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  1. #1
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    As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'
    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    06/12/2008

    May 10, 2008 -- Rams head coach Scott Linehan addresses the team after the second day of practice during a Rams minicamp at the Russell Training Center in Earth City, Mo.
    (Chris Lee/P-D)

    On a blustery day in late March, when the Rams gathered for the start of their offseason conditioning program, the sting of a 3-13 record had dulled somewhat. But the ache of their wrenching 2007 season persisted.

    Now, as the team prepares for its pre-training camp break, the mind-set has been redirected, according to coach Scott Linehan.

    "It's easy to say, 'Hey, forget about last year, focus on this year.' But getting them to do it ..." Linehan said. "Our players have made a concerted effort to embrace that concept and really focus on what's good about getting to the 2008 season, and not on what we've got to do to make amends for the 2007 season."

    Attitudes began to adjust soon after the draft in April, Linehan said, and advanced during minicamp and four weeks of organized teams activities, which wrap up today at Rams Park.

    Wide receiver Drew Bennett noted the development of a "new energy." Quarterback Marc Bulger said, "We started clean; we're not going to look back. We're just going to move on and expect good things this year."

    Linehan acknowledged that without the support of former team owner Georgia Frontiere, he might not still be the man in change when the players report to Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., on July 24 for training camp. Frontiere died of cancer in January; her son, Chip Rosenbloom, and daughter, Lucia Rodriguez, now run the club.

    "I don't know what the phenomenon is, but there's just something about having a whole new lease on life when you get another shot at something," a noticeably upbeat Linehan said. "I'm very fortunate to be here talking about the 2008 season; I know that. So, my goal is to take advantage of it."

    He said he feels better about this team, at this point in the year, than his previous two here. He believes an offseason overhaul has strengthened his staff, particularly on offense, which has allowed him to enlarge his role.

    "Whether you have a great year or not, you've still always got to be ready to make those adjustments and not assume everything's good enough," Linehan said. "I've learned a lot about that from the head-coaching standpoint. Always before, I was in my own world as an offensive coordinator (at Minnesota and Miami), and just dealing with that part.

    "Now, when you have the overseeing part of everything as your role, you've got to step back more. And I've done that more this year ... because of the quality of the assistant coaches that I have doing their jobs. I feel much more confident that way."

    Linehan added that over the past 2 1/2 months, he has learned that his players "truly want to accomplish the goals that we've set. Sometimes you wonder, do we have the right mix of coaches, players, veterans, rookies, whatever?

    "This team ... first of all, it's a highly competitive team, but very much so built around high-character guys. I really think over the last two years we're improved that tremendously. You don't get there right away. That's a good place to start."

    Among more tangible developments during the offseason:

    Defensive end Chris Long, the No. 2 overall selection in the draft, started slowly but has made significant strides and should be solid as the starter on the right side.

    Leonard Little, the left defensive end, has made a strong recovery from toe surgery and is flashing signs of his old form.

    Free-agent pickup Jacob Bell is a steady performer at left guard and should help strengthen an offensive line that is rebounding from a raft of injures last season.

    Brett Romberg has proved to be a capable center and will be the front-runner for the starting job when camp opens.

    New offensive coordinator Al Saunders' offense is complex, with lots of motion and shifts, plus a few edgy wrinkles that should keep defenses guessing.

    Antonio Pittman is pushing Brian Leonard for the No. 2 running back job.

    Leonard, noticeably stronger after offseason surgery on both shoulders, should be more effective as a lead blocker.

    More depth is needed at linebacker, although seventh-round draftees Chris Chamberlain and David Vobora could help there.

    The secondary is a bit thin, both at safety and cornerback.

    The receiving corps has question marks: Can Drew Bennett flourish as the No. 2 wideout? Will Torry Holt's knee hold up? Can draftees Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton contribute right away? Will veteran Dane Looker hang on to his job?

    Linehan said this much is certain after last season's tumble:

    "The experience you gain, whether it's positive or negative, gives you peace of mind, knowing that you've been there before," he said. "It couldn't have been a whole heck of a lot worse. It's only going to get better."


  2. #2
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    Re: As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    Leonard Little, the left defensive end, has made a strong recovery from toe surgery and is flashing signs of his old form.
    This is good news.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  3. #3
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    Re: As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    If our secondary is thin.....then we missed the boat in the draft. Ahh, who knows....maybe Bartell FINALLY gets it.

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    Re: As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan View Post
    If our secondary is thin.....then we missed the boat in the draft. Ahh, who knows....maybe Bartell FINALLY gets it.
    Who backs up Chavous and Atogwe? Valid question.
    Will Hill stay healthy? Valid question.
    Has Wade refined his technique? Valid question.
    Will Brown stop hitting the bong? Valid question.

    But Bartell? Just not sure that the team's leading tackler at corner, the only corner to force a fumble (two actually), and the team's #3 pass defender (behind Atogwe & Brown) is the problem with the secondary.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    Who backs up Chavous and Atogwe? Valid question.
    Will Hill stay healthy? Valid question.
    Has Wade refined his technique? Valid question.
    Will Brown stop hitting the bong? Valid question.

