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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Rams Wasted Little Time Signing Bannan

    Rams wasted little time signing Bannan

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    The moment free agency opened in 2010, Justin Bannan's phone rang. It was Steve Spagnuolo on the line. The Rams head coach wanted Bannan — then a Baltimore Raven — to come to St. Louis as an unrestricted free agent.

    "Yeah, right at midnight he called me and we just had a good talk," Bannan said. "That was pretty cool. I didn't expect that."

    Bannan ended up signing with the Denver Broncos, but like a spurned suitor, Spagnuolo wouldn't take no for an answer. When the 2011 free agency period finally opened two weeks ago, Spagnuolo and the Rams went out early and hard once again after Bannan, a defensive tackle.

    This time, the Rams got their man with Bannan signing a three-year contract worth $8.5 million. Back on the market as a salary cap casualty after just one season in Denver, several teams showed interest in Bannan. So why the Rams?

    "The fact that they wanted me," Bannan said. "They really went out of their way to let me know that, and to me that goes a long way. In my view, you want to go where you're wanted. The coaches did a great job of reaching out to me early in the week (following the end of the lockout), and getting this thing going."

    Bannan hadn't forgotten that phone call from Spagnuolo a year earlier, either.

    "I knew that I was on their radar screen before I went to Denver," Bannan said. "I think having Coach (Josh) McDaniels come over and probably vouch for me was also a plus."

    McDaniels, the Rams' offensive coordinator, was Denver's head coach a year ago.

    It's clear Spagnuolo must have seen something he liked on tape of Bannan, or he wouldn't have gone after him two years in a row.

    "I guess so," Bannan said, laughing. "Hopefully, I don't disappointment him. It's nice to have the coach look out for you like that."

    When it came to restocking the shelf at defensive tackle, the Rams didn't stop with Bannan. The team subsequently signed free agent Daniel Muir of Indianapolis, and a few days later, re-signed Gary Gibson.

    "We're always looking for big guys," Spagnuolo said. "We've said all along, we're wanting to build this thing from the inside out, and big men were important."

    The newcomers, Bannan and Muir, look the part. Bannan is 6-3, 310 pounds, and Muir is 6-2, 312.

    Bannan, 32, is regarded as a no-nonsense, blue-collar type, but he's more than just a try-hard, high-motor guy. He's got some athleticism and has a quick first step off the ball which helps him get penetration on run defense.

    "I would describe myself as a consistent football player in the NFL," Bannan said. "I pride myself on being a professional. I take my job very seriously. You don't have to tell me to do something twice.

    "I think I play as hard as I can, play-in, play-out. And I'm not a selfish player. I'll sell out for the defense, to help the d-line out or the linebackers out. You're going to see a guy that loves the game of football and goes out and gives it everything he has."

    Like Bannan, Muir is a run stopper by trade, although Muir insists he can get to the passer.

    "I didn't get an opportunity to pass-rush at Indianapolis, so I think here they'll be surprised to see that I can pass-rush with my size," Muir said with a playful smile.

    So you're a better pass rusher than given credit for?

    "Something like that," Muir said.

    Spagnuolo seemed genuinely amused when those comments were relayed to him.

    "I'm going to trust him on that, that he's underrated (as a pass rusher)," Spagnuolo said. "We'll see how it goes."

    But Muir, 27, knows he was brought here to stop the run. St. Louis finished 17th in run defense a year ago, after finishing 27th in 2009 and 29th in '08. Spagnuolo obviously wants to do even better, even with last year's improvement.

    "You've got to go out there and stop the run first," Muir said. "That's the most important thing."

    Muir says it's emphasized more in the Rams' scheme than it was with the Colts.

    "It's a lot different," Muir said. "I wouldn't say that Indy's not concerned with stopping the run, but here, it's keyed to stopping the run first and foremost."

    Muir said the Colts didn't show much interest in re-signing him. He said he talked some to Denver and "a little bit" to Seattle. The Rams, obviously, liked him a lot, to the point where they wondered: "Are we missing something? Why aren't more people after this guy?"

    "I've always been the underdog," Muir said. "It's always been that way for me. Coming up from high school, college, pros —everything. I came in as a rookie free agent; I've always had to work for what I wanted. ... Hey, the Rams saw my film, that's what's important."

