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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Rams show interest in return game

    By Jim Thomas
    Tuesday, Apr. 25 2006

    Most of the pre-draft talk on the Rams has concerned the need for more
    defensive help. Or a tight end. Or even the possibility of taking a quarterback
    in the first round.

    But all along, the Rams have done a lot of evaluation designed to improved
    their return game - or lack thereof.

    A lot of games have gone by since the heyday of Tony Horne on kickoff returns
    and Az-Zahir Hakim on punt returns. The Rams haven't finished among the top 10
    in the NFL in punt returns since 2002 and in kickoff returns since 1999.

    They haven't been anywhere close to that lately. Last season, they ranked 29th
    in punt returns and 23rd in kickoff returns; in 2004, they finished 31st in
    both categories.

    But it looks like the Rams are determined to change that. No fewer than seven
    of the 33 players brought into Rams Park for pre-draft visits earlier this
    month had some kind of kick return experience in college.

    Some also play defensive back, or wide receiver, or running back. Or in the
    case of Miami's Devin Hester, he plays a little bit of everything.

    Hester and UCLA's Maurice Drew are the highest-profile returners who visited
    Rams Park. Over his college career with the Hurricanes, Hester returned four
    punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns. He has ranked as high as sixth
    nationally in both kickoff returns (in 2003) and punt returns (in 2004).

    The secret to his success? "It's really not any secret," Hester said. "It's
    just natural instinct. I'm a visual-type player who can see things before they

    What NFL teams can't see is where to play Hester when he's not returning kicks.
    He has dabbled at cornerback, running back, and wide receiver, without truly
    excelling at any. But Hester's explosiveness as a return man alone should make
    him a second- or third-round pick in the draft.

    Throughout his college career, Drew was the "other" back in Los Angeles,
    playing second fiddle to Southern Cal's Reggie Bush. But Drew put up impressive
    numbers of his own, combining for more than 3,300 yards rushing and receiving.

    Drew's work as a return man was somewhat limited, but electric nonetheless.
    Over the course of his college career, he averaged 23.2 yards on 25 punt
    returns - four of which went for TDs. Meanwhile, he averaged 24.6 yards on 32
    kickoff returns, including two TDs.

    There are some concerns about Drew's height - he's only 5-6 1/2. The way he
    holds the football has some scouts concerned about the possibility of too many
    fumbles in the NFL.

    Even so, his ability to return kicks adds value to what probably will be a
    solid future in the NFL as a third-down back.

    "I think it's a very big plus," Drew said. "A lot of people don't want to go
    back there and return punts, just because it's dangerous. ...You've got to be
    able to concentrate on catching the ball and making a play."

    Were the Rams to seriously consider drafting Drew, his resume as a running back
    is such that they might have to take him in the second round (No. 46 overall).
    He may not be there when they pick in the third (No. 77).

    One of the most experienced return men in this year's draft class comes from
    Hazelwood East High via the University of Wisconsin. Wide receiver Brandon
    Williams is only the second player in NCAA Division I-A history with more than
    2,000 yards receiving and 2,000 yards in returns.

    By the numbers, last season was Williams' best as a returner. He averaged 28
    yards a return on 22 kickoffs, and 14.6 yards on 26 punt returns. He returned
    two punts for TDs.

    Williams, who projects as a third-round pick, is on the small side at 5-10, 179
    pounds. But he should have value in the NFL as a slot receiver. After finishing
    with 2,974 receiving yards for the Badgers, he doesn't want to get pigeon-holed
    as just a return man.

    "That would be a concern to someone like me," Williams said. "In my career I
    broke the Wisconsin record for most receptions in a career. ... So I'm not just
    a returner. I go get the rock."

    Other players with return experience who made pre-draft visits to Rams Park
    were Florida State cornerback Antonio Cromartie; Fresno State cornerback
    Richard Marshall; Abilene Christian defensive back Danieal Manning; and
    Lindenwood running back-defensive back DeDe Dorsey.

    Although he missed the entire 2005 season with a knee injury, Cromartie looks
    like a sure first-round pick. He returned kickoffs for the Seminoles in 2003
    and '04.

    Manning had three kickoff returns for TDs and three punt returns for scores for
    Abilene Christian. Five of those six returns TDs went for 59 yards or more.

    * * * * * *


    A look at where the Rams have ranked among 32 NFL teams in average punt
    and kick return yards in recent seasons:

    Punt returns yards (rank)
    5.8 (29th)
    Kick return yards (rank)
    21.4 (23rd)

    Punt returns yards (rank)
    4.8 (31st)
    Kick return yards (rank)
    19.1 (31st)

    Punt returns yards (rank)
    8.6 (19th)
    Kick return yards (rank)
    21.3 (17th)

  2. #2
    sbramfan Guest

    Re: Rams show interest in return game

    I keep hearing about Cromartie. Are they perhaps considering moving down a few spots, picking up an extra 3rd round pick, and getting this guy?

  3. #3
    Bar-bq's Avatar
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    Re: Rams show interest in return game

    Quote Originally Posted by sbramfan
    I keep hearing about Cromartie. Are they perhaps considering moving down a few spots, picking up an extra 3rd round pick, and getting this guy?
    Not a bad idea in my eyes.
    Maybe get Cromartie or Bobby Carpenter. I really like both.

  4. #4
    THOLTFAN81's Avatar
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    Re: Rams show interest in return game

    If this is true, i like Jeremy Bloom, the olympic skier out of Purdue...he is small put has a good athletic ability and is quick

    we should use our 5th round pick on this guy that would be good if this return game theory is true

  5. #5
    THOLTFAN81's Avatar
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    Re: Rams show interest in return game

    excuse my post before, Jeremy Bloom is out of Colorado not Purdue

  6. #6
    UtterBlitz's Avatar
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    Re: Rams show interest in return game

    I would love to see the Rams pick up an exciting return man. You gotta love special teams touchdowns.

  7. #7
    bigredman Guest

    Re: Rams show interest in return game

    Our special teams have sucked since letting Hakim go. Special teams win games guys. Watch the draft for selections to improve that element of the Ram's game. Get some hungry rookie talent, mix in some veteran smarts (something Martz refused to do), and you have yourself a team that will compete for the championship.
    Last edited by bigredman; -04-27-2006 at 10:04 PM.

  8. #8
    RamsFan4ever's Avatar
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    Re: Rams show interest in return game

    Wow 31... really bad


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