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  1. #1
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    Toughness Part of Haslett's Fiber

    Toughness Part of Haslett's Fiber
    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    For as difficult as last season’s defensive performance was to swallow for the Rams, it paled in comparison to the ups and downs that 2006 provided for new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

    Haslett endured one long season as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, as his team played “home” games in three cities and struggled to one of the poorest records in the league.

    For years, Haslett has been viewed as one of the toughest coaches in the league and last year was the ultimate test of that character trait. That was just one of the reasons that Haslett was the primary target to become the new defensive coordinator for new Rams coach Scott Linehan.

    “I think that obviously was a big factor for me,” Linehan said. “I don’t know that many people have gone through the ups and downs as a head coach like Jim. I mean that respectfully. The people there on the inside know how grueling and tough the year was for that entire organization and for Jim and his staff and their families; he really held it together.”

    Now it is Haslett’s job to instill that toughness into a revamped and reworked defensive unit that struggled last season on its way to finishing 30th in the league in total defense.

    “I want our defense to be tough-minded, I want our defense to be physical, but I also want them to be good technique guys and I want them to be good tacklers,” Haslett said.

    In that vein, the Rams made defense their top priority heading into the offseason. Joining Haslett on the staff are veteran assistants Rick Venturi (linebackers) and Willy Robinson (secondary), among others.

    With the coaching staff in place, the Rams turned their attention to personnel. After adding linebacker Will Witherspoon, defensive tackle La’Roi Glover, safety Corey Chavous and cornerback Fakhir Brown in free agency and cornerback Tye Hill, defensive tackle Claude Wroten and linebacker Jon Alston in the draft, it’s entirely possible the Rams will have seven new starters on defense in 2006.

    “I think the four guys we brought in as free agents, No. 1, they're all tough,” Haslett said. “I'm not saying we were lacking any of that, but they're tough individuals, they're tough-minded, they love football and they are going to be good for this team.”

    At the center of that revamp are four key players that Haslett sees as the potential backbone for his defense.

    The first piece of the process for Haslett was getting Glover, whom he coached in New Orleans and is capable of playing both tackle spots and providing veteran leadership for the young tackles on the team.

    Glover’s presence could be especially important in the development of Jimmy Kennedy, who is penciled in as the starting nose tackle.

    “La'Roi already has done that with Jimmy Kennedy,” Haslett said. “They've formed a good relationship. La'Roi is a guy who doesn't care about anything but winning games. The guy has been to the Pro Bowl six times, and you'd think he'd have a little bit of ego, but he has none of that. He's the ultimate team player. He's tough as nails. He practices hard. He works hard. I think it is going to filter down to the whole team, not just Claude (Wroten) or Jimmy Kennedy.”

    After getting Glover, the Rams looked for a talented middle linebacker to be the centerpiece of the defense. Witherspoon came aboard.

    Wiherspoon’s speed and athleticism made him the team’s top free agent target as evidenced by the fact that he virtually wasn’t allowed to leave St. Louis without signing a contract. It didn’t hurt that Witherspoon saw the direction Haslett wanted to go with the defense and liked how he fit in.

    “I played against him for several years and I know that he has a great defensive mind,” Witherspoon said. “He’s one of those coaches who you can shoot the breeze with, but when it comes down to business, he’s like, ‘Let’s get down to what we need to and get the job done.’ I think that he definitely has a good approach, definitely has some good ideas, great scheme and has everything in its place to make this organization better.”

    Turning toward the draft, the Rams honed in on Hill, a cornerback who caught the eye of the defensive coaches.. One of the best cover corners he had seen in some time, Haslett said.

    Hill said this weekend he appreciated Haslett’s confidence in him and plans on doing his best to earn a starting job.

    “I know what he expects,” Hill said. “He is expecting me to be a tough, aggressive corner that can cover. That’s what he is expecting of me and what I expect of myself.”

    As it stands, defensive end Leonard Little and weakside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa are the only players from last year’s defense that seem like slam dunks to be starters heading into the season. That means there will be some hotly contested positions in training camp.

    “We still have question marks like everybody else in this league,” Haslett said. “Can Witherspoon play in the middle? I think he can. He did it before. Can Pisa play better? Can (Brandon) Chillar stay healthy, because I thought he improved from year one to year two very well? We're going to move Leonard around. He's been on the left side his whole career. Can he handle it? Can Anthony Hargrove take his game to the next level? Can O.J. (Atogwe) step in and be the starter (at free safety), or is it (Jerome) Carter?”

    All of those questions will come down to how those players adjust to Haslett’s system. Haslett plans on being aggressive with his scheme, attacking opponents and trying to create havoc. He said there will be elements of the 3-4 defense mixed in with the basic 4-3 sets and there are plenty of ways to be creative with the talent in place.

    Still, at the core of it all will be one basic fundamental that Haslett believes will be the key to building the defense in his mold.

    “I don't think it was a good tackling football team last year,” Haslett said. “We're going to try to be a good tackling football team. I don't know if you can teach somebody to be tough. I don't know if you can teach somebody to be fast. I think you can teach somebody to be a good tackler.”

    RamsFan16

  2. #2
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    Re: Toughness Part of Haslett's Fiber

    Ahhhhhhhh.....

    Ram Tough !!!!!!!!!

    Maineram - :clanram:
    and out of the ashes rise ...The Breakfast Club !

  3. #3
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    Re: Toughness Part of Haslett's Fiber

    hey whats up with all these articles by this guy..... i ve seen like 5 articles in two days from this guy

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    Re: Toughness Part of Haslett's Fiber

    Quote Originally Posted by Haslett
    We're going to move Leonard around. He's been on the left side his whole career. Can he handle it?
    I know there's been a lot of speculation regarding moving around DEs and OLBs, but this is the first time I've actually seen or heard Haslett say LL will be mobile in some sets.

    Should be interesting to say the least.
    "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

  5. #5
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    Re: Toughness Part of Haslett's Fiber

    We got alot of press on the Saints here in Austin due to them playing a few games in San Antonio and let me tell you, Haslett never made one excuse about the situation. He was always upfront saying, "what's our choices? We don't have any. This is our situation, and we still have to go out and play. It's what we do."

    The man is tough, and we really haven't had any spirit on the defense since Fletcher left........(tx's moment of Fletcher silence). Look around the NFL at successful defenses and you will see at least one emotional leader on the squad. I look for Witherspoon and Glover to handle that area this year on the field, but watch how the players respond to Haslett's intensity. Should be fun.

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    Re: Toughness Part of Haslett's Fiber

    7 new starters on the D!!! WOW!!

    Pisa, little, Atogwe and Hargrove? stays as starter

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