By Jim Thomas
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
So far, talk about incorporating elements of the 3-4 into the defense have been premature. The team has worked strictly with a 4-3 front during minicamp sessions. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who has plenty of experience with the 3-4 on his resume, may feel that the personnel isn't there to run the defense, particularly at the linebacker position. A player such as third-round draft pick Jon Alston could be used as an edge rusher from the linebacker position in a 3-4 look. With another full-squad minicamp and training camp to go, Haslett has plenty of time to add some wrinkles to his front seven. But this is shaping up as an undersized front that must get by on speed and quickness. . . .
The acquisition of RB Tony Fisher in free agency may prove to be one of the Rams' most underrated, but productive, signings if Marshall Faulk's knees fail to hold up this season. Fisher has all the tools necessary to be a productive third-down back, which is the role Faulk has assumed in the twilight of his career behind starter Steven Jackson. Fisher lacks Faulk's escapability, but can catch the football and run between the tackles. An added bonus is Fisher's special teams value on coverage units.
SCOUTING REPORT: After 12 years in the league, WR Isaac Bruce can still get separation with his precise route-running, overall quickness, and change-of-direction stills. Never a burner, Bruce still runs in the 4.5 second range in the 40. He finds a way to get downfield, though his specialties in recent seasons with the emergence of Torry Holt have been crossing routes and deep ins. Durability is beginning to become a factor, however. Bruce missed five games last season with a dislocated toe, and missed time at the end of both the '03 and '04 seasons with various injuries. No one trains harder than Bruce in the offseason, but he might be hearing footsteps from Kevin Curtis if more injuries occur in '06.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: Claude Terrell was a pleasant surprise in '05, filling the breech at left guard as a rookie showing road-grader potential as a run-blocker. What Terrell needed was a strong offseason to upgrade his conditioning and his upper-body strength. But wrist surgery has put the weight-training on hold, and Terrell's weight has ballooned to the 350 range. As a result, coach Scott Linehan has brought in competition in the form of seventh-round draft picks Mark Setterstrom and Tony Palmer. Linehan has even used veteran Todd Steussie, who has spent most of his career at tackle, at left guard during minicamp practices. Terrell must re-prove himself once he's healthy, but it will be impossible to make up for the lost conditioning time, and in turn, difficult to hold onto the starting job.
SAFETIES ANALYSIS: FS Oshiomogho Atogwe has range and playmaking skills, but is unproven. SS Corey Chavous will be a better all-around player than Adam Archuleta, but lacks Archuleta's big-play potential.