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    Why is Randy Smiling?

    Why is Randy McMichael smiling all of a sudden?
    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    05/19/2008

    Rams tight end Randy McMichael, left, talks with running back Steven Jackson during a Rams minicamp in Earth City last week.
    (Chris Lee/P-D)

    Observers at the recent Rams minicamp noticed right away that something was out of whack: What was tight end Randy McMichael doing running downfield routes?

    This was the same tight end who spent most of last season virtually tethered to the tackle, his blocking valued far more than his receiving after injuries devastated the offensive line.

    But here McMichael was running free, down the middle, up the sidelines, latching onto 15-, 20-, even 25-yard passes. No wonder McMichael was heard crowing that "it's a new day around here."

    "Randy, the same as a lot of guys, came in here last year with a lot of expectations, and last year was last year," coach Scott Linehan said. "This year he can really step up and play big in this offense. He's going to have plenty of opportunities, for sure."

    With just 39 catches for 429 yards, McMichael slogged through his least productive year in his six NFL seasons. Meanwhile, the 3-13 Rams endured their worst season since moving from Los Angeles in 1995.

    "It was a miserable year, not just for me but for the team," said McMichael, 28. "It just seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong for us. But you could just tell from the first play (of minicamp) that ... the guys are excited to be here."

    Two offseason moves directly affected McMichael: the hiring of Al Saunders as offensive coordinator and the signing of free-agent tight end Anthony Becht from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Saunders brings a more aggressive approach on offense with his hybrid of the "Greatest Show on Turf" schemes that Mike Martz concocted. For example, there are no "reads" for the quarterback on passing plays. If you're an eligible receiver, the ball just might come your way.

    "That gives everybody a little heightened awareness when they're running the routes," Becht said. "If Randy's out there running a route, he has a great chance of getting the ball. He understands that."

    Becht, 6 feet 5 and 280 pounds, is the big, blocking tight end that Linehan has been seeking since taking over for Martz in 2006. Although Becht has had some impressive receiving years (40 catches in 2003, 36 in '01), he concedes that his role has changed. RELATED
    Rams tight end file

    "I just kind of fell into a label" as a blocker, he explained. "No one ever wants to be labeled as anything, but if you're going to labeled as something and you're good at it, I'll take it.

    "I'm picking up some new techniques in blocking with the coaching here, and I'm just trying to help improve the running game and make this team better. But I still practice my routes hard, try to get out there and do what I can in the passing game."

    Becht's blocking prowess jumped out during the Rams' 24-3 loss at Tampa Bay last Sept. 23. The Buccaneers pounded out 187 yards on the ground, with Becht often out front leading the way. "He controlled the line of scrimmage and controlled the edge," Linehan said. "I felt that was something we wanted to add to our tight end corps."

    Becht, 30, recalled it as one of his best blocking performances. "We had some nice sweeps and things around the edge," he said. "We ran a lot of things point of attack over the tight end and tackle position. That just happened to be a game where my presence was felt, I guess, more than others."

    And it helped him land another job after five seasons with the New York Jets, followed by three with the Bucs.

    "When you're in the final year of your contract, every week's a job interview," Becht said. "I don't really change my demeanor on what I do week in and week out. Every game I treat as if it's my last."

    Becht's presence means that McMichael can broaden his responsibilities and perhaps reprise the numbers he put up an average of 56 catches and 619 yards in his five seasons in Miami.

    "He's a great receiver; he's proven that over the years," Becht said. "I think last year was just a product of how that season went. He definitely wants to get back in this offense."

    Saunders wasted little time heaping expectations on McMichael, informing him that he'd sent a tight end to the Pro Bowl in each of the last eight seasons (Chris Cooley in Washington, Tony Gonzalez in Kansas City).

    But, McMichael stressed, his expectation level for himself is plenty high after last year's debacle.

    "As soon as I found out that they'd hired Coach Saunders, I got really excited; this is the kind of offense I've dreamed of playing in my whole career," McMichael said. "I'm just having a good time right now. I think it's going to be a fun year for everybody."


  2. #2
    DistantRam's Avatar
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    Re: Why is Randy Smiling?

    I hope for McMichael's sake (as well, of course, as that of our entire season) that Pace stays fit. Otherwise it'll be Barron to LT, Greco in at RT and Becht helping out the rookie by blocking at TE, with poor old Randy sat twiddling his thumbs on the bench.

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    Mooselini's Avatar
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    Re: Why is Randy Smiling?

    It's great that we're utilizing the tight end as a receiving option now. It's great news. I hope to see a great season out of McMichael.

    I also know the Becht will get some catches too. He can't stay as a blocker every down.

    I like the approach, of no reading. If the WR gets open, get him the ball. Which is what we shouldve been doing, but Linehan has been making the calls. Times have changed, and it looks better.

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    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: Why is Randy Smiling?

    Quote Originally Posted by DistantRam View Post
    I hope for McMichael's sake (as well, of course, as that of our entire season) that Pace stays fit. Otherwise it'll be Barron to LT, Greco in at RT and Becht helping out the rookie by blocking at TE, with poor old Randy sat twiddling his thumbs on the bench.
    Sure Pace's good health will make us a better team, but McMichael won't necessarily ride pine when Becht is in to block. I would expect Saunders to utilize two tight end sets more this year - particularly given that Randy and Anthony are both profficient at blocking and receiving.

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    C-Mob 71's Avatar
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    Re: Why is Randy Smiling?

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post
    Sure Pace's good health will make us a better team, but McMichael won't necessarily ride pine when Becht is in to block. I would expect Saunders to utilize two tight end sets more this year - particularly given that Randy and Anthony are both profficient at blocking and receiving.
    And the fact that the wide receiver depth has seen better days. I expect to see several unique and effective formations using Jackson, Leonard, McMichael, Bect, and Avery.

    If McMichael plays like a pro bowl tight end, we should have a very exciting offense.

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