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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Rams secondary takes shape

    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Sunday, Mar. 15 2009
    In mid-February, the Rams' secondary was in a state of flux. Strong safety
    Corey Chavous had been released, cornerback Fakhir Brown had been removed from
    the team's plans, and free safety Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe and cornerback Ron
    Bartell were about to become free agents.

    Less than a month and more than $50 million later, the new regime at Rams Park
    has solidified most of its defensive backfield:

    Feb. 19 Atogwe, 27, is assigned the team's franchise tag, assuring his
    presence in 2009 and earning him a one-year salary of $6.34 million.

    March 2 After a visit to New Orleans and a contract offer from the Saints,
    Bartell, 27, re-signs with the Rams. His four-year deal could max out at $28
    million

    March 10 Strong safety James Butler, 27, a free agent who spent the previous
    four seasons with the New York Giants, signs for four years and, if certain
    incentives are met, about $17 million.

    "It's very exciting," Butler said. "O.J.'s been having a lot of interceptions
    the past two years, and Ron Bartell's arrow is definitely going up."

    With a laugh, Butler added, "We've got a lot of young players, and they're fast
    I might be the slowest one out of the bunch. I might have to start working on
    my 40s."

    Atogwe, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound third-round draft pick in 2005, is a three-year
    starter who has developed into one of the NFL's top ball-hawking defenders. He
    led the NFC with eight interceptions two years ago and picked off five more
    passes in 2008. He also finished second on the team in tackles this past
    season, with 109.

    Bartell, a 6-1, 209-pounder drafted in the second round in 2005, cobbled
    together a breakout season in '08. After shuttling between safety and
    cornerback his first three seasons, Bartell became a full-time starter. He was
    the team's best defender in coverage, compiling one of the league's best "burn"
    rates (percentage of passes completed against him), and his three interceptions
    were second to Atogwe.

    Butler, a 6-3, 215-pound Georgia Tech product, wasn't drafted after his senior
    season in 2005, which shocked the two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference
    honoree.

    "It was very tough. I was like, 'Man, these guys aren't better than me,'"
    Butler said. "But I think every player has things he has to go through, and I
    went through that. You just have to roll with the punches."

    The snub amped up his determination to prove the skeptics wrong, Butler
    stressed.

    "Every player has a motivation. ... that was my motivation," he said.

    Signed by the Giants as a free agent, Butler kept his initial goals simple.

    "My first year with the Giants, it was just, 'make the team ... keep
    grinding,'" he said.

    He filled a reserve role his first two years, then earned a starting job in
    2007. Coincidentally or not, that was the same year Giants coach Tom Coughlin
    hired Steve Spagnuolo as his defensive coordinator.

    "Coach Spags came over with a different mind-set, an aggressive mind-set, and
    we bought into it," Butler said. The effect was immediate.

    The Giants' defense improved from 25th in the 32-team NFL in 2006 to seventh in
    '07 under the future Rams head coach. Spagnuolo's scheme vs. New England's
    record-setting offense was widely hailed as a primary factor in the Giants'
    stunning 17-14 Super Bowl triumph.

    Butler had a team-high 10 tackles vs. the Pats, but he played down his
    contribution.

    "It really wasn't about the personal things," he said. "Just to win as a team,
    and the way we won, that was the biggest thing."

    Spagnuolo's defense moved up to No. 5 this past season, and his stock as a
    potential head coach soared. The Rams hired him Jan. 17. And when Spagnuolo
    called at the start of the free agency period, Butler listened.

    "Coach Spags gave me my first opportunity to start in the league, and he helped
    my career grow. I wanted to stay with him," Butler said. "I was talking to
    other teams, but in the back of my mind, I was going to be here."

    As for the fourth member of the secondary ...

    "Wide open," Spagnuolo said. "There's going to be a lot of competition in (the
    three) minicamps, and we'll just let guys compete and see who surfaces."

    Tye Hill, the Rams' first-round draft pick in 2006, probably is the top
    candidate among the incumbent corners. He started 10 games as a rookie but has
    played in just nine games over the past two seasons because of injuries.

