Posted: September 3, 2006
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
If his right knee stays healthy, RB Stephen Davis will provide a much-needed No. 2 running back in the St. Louis backfield behind starter Steven Jackson. Davis is more of a power runner than Jackson and should help the Rams be more effective in the red zone and in short-yardage situations. He will enter the regular season with just a handful of practices under his belt, but the Rams plan to employ him in the season opener against Denver. . . .
In theory, Adam Goldberg will provide more proven depth at guard and tackle than Blaine Saipaia did. Acquired for a 7th-round pick in '08, Goldberg had 18 starts the past two seasons; Saipaia had eight. Goldberg played in the Scott Linehan offense in 2004 in Minnesota, so he should get up to speed quickly on the offensive line. . . .
After starting 10 games at left guard as a rookie last season, Claude Terrell must wait until 2007 to see the field again in the NFL. He needs additional wrist surgery and was placed on the I.R. The emergence of Richie Incognito and the surprising camp of rookie Mark Setterstrom had pushed Terrell down the depth chart even before the wrist problems re-occurred.
NEWCOMER REPORT:Despite some ups and downs in preseason play, first-round draft pick Tye Hill has earned the nickel back spot ahead of former starter Jerametrius Butler at cornerback. Hill actually plays the corner position in the nickel, with Travis Fisher sliding in to cover the slot. Hill has shown tenacity, resiliency and good closing speed, but he has had some rough moments in preseason after committing a costly pass interference penalty and missing an open-field tackle. His ball skills need to improve. There's no doubt teams will try to pick on him when they go to three-receiver sets. Hill says he's expecting it.
PROBLEM SPOT:Injuries to Madison Hedgecock (ankle) and Paul Smith (calf) have made it difficult to get a read on the fullback position. Hedgecock, the team's starter a year ago, was surpassed by the smaller Smith early in camp. But Smith then suffered the calf injury and has been less-than-stellar as a blocker and pass catcher since his return. At 266 pounds, Hedgecock potentially can be more of a thumper than Smith, and Hedgecock has better overall pass-catching skills. But if neither player can stay healthy, the Rams lose the ability to have a traditional lead blocker in front of Steven Jackson in the backfield. Long snapper Chris Massey is the emergency fullback, but Linehan would like to avoid doing that unless absolutely necessary because of Massey's value as a snapper.
3 THINGS WE LEARNED: 1. This will be a better tackling team. The addition of Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator and several free-agent pickups help. A physical training camp with lots of contact has toughened up the defense. 2. Linehan wants a balanced offense, and he showed that in his preseason play-calling. The Rams averaged 30 carries to 31 passes a game in exhibition play. He will spell Steven Jackson with Stephen Davis at running back and use Tony Fisher in some third down situations. 3. If his groin holds up, Matt Turk will give the Rams their best punting since the team moved to St. Louis in 1995. After missing the '04 season with a groin injury, Turk averaged 50.6 yards per punt in the preseason, an NFL high.
3 THINGS WE STILL DON'T KNOW: 1. The kickoff and punt return jobs are as unsettled now as they were entering training camp. For now, it looks like Shaun McDonald will continue returning punts -- his career average is a lackluster 4.6 yards. Kevin Curtis and Tony Fisher are the leading candidates to return kickoffs, but the team is still looking. 2. Can this team stop the run? After an impressive start against Indianapolis, the defense looked less than stellar at times defending the run over the final three preseason games. It's a fast but undersized defensive unit that must still prove it can handle smash-mouth teams. 3. Linehan made his mark in Minnesota and Miami as a play-caller. But St. Louis' first-team offense didn't score a TD all preseason. Granted, Linehan didn't show much of the playbook, but the Rams enter the season without much momentum in their new offense.