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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Rams Rookie Roundup

    Rams Rookie Roundup
    Monday, January 18, 2010

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    After an offseason roster overhaul, the 2009 Rams had a decidedly youthful feel to it.

    As one of the three youngest rosters in the league, opportunities were abound for young players at every position to make a difference, especially members of the 2009 NFL Draft class.

    And almost to a man, every member of that seven-man class made an impact on the field at some point or another.

    Most general managers hope to find a couple of starters and some role players in each draft but at various times, five rookie Rams started games. Some made greater impacts than others but almost all showed some promise that they can and will make a bigger difference well into the coming years.

    OT Jason Smith – First Round, No. 2 Overall

    Entering the draft, the Rams had placed a high priority on bolstering the offensive line. They did it in a big way, adding the top rated tackle on the board in the form of Smith.

    After a training camp spent learning the ropes, Smith emerged as the team’s starting right tackle in the season opener. Smith provided the Rams a physical presence on the right side and was one of those opening the hole for running back Steven Jackson’s game winning touchdown against Detroit.

    Although he has been hampered by knee and head injuries, Smith has made progress in his time on the field and figures to be a bedrock for the offensive line for many years to come.

    IN HIS WORDS: “Obviously the more you do something, the better you get at it,” Smith said. “As a team, we want to play hard, play physical and play together. I am just one piece of the puzzle. I just know that to go out and get better as an individual will help the team. I’m a guy that is always about we and not me.”

    THEY SAID IT: “He’s doing a nice job,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “I listen for little things like in the huddle he is calling the down and distance. For a rookie to be aware of that every play, that’s impressive to me. He is vocal. He is a confident guy so we kind of hang our hat on that right now.”

    MLB James Laurinaitis – Second Round, No. 35 Overall

    Perhaps no rookie in the league, let alone on the team made a greater impact in year one than Laurinaitis.
    Laurinaitis became the first rookie since Pisa Tinoisamoa to lead the team in tackles and Laurinaitis set a rookie franchise record for tackles in a season.

    Laurinaitis moved into the starting lineup early in training camp and hasn’t vacated the position while playing through his share of bumps and bruises. He doesn’t figure to leave that role anytime soon and has established himself as a cornerstone player for the franchise.

    IN HIS WORDS: “That’s one thing you will find out about me,” Laurinaitis said. “I am a perfectionist so even though I might think I am catching on a little bit, the goal is always way up here and you always catch me saying I am falling short. I always look and filter to not let the good plays resonate in my mind. I let the bad plays resonate because that’s the stuff you have got to improve on. I will say there have been a few less kind of mental busts where you are supposed to make a call and maybe week one and two, you make a few more than you do lately. That’s just getting comfortable in the system. Until I am perfect every week I am not going to be happy. But you can ask every player in the NFL, nobody ever plays a perfect game so that is always the target.”

    THEY SAID IT: “I have been pleased with him,” defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. “He has really grown as a player. We put a lot of management responsibilities on him as far as making checks and calls and those type of things. He seems like he gets more comfortable in that role and I have been very happy with the progress he’s made since he’s been with us.”

    CB Bradley Fletcher – Third Round, No. 66 Overall

    Fletcher had come on strong after earning a starting job in time for the Oct. 11 game against Minnesota.

    After getting his first start against the Vikings, Fletcher had slowly but surely started to get more comfortable in his spot and was starting to pick up on some of the nuances of his position.

    Fletcher had shown a knack for sticking his nose in on the running game, making 30 tackles including 22 solos in his seven professional games.

    And though he had gone through some growing pains with a penalty or two along the way, Fletcher appeared poised for put together a strong second half of the season and stake his claim to the job on a more permanent basis.

    But Fletcher suffered a season ending knee injury against Indianapolis on Oct. 25 and will have to fight his way back from that ailment to continue the progress he’d already made.

    IN HIS WORDS: “I feel that I have my best football ahead of me right now and I am looking forward to showing that on the field,” Fletcher said.

    THEY SAID IT: “Bradley has got a lot of upside; he is a young guy; he is a long arm corner, he’s tall; he is linear; he is a guy that has got reasonable deep speed,” Flajole said. “As much as you press, a lot of times people will have a tendency to try to take shots down the field on you. He is very good at the line of scrimmage – now he’s got a lot to learn – but he is. He is growing; he’s got the kind of frame that you like and we are trying to make sure he is on a natural progression to continue to get better and better.”

    DT Darell Scott – Fourth Round, No. 103 Overall

    Considered a work in progress coming out of Clemson, Scott has developed ahead of schedule in his first year with the team.

    After playing in the opener against Seattle, Scott was inactive the next four games. But Scott kept working and by the Nov. 29 game against Seattle, he had earned a starting job, making him the fourth Rams rookie to start a game.

    Scott continued to get starts and produce, flashing glimpses of his potential.

    IN HIS WORDS: "I'm definitely looking forward to making the best of it, and just showing the coaches that I belong here," Scott said.

    THEY SAID IT: “He has showed that he can do a pretty good job,” Spagnuolo said. “He is a big body in there. He moves around really pretty well. The things we do with movement I think he does a nice job at that. We will keep developing him. I think (Defensive Line Coach) Brendan Daly has done a real good job with him and I would like to see him continue to progress.”

    WR Brooks Foster – Fifth Round, No. 160 Overall

    Foster flashed a nice combination of size, speed and skill during the offseason program and into the opening days of training camp.

