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    Running Backs Battling for Position

    Running Backs Battling for Position
    Saturday, July 29, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Even before the news that Marshall Faulk would be missing the season following knee surgery became official, the Rams began working on contingency plans for the running back position.

    While those plans have yet to come to fruition in terms of a trade or signing a true No. 2 running back, there are plenty of backs at the team’s training camp hoping to make enough of an impression so that those plans will be scrapped.

    So far, coach Scott Linehan likes what he sees from the seven (including fullbacks) ball carriers he has in camp.

    “They are all doing a great job,” Linehan said. “I have been very pleased with their progress. I know they will continue to get better.”

    Of course, that doesn’t mean the hunt for another running back will come to an end soon. The Rams have an interest in New Orleans’ Michael Bennett, who might be put up for auction soon after the signing of No. 2 pick Reggie Bush, and are also believed to have had preliminary discussions with Tennessee about Chris Brown, who could be pushed out because of a glut of backs that includes Travis Henry and LenDale White.

    For now, Linehan views the depth chart at running back as would be expected with, perhaps, one surprising name.

    “I think if we were playing a game tomorrow those would be the guys, Steven (Jackson), (Tony) Fish(er), and Paul (Smith) would be the guys who would carry the majority of the load at tailback spot.”

    Jackson’s presence as the lead back comes as no surprise and Fisher’s spot also seems pretty solid. Fisher has received plenty of reps so far during camp and has drawn good reviews from Linehan for his work.

    “I think Fish has done an excellent job,” Linehan said. “Like I told you, he can be a number two back. The only concern I have is that he has such a big role, he’s such a core teams player, and I’m not donning him as special teams captain yet but he’s one of them, one of the best leaders we’ve got there. You know what, the guy does whatever we ask and he’s very good at it, played very well and very consistent at Green Bay. He’s exactly what we’re looking for as that third that could be a two if we had an injury but right now we have no choice but to have him there.”

    Smith, on the other hand, is more of an unknown commodity. He has been in the league for six seasons, playing for Steve Mariucci first in San Francisco and the past three years in Detroit.

    At 5’11, 234 pounds, Smith is as solidly built a player as you will find and has been primarily a fullback in his time in the league, but has showed an ability to carry the ball, particularly in some of the short yardage drills early in camp.

    “Paul Smith is working at fullback with Hedgecock, but the great thing about Paul is he’s a great special teams player but he can get you out of a game plan playing tailback position,” Linehan said.

    In his time in the league, Smith has 46 carries for 210 yards with a touchdown. Not exactly eye-popping numbers, but more impressive when you consider his ability on special teams. Smith has been one of the leading tacklers on special teams in both of his previous stops.

    Whether or not Smith stays in the mix carrying the ball, he doesn’t really mind either way as he has grown accustomed to his role in the league.

    “I always enjoy the opportunity at either position,” Smith said. “I’ll do anything it takes to win whether it be playing fullback or halfback. I’m happy just being on the team, really.”

    Also figuring in the mix are rookie free agents John David Washington and Antoine Bagwell and NFL Europe exemption Fred Russell. Fullback Madison Hedgecock is also competing for a spot.

    “Madison is certainly going to show more as we work the running game and short yardage and he’s an excellent special teams player so it’s a great battle,” Linehan said. “I think the young backs are working very hard but they’ve still got a ways to go.”

    WEIGHT WATCHERS: Defensive tackle La’Roi Glover sat out Saturday’s morning practice after he lost too much weight during Friday’s practice.

    Linehan said that is constantly being monitored and if a player’s weight fluctuates too much during camp, he will be given the downtime to recover properly.

    “He dropped too much weight last practice,” Linehan said. “He got it back to where he was probably medically cleared, but it just didn’t make sense. You have got to manage guys that have extreme weight loss. He does it every year. He’s a guy that sweats a lot and loses a lot of water weight. He’s got three really good practices. He probably still lost some weight out there, coaching the young guys and trying to help so we thought we’d give him a break.”

    DAILY FILL OF HILL: The Tye Hill watch is now in day four as his missed practice count has reached four. In a familiar refrain, Linehan said he is keeping his focus on the task at hand.

    “I think it will get done,” Linehan said. “My focus hasn’t been on that. I’m not letting it sap my energy. When Tye does get done, he will be out here and we’ll be accelerating his progress. One thing is it has been great for these other guys to get the snaps they wouldn’t get if he was here and they are certainly taking advantage of it.”

    RAM BITS: Safety DeAndre Eiland made a few nice plays during team and passing drills Saturday, coming up with a pair of interceptions that drew praise from the coaching staff…Receiver Kevin Curtis continues to shine, catching anything and everything…For the second time in a row, the Rams were forced indoors for the night practice because of rain...The morning practice drew 1,255 people, the highest for a practice this season.

    Quote Originally Posted by RamsFan4ever
    RAM BITS: Safety DeAndre Eiland made a few nice plays during team and passing drills Saturday, coming up with a pair of interceptions that drew praise from the coaching staff
    I never knew we had him. But if he got those picks off of Bulger, That's good for DeAndre. So I'm guessing that he's going to battle for the FS starting job?
    Last edited by RamsFan4ever; -07-30-2006 at 09:43 AM.


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