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Rams Postcard

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St. Louis Rams
St. Louis | July 28, 2006


Marc Bulger ranks sixth in NFL history with a 90.6 career passing history.
AP


In St. Louis, at Rams Park.

Here's the Drill
1. When tailback Steven Jackson was asked about the difference between new coach Scott Linehan and Mike Martz, Jackson joked that the team actually practices run plays now. Jackson is like a kid on Christmas Eve because Linehan will have a more balanced attack to keep defenses guessing, as he did as Dolphins offensive coordinator last season. Linehan is anything but a conservative play-caller. Tight ends -- an afterthought in St. Louis for the past few seasons -- will also benefit. The Rams drafted ends Joe Klopfenstein (second round) and Dominique Byrd (third round) to be factors in the offense.

2. Marc Bulger is the most underrated quarterback in the NFL. He never cracks anyone's top 10 list, despite a career rating of 90.6 that's sixth-best of all time. The problem is that he doesn't go long without injuring his throwing shoulder (four times in the past two years), so it was prudent for the Rams to acquire Gus Frerotte, who played under Linehan in Miami and Minnesota. Best-case scenario: Bulger (2,297 passing yards in only eight games last year) stays healthy after strengthening his shoulder. But the wily and strong-armed Frerotte won nine of 15 starts in Miami last season and would be a solid replacement.

3. It will be intriguing to see how much No. 3 wideout Kevin Curtis cuts into Isaac Bruce's time now that Bruce is healthy. Last season Curtis had 80 catches for 801 yards and six touchdowns to finish as St. Louis's second-leading receiver (behind All-World Torry Holt). Partly because of injuries, Bruce, 33, had his lowest production (36 catches, 525 yards) since 1998. Linehan will utilize the run more this season, which may mean fewer balls to St. Louis' wideouts. And when Linehan does emphasize the deep pass, Curtis, as perhaps St. Louis' fastest wideout, may be the main target.

4. The Rams won't go anywhere without improving their defense. So the acquisitions of defensive tackle LaRoi Glover and linebacker Will Witherspoon are significant. Glover will bolster the run defense, which was the NFL's worst. And Witherspoon, strong against the run or pass, will switch to middle linebacker after being overshadowed in Carolina. But one of the biggest additions is defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who will infuse his unit with toughness and discipline.

5. St. Louis' secondary was in shambles last season as cornerbacks Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler finished on the injured reserve. But the club suddenly has a heated competition at cornerback after drafting Tye Hill 15th and signing Fakhir Brown as a free agent. The diminutive Hill is expected to start at one cornerback spot, and the winner among Butler (nine interceptions over two seasons), Brown and Fisher will make St. Louis' pass defense respectable.

Factoid
Since 1995 the Rams are 38-0 in games when at least one of its tailbacks produces 100 rushing yards or more.

Fantasy Geek Note
Jackson is poised for a monster season after rushing for 1,046 yards and scoring eight touchdowns behind an inconsistent line. He has it all: power, speed, pass-catching. And now he has a coach who will run more. The only potential drawback is that the Rams will face defenses that allowed an average of only 105 rushing yards.

Camp Confidential
Despite Martz's bitter departure from the Rams, his framed picture remains in the lobby leading to the practice facility. Martz's familiar cocksure look is next to a picture of a smiling Dick Vermeil. After some maneuvering during the offseason -- with the addition of Tony Softli to oversee the personnel department -- St. Louis' management is no longer dysfunctional. Jay Zygmunt, president of football operations, remains the top man in the front office, which includes key members Charley Armey and Lawrence McCutcheon