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Wilkins: Investing in 'Money' pays off big
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Sep. 11 2006
He acknowledged that his 34-year-old right leg was "a little tired" Sunday
after the Rams' season-opener. But Jeff Wilkins wasn't complaining about his
heavy workload in the 18-10 victory over Denver.
"It's a crazy way to come out and start," Wilkins said. "But I'll tell you
what, I'll take it."
Wilkins provided all the Rams' points with a franchise-record six field goals.
He connected from 26, 38, 29, 51, 48 and 24 yards. And he came within inches of
tying the NFL record with a seventh: His 44-yard attempt late in the first
quarter caromed away off the right upright.
"I'm still ticked off at myself," Wilkins said. "I thought I hit it good. I hit
it and I looked up and I was like, 'Aw, you've gotta be kidding me.'"
Bob Waterfield's five field goals against Detroit had stood as the Rams' record
for 51 years. Wilkins' only other six-field-goal performance came with the
***** against Atlanta in 1996. "I was a young pup then," he said. "It's been
After the 1996 season, Wilkins joined the Rams as a free agent. Sunday, he
became the first Ram to top 1,000 points.
"I didn't even know anything about it," Wilkins said. "It's probably a good
thing I wasn't thinking about it."
Wilkins has collected 1,013 points, a whopping 224 more than the franchise's
No. 2 career scorer, kicker Mike Lansford (1982-90).
Wilkins also launched five of seven kickoffs into the end zone, with three
touchbacks. The Broncos averaged just 19.5 yards on four kick returns.
"The kickoff coverage was very good," Wilkins said. "All I remember is seeing
them fall at the 20-yard line consistently. ... I didn't have to make any
tackles, which is always good."
Rookie Tye Hill, the team's first-round draft pick, recorded the first tackle
of the season when he hauled down Denver's Mike Bell on the 21-yard-line after
the opening kickoff.
"It was like a storybook start," Hill said, adding that stout kick coverage
"has been an emphasis all through camp."
Other special-teamers came through, too. Matt Turk averaged 50 yards on three
punts, the Broncos picked up just 3 yards on the one punt they returned, and
newcomer J.R. Reed averaged 25.5 yards on two kickoff returns, including a
gritty 29-yarder to the 34 in the third quarter that led to Wilkins' fifth
Coach Scott Linehan said Reed "just willed himself into 15 more yards on that
Turk said, "Our special teams just kind of showed what other teams are going to
have to look forward to for the rest of the year. We've got some guys that want
to get downfield and want to cover kicks. That's huge."
And it's not something that Rams fans have witnessed much in the past few
years. In 2005, Bob Ligashesky became the Rams' fourth special-teams coach in
five years, as Mike Martz searched desperately for a solution to an irksome,
and at times game-costing, problem.
Not only did Linehan retain Ligashesky, but he provided him with a squad that
included a number of first- and second-teamers, a departure from past practice.
Then he afforded Ligashesky considerable time in practice to hone his units.
Wilkins noted that shoddy special-teams play had "been a headliner, it seems,
after every game, for the past few years. But today, kickoff coverage was very
good, we had a good kickoff return to start the second half, and Matt Turk was
"Overall, I think it was a very positive day for special teams."
No one had a more positive impact than Wilkins. "I now understand why they call
Jeff Wilkins 'Money,'" Linehan said.
Wilkins said, "I've been feeling really good this training camp, the way the
coaches have allowed me to prepare. Right now, my leg's a little sore. But it's
a good sore."