    Ultimately, Foster’s debut season was cut off before it ever began as he suffered an ankle injury in the preseason that landed him on injured reserve on Sept. 1.

    The Rams still have high hopes for Foster, who will get a chance to compete again next offseason.

    IN HIS WORDS: “I’m versatile,” Foster said. “I can play any position. I can play the slot, I can play the flanker, I can play the split end, I can run any route. I can give you speed, I can give you strength. I can do everything.”

    THEY SAID IT: “He’s a big wideout for us,” Spagnuolo said. “He was productive at North Carolina. Of course, there were other guys on that team. We feel fortunate he was there when we picked him.”

    QB Keith Null – Sixth Round, No. 196 Overall

    Coming from tiny West Texas A&M, Null had perhaps the biggest adjustment of all the rookies in his first year.

    Null spent his college career in a spread, shotgun heavy offense and was asked to go under center and learn a pro style offense.

    After some bumps in the road, Null worked out many of the kinks in time to make his NFL debut as a starter on Dec. 13 against Tennessee after injuries put Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller out. He finished out the final four games as a starter.

    Null showed some promise and the Rams will continue to develop him in the coming months.

    IN HIS WORDS: “I am going to go out and play with confidence no matter what happens each week,” Null said. “I am going to go out with the confidence in the ability God has given me and that’s what my confidence is in anyway so I am not going to doubt that. I would love to get out and play again. The more experience I can get, the better.”

    THEY SAID IT: “I think he’s got a lot of the attributes you’re looking for in a quarterback,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “As is the case at all positions, he’s worked very hard at developing his skills and he’s getting better every day.”

    RB Chris Ogbonnaya – Seventh Round, No. 211 Overall

    The Rams took a late-round flier on Ogbonnaya in hopes that he could provide some depth for starter Steven Jackson.

    Ogbonnaya had a solid preseason and earned a spot on the practice squad where he learned the NFL ropes and had the opportunity to learn from Jackson and the other veterans on the roster.

    After Jackson started having back problems late in the season, Ogbonnaya moved up to the active roster and flashed some potential in the final games of the season, including a strong performance in limited work against Arizona on Dec. 27.

    IN HIS WORDS: “I have progressed a lot, getting acclimated to the speed and getting acclimated to everything,” Ogbonnaya said. “I get a lot of reps during practice and just bettering myself running the football and in the passing game and the protections, all of that stuff. We meet a lot so it’s hard to not pick it up. But doing it the last six months, I have picked it up pretty good and I have a great grasp of it. I understand the protections and what certain routes supplement other routes.”

    THEY SAID IT: “He’s a physical, slashing runner,” Devaney said. “He’ll fit what we’re trying to do. He’s a downhill, power kind of guy.”

  2. #2
    jkramsfan Guest

    Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

    after going over that list,it would seem the FO did a very good job,barring injuries all of these guys would have made some sort of contribution,we could use two more drafts just like that one to get back on track.

  3. #3
    Bralidore(RAMMODE) Guest

    Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

    I cannot wait to see our spring training camp this year. I want to see a healthy Brooks Foster and Ogbonnaya. Foster erally intrgues me, He runs good routes, very physical and strong for the position (linebacker strong), and is an athlete, he could be a good one if he's healthy.

  4. #4
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

    The Optimist- 7 out of 7 draft picks made a contribution. Great job Devaney and Spags!

    The Pessimist- It's no surprise that all 7 draft picks played and contributed to a team that was 2-14 the previous season. But to end up with a worse record than the season before at 1-15 kind of says it all as far as how well Devaney and Spags really did with our draft picks.

    Which one are you?

  5. #5
    NJ Ramsfan1 is offline Registered User
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    Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

    Quote Originally Posted by laram0 View Post
    The Optimist- 7 out of 7 draft picks made a contribution. Great job Devaney and Spags!

    The Pessimist- It's no surprise that all 7 draft picks played and contributed to a team that was 2-14 the previous season. But to end up with a worse record than the season before at 1-15 kind of says it all as far as how well Devaney and Spags really did with our draft picks.

    Which one are you?

    A little bit of both. Smith and Laurinaitis are the type of players the Rams need more of. Null was OK, but showed nothing that leads me to believe he's some diamond in the rough. Fletcher has potential but is one of numerous corners who had a grand total of zero interceptions this season for us (an almost unbelievable stat). And Ogbonnaya, Foster and Scott are hardly guys I'm fired up about heading into the 2010 season.

    A decidedly mixed bag here with this group. I am more interested in who the Rams pick in the upcoming draft- and how they plan to address their QB need.

  6. #6
    shower beers's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

    Yeah...I'm not sure it's a good thing that 5 rookies were starting for us at one point or another, but it's good to see that the players are progressing to the point where they CAN start for us. The future looks bright for these youngsters.

  7. #7
    Azul e Oro is offline Registered User
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    Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

    Although technically not part of The Rams '09 draft class, I think this list isn't complete without Gibson & Amendola.

    Imo, the impact they had was remarkable considering they weren't around for the preparation leading up to the season.

    They also represent just the greenest of a group of players found by DeSpags & the pro side of the personnel dept. The Rams seem to have left behind the era of FA failures like Drew B, Fakhir,et al, for solid additions in guys like Jason Brown, Bajema, J. Butler, and Robinson.

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