. He started 19 of the 58 games he played for Baltimore from 2006-2009 and all 16 games in his lone season with Denver.
Like newly-signed Rams safety Quintin Mikell, Bannan has been around a long time and played extensively, but he was a backup long enough to avoid wear and tear early in his career. Unlike Mikell, who played in a similar defensive scheme with Philadelphia, Bannan is getting reacquainted with a 4-3 alignment. His job in a 3-4 required staying low, sinking his hips just right and anchoring against multiple offensive linemen. It's a skill learned over time and not a glamorous one, either.
"Itís good getting back into the 4-3 mode and doing a little bit more attacking," Bannan said during training camp. "It feels good to just come off the ball and play football. Last year I was in a 3-4, I was real far off the ball. Itís a good change up to just come back here and turn it loose."
The Rams' situation is a good one for any defensive tackle. The other starters on the line combined for 25 sacks last season. Right end James Hall (10.5 sacks), left end Chris Long (8.5) and tackle Fred Robbins (six) command attention from opposing offensive linemen. Defensive linemen care a great deal about the players around them on the line. Playing alongside talented teammates leads to more favorable matchups.
"Itís a huge deal," Bannan said. "Fred is a great player and very underrated. He had a phenomenal season last year. Big, strong, physical guy who is very athletic. I think the whole D-line is great. From Chris Long to Fred to James Hall, who I think is one of the most underrated defensive ends in the NFL. You want to surround yourself with people like that."
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