Wroten Working for Expanded Role
Thursday, June 14, 2007
By Nick Wagoner
At times last season, rookie defensive tackle Claude Wroten resembled the dog from the Beggin’ Strips commercials, heading up field and chasing after the ball without regard for his surroundings.
Wroten’s single minded desire to sack the quarterback worked well for him at LSU, where he proved to be one of the best pass rushing tackles in the nation. But it wasn’t enough to make an impression at the NFL level and Wroten found himself searching for his niche.
“I had to slow down a little bit,” Wroten said. “Every snap I was going 100 miles an hour, full speed and I was out of a gap here and there but I just have to calm down, look at it and know if it’s a run or a pass and not just shoot up the field all the time like I did in college.”
Learning that lesson is not only important for Wroten’s development, but also because Wroten’s presence in the defensive tackle rotation is even more necessary. In just his second season in the league, Wroten is already the second most experienced defensive tackle on the roster.
While veteran La’Roi Glover is still in place ahead of him, Wroten is going to be in the mix much more this year. And just because Glover is a veteran leader and has been to six Pro Bowls, doesn’t mean Wroten won’t make a push for the starting job as the “three technique” tackle.
“He’s a much more confident player,” coach Scott Linehan said. “I think he’s got a little chip on his shoulder. We talk about who potentially could be starting there the first game. And he’s not conceding to that, either with the advent of us playing some left and right tackle, he’s not out of the mix. But I think it’s a really good situation we have right now.”
By the time his rookie season was through, Wroten had 15 tackles, a sack, seven quarterback pressures and a forced fumble. He had also spent his time shuttling between the three technique and defensive end.
He entered the offseason with a year of experience and a better understanding of what it takes to perform in the league. In addition to slowing down mentally, he sped up physically. Wroten came to this week’s minicamp more chiseled and defined after making his body a priority.
“It’s like night and day,” Wroten said. “Coming in my first year I was a little anxious. I was on then off. Now I have a year under my belt and I’ve calmed down and settled down and doing the things I am supposed to do. It’s working out.”
Even with the experienced Glover in front of him, Wroten is hoping that his work and attention to detail will land him in contention for a starting position.
“La’Roi is a really good player; he’s been doing it for a long time, a Pro Bowl player. I learned a lot from him last year,” Wroten said. “But I want to step in and establish myself.”
MONEY COMES THROUGH: Thursday was essentially the equivalent of the last day of school for the Rams, particularly the veterans. While the rookies still have another week of conditioning and a seminar to attend, the veterans hustled out of St. Louis to disperse all over the country. They will not be asked to return until July 26, the day to report for training camp.
But they weren’t allowed to leave without a little drama. Linehan lined up kicker Jeff Wilkins for a 52-yard field goal. The stakes? If Wilkins made the kick, the team would get to skip the final round of conditioning, if he missed it, well…
“He saved everybody conditioning today,” Linehan said. “We told them when you win, everything good happens.”
Wilkins easily booted the ball through the shortened uprights and the team burst into celebration.
PICKING UP THE PACE: It took a number of people around the Rams by surprise when left tackle Orlando Pace showed up at the beginning of minicamp on Tuesday without a red jersey on.
Pace is battling back from an arm injury that cost him the majority of the 2006 season. After sitting out most of the organized team activities, Pace participated fully in this week’s minicamp and appeared to be in good shape.
“He did very well,” Linehan said. “He was able to get a lot of mental work (in OTAs), but this week we pretty much just said go full speed and see how you feel. I’m glad we did. It was the thing to do and it’s going to help him and his confidence going into training camp.”
HANDICAPPING THE FIELD: One of quarterback Marc Bulger’s favorite offseason activities is golf. As a native of Pittsburgh, Bulger has spent plenty of time on the greens of Oakmont Country Club, home of this week’s U.S. Open.
In fact, Bulger is a member of Oakmont and considers it his home course. So, it would make sense that Bulger would be attending the tournament on the course where he once carded a 76.
“It wasn’t from the (long tees) and the rough wasn’t as long as it is now,” Bulger said. “If I broke 100 right now, I’d be happy.”
For his part, Bulger wouldn’t exactly go out on a limb to predict the winner of this week’s tournament. He predicts, drumroll please, that Tiger Woods will claim the victory.
“I'm pulling for Tiger,” Bulger said. “(Johnny) Miller and (Jack) Nicklaus and all those greats of golf have won at Oakmont, and I think he is an underdog for this tournament because everybody is saying his style won't win. I think he has all the shots.”
Should Woods be able to pull off another major victory, Bulger doesn’t have plans to be in attendance. Although it’s his home course, Bulger wasn’t overly enthused about attending the tournament because of parking issues and his familiarity with the course.
“I know the course,” Bulger said. “I'd rather watch it on TV, but you have to say you went.”
TALL WALLS: The Rams made a number of changes to their secondary in the offseason, sending a few names out and adding a few in their place. In a move that went a bit under the radar, St. Louis signed cornerback Lenny Walls on March 25.
At 6’4, 192 pounds, Walls cuts an imposing figure on opposing receivers because of his unique size and long arms. With cornerback Tye Hill missing this week’s minicamp because of a staph infection, Walls has been getting plenty of repetition against the top offensive unit.
Ron Bartell has primarily been the No. 2 corner with Hill out (Fakhir Brown maintains his spot on the other side), but when the team goes to nickel packages, Bartell has been inside and Walls has worked on the outside.
“Long arms and size is hard on receivers,” Linehan said. “Coming off the line of scrimmage against a guy that utilizes his size is one of the hardest things on a wideout. Ask Torry and Isaac that one. The fact that he’s played and started a number of games and has a background playing at a high level for some good defenses helps too.”
RAM BITS: Rookie offensive lineman Ken Shackleford and defensive end Eric Moore were excused from Thursday's practice because of deaths in their families...Receiver Drew Bennett showed glimpses of what could be in the red zone Thursday, grabbing three touchdowns in red zone drills...As expected, cornerback Tye Hill did not practice and is still working to recover from a staph infection.
Re: Wroten Working for Expanded Role
I like that. Kickers have to kick under pressure situations all the time, and this is the first time i have ever heard of a coach having a kicker kick a FG under pressure in practice.
Originally Posted by RamWraith
And of course, Wilkins kicked it through like he always does!
Re: Wroten Working for Expanded Role
Next we will hear a similar scenario where the new punter and special teams has to down a punt inside the 10 in order to work practice in shells.