Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Dennis Little, St. Louis: Since the loss of Pickett, what do you think the rams will do in the draft to fit this need and who are they looking at drafting in terms of defensive tackles?
NW: Clearly, there is a need to add depth to the defensive line, particularly at tackle though end could use a boost also. As it stands, there are a few options. One, the Rams can choose to go shopping again in the second wave of free agency, which is where we stand right now and make a run at a guy like Grady Jackson or Sam Adams. The Rams do have interest in Jackson, but probably not at the price he is believed to be pursuing right now. He'd make a nice fit as a run stuffer in the middle. The key here is that in replacing Pickett you need the type of tackle that is proficient with stopping the run. La'Roi Glover is fine at that, but is more of a pass rusher. Jimmy Kennedy is expected to start at nose tackle (more on him in a bit) and the only other options include Brian Howard and Jeremy Calahan. As for the draft, it's not out of the question for the top tackle on the board, Oregon's Haloti Ngata, to be there for the Rams at No. 11. Florida State's Brodrick Bunkley could also come under consideration. However, there is still a month between now and the draft. A lot can happen in that time, but I would expect the Rams to move on a tackle one way or another in the next month.
Jason Taylor, Eureka, Mo.: Nick, if you were the only man in charge or our war room on April 29 and the rams are on the clock, who do you take and why? No trades, just simply who do you take and why would that player be a good bet.
NW: An interesting question, but also a hard one to answer without knowing who is going to be available. Here's the guys I am going to assume are gone if I put myself in the war room of the 10 teams ahead of the Rams: Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Mario Williams, A.J. Hawk, Vernon Davis, Vince Young, Jay Cutler, Michael Huff and Haloti Ngata. That takes up a considerable amount of top talent that makes No. 11 an interesting position. The most stocked position, running back, actually has plenty of top prospects here, but obviously there much more pressing needs than that for the Rams. I have maintained going with the best available defensive player and I'll stick to that here. That leaves me looking at Florida State's Brodrick Bunkley, Penn State end Tamba Hali, South Carolina cornerback Johnathan Joseph, North Carolina State end/linebacker Manny Lawson and Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter. In evaluating that talent, you look at needs. I'm a big fan of Carpenter and Lawson, but many projections have them dropping into the late first/early second round. Those two would fill a need at strong side linebacker and provide a strong pass rush. Based on what makes the best fit, I'd take Lawson. I think he has Leonard Little type potential whether he plays strong side 'backer or bulks up to play end. If I could have any player in the draft, though, it's Hawk.
Morton Aanaes, Copenhagen: Any news on the turf in the Ed? Last year they looked for removable FieldTurf but settled for regular. They're not bringing back the AstroTurf right?
NW: There is nothing to report on the turf as of yet, though it's supposed to be resolved sometime in the near future, perhaps after the draft. One thing is for sure, the AstroTurf will not be returning. Worst case scenario would be using the FieldTurf again this year and waiting for another solution. As you might recall, the problem last year was finding something that could easily be moved in and out of the dome. To my knowledge, the technology has not yet come up with the right match. But, there will definitely not be a return to the AstroTurf, if for no other reason than it was not up to league standards.
Keven Smith, Boston: How is Jeremy Calahan's rehab going? I know he injured his knee in the last game of the season against the Cowboys. Does he have a chance to make the traveling squad this season?
NW: Jeremy Calahan did indeed suffer a serious knee injury in the season finale, but his recovery appears to be going well. He has been at Rams Park working out and rehabbing.It's doubtful he'll be ready for the first mini-camp, but he should be ready soon enough. As for his chances, I like Calahan as a player and believe he has potential. He's one of the strongest guys on the team and was last year. He's still a bit raw, but coach Baker and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett could get him on the path to NFL success.
James Tegeler, Orlando: The offense is awesome with Bulger in my opinion, but the free agent market has had the Rams getting some key players as well as losing some solid defenders. At this point, do you consider the Rams to be better, the same or worse defensively?
NW: Since you qualified it with "at this point," this question is a lot easier to answer now than it will be in a month or so. There is obviously plenty of work to be done between now and the start of the season. Looking at it purely in terms of talent and changes made it seems as though the there have been upgrades in some areas and downgrades in others. Will Witherspoon is a big upgrade in the middle and should instantly improve that spot. Glover gives the Rams another pass rushing threat, this time up the middle and Corey Chavous should be more solid and reliable than anyone the Rams had at safety last year. However, there has to be some concern about the run defense. Losing Pickett, who was the team's top run stuffer last year, and Adam Archuleta, who was better suited up in the box against the run, did not help matters much in that area. As for Fakhir Brown, admittedly, I don't know enough about him to pass judgment on the type of player he will be, though I do know he has the physical tools and has had some success before injuries slowed him in the past. The wild card in all of this is the mind of Haslett running the defense. I believe that alone should make the group better than it was a year ago.
Philip Tucker, Isla Vista, Calif.: I was wondering if Jimmy Kennedy was participating in the offseason conditioning program. If so, has he continued his progress in his strength and conditioning. I read several articles that he had significantly improved his strength last year and I just wanted to know if you think he's only getting stronger and better.
NW: The last question was a nice segue to this one, because Jimmy Kennedy is going to be a key to this defense. Here is what I can tell you about Kennedy. The guy wants to be great, he really does. He is one of the players that is almost constantly at Rams Park working out and putting in the time to get better, stronger and more agile. He has a new task in front of him playing the nose tackle spot, but I believe he could be successful there. His progress is continuing. It's important to remember that he started last year strong before some injuries slowed him toward the end. There's no doubt that he will come in physically ready to play, it's a matter of adjusting to his position and learning Haslett's schemes. Also, with a new defensive line coach, chances are good that Kennedy could thrive.
Shawn Dimick, Mt. Vernon, Ind.: Just wanted to find out if the decision has been made yet to hold training camp in St. Louis again, and if it is scheduled yet?
NW: There has been no official announcement yet on that topic, but all signs are pointing to a return to St. Louis for another year of training camp. That announcement will likely be coming down the pipe in the coming weeks.