Posted: March 4, 2007

Jim Thomas
For Sporting News


James Hall, acquired from Detroit for a fifth-rounder, is an all-around defensive end who can defend the run while still giving the team a much-needed complementary pass rusher to LE Leonard Little. Hall's natural position is right end. His play with the Lions was marred somewhat by inconsistent play. But he will be an immediate upgrade over what the Rams were using at right end last season: Anthony Hargrove (since traded), Brandon Green, and Victor Adeyanju. Adeyanju will still be part of the defensive line rotation, particularly on running downs. Hall will be reunited with line coach Brian Baker, who was his position coach as a rookie in Detroit. Other than Little, the Rams had only 2 sacks from the end position. But at 6-2, 280, Hall will also provide more resistance in the running game. By the end of the '06 season, with Adeyanju out with an injury, it became increasingly apparent that teams were running towards the right end position. . . .

The speed element that Kevin Curtis provided to the No. 3 wide receiver position will be missed, but free-agent pickup Drew Bennett will add an element long missing from the Rams' wide receiver corps: Size. At 6-5, 206, Bennett will help the Rams on third down and in the red zone. Bennett will begin his tenure in St. Louis as the team's slot receiver, but can play both the flanker spot (behind Isaac Bruce), and the split end spot (behind Torry Holt). Bennett isn't afraid to go over the middle, and will go up and get the ball in a crowd. He has deceptive speed, and can get downfield, averaging nearly 15 yards per catch over his career. Bennett will drop some balls and tends to wear down as the season progresses, but overall, his addition makes the Rams' receiver corps as good or better than it was a year ago.

SCOUTING REPORT: The release of veteran RG Adam Timmerman means the starting job belongs to Richie Incognito. Andy McCollum's knee injury forced Incognito to spend most of the '06 season playing center, but right guard is Incognito's natural position -- and in theory -- his best. Incognito is a powerful, physical blocker who just doesn't engage the opponent. He strikes them. His style of play seems to fit a revamped offense that once a physical line opening holes for a big back in Steven Jackson. Incognito still needs to polish his game on several fronts. He takes too many penalties, sometimes not knowing when to stop on a play. He doesn't get to the second level (linebackers, safeties) as well as Timmerman, and simply may not have the agility to do so. His pass-blocking needs work, but more experience and better footwork should lead to improvement.

DRAFT BUZZ: With free-agent RBs Sammy Morris and Marcel Shipp off the board, the Rams' options for a No. 2 running back may have to be filled via the draft. Lorenzo Booker is one possibility, but the Rams might have to use a second-round pick to get him. Signing Hall as a free agent doesn't preclude the team from taking an edge rusher such as Purdue's Anthony Spencer. Louisville DT Amobi Okoye would be a logical choice for the Rams at No. 13 overall if he's still available. But some in the Rams' organization wonder if Okoye is more "three-technique" tackle than nose, which is the team's greatest need. Tank Tyler of North Carolina State is more of a "classic" nose tackle, although he doesn't have the upside of the 19-year-old Okoye. But 13 is too high for Tyler, so the team probably would want to trade down if he's their targeted player.