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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    While He (Jackson) Is Out ..

    While he is out ...
    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    07/29/2008

    MEQUON, Wis. One man's holdout is another man's opportunity. Make that two men, in the case of the Rams' running backs.

    While Steven Jackson stays away from training camp seeking a contract extension, second-year players Brian Leonard and Antonio Pittman are sponging up his carries. "It's great for them to get reps with the next group," coach Scott Linehan said. "I thought (Monday) was their best day. That was good to see."

    Both backs realize it's a temporary promotion, but they aren't turning down any snaps with the first-team offense.

    "It's good just to get a feel of the situation and let (the coaches) get a feel for me," Pittman said. "And let them know that they can trust me back there, too."
    Leonard said: "Obviously, you want Steven back; he's a great running back. But until that time comes, we've got great opportunities."

    No matter when he finally shows up, Jackson is the primary running back; that much is clear. But the spots behind Jackson are open, and that's where Pittman and Leonard are targeting with their unexpected "auditions."

    "Somebody has to pick up the slack," running backs coach Art Valero said. "They're starting to get a better feel for the offense. If you have the kind of confidence that each day these guys are gaining within themselves and with us, I think that just makes us a better football team."

    How the two arrived at this point is a study in contrasts:

    At 6 feet 1, Leonard is 2 inches taller, and at 229, 22 pounds heavier.

    Pittman is from Ohio State, one of college football's most storied programs; Leonard is a product of Rutgers, whose gridiron history is considerably less remarkable.

    Leonard grew up in tiny Gouverneur, in rural upstate New York; Pittman is from Akron, Ohio, which with a population of just over 200,000 is 50 times larger.

    Pittman is a slashing, cutback runner; Leonard is a no-frills, straight-ahead ballcarrier.

    Leonard was the Rams' second-round draft pick in 2007; Pittman, an undrafted rookie, was released by New Orleans during training camp.

    Pittman has plenty to prove, even though he got into 11 games last year; Leonard earned his chops in '07, particularly when he stepped in for an injured Jackson in Week 5 and ran for 102 yards vs. Arizona.

    Leonard finished the season with 303 rushing yards on 86 carries and added 183 receiving yards on 30 catches. Pittman carried 39 times for 139 yards and had three receptions for 15 yards.

    As a hybrid back he lines up at fullback, too Leonard's niche already is established. "I'm still doing fullback reps in walk-throughs and things like that," he said. "But if they were just using me as a lead-blocking fullback, they wouldn't be getting the most out of me. Al Saunders' offense utilizes my position a lot. I like it."

    Where Pittman fits into the picture is a fuzzier issue. If Pittman emerges as Jackson's primary backup, Saunders, the team's new offensive coordinator, will have more options than if Leonard wins the scuffle for No. 2.

    "Pittman's really impressed me," Linehan said. "We made an investment in our future, picking him up last year knowing he wouldn't be ready and wouldn't know our system. But by the middle of the year, we were able to use him. Now he's working with the ones. So, it's night and day with him."

    Valero noted that Pittman moved to St. Louis and was a regular at Rams Park in the offseason. "He was in the building every day, working out," Valero said. "I'm proud of the way he's gone about his business."

    An All-Big Ten Conference performer, Pittman stands eighth on the Buckeyes' career rushing list with 2,945 yards. His 14 100-yard-plus games rank him No. 4 in Ohio State annals.

    Pittman was stunned when the draft came and went without his name being called. And he was flabbergasted when the Saints let him go during their final round of cuts.

    Dwelling on his misfortune, Pittman decided, would be counterproductive. "I think everything happens for a reason," he said. "Here, I think I fit in real well as a change-of-pace back to Steven and Brian."

    Especially in Saunders' wide-open system. "It's more of what I ran in college: one-cut reads and a get-up-the-field type of offense," Pittman said.

    Asked to evaluate his progress, Pittman demurred. "We've just got to see how it pans out," he said. "But it starts here, in training camp."

    With or without Steven Jackson on the scene.


  2. #2
    ramsbruce's Avatar
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    Re: While He (Jackson) Is Out ..

    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    07/29/2008

    Pittman, an undrafted rookie
    Wrong Billy Boy. Pittman was drafted in the 4th round.

  3. #3
    Goldenfleece's Avatar
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    Re: While He (Jackson) Is Out ..

    According to an article in today's Washington Post (on the Jackson contract holdout), Pittman was the one getting the bulk of the work with the first team unit in Jackson's place. For what it's worth.

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    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: While He (Jackson) Is Out ..

    Silver lining scenario: a) Pittman and Leonard get added attention, learning / practice, and system skills; b) both of them increase their performance come regular season; c) once holdout settles (soon?), Jax returns more of a monster, football hungry and angry.

    d) We end up with a powerful Rams running game for 2008.

    Sometimes I feel optimistic about being optimistic.

  5. #5
    Ram Dragoon's Avatar
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    Re: While He (Jackson) Is Out ..

    I don't have any sympathy for S. Jackson. What your worth is shown on the field first. 2007 wasn't one of those moments that says, "I am worth...x...."

    More at this stage these issues should have been delt with earlier. Yes some think once its settled, he will come back hungy and angry...or perhaps not come back ready for the punishment football deals out. Personally if I was an opposing team I would plan to hit S. Jackson all the harder.

    lastly, I remember Erik Dickerson and his "holdouts". It was a distraction and only hurt the team. As much as I loved to see E. Dickerson play and admired his productivity, I thought then that you honor your deal. Thus far S. Jackson is no E. Dickerson.

    Perhaps a trade to the worst, most need RB team is where S. Jackson needs to be. Personally I always thought Bulger would do better in a two back setting for both passing, running and protection schemes

  6. #6
    StLouisSam is offline Registered User
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    Re: While He (Jackson) Is Out ..

    Agreed that there could be a silver lining. We need our backups in gear unlike last year.

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