A totally new look on defense
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, May. 10 2006
Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett flinched a bit Tuesday when informed
that coach Scott Linehan, in the days leading up to the NFL draft, had jokingly
referred to him as "the lobby king."
"We had 10 draft picks, and five were offense and five were defense," Haslett
pointed out. "So it came out even."
True. But three of the team's first four picks were defenders - cornerback Tye
Hill in the first round, and defensive tackle Claude Wroten and linebacker Jon
Alston in the third. Plus, the bulk of the veteran players the Rams have signed
in the offseason also play defense.
So, Haslett must have been effective in petitioning Linehan and the
front-office brass for some new personnel with which to rebuild the defense.
That unit sagged to 30th in the 32-team league last season, when the Rams went
"I think the whole defense has to play better than they played the last couple
of years, especially on the run game," Haslett said. "I want our defensive team
to be tough-minded and physical. But I also want them to be good (at)
technique, smart, and I want them to be good tacklers. And I don't think it was
a good tackling football team last year."
That was just one of the defense's problems in 2005, as the Rams yielded more
yards on the ground than every other team in the NFC.
Defensive ends Leonard Little and Anthony Hargrove are expected to regain their
jobs, Pisa Tinoisamoa isn't likely to be uprooted at weakside linebacker, and
third-year pro Brandon Chillar appears to have the edge at strongside linebacker.
The seven other spots could be filled with new starters by opening day - Sept.
2 vs. Denver.
Gone are tackles Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis, safeties Adam Archuleta and
Mike Furrey, linebacker Chris Claiborne and defensive end Tyoka Jackson. In
addition to the draftees, new arrivals include tackle La'Roi Glover,
linebackers Will Witherspoon and Raonall Smith, safety Corey Chavous and
cornerback Fakhir Brown.
"The people that we brought in are quality guys," Haslett said. "They're tough
individuals, they're tough-minded, they love football, and they're going to be
good for this team." Among the holdovers, Haslett said he's detected a
determination to pry themselves from near the bottom of the league's
"From being around them the last couple of months, I think first of all it's a
smart football team defensively; they're quick learners," he said. "I think
they want to do everything right, from what I've seen. They want to do things
to please the coach and to please themselves."
Haslett, 50, is working just one side of the ball for the first time since
2000, when he was hired as the New Orleans Saints' head coach. He was fired
Jan. 2 - the same day the Rams dismissed Mike Martz. Previously, Haslett, a
former NFL linebacker, had been a defensive coordinator with the Saints (1996)
and the Pittsburgh Steelers (1997-99).
The transition back to coordinator has been "all right," Haslett said. "I
struggled a little bit early with it, but I think for the most part it's gone
well. I just like coaching football. It doesn't make a difference what level
it's at or what you're doing. I just like being around the players and working
And, despite his distaste for the term "lobby king," he said he likes working
"The reason I came here is because of Scott. I think Scott's got a good feel
for this organization and this team, and has done a great job up to this
point," Haslett said. "I think his best quality is, he's extremely smart. I
think that'll show once we get going."
Linehan said he remains interested in veteran defensive linemen Grady Jackson
and Jason Fisk, both free agents. "We're still talking to those guys. It's just
a matter of making (a deal) work," he said. ... Despite a report out of Miami,
Linehan said the Rams have not discussed a front-office position with Dolphins
general manager Randy Mueller