Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ron Crissey, Richmond, Va.: How healthy is Richie Incognito at this point? How is his rehab going? If he is healthy, shouldn't he make a great contribution to the interior of the offensive line?

NW: As I reported yesterday, Richie appears to be in excellent shape. He has shed about 30 pounds and certainly looks the part. He says he is close to 100 percent and will be ready for the first mini-camp at the end of April. However, since I haven't been able to see him work out or practice, I have no idea how close he is to being ready. All we can go on is his own assessment. Clearly, he has been working hard to lose the weight and be in shape when he arrives. As for his contribution, I'm not sure what kind of contribution to expect. By the time the season starts, it will have been nearly three years since he played in a football game. How can anyone know how that will work out? Obviously, he has plenty of talent, but in this situation the best approach is to just wait and see how he recovers.

Dusty Punches, Tulsa, Okla.: Do you think Trev Faulk will have a chance, or deserves a chance, to be the other starting linebacker?

NW: I truly believe that Trev Faulk is one of the more unheralded players on the team. He is well respected by his teammates because of how thoughtful he is, his tenacity on special teams and the battle he went through to get where he is. He performed admirably in his chance as the starting middle linebacker last year, but obviously the team wanted an upgrade and got it in Will Witherspoon. I believe Faulk is on the verge of being a solid to good player at linebacker in the league in addition to his contributions on special teams. That said, the only remaining starting spot at linebacker is on the strong side. I believe if Faulk had to play outside, he'd be more suited to that side than the weak side. However, Faulk is just a bit limited athletically to be the pass rushing type of linebacker you want on the strong side. He should certainly get a shot to compete for a starting job, but there's no guarantees it will happen. I do fully expect Trev to get a shot to vie for a starting spot and he will be on the field in certain situations. If, for example, the team goes to some more 3-4 sets, I believe Trev could be excellent as an inside 'backer in that set next to Witherspoon.

Russell Huffer, Phoenix: I know there's a lot of discussion about the Rams either trading up or down from the 11th spot. How much compensation would it take to move from our 2nd round pick into the bottom of round 1?

NW: Depending on how far the Rams wanted to move up, it would cost at least the third round pick in addition to the second round pick to move into the bottom of the round. Of course, you could go with a fourth and a fifth or something to that effect to move up, but most teams value picks on the first day more than other choices.

Max James, London: Will the Rams go after someone like Jeremy Bloom, Maurice Drew or Troy Bergeron (AFL) in the late rounds to shore up our not so great return game?

NW: There is no doubt that the Rams are looking for an upgrade to the return game. Obviously, this has been an area of need for the past few seasons. It absolutely must get some attention and all signs point to that happening. Guys like Bloom, Drew and Devin Hester would be outstanding additions. I can't say I am familiar with Bergeron, but the point is it needs to be addressed at some point. I am a big Drew advocate and I know he is a Rams fan so he would make a good fit. My fear with him is that he could be gone fairly early on the first day. But, he fills two needs. He gives you a dangerous return man and he can fill the role as the backup running back and become a nice option on third down, eventually taking over for Marshall Faulk in a year or so.

James Mitchell, Jacksonville, Fla.: Right now the rams have Travis Fisher, Fakhir Brown, Ron Bartell who is uproven and Jerametrius Butler who is coming off surgery at conerback do you see them going after another conerback in free agency or the draft?

NW: Many of the members of the coaching staff believe Brown has the potential to be a solid starter in this league. The key to all of this is Butler. If he is right then you are getting your best cover guy back in the fold and cornerback isn't as much of a need. Clearly, that won't be determined before the draft so I would assume that cornerback could be an area that's addressed in the draft. I don't believe Bartell is far away from being a good starter and Fisher is in his walk year so maybe he will revert to form. Either way, it makes sense to find another corner in the draft, if for no other reason than to provide competition and give the Rams another developmental prospect.

David Prieto, St. Louis: In what spot do you think Mario Williams and A.J.Hawk will be drafted? What are our chances to get one of these guys?

NW: The chances of getting one of those two players at No. 11 are extremely slim. I would say slim to none, but stranger things have happened. I have Williams and Hawk pegged for being gone in the top six or seven picks, though that could change. For the Rams to get their hands on one of them, they will have to get to Green Bay's spot at 5. That's not easy territory to break, but it can be done. Those two are clearly the biggest difference makers on defense, so if the team wants to hit a home run on day one, that might be the best option. Of course, a trade down to add extra picks and get some depth might not be so bad either.

That's all for this week. Not much in the inbox to clear out so be sure to send your questions in. Also, Pisa Tinoisamoa's new "Choppin' It Up" section is going to be open soon and he will answer a question or so a week in the near future so feel free to send questions for Pisa and I can pass them along.