    But Bartell? Just not sure that the team's leading tackler at corner, the only corner to force a fumble (two actually), and the team's #3 pass defender (behind Atogwe & Brown) is the problem with the secondary.
    I,m hoping Leonard is truly back to his old form, not just showing an occasional flash. The company line on Carriker is that he is doing fine, and purportly he's ahead of schedule on his rehab from a serious injury. In a perfect world, both Leonard and Carriker will be 100% by the start of the regular season. Will Chris Long actually be an upgrade over James Hall in his rookie year? Question mark there .. Ryan should be solid, and La Roi at least is healthy and should be able to contribute on passing downs. Bottom line: if our front 4 can finally generate some pressure on opposing QBs our young upcoming players will benefit immensely. If on average we force opposing QBs to throw even a half a second sooner than last year, the dividends will be bountiful. Sacks are a wonderful thing to behold (obviously not our QBs), but nevermind sacks - they're icing on the cake. If we can just force opposing quarterbacks to throw a half a second before they want to, good things will happen for our D. This could well be a breakout year for Bartell, and Otogwe should be even better - particularly if our front 4 can gain us that 1/2 second edge ..

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    Re: As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post

    The receiving corps has question marks: Can Drew Bennett flourish as the No. 2 wideout? Will Torry Holt's knee hold up? Can draftees Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton contribute right away? Will veteran Dane Looker hang on to his job?

    "
    Sounds like something at the end of SOAP.


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    Re: As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post
    Brett Romberg has proved to be a capable center and will be the front-runner for the starting job when camp opens.
    Maybe someone should tell Mr. Coats that the Rams didn't move The Cog back to center to sit behind Romberg. There's no doubt in my mind that Richie's the "frontrunner" and Romberg (if he even makes this team) is back-up material only.

    I'm kinda surprised that an experienced writer like Coats who follows the Rams on a continual basis wouldn't already know this.


    WHAT SAY YE?

  8. #8
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    Re: As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    Quote Originally Posted by RAMarkable View Post
    Maybe someone should tell Mr. Coats that the Rams didn't move The Cog back to center to sit behind Romberg. There's no doubt in my mind that Richie's the "frontrunner" and Romberg (if he even makes this team) is back-up material only.

    I'm kinda surprised that an experienced writer like Coats who follows the Rams on a continual basis wouldn't already know this.


    WHAT SAY YE?
    Let us not forget that Romberg has played well for us when healthy. He also beat out a very healthy Andy McCollum last year in camp. Bulger felt very comfortable with Brett as well. Richie will be given every opportunity to beat out Romberg -- bear in mind though that Setterstrom couldn't do it -- that competition ended before camp even started, and Setterstrom had a distinct size advantage over Brett as well. Setts is no dummy either, and practiced all off-season trying to master the center position. Since Brett "won" the starting job in camp last year, and typically a starter doesn't lose his job because of injury, Mr Coats was not amiss in listing Romberg as the front runner. It is inherently the coaches job to field the best 5 (O-line) players come the regular season. Healthy competition will make everyone better. Cogs is a mauler at guard, but can he handle the intricacies of Al's offense at the center position? Handling the line calls will be no easy task, and Richie is an excitable guy to say the least. Will he be able to keep his emotions in check enough to stay cool under fire, make the right line call, and perform smooth exchanges with Marc all the while? Or will he be erratic, jumpy, step on Marc's foot occasionally while executing the exchange? These are questions that the competition will ultimately answer ...

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    Re: As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    Quote Originally Posted by RAMarkable View Post
    Maybe someone should tell Mr. Coats that the Rams didn't move The Cog back to center to sit behind Romberg. There's no doubt in my mind that Richie's the "frontrunner" and Romberg (if he even makes this team) is back-up material only.

    I'm kinda surprised that an experienced writer like Coats who follows the Rams on a continual basis wouldn't already know this.


    WHAT SAY YE?
    That may well be the end result. However, in OTAs Romberg ran with the 1s and Cogs the 2s. I'm guessing that's what Coats is basing his statement on.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    I really hope the news about Leonard Little is true. He's a probowl caliber DE (during his prime). I really hope he's something similar to this. Chris Long isn't going to be a probowl DE this year, but he can learn behind someone who has been there. And if Little is top shape again, this helps out Long.

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    Re: As they work, Rams players sense a 'new energy'

    A lot of varibles in play...can the secondary come up big when they have too...will the o-line do its job...can Linehan lead the team...are the ghosts of 07 put to rest.

    Ideally most of these questions should have been answered in 07, but thats not the case.

    Too much rides on a few players. C. Long has to come up big to help cover for a weakened secondary--fact is if the QB is running for his life, few QBs can throw the ball deep. S. Jackson is the lynchpin to offensive success, but he is only as good as the line is in down hill blocking. Bulger can get the ball down range--but will he be able too--which begs the question can Bennette compliment Holt.

    What I figure is that the Rams have to come out of the gates firing on all cyclinders to build confidience which ought to include preseason victories. Early struggles puts Linehan back on the hot seat

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