Rams Team Report

By Jim Thomas
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The main focus of the Rams' rookie minicamp was to give the draft class of '06 a chance to digest the basics of the playbook and to learn what's expected of them in the NFL -- and how head coach Scott Linehan wants to get things done. For many of the rookies, the hope at Rams Park is that they're quick learners because they'll have to play right away. First-round draft pick CB Tye Hill has a chance to start right away, or at least serve as the nickel back. Second-rounder Joe Klopfenstein is the starting tight end, unless he gets beaten out by third-round pick Dominique Byrd. Third-round DT Claude Wroten figures immediately in the defensive line rotation, as does fourth-round DE Victor Adeyanju. Even seventh-round guards Tony Palmer and Mark Setterstrom could work their way up the depth chart. . . .

The new staff's first look at Richie Incognito in a minicamp setting was encouraging. Without pads, contact was at a minimum. But Incognito moved very well and seemed to know what he was going. That's no mean feat, considering he practiced only once last season as a rookie while rehabbing from kneecap surgery and hasn't played in a game since the 2003 college season. Incognito has been wearing braces on both knees on the practice field. If he can properly control his aggressiveness, Incognito has the skills and athleticism to be an effective player on the interior and could compete for a starting job at guard or center.

SCOUTING REPORT:Leonard Little remains one of the most respected pass rushers in the NFL at age 31. He didn't display his usual burst of the edge a year ago, but most of that was because of a nagging foot problem. But Little has also put on some weight over the years in an attempt to hold up better against the run. He came into the league as a 237-pound LB-DE 'tweener in 1998 and now weighs 261. That remains on the small side for an end, but Little gets good leverage and knows how to use his hands to get off blockers. Little occasionally gets blown out by a massive right tackle, but not as often as you think. He remains one of the best in the game at pursuit, whether it's down the line, or down the field.

POSITIONAL BATTLE:CB Travis Fisher has been a primary starter since his rookie year of 2002. But free agent Fakhir Brown has designs on the left corner spot. Fisher has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons and hasn't displayed the closing speed in coverage and the aggressive tackling that made him seem like an up-and-coming corner two years ago. Brown must show he can stay on the field as well after missing much of the 2005 campaign with injury. Brown has good size and has shown himself to be a solid tackler who, when healthy, has a knack for creating turnovers. He probably has an edge over Fisher at this point because defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and secondary coach Willy Robinson worked with Brown in New Orleans.

DEFENSIVE ENDS ANALYSIS: Grade B-. It's a make-or-break season for RE Anthony Hargrove, who must become more of a pass-rushing factor to help Pro Bowl LE Leonard Little.