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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    The Teen Squad:

    Jim Thomas, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/19/2008

    Where it takes the team Sunday, much less in the weeks, months, and years to come is anybody's guess. But the future begins at noon in the Edward Jones Dome for the Rams' wide receiver corps.

    Welcome to Generation Next: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, and Derek Stanley. They will join forces with 10-year vet Torry Holt as the Rams' top four wideouts against the Dallas Cowboys.

    Actually, scratch that Generation Next thing. Stanley has come up with his own nickname for the young trio: the Teen Squad.

    Granted, they're not teen-agers. Burton and Stanley are 23 years old; Avery is 24. The nickname comes from their jersey numbers: Burton wears No. 14; Avery, No. 17; and Stanley, No. 19.

    All three will be in uniform for the first time together Sunday in a regular season game.

    "Those young guys, they bring speed, they bring energy," coach Jim Haslett said. "Keenan, it's going to be nice to get him back, and I think 17 (Avery) gets better and better every day he's out there."

    As for Stanley, after being limited to special teams duty against Washington, Haslett says he'll see action at wide receiver against Dallas. Stanley was promoted from the practice squad Oct. 10.

    The youth movement at wide receiver is just the latest adjustment by Haslett in an effort to coax more production out of his 31st-ranked offense and more victories out of his 1-4 squad.

    Avery is the only member of the Teen Squad to see any appreciable duty this season. Promoted to the starting lineup two games ago, he scored a 37-yard touchdown on a running play against Buffalo on Sept. 28, and hauled in a 43-yard reception at Washington. The dramatic catch against the Redskins set up Josh Brown's 49-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Rams their first victory of the season, 19-17.

    Confident yet humble, Avery brushed aside the suggestion that his time has arrived as an NFL receiver.

    "I'm not saying that," he said. "I feel like it's our time as a team."

    Nonetheless, Avery's life already is changing, thanks to nothing more than those two big plays. For one, there's more interviews. For another, he's starting to get recognized in St. Charles where he lives whether it's on a trip to the mall or when the pizza man makes a delivery.

    "They tell me great catch, and stuff like that," Avery said.

    Lurking beneath the humility and the short answers, Avery can flash some personality and a little humor. For example, when asked what type of pizza he orders, Avery replied: "I get the 5-5-5. It's all about the discount."

    Avery, listed at 5-feet-11 and 184 pounds, eats three pizzas?

    "I probably eat 1 1/2 and save the rest," he said.

    Which isn't what Holt and the other veteran receivers want to hear. Earlier this season, Burton was caught in the act at Rams Park.

    "I was in there eating pizza one time," said Burton, who's back after missing three games following knee surgery. "Torry got on me. Dante (Hall) got on me. Eddie (Kennison) got on me. So I've got to eat healthy stuff. I'm not allowed to eat the pizza, the (fried) chicken and stuff like that."

    Already one of the most productive receivers in NFL history, Holt has become a Yoda figure for the Teen Squad, an elder statesmen that the youngsters try to follow in word and deed.

    "He's a Hall of Famer," Avery said. "He helps me with tips. Details in routes. I like to observe him a lot."

    Or as Burton put it, "This is (Holt's) craft, and he has mastered it well. He does it so fluidly and effortlessly. He told me, 'As you get up in age, sometimes the speed diminishes and the game gets a little bit faster. But you can always slow it down with your technique.'"

    Whether it's technique or nutrition, Holt doesn't want the young receivers to wait until the middle of their careers to figure out that a proper approach to the game can improve productivity and longevity.

    "If you have some veterans ahead of you that have done it correctly for a long time, pick their brains and try to do it now as a rookie or a second-year player so that can help you as your career goes on," Holt said. "That's all we're trying to say. (Burton) probably left here and had some pizza on the side or something. Probably had one ordered before he got home."

    No, apparently that would be Avery with his discounts. But the quicker Avery learns to put his 4.3-second speed to the greatest advantage on the field, the better off Holt and the entire Rams offense will be.

    "He's fast, man," Burton said of Avery. "He's fast. You can't teach speed."

    Elite speed like Avery's makes life more difficult for opposing cornerbacks.

    "You get guys backing up right away; the DBs are backing up and kind of off the line," said Billy Devaney, the Rams' executive vice president of player personnel. "With any speed receiver, you've got to respect that first and foremost. You've got to start backpedaling quickly. You have to keep a cushion, because these (speed) guys can close the cushion real quick."

    Having a guy like Avery at wide receiver also helps the running game, because safeties are more hesitant to crowd the box, cornerbacks are less aggressive in run support, and the linebackers and secondary have to defend the entire field.

    That's why Devaney and the Rams made Avery the first wide receiver chosen in the draft, even though many other teams apparently had him rated lower.

    "You remember at the time (leading up to the draft), we kept talking about adding juice to the offense," Devaney said.

    Although not as fast as Avery, the Rams saw some "juice" in Burton as well, drafting him in the fourth round, or two rounds later than Avery. Stanley was drafted in 2007, or before Devaney was hired by St. Louis. But Devaney sees him in the same mold.

    "They give us a chance to make plays," Devaney said. "I'm just as excited about Stanley getting on the field and making plays. Those guys give us some juice."

    On Sunday, the juice is loose.

  2. #2
    UtterBlitz's Avatar
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    Re: The Teen Squad:

    Nice article.

    I love it. The teen squad feeling the force and yoda, aka Torry, feeding them some words of advice.

    I am sure these guys can eat some pizza with the amount of calories that they burn.

  3. #3
    eldfan's Avatar
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    Re: The Teen Squad:

    Im excited to see all these wr.s on the field maybe we can step up the O.

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