By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Saturday, Aug. 09 2008
NASHVILLE, TENN. Scott Linehan entered his third training camp as Rams head
coach looking for more intensity, a quicker tempo and a more competitive
attitude from his football team.

Two weeks into camp, the results have been encouraging.

"Now, that only means something when we continue to show progress as far as our
performance," Linehan said. "But as far as how the team's gone about our
business, how we've prepared, what we've asked them to do, how they've handled
all that to this point, it's been a great sign."

Of course, much of that could go up in smoke in about three hours' time tonight
at LP Field. The Rams open their 2008 exhibition season with a 7 p.m. contest
against the Tennessee Titans.

This is the time of year when the rose-colored glasses come off throughout the
NFL. It could come in the fashion of blown assignments, silly penalties,
turnovers or simply getting beaten physically by the opponent.

"We're going to win some battles and lose some battles; that's the way football
is," Linehan said.

But what he wants to see, regardless of the final score, is a clean game.

"I want us to not just execute the plays and the defenses ... I want us
executing our tempo and our technique," he said. "I want to see guys doing
things right."

That means a minimum of mental mistakes, such as pre-snap penalties or players
not getting lined up right.

"We want to have a game where we give ourselves the best chance to win,"
Linehan said. "I think that's the only way you can do it."

Preseason games can be notoriously sloppy, but Linehan wants to see even the
third- and fourth-teamers avoid pratfalls. That's the best way to catch his
attention in terms of making a bid for a spot on the 53-man roster.

"Those (backups), if they want to show what they can do, they've got to do it
right," Linehan said. "I'm not sure if you'd call it anxiety, but they're going
to be pretty pumped up. You want to see how they perform when you put them
under the lights for the first time."

Long before the backups take center stage, Linehan wants to see something from
his starters and top regulars. For openers, it would be nice to see the
first-team offense score a touchdown in the preseason. That didn't happen last
year, or the year before, under Linehan and it spilled over to the regular
season.

With new coordinator Al Saunders now calling the plays he'll be situated in
the press box tonight the offense has made impressive strides on the practice
field over the last week or so.

"We're making good progress, and I'd hate to go into a game and go backwards,"
quarterback Marc Bulger said. "We know we're only going to be in there for a
couple series the first team so it'd be good to leave a good impression and
feel good about ourselves before we head back up to Wisconsin."

Even if it's only August, any offense has to be a good thing.

"Last year, we had real high expectations," Bulger said. "We didn't do much in
the preseason. So anything to change the momentum from last season. It doesn't
mean we're going to do good in the regular season, but at the same time it's a
change from last year and we can build on that."

While reserving the right to change his mind, Linehan plans to play the
starters about a quarter.

"Maybe a little more. Maybe a little less," he said. "It depends on what we get
done. But that would probably be a fair benchmark right now, and then the '2s'
would play ... hopefully a couple of quarters, maybe more."

Linehan said he might not play No. 2 quarterback Trent Green at all tonight, so
after Bulger is finished, he might go straight to No. 3 candidates Brock Berlin
and Bruce Gradkowski.

Among the injured, Brett Romberg (hand, wrist) is expected to start at center.
Third-team offensive tackle Julius Wilson (calf) is doubtful, and backup tight
end Anthony Becht (hamstring) and rookie wide receiver Donnie Avery (pelvic
bone fracture) are out.

On defense, half of the starting secondary will be out, with free safety
Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe (hamstring) and cornerback Fakhir Brown (shoulder)
still rehabbing injuries that have sidelined them for most of camp. Defensive
end Victor Adeyanju (fractured finger) remains a week or two away from playing.
Middle linebacker Will Witherspoon may not play because of a tender shoulder
that Linehan said is "nothing serious."