January 28, 2007
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
As usual, the Rams are in the midst of an offseason with their return game in total flux. WR Shaun McDonald, who has handled punt return chores for the past three seasons -- without much success -- almost certainly is headed elsewhere as a free agent. Willie Ponder did a decent job returning kicks over the last half of the season but was a victim of poor blocking as much as anything. Ponder also is scheduled to be a free agent, and their have been no signals from Rams Park that the team is interested in re-signing him. Marques Hagans, a college quarterback at Virginia, was taken in the 2006 draft with the hopes he could return punts, kickoffs and play wide receiver. But Hagans spent the entire 2006 season on the practice squad and remains an unknown quantity. . . .
Initial contract talks are underway to extend QB Marc Bulger's deal because he has one year left and to re-sign WR Kevin Curtis, who is scheduled to be a free agent. But no deals are imminent with either party. Coach Scott Linehan quickly has recognized the value of Bulger as one of the top quarterbacks in the game and would like to build his offense around Bulger, RB Steven Jackson and the receiving corps. Signing Curtis may be a longshot, though, because Curtis probably could be a starter elsewhere. But the Rams like the speed and big-play potential Curtis brings and remain hopeful. If Curtis slips away, the Rams need for a wide receiver in the draft rises dramatically.
SCOUTING REPORT:FB Madison Hedgecock played the entire 2006 season with a nagging thumb injury that required surgery on more than one occasion. The injury affected Hedgecock's play in a couple areas. For one, although he makes good initial contact with his 260-pound frame, Hedgecock frequently had trouble sustaining blocks because the thumb was encased in a bulky cast. For another, the injury and cast made it difficult to catch passes, not that the fullback is a major option in Linehan's offense. Good fullbacks are hard to find, and NFL-ready ones are tough to find in the college ranks. So Hedgecock should continue to have a future in St. Louis.
DRAFT BUZZ:It's still early, but the Rams seem to have three ways to go with their first-round pick: defensive tackle or end or wide receiver. There is some sensitivity at Rams Park about taking another tackle in the first round after getting less-than-stellar results from recent first-round picks Damione Lewis, Jimmy Kennedy and Ryan Pickett. Pickett, now with Green Bay, was easily the best of the bunch. But landing a nose tackle would fill perhaps the team's most pressing need. The Rams came away from the Senior Bowl impressed with the line prospects not only on defense, but on offense as well. But the offensive line probably won't be addressed in the early rounds.