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  1. #1
    RamsSB99's Avatar
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    Rams will try again to find run stopper

    By Jim Thomas

    In the spring of 2001, newly hired Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith all but pounded the table in the meeting room. The Rams simply couldn't run the Cover 2 scheme Smith was bringing to St. Louis without drafting Damione Lewis of the University of Miami.

    Fast forward to draft day 2001. A couple of hours after taking Lewis at No. 12 overall, the Rams were preparing to make the No. 29 selection in the first round.

    Just before the pick, the team's braintrust was trying to decide between TCU defensive end Aaron Schobel and Ohio State defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. In the draft room, coach Mike Martz didn't seem to have a strong opinion either way. General manager Charley Armey diplomatically argued in favor of Pickett and he was the pick.

    Two years later, the Rams weren't really looking for a defensive tackle in the '03 draft. But when Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy still was available at No. 12 overall, the Rams felt he was too good to pass up. In yet another variation of the old "we couldn't believe he was still there" motto, a giddy Martz did an impromptu cabbage-patch dance in announcing the pick to the media.

    As the Rams wrap up preparations for the 2007 draft April 28-29, Lewis and Pickett are long gone. Kennedy is an endangered species. So despite those three first-round selections in the past six drafts, the Rams once again find themselves looking for help at defensive tackle.

    Only four DTs are under contract on the Rams' offseason roster:

    Kennedy, an injury-plagued disappointment who is entering the final year of his contract.

    La'Roi Glover, a proud six-time Pro Bowler with the heart of a champion who isn't the player he once was.

    Claude Wroten, a third-round pick a year ago, who had negligible impact on the field as a rookie.

    Tim Sandidge, a fringe player who spent most of last season on the Rams' practice squad.

    Kennedy is the only nose tackle in the group, and it was a new position to him last season. Also consider the fact that the Rams finished 31st in run defense a year ago. They weren't really impressed with any of the defensive tackles available in free agency this spring.

    So is it time to panic? And given the Rams' recent draft history at the position, is there any cause for optimism that they can get it right this time?

    It's hard to argue with critics who describe Lewis and Kennedy as draft busts. But Pickett should be left out of the argument. No one's saying Pickett is a modern-day Merlin Olsen, but he's an above-average nose tackle