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Secondary Situation a Familiar Sight
By Nick Wagoner
For those that have a short memory there is no doubt that the Rams’ secondary situation looks bleak right now. But for those who can hop in the way back machine and return to preseason circa 2003, there is clearly light at the end of the tunnel for the defensive backfield.
With cornerback Jerametrius Butler out for the season because of a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, a rookie (Jerome Carter) starting at strong safety and a veteran (Adam Archuleta) coming off back problems moving to the more coverage-oriented free safety spot, things don’t look so great for the secondary.
But it wasn’t that long ago that the Rams went through a similar situation. In fact, the similarities between this year’s secondary and that season’s group are almost eerie.
“I don’t think our secondary has ever been stable since I got here,” Archuleta said. “We have always had guys in and out of the lineup and guys getting hurt. There’s always been a lot of turnover there. It’s kind of the way it’s been here for the past few years. It’s something we have to deal with. Guys have got to step up. We have a lot of talented guys back there.”
That isn’t to say that this year’s group will be as productive as the group that helped the Rams lead the NFL in takeaways with 46, but it does provide hope for a group that is already facing plenty of scrutiny.
Rewind the tape to that 2003 season for a moment. The Rams were coming off a disappointing year in which they finished 7-9 and had just 12 interceptions. Though the reasons for the team’s struggles that year can be debated to include anything from injuries to quarterbacks controversies, one thing clearly needed improvement and that was the defense.
Heading into the preseason, St. Louis seemed set with Aeneas Williams and Travis Fisher at cornerback and Kim Herring and Adam Archuleta at safety. The Rams had added plenty of defensive backs in that year’s draft by grabbing Kevin Garrett, DeJuan Groce and Shane Walton. Butler was supposed to provide depth.
But before they knew it, the Rams had to go into scramble mode. Herring broke his arm on Aug. 23 in a preseason game against Buffalo. Jason Sehorn suffered a broken foot and Williams was battling turf toe and was recovering from a surgically repaired ankle.
Things were so bad that Coach Mike Martz said there really is no similarity between that year and this season.
“We were trying to manufacture something back there in 2003,” Martz said. “We have got plenty of players back there that we depend on here. In 2003 we had to invent them. It was very difficult. We have got the depth and some guys that can develop and all those things.”
The group that once seemed set all of a sudden was looking to the youngsters to not only help out, but become starters. St. Louis cut Herring because of the injury and traded to get Rich Coady back.
Williams moved to free safety and Butler stepped into a starting role. Butler’s addition to the starting lineup came as a mild surprise considering where he was before that. Martz entrusted Butler with the job soon after the injuries.
“When he finished as a rookie he was finishing in an upward trend,” Martz said at the time. “And then some things happened to him last year. It just wasn’t good. There were a lot of things wrong in his situation. We sat down and talked to him in the offseason. He had to understand that we believe in him No. 1. Particularly with a young player there is a lot of doubt. From the minicamp on he’s been terrific. He’s matured and he’s playing with a great deal of confidence now.”
The confidence in the young, unproven cornerbacks more than paid off as the Rams’ defense became a turnover machine. Butler had four interceptions and forced a pair of fumbles, Fisher had four picks, scoring on two of them and Williams added four interceptions of his own.
St. Louis finished 12th in pass defense and had 24 interceptions as the defense scored five touchdowns.
While Butler and Fisher had excellent seasons, Garrett and Groce watched from the sidelines. Garrett played in nine games, but only made a difference on special teams. Groce played in all 16 games, making 15 tackles with one interception.
Groce said that experience is paying off now as he prepares to step in for Butler.
“The coaches were talking about how you never know when it’s going to happen because your time may come,” Groce said. “All of a sudden it came real quick. I think getting thrown in the fire as a young player helps out a lot. It gets you to prepare for any situation so having that experience has helped me to go through this situation.”
Although the injuries haven’t been as plentiful or substantial, the Rams are still preparing to rely on some young, unproven talent in the secondary. As it stands, St. Louis is looking to have Fisher and Groce as the starting corners with Archuleta and Carter at safety.
Like 2003, though, the backups are young and inexperienced. Rookies Ronald Bartell (cornerback) and Oshiomogho Atogwe (safety) figure to get plenty of experience in the secondary. Mike Furrey is learning to play safety after sliding over from receiver and Michael Stone and Kevin Garrett are still relatively inexperienced.
As the only Ram still playing his position in the starting lineup from last season, Fisher readily acknowledges the similarities between that season and this one.
“We led the league in takeaways that year,” Fisher said. “A lot of people doubted us and it’s still the same way. But hey, it’s all about coming out every day and competing. You can’t improve without putting in the effort every day. We did that then and I think we will do that now.”
Re: Secondary Situation a Familiar Sight
I see we can add a positive note to any area of concern. We will see who comes out to play soon enough.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
-08-20-2005 #3sbramfan Guest
Re: Secondary Situation a Familiar Sighta rookie (Jerome Carter) starting at strong safety and a veteran (Adam Archuleta) coming off back problems moving to the more coverage-oriented free safety spot, things don’t look so great for the secondary.
I think moving Arch to SS was fine as it's a similar position to his natural linebacker spot, especially the way the rams used him up near the line of scrimmage a lot. But Free Safety is a whole nother story. I guess we'll get a look at this vs. San Diego.
I like Carter and OJ as they seem good sized, like they could play SS, but still not sure Arch is the right guy for the FS spot. Furry would almost seem better fit with his speed.
Last edited by sbramfan; -08-20-2005 at 12:14 PM.
Re: Secondary Situation a Familiar SightOriginally Posted by By Nick Wagoner
I think Wagoner's observation about similarity is valid and it isn't necessarily an idictment of anyone or their methods. Why M&M felt compelled to contradict him despite the obvious seems to say something about other similarities still being apparent ...