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Shuffle on Rams "D" moves forward, gets better
By Jeff Gordon
ONLINE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Step by step, Scott Linehan and Jim Haslett are moving their favorites into key places in the Rams defense.
The latest move came Tuesday, when the Rams finally got around to letting cornerback Jerametrius Butler go. Linehan was never going to bring him to training camp – not after burying him last season, even after injuries stacked up.
(Had the Rams employed a mascot last season, he might have seen significant action against Butler. J.B. was to be used as an absolutely, positively last resort.)
Butler tried to speed up the process by boycotting off-season team activities, but the team was never going to keep him and his $2 million for this season.
What happened here? Butler got into the coaching staff’s doghouse and never could escape.
The media could never figure out why the new staff had such an aversion to Butler. When healthy, he played at a near-Pro Bowl level and convinced the Rams to match a six-year, $15 million offer sheet he got from the Redskins.
But the new staff never took to Butler . . . so the transition from the Martz Era to the Linehan Era continues.
The coaches like cornerback Tye Hill, their top draft pick from a year ago. They didn’t like Travis Fisher, an injury-prone Martz favorite who moved on to Detroit as a free agent after last season.
The coaches like cornerback Ron Bartell, who can also play safety and stand out on special teams. The addition of hard-hitting free agent Todd Johnson as a back-up safety should allow Bartell to focus on his cover skills heading into camp.
The coaches didn’t like undersized cornerback/punt returner DeJuan Groce, who relocated to New Orleans last season. Haslett loves veteran cornerback Fakhir Brown, a player he had in New Orleans.
He recently made the CBS Sportsline list of most underrated players in the league. “Brown is a much better corner than he's given credit for being,” that web site observed.
The coaches like the raw speed of third-round pick Jonathan Wade, who could grow into a key role with this unit. The coaches also believe free agent addition Mike Rumph and Lenny Walls add enough competitive depth at the cornerback.
The unit moves on.
It’s hard to argue what Linehan and Co. is doing as they head into Year 2. They took a look at veteran nose tackle Sam Adams, but then stuck their plan of starting first-round pick Adam Carriker in the middle of the defensive line.
Adams, 34, took a physical at Rams Park but ended up signing with the Broncos instead. New Denver defensive coordinator Jim Bates likes super-sized nose tackles and Adams, a three-time Pro Bowler, played for Broncos defensive line coach Bill Johnson in college.
“Coach Bates and (Johnson) have a system that lets defensive linemen use their ability,” Adams told the Denver Post. “It's a great scheme to be in.
“Coach Johnson is one of the reasons I decided to be a Bronco; I owe a lot to him. But it's just everything about the Denver Broncos -- Coach (Mike) Shanahan, Coach Bates, Coach Johnson, an organization that does a good job of getting players who can continue the winning tradition, the fans, the city, all of that.”
The Rams took a long look at Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, but could never settle on a trade price with Carolina. Then they drafted Carriker and fell in love with the former Nebraska star.
Now the Panthers say they will keep Jenkins, although agent Drew Rosenhaus is still trying to stir something up.
“I don't have any insight on it, but what I've heard is he's definitely still on the market and for the right price, they would trade him,” Rosenhaus told the Charlotte Observer last month. “So it'll be interesting to see what happens.”
Yes, it will. For now, the Rams staff is showing great confidence in their rookies – Carriker, Wade, plus big run-stopping defensive tackles Clifton Ryan and Keith Jackson, two later picks in the most recent draft.
Fans should notice an appreciably difference in this defensive unit as it heads toward its second training camp with Linehan and Haslett. And that’s a good thing.
Re: Shuffle on Rams "D" moves forward, gets better
When healthy, he played at a near-Pro Bowl level...
...and convinced the Rams to match a six-year, $15 million offer sheet he got from the Redskins....
The fact that the Redskins offered him money says more about them than it does Butler.
He'll end up somewhere and probably be a decent enough player, but he wasn't physical enough for Haslett and he wasn't a world beater to begin with. So, Gordon can stuff the whole "pro Bowl" crap...because that's what it is...crapola.
PSA, brought to you by chiguy.
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