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Rookie CB Bradley Fletcher Starting Again
Rookie CB Bradley Fletcher starting again
BY JIM THOMAS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
When it comes to interacting with the media, Rams rookie cornerback Bradley Fletcher may be the quietest player on the team, to the point of being shy. Perhaps it's only fitting, then, that Fletcher quietly has moved into the starting lineup ahead of Jonathan Wade at right corner.
Beginning with the Green Bay game Sept. 27, Fletcher began rotating with Wade at cornerback, but with Wade still getting most of the work. Fletcher again came off the bench Oct. 4 in San Francisco, rotating in and out of the game with Wade.
But last Sunday against Minnesota, it was Fletcher — a third-round draft pick from Iowa — making his first NFL start.
"I was just happy to get an opportunity to get out on the field, and go ahead and play," Fletcher said.
"I was fine," Fletcher said. "It's just football. It's a good time."
Fletcher is scheduled to start again this week against Jacksonville, once again ahead of Wade, who was given the first crack at the vacancy created in the lineup when Tye Hill was dealt to Atlanta for a seventh-round draft pick Sept. 1.
"You roll with the punches," Wade said. "I just play. When they tell me to go left, I go left. They tell me to go right, I go right."
Even though Wade's role has diminished, coach Steve Spagnuolo indicated that the time-share will continue at that position. During the regular season, it's highly unusual for teams to rotate cornerbacks during a game. But Spagnuolo said he has done it before as an assistant coach.
"I think it's important to keep those guys playing, in my opinion," Spagnuolo said. "Everyone is an ankle turn away from being a starter in a game. So when and if maybe that happens, it's always nice to have some plays under your belt.
"I kind of like it. We've got tackles rotating. We've got defensive ends rotating. ... It's happened at linebacker. If you guys noticed, Paris (Lenon) and Larry Grant rotated a little bit (against Minnesota). It's good to have a lot of guys involved, I think."
Fletcher has suffered through some "rookie orientation" moments in his early work at cornerback. The first time he rotated in for Wade this season — against Green Bay — Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers went right at him, completing a 46-yard pass to Donald Driver (despite a pass interference flag against Fletcher). On the next play, Rodgers completed a 12-yard completion on a slant pattern. Those plays set up Green Bay's first touchdown, giving the Packers a 16-0 lead en route to a 36-17 victory.
Against Minnesota, Brett Favre completed a 47-yard pass to Sidney Rice against Fletcher that set up a third-quarter Minnesota touchdown and a 24-3 lead.
"I know people are just going to remember the long pass," Spagnuolo said, referring to the Favre-to-Rice collaboration. "But what I want people to take away from that is that Bradley Fletcher was stride for stride (with Rice). ... That's what I see. Now, we do have to work on some things that will not lead either to a catch on their part or a (Rams) penalty. And we'll get there."
According to STATS LLC, Fletcher has a "burn rate" of 83.3 percent this season. In other words, opponents have completed five of six passes thrown his way (for 139 yards). Meanwhile, Wade has a burn rate of 68.8 percent. Opponents have completed 11 of 16 passes against him (for 132 yards).
In theory, Fletcher fits the mold of what Spagnuolo wants at cornerback. He has good size (6-0, 198 pounds), long arms, and the potential to be an effective "press" corner, jamming wide receivers at the line of scrimmage.
"He's got the kind of frame that you like," defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. "Bradley's got a lot of upside. He's a guy that's got reasonable deep speed. For as much as (the Rams) press, a lot of times people will have a tendency to take shots down the field on you.
"He's very good at the line of scrimmage. Now, he's got a lot to learn. But he's grown. We're just trying to make sure that he's on a natural progression to continue to get better and better."
Re: Rookie CB Bradley Fletcher Starting Again
Nice to see our first three picks all making early impacts on the team. It's the kind of results we need around here, after so many disappointing drafts.
Re: Rookie CB Bradley Fletcher Starting Again
I'm really happy about Spags approach to playing players with the rotations. His rotation system he does is not common with many coaches and its a shame because it gives a lot of guys opportunities to play rather than having a set starting lineup and guys who just bench and possibly do special teams. He gives the vast majority of our roster a chance to play and thats great for the opportunities everyone has to make a impact in games.
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