Stanley Standing Out
Sunday, August 12, 2007
By Nick Wagoner
In the opening days of his first NFL training camp, Derek Stanley took time away from his downtime between practices to chat with a woman and her sons at the team hotel. The mother thought so much of Stanley that she passed along a note for coach Linehan about the young receiver’s kindness.
So, when it comes to something like competition for a roster spot, Stanley won’t be holding grudges, but he won’t be backing down, either.
“I know what I need to do day in and day out to give myself a chance,” Stanley said. “I have to know my responsibilities, alignments and assignments and make a name for myself when I get opportunities.”
While Stanley is quick to acknowledge that he is in a difficult battle for a roster spot, he is just as quick to praise his teammates. By all accounts, Stanley is one of the most generous and humble newcomers on the team.
For most of camp, any and all attention for a potential sixth receiver spot on the final roster has been focused on a battle between Marques Hagans and Dominique Thompson.
The common logic said that duo has been in the system for at least a year, has a working knowledge of the offense and knows what receivers coach Henry Ellard wants. But the forgotten man in all of that was Stanley.
After an impressive preseason debut in which he caught four passes for 61 yards and did some solid special teams work, consider Stanley noticed.
To many, Stanley’s standout performance came as a surprise, but not for Linehan. Linehan is quick to point out that it’s not as though Stanley is some long shot street free agent.
After all, the Rams thought highly enough of Stanley to use a seventh-round draft choice on him. While that isn’t necessarily the highest honor a player can get, it spoke volumes for what Stanley accomplished at tiny, Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater.
“I don’t know if it was surprise,” Linehan said. “I think we have always felt that he has that ability. I think that the game not seeming too big for him was encouraging and he did a nice job of coming in and doing some returning and making some plays as a receiver.”
It would have been easy for Stanley to be overwhelmed in his first preseason game, or, really, in camp altogether. Playing his college football where he did meant Stanley never had the opportunity to play in front of huge crowds at a stadium like the Swamp in Florida or the Big House in Michigan.
But Stanley showed no signs of fear or worry in his first live NFL action.
“It’s beyond special for me,” Stanley said. “Coming from a D3 school, to be able to walk out and see 60-70,000 fans in the stands with the music going and playing with Steven Jackson and Torry Holt is a tremendous feeling.”
The diminutive receiver has never seen his task as one that is too daunting. He says he has excellent role models around in the likes of Holt and Isaac Bruce. And he has spent extra time with Dante Hall, another smaller receiver/returner who has more than made a name for himself in the NFL.
“It’s been great for me to be able to learn from him and see the things he does that make him a great player,” Stanley said. “I look forward to learning more from him and the other receivers on this team.”
If Stanley has any regrets thus far in his first NFL training camp, it’s that an officials’ error cost him a touchdown on his first professional catch. Late in Friday’s preseason opener, a pass intended for Stanley bounced off the arm of Vikings safety Tank Williams.
The alert Stanley caught the ball before it hit the ground and had what appeared to be a touchdown. But the officials ruled the ball dead, saying it hit the ground and not Williams’ arm.
After a review, Stanley was awarded the catch, but not the forward progress.
“It was a heck of a heads up play,” Linehan said. “A lot of rookies would have just stopped right there and not kept playing. He just kept playing and it ended up being a completed pass. I wish they wouldn’t have blown it dead. That would have been a great touchdown to put in the books. He showed me something.”
Even when the ball isn’t in play, Stanley continues to find ways to make an impression.
CENTER OF ATTENTION: Brett Romberg got the start at center against the Vikings in the preseason opener. For those that want to read into that some sort of hidden meaning, Linehan says forget about it. At least for now.
“Not until after they started two games,” Linehan said. “We will start McCollum in this (next) game and do the rotation we did in this game. Based on Brett finishing the year as the starting center and Andy coming back off injury and not knowing where he was going to be, we decided that going into training camp. I think as we get into the preseason, especially after this game, I think there will be a clearer picture as to who is leading.”
Linehan has remained steadfast in his stance that neither player will claim the job until deep into the preseason and maybe not until after all four preseason games have been played.
UP TO SPEED: A year ago in the preseason, Jon Alston was a man without a position and little understanding of Jim Haslett’s defense.
It wasn’t really his fault as NCAA rules prohibited him from joining the Rams until school was out at Stanford. So far in this camp, though, Alston has begun to show signs of settling in as an NFL linebacker.
“He is running around, 100 miles per hour, like he can because he has got that ability,” Linehan said. “Now that he is playing fast, which is different from a year ago, he is not analyzing things. He is getting to the ball and getting around the ball. We have got to get him consistently getting the guy down. He will make a really nice open-field tackle like he did on the scramble.”
RAM BITS: In a bit of a surprise, the Rams practiced outside Sunday afternoon despite blazing heat well above the 100 degree mark…the practice schedule for the rest of the week remains up in the air, but indications are that there will be another open practice at some point before training camp officially closes on Friday…The Rams made a roster move Sunday afternoon, adding cornerback Harrison Smith and releasing defensive end Ryan Willis...Monday's practice is open to the public and the rest of the week's schedule will go on a day by day basis.
Re: Stanley Standing Out
Really impressed by both Alston and Stanley after watching the pre-season game against the Vikings. I feel that these are two stars in the making for the Rams.
Jon Alston on defense was solid and Derek Stanley is nice kick returner/ WR who's sure to give Dante hall a Run for his money.
Re: Stanley Standing Out
If Hall can't play in the next game, and Stanley continues to perform well, competition, anyone?
Heck, if Stanley continues playing well, we gotta make room for him. Special teams returns have not been a strength ever since Tony Horne. Let's make them a strength, it'll just get our offense closer to that endzone!
Re: Stanley Standing Out
Originally Posted by Keenum
I couldn't agree more. As I was watching the game, which I've already re-run again since the live airing, I'm thinking the same thing. This guy has talent. He looks really good returning the ball on kickoffs. I know it's only one game, and he was facing bench-warmers, but he seems to have a feel for the game. He seems to have great football vision, sees the blocking, the holes, and hits 'em. He doesn't look very physical, and needs a little more bulk, but I'll be watching him closely in the remaining preseason games. I think he's a "keeper".