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  1. #1
    RamFan_Til_I_Die's Avatar
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    Safeties work on getting familiar

    Safeties work on getting familiar

    In a way, free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe got a two-for-one deal this offseason. The team's new head coach, Steve Spagnuolo, is a former defensive backs coach. And one of the first things Spagnuolo did here is bring in free agent James Butler to play alongside Atogwe in the Rams' secondary.

    Spagnuolo, as defensive coordinator, and Butler, as the strong safety, were key components in the New York Giants' 17-14 Super Bowl victory over unbeaten New England in February 2008. The Patriots had piled up an NFL-record 589 points during the regular season.

    "You always want to learn from those who know more than you and know better than you," Atogwe said between minicamp practices. "James is a Super Bowl champ; he quarterbacked the defense that held the New England Patriots. ... And I try to pick Coach Spags' brain every second I get."

    Butler not only brought a Super Bowl ring to Rams Park, he also brought a firm understanding of the scheme that Spagnuolo and coordinator Ken Flajole will deploy.

    "I've been in the system for two years and I can give (the other defenders) the inside and the out of the defense," Butler said.

    Atogwe has been starting for three years, all with veteran Corey Chavous his running mate at his strong safety. Chavous was released earlier this year, and Atogwe and Butler are acclimating to each other.

    "That's one of the reasons why I wanted to be here (in the spring), just to get used to the system, get used to the people I'll be playing with," Atogwe said. "You have to know what the man next to you is doing. ... I think as time goes on and we get more snaps together, we'll be really good."

    Butler began to familiarize himself with Atogwe by watching a tape put together by, of all people, Chavous, a devoted student of the game who enjoys dabbling in player evaluation.

    "He showed all his highlights in the last three years," Butler said. "O.J. makes a lot of plays, so hopefully I can come in and do my little thing. I think we should be OK."

    The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Atogwe, a third-round draft choice in 2005, has nabbed 16 interceptions during his three seasons as a first-teamer, the fourth-highest total among all NFL defensive backs in that span.

    Adept at punching the ball free, he also has forced 15 fumbles, and his tackle totals have steadily gone up: 91 in 2006, 94 in '07 and 109 (second on the team) last year.

    Butler, 6-3 and 215, picked off four passes in his two seasons as a starter with the Giants. The fifth-year pro originally was a free-agent signee out of Georgia Tech in 2005.

    Spagnuolo has noticed that Atogwe and Butler are virtually inseparable, on and off the field.

    "I see them together all the time," Spagnuolo said. The better they know each other, the better the defense will function, he added.

    "If those two are on the same page, that'll permeate to the rest of the defense," Spagnuolo explained. "If they're not on the same page, then everything goes south."

    The Rams have been south, as their 5-27 mark over the past two seasons indicates. It's time to head in the other direction, Atogwe said, pointing out that better play by the defensive backs could be a major factor in such a movement.

    "It's definitely a secondary that should be improving," he said. "A lot of us have been together for a number of years; we're not rookies anymore. I think each one of us has to challenge one another to get better, so as a unit we get better."

  2. #2
    GROUND DOG 39's Avatar
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    Re: Safeties work on getting familiar

    I like the sound of that?

  3. #3
    Keenum's Avatar
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    Re: Safeties work on getting familiar

    Functioning as a unit is huge, very glad to see our safeties developing chemistry.

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