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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
    MauiRam is offline Pro Bowl Ram
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    Tonight is crucial for Rams players on the bubble ..

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Thursday, September 1, 2011 12:05 am

    Some players must work at keeping their weight down. Rookie Jonathan Nelson, a safety from Oklahoma, has to work at keeping his up. As part of his training during the lockout, Nelson was on a strict diet to keep the weight on, and make sure it was "good," healthy weight.

    "I was eating steak every day," said Nelson, who converted from cornerback to safety with the Sooners. "I was eating stir-fry. Fruit. Vegetables. Yogurt with granola mixed in. Turkey bacon with eggs. Just a lot of healthy foods."

    Nelson did the cooking himself, but with the hectic nature of training camp and the preseason, he hasn't been able to stay on the diet since he's been at Rams Park. He plans to return to the diet once the preseason ends. The question is — will he need to?

    Nelson, a seventh-round draft pick, is fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster at a safety position stocked with veterans. Quintin Mikell, Craig Dahl and James Butler all have starting experience in the NFL. Second-year man Darian Stewart has been pushing Dahl for a starting spot this preseason.

    Where does that leave Nelson and fellow rookie draft pick Jermale Hines? Squarely on the bubble, and playing for their professional lives in tonight's preseason finale in Jacksonville. Kickoff is at 6:30 (St. Louis time) at EverBank Field.

    Nelson and Hines, a fifth-round pick from Ohio State, have had some good moments during preseason play. Hines had an interception in the exhibition opener against Indianapolis. Both have made sharp open-field tackles, been effective as blitzers and made plays on special teams.

    Nelson (5-10, 195) is more of a rangy free safety type; Hines (6-1, 218) is more of a strong safety type at his best playing in the box. But the math at the safety position is the same for both rookies.

    Only one of them will make the final 53 if the Rams keep only four safeties, and even so, it would be at the expense of Butler. The only way Hines and Nelson both make the final 53 is if the Rams keep five safeties. And again, the Rams would have to decide to part ways with Butler, who already has taken a pay cut at the start of camp.

    The current roster stands at 80 players, meaning 27 players must be cut by the deadline Saturday afternoon. That makes Jacksonville a make-it or break-it proposition for about three dozen Rams tonight.

    Nervous?

    "I'd lie if I said I wasn't," Nelson said. "I'm just out here trying to contribute to the team. Hopefully I can make a good enough impression on the coaches for them to go ahead and slot me in. So we'll just see how it goes."

    For his part, Hines said, "I'm not really focused on whether I'm going to make the team. I'm just going out there and trying to focus play by play."

    Hines and Nelson are among seven draft picks, and 21 rookies overall, still on the roster. They all have tried to make their case to the coaching staff without benefit of minicamps and OTAs in the spring because of the lockout. And under the new labor agreement, two-a-days have been banned, so they've also had fewer practices in training camp to get acclimated to the NFL and learn the offense or defense.

    "I've been making progress," Hines said. "It's starting to slow down a little. We're still installing some (defense), so some of the new things, you tend to mess up."

    Said Nelson, "The rookies, mentally, we're trying to absorb the playbook and everything. Any football player will tell you that if you don't know what you're doing out there then you can't play the way you want, because you're playing on your heels. ... Fortunately, the light bulb's starting to go off."

    Still, in terms of knowledge, Nelson likened the veterans to "professors with Ph.D.s."

    As for the rookies ... "We're like the students that don't really know anything," he said. "The vets understand the whole playbook — they understand the X's and O's. And the rookies are the guys that are really trying to soak this in."

    With more roster competition than he's had in his two previous seasons in St. Louis, this will be a tougher cut for coach Steve Spagnuolo. The fact that he and his staff haven't had as much time to evaluate the rookies makes deciding their fates even tougher. More projection is involved — projecting where a player might be in a month or two, a year or two.

    "Yeah, absolutely," Spagnuolo said. "You took the words right out of my mouth. If you are going to go with a young guy who is probably still not up to speed with the scheme and all the things you've got to do mentally, you've got to make that decision.

    "Now, the hard part is that it may be at the expense of somebody that knows what we're doing. But then it's still trying to win the first game and every game after that. So those are tough decisions."

    Nelson's diet — and his future — hang in the balance


  2. #2
    AvengerRam's Avatar
    AvengerRam is offline Moderator Emeritus
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    Re: Tonight is crucial for Rams players on the bubble ..

    I don't think Hines is really on the bubble. He'll make the team.

  3. #3
    ZiaRam is offline Registered User
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    Re: Tonight is crucial for Rams players on the bubble ..

    Ya I can see Hines making the team, I really like nelson but not sure with our depth there if he will get on the 53.

  4. #4
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    tomahawk247 is offline Registered User
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    Re: Tonight is crucial for Rams players on the bubble ..

    Stewart and Mikell starting, Dahl back up. Hines makes the team, Nelson on the PS.

  5. #5
    sosa39rams's Avatar
    sosa39rams is offline Registered User
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    Re: Tonight is crucial for Rams players on the bubble ..

    No chance Hines is on the bubble. He has been just as impressive as any other rookie. Matter of fact, I wouldn't mind seeing Nelson on the roster as well.

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