    In Bannan, Muir, Gibson, and Fred Robbins, the Rams now have four players on their roster who were primary starters for their respective teams last season. Throw in returning squad members Darell Scott and Jermelle Cudjo, and there is plenty of competition at defensive tackle in camp.

    "There's lots of competition, and I think that's how they wanted to set this thing up," said Bannan, who missed practice Wednesday after tweaking his triceps muscle. "What's cool is everybody on the defensive line — it's a great group of guys.

    "All I can do is go out there and bust my butt as hard as I can every day and try and get better."


  2. #2
    txramsfan's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Wasted Little Time Signing Bannan

    Well, they are definately trying to beef up the run D that was pretty sorry the last two seasons. My biggest worry is that are they too worried about the run and forgetting about rushing the passer? Not sure if Quinn will be all that effective this season, remember it took C Long awhile to learn the trade. We shall see.

  3. #3
    TekeRam's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Wasted Little Time Signing Bannan

    Good point Tx, as we didn't go after any ends in free agency, but of course, anyone that we got there we'd be looking at as a long term backup, since we did draft Quinn at #14. The key is though, we still have Hall, who will start this year as the starter, and maybe next year will be the swing man back up. Chris is entrenched at LE, and while yes, it took him a while to get acclimated, I think he was playing out of position at RE and he has a history of taking 3 years to grow. In HS and in College he grew through years 1-3, and then exploded year four. Let's see what he does this year!

    My view on Quinn is that he's a prototype RE who yes, probably won't contribute as a starter right away, but he's a pass rush machine and so he'll get into the game for that part which concerns you. Add in that we have two pretty good corners and I think we'll keep improving against the pass, especially with some of our veteran additions in the back 7.
    I believe!

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    Re: Rams Wasted Little Time Signing Bannan

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan View Post
    Well, they are definately trying to beef up the run D that was pretty sorry the last two seasons. My biggest worry is that are they too worried about the run and forgetting about rushing the passer? Not sure if Quinn will be all that effective this season, remember it took C Long awhile to learn the trade. We shall see.
    James Hall and Chris Long were a great tandem last year. Even if Quinn isnt an instant impact player Halls still there.

    Also, i think switching from LE to RE really hindered Longs progression so i'd be surprised if Quinn progresses at the same rate.

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    Re: Rams Wasted Little Time Signing Bannan

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan View Post
    Well, they are definately trying to beef up the run D that was pretty sorry the last two seasons. My biggest worry is that are they too worried about the run and forgetting about rushing the passer? Not sure if Quinn will be all that effective this season, remember it took C Long awhile to learn the trade. We shall see.
    tx, you have to remember this is a Spagnuolo run, Jim Johnson influenced defense. While they are getting bigger at DT to stop the run, they will still get a ton of pressure on the QB, especially with blitzes.

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    Re: Rams Wasted Little Time Signing Bannan

    Not to worried about sacks... Rams finished 7 in the NFL.

    On third down I think we will see less blitzing and still get home... on first and second the two big boys Bannan and Muir will hold up great against the run... on third down and long I see this rotation:

    Long LE 9 sacks
    Hall DT 11 sacks
    Robbins DT 6 sacks
    Quinn RE ?


    The Rams already have more sacks through nine games than they did over the entire 2009 season (25). Hall's sack total (7˝) is tied for seventh in the NFL and is already more than any Rams player has had over an entire season since 2006, when Little registered 13.
    K TEAM SOLO AST TOTAL SACK YDSL PD INT YDS LONG TD FF REC TD
    1 Pittsburgh 802 287 1089 48.0 319 88 21 248 79 3 28 14 0
    2 Green Bay 796 222 1018 47.0 333 86 24 318 64 3 16 8 1
    Oakland 802 210 1012 47.0 292 64 12 105 30 2 18 12 1
    San Diego 817 178 995 47.0 290 67 16 240 41 3 12 6 0
    5 NY Giants 841 256 1097 46.0 316 87 16 110 36 0 38 23 0
    6 Detroit 842 273 1115 44.0 288 62 14 194 42 2 26 15 1
    7 St. Louis 861 139 1000 43.0 290 78 14 161 34 0 27 12

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    Re: Rams Wasted Little Time Signing Bannan

    I agree that we shouldn't be worrying about getting to the quarterback, as everyone who did so consistently is returning, along with a pretty serviceable draft pick to spell the ends. In fact, with the upgrades across the linebacker corps, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect a better performance this year. Top 5 perhaps? Not entirely out of the question I don't think.

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