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Who's No. 3?: Backup quarterbacks battle
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Aug. 04 2008
MEQUON, WIS. — Scott Linehan's plan was to carry only two quarterbacks through
the 2007 season, freeing up a roster spot for a backup at another position.
But by early December, he realized the error of his ways, thanks to injuries to
Marc Bulger and backup Gus Frerotte. Brock Berlin spent the last five games of
the regular season as the No. 3 quarterback and began training camp this season
battling Bruce Gradkowski for the No. 3 job.
Linehan plans to keep three QBs from the get-go this season, and Saturday's
team scrimmage at Concordia University Wisconsin was merely the first measuring
post in the sorting process between Berlin and Gradkowski.
"You can see their experience," Linehan said following the scrimmage. "Both of
them had very good demeanor in the huddle."
Berlin, 27, is trying to make an NFL opening-day roster for the first time
since finishing the 2004 college season with the Miami Hurricanes. During that
time, he has spent time on either the offseason, preseason, regular season, or
practice squads of Miami, Dallas and St. Louis. He also had a spring 2006 stint
with the Hamburg Sea Devils of the now-defunct NFL Europe.
But his only NFL regular-season appearance was last Dec. 9, when he became the
14th quarterback in "St. Louis" Rams history to start a game. He completed 17
of 28 passes for 153 yards with one interception in a 19-10 loss at Cincinnati.
Gradkowski, 25, was a sixth-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 2006 out of
Toledo. He started 11 games for the Buccaneers as a rookie and had 17 games and
352 passes in NFL regular-season competition when waived by the Buccaneers two
Throwing to a hodge-podge of receivers Saturday, neither quarterback seemed to
help — or hurt — his cause.
"It's their first go-round," Linehan said. "They don't know which group's in
there, but they're having fun doing it. It's going to be a heck of a battle."
It's a battle that will only intensify in the coming weeks, with the start of
the exhibition schedule Saturday at Tennessee. Berlin has looked more
comfortable on the practice field in Wisconsin and more accurate than
Gradkowski so far in camp.
"I feel good. I really do," said Berlin, who spent the first 11 games of '07 on
the Rams' practice squad.. "I think having last year, too, under my belt. And
getting some experience at playing. And having this offseason to get through
this offense ... (helps)."
Gradkowski, who didn't join the Rams until the last week of OTAs (organized
team activities) in June, has been playing catch-up. He basically missed the
entire initial installation of new offensive coordinator Al Saunders' scheme.
"I'm starting to get the hang of it," said Gradkowski, who was in a different
scheme — a West Coast system — in Tampa. "It's great to work with two veterans
like Marc (Bulger) and Trent (Green), who are so accurate."
Accuracy was one of Gradkowski's hallmarks at Toledo. He finished his college
career with the highest completion percentage in NCAA Division I-A history
(68.2). In the early days of camp, Gradkowski appeared to struggle some with
his accuracy but was sharper in the scrimmage, completing eight of 12 passes,
including a touchdown to Keenan Burton.
"I'm going to get more comfortable with the system," Gradkowski said.
But so should Berlin.
"It's definitely a lot of volume in this offense, but we create a lot of
mismatches," said Berlin, who completed seven of 13 in the scrimmage. "I've
enjoyed learning it. I feel like I'm picking it up more and more each day."
One advantage that Gradkowski has over Berlin, as well as Bulger and Green, is
his scrambling ability. During the scrimmage, Gradkowski used his running
ability on several occasions to get out of trouble. Even though quarterbacks
were off-limits for hitting or tackling Saturday, one of his scrambles might
have been a TD run in live action.
"It's part of my game," said Gradkowski, who had 14 rushing TDs and 1,018 yards
rushing in college. "If something opens up, I like to use my legs to the best
of my ability."
Gradkowski, like Berlin, has four weeks left to show his ability to Rams
coaches before the final cutdown day.
Re: Who's No. 3?: Backup quarterbacks battle
The question is which QB can throw the "one yard hitch and go route" the best...oh wait, Linehan isn't calling the offense anymore- nevermind.
Re: Who's No. 3?: Backup quarterbacks battle
If I had to pick one...I'd pick Gradkowski, based on nothing at all. Maybe his last name. Who knows.
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