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Thread: Talented pair try speed learning
Talented pair try speed learning
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Rookie linebackers Jon Alston (Stanford) and Tim McGarigle (Northwestern) both went to "brain" schools. Now, they're using that brainpower to make up for lost time at Rams Park.
Stanford and Northwestern are both on the trimester system, meaning their senior classes didn't graduate until June. Under NFL rules, rookies can't participate in any offseason activities with their new teams -- other than the post-draft minicamp -- until after their senior class graduates.
That rule put Alston and McGarigle a month behind the other rookies and kept them away from Rams Park for most of May and part of June.
"Being a linebacker and missing 25 practices, that's hard," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said.
In Alston's case, he didn't return to Rams Park until June 15, giving him just one week of workouts before the conclusion of the team's offseason program. He took home some film and some of the playbook, but quickly discovered that wasn't the same as being there.
"Being in that trimester system, it does make a difference," Alston said. "I didn't realize it would make as much of a difference as it has. Because those (organized team activities), and stuff like that, they're really like spring ball for college."
"When training camp started, I was pretty far behind," Alston said.
Making the learning curve more difficult for Alston, a third-round draft pick, is that he is learning several jobs: weakside linebacker in the base defense; dime linebacker when the Rams go to extra defensive backs; and a hybrid linebacker-defensive end position known as "buck" end.
"So he's got a lot on his plate," Haslett said. "He's very intelligent. He'll pick it up in time. I think in the long run, Jon's going to be a good player. I don't know if he'll help us right now this year as a defensive player."
When the Rams' drafted Alston, they weren't sure if they would play him at safety or linebacker, because he's a 'tweener size for the two positions at 6 feet and 221 pounds. But the staff quickly decided to use him at linebacker, where it could best take advantage of what he does best -- rush the passer from the edge -- and run down the ball, period.
Alston has Pisa Tinoisamoa and Dexter Coakley ahead of him on the depth chart. But the Rams probably will keep seven linebackers, so Alston shouldn't have to sweat a roster spot. Not as a first-day draft pick.
The same probably can't be said for McGarigle (pronounced mc-GARGLE), a seventh-round pick who's behind Will Witherspoon and Jamal Brooks at middle linebacker.
"Timmy is your classic middle linebacker," Haslett said. "He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he's tough. He's got good quickness. He's faster than you think. He's probably about a 4.6 guy.
"I think he has a chance to be pretty good. Will he be our backup? Right now, it's him or Brooks. I can't even make a call, to be honest with you.
"I think that'll separate itself here in the next couple weeks."
At Northwestern, McGarigle set an NCAA Division I-A record for career tackles with 545, a mark he has downplayed since getting drafted by the Rams.
"I've always said it: None of that carries over to the NFL," McGarigle said. "No one cares about that in this league. They care about how many tackles you make in the NFL. So, that's what's important now."
McGarigle has been slowed by a sore groin at times during training camp, but has kept practicing and playing. Alston suffered a hyper-extended knee late in Saturday's preseason game against Houston but was back on the practice field Monday.
"I think they played and looked much more comfortable this week (against Houston)," coach Scott Linehan said. "They're improving. I think Jon's shown that he as the ability to run sideline to sideline and make some tackles. He's got some production on defense."
But as backup rookie linebackers, Alston and McGarigle must earn their money on special teams this season if they make the 53-man roster.
"Both of them really need to step up and show a high level of consistency on special teams at this point," Linehan said.
McGarigle probably has played a little better than Alston on special teams.
"My biggest disappointment, personally, is I haven't progressed as fast as I want to on special teams," Alston said. "I take a lot of pride in it. I think the main thing is I'm trying to take so much in technically, that I'm not allowing my instincts to take (over). And until I get to that point, I won't be happy."
Countdown to cutdown
In camp: 10
Likely to make final roster: 7
Safe: Jon Alston, Brandon Chillar, Dexter Coakley, Raonall Smith, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Will Witherspoon
On the bubble: Jamal Brooks, Tim McGarigle
Probably not: Mike Goolsby, Drew Wahlroos
Roster trims: to 75 players by Aug. 29; to 53 players by Sept. 2.
Re: Talented pair try speed learning
I would cut Smith and Coakley and keep Brooks and McGargleWe will create such an onslaught against humanity that our enemies will take generations before ever thinking of attacking us again.
-- General William Jauro-Smythe Killan
before the battle of Tupiero Do
Re: Talented pair try speed learning
My 'Magnificent Seven' (so to speak) on LBs:
Dexter Coakley OR Drew Wahlroos.
Drew Wahlroos OR Dexter Coakley,
Last edited by RealRam; -08-22-2006 at 09:57 PM.