August 14, 2007

Jim Thomas
For Sporting News

Last season was a waste for LB Jon Alston, a third-round pick out of Stanford in '06. Because Stanford is on the quarter system, Alston missed most of the offseason program as a rookie. Once he fell behind, he never caught up and barely played. But Alston has been one of the pleasant camp surprises for the club. Although undersized at 225 pounds, he is very fast, has not backed away from contact, and has shown potential as a blitzer. Alston is still rough around the edges, particularly in coverage, but has proven to be a quick learner who is making rapid improvement. ...

New P Donnie Jones has looked erratic on the practice field, but Rams coaches aren't concerned. Under new special teams coach Al Roberts, Jones has spent a lot of time working on directional kicks and punts inside the 20. The result has been a few ugly duckings for the lefty. Coach Scott Linehan says Jones, who replaces veteran Matt Turk, has one of the strongest legs he's seen on a punter.

NEWCOMER REPORT: DE James Hall fell out of favor in Detroit, leading to his trade to St. Louis in early March. But Rams defensive coaches like what they've seen so far, leading to optimism that Hall may be one of the team's most underrated pickups of the offseason. Although lacking the burst of LE Leonard Little, Hall has displayed good quickness, combined with strength, and moves. If the team even gets a modest eight sacks or so from Hall, it will make Little that much more effective.

SCOUTING REPORT: After an uneven and largely uneventful (for him) 2005 season, strongside LB Brandon Chillar was one of the most improved Rams in '06. Not that he was a superstar, but he proved he belonged in the NFL with solid play against the run and improved short-area coverage near the line of scrimmage. With a year to absorb coordinator Jim Haslett's complex system, Chillar looks more comfortable this season. He brings some size to an otherwise undersized linebacking corps, and if he can start playing with more confidence, Chillar can be even more effective in '07 even with Chris Draft nipping at his heels on the depth chart.