    "I don't think Tye has lost his swagger," said Butler, who co-owns a Golden
    Corral restaurant in Centerville, Ga., with Hill. "He's definitely motivated to
    be one of the best corners in the league this year, and he's been working hard
    this offseason. Tye Hill will be a great player this year."

    Other cornerbacks under contract are Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Justin King
    and Jonathan Wade. Also, Jason Craft, a free-agent acquisition last year, could
    be brought back.

    Butler "was a real key piece of the puzzle" in the secondary, Spagnuolo said.
    "He's going to be kind of the glue that brings these guys together."


  2. #2
    A-Web's Avatar
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    Re: Rams secondary takes shape

    At this point, I would start to believe that our defense has found it's mold, and is pouring in the concrete. As the secondary is filling out, and as we have been drafting in D-Linemen for the past 2 seasons, it seems that there is only so much more room for re-stocking. Linebacking might need a small tune-up, but aside from that, what else can you want?

    From that point I will go on and say that I think we will see a very offensive-tuned draft in 2009, as we seem to have most of the pieces of our defensive puzzle. One thing to keep in mind would be a Mr. Curry. If we were to put one chip down on defense in April, I would let that one pass. To wrap up the defense, put in the linebacker and lock up our defense tight. At that point, we could feel free to unleash whatever we so choose on offense to get things rolling.

    (I am not saying I would pick Curry with the #2 overall, but simply that I wouldn't mind it. With the fact that he is being graded a consensus #1, being drafted at #2 isn't too much different. He obviously has the talent, and sometimes the safe ones are the good ones.)

  3. #3
    BEER's Avatar
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    Re: Rams secondary takes shape

    How about the guy from Texas? I, at the moment dont remember his name,
    but it's at the tip of my tunge.

  4. #4
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    Re: Rams secondary takes shape

    Is fakhir brown currently on the roster or is he officially gone.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


  5. #5
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    Re: Rams secondary takes shape

    Quote Originally Posted by general counsel View Post
    Is fakhir brown currently on the roster or is he officially gone.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel
    He's an unrestricted free agent.

  6. #6
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    Re: Rams secondary takes shape

    Quote Originally Posted by BEER View Post
    How about the guy from Texas? I, at the moment dont remember his name,
    but it's at the tip of my tunge.
    Brian Orakpo.. He is a DE and #2 overall is too high IMO

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    Re: Rams secondary takes shape

    Quote Originally Posted by rams#1 View Post
    Brian Orakpo.. He is a DE and #2 overall is too high IMO

    Plus he is not that good anyway I heard it from Mayock

  8. #8
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    Re: Rams secondary takes shape

    "I don't think Tye has lost his swagger," said Butler, who co-owns a Golden
    Corral restaurant in Centerville, Ga., with Hill. "He's definitely motivated to
    be one of the best corners in the league this year, and he's been working hard
    this offseason. Tye Hill will be a great player this year."


    Good, let's go Tye Hill. Make a believer out of me please.


    Brian Orakpo not very good? Hmmmm, ask Phil Loadholt about that. Orakpo is a stud and will be a Pro Bowl DE for someone......in 2009. He will make that much of an impact his rookie year.

  9. #9
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    Re: Rams secondary takes shape

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan View Post
    "I don't think Tye has lost his swagger," said Butler, who co-owns a Golden
    Corral restaurant in Centerville, Ga., with Hill. "He's definitely motivated to
    be one of the best corners in the league this year, and he's been working hard
    this offseason. Tye Hill will be a great player this year."


    Good, let's go Tye Hill. Make a believer out of me please.


    Brian Orakpo not very good? Hmmmm, ask Phil Loadholt about that. Orakpo is a stud and will be a Pro Bowl DE for someone......in 2009. He will make that much of an impact his rookie year.

    Orakpo is a monster every time I've watched him play, which is a lot of times.


    Tye Hill could have a nice season next year. Maybe his buffet partner can give him some inspiration.




    And if Mayock doesn't think Orakpo is good, he needs to get his Philly butt down here to Texas.

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