By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
08/27/2006

On the eve of training camp, Post-Dispatch football writer Jim Thomas identified seven areas to watch as the Scott Linehan era began. As the Rams close in on their regular-season opener against Denver, he revisits those seven.


July 27: Starting points for Rams training camp


1 | Welcome to Camp Linehan

Linehan has done a good job of selling himself and his program to his players and coaching staff. He stressed attention to detail, ran a physical training camp and emphasized the running game. On defense, he has given new coordinator Jim Haslett plenty of leeway to do his thing.

2 | The corner market

It looks as if the starters will be newcomer Fakhir Brown and holdover

Travis Fisher. Brown has given the Rams the physical presence they lacked last season. Fisher is lean, healthy and motivated. First-round pick Tye Hill is ahead of Jerametrius Butler for the No. 3 cornerback job.

3 | Interior designs

It's all but official. Richie Incognito has unseated Claude Terrell for the starting job at left guard. Terrell has experienced continuing wrist problems; Incognito hasn't shown much rust after sitting out the '04 and '05 seasons. C Andy McCollum and RG Adam Timmerman haven't really been challenged.

4 | Hello Haslett

The defensive players have quickly taken to Haslett and his staff. They respect him, like his intensity and like the aggressive nature of his scheme. Haslett will take his share of chances and will mix fronts, coverages and pressure packages. If the frontline players stay healthy, this will be a much-improved unit.

5 | Not-so-special teams

Based on his early work in camp, veteran Matt Turk will likely give the Rams their best punting in several years. But the coverage units have been disappointing, and the return game remains up in the air. Brad Pyatt has shown the most on kickoff returns. Shaun McDonald, Marques Hagans and Pyatt have done little on punt returns.

6 | Bulger & Co.

Marc Bulger has a good grasp on the Linehan offense. Backup Gus Frerotte's accuracy has improved after a shaky start in minicamps and training camp. He will be a nice security blanket. But the battle for No. 3 could go down to the wire between holdover Ryan Fitzpatrick and an improving Dave Ragone.

7 | Life after Brandon

Second-round pick Joe Klopfenstein will start at tight end, but he must work on his blocking. He will catch more passes as a rookie than predecessor Brandon Manumaleuna did in any of his five seasons with the club. In a camp surprise, Aaron Walker moved ahead of third-rounder Dominique Byrd for the No. 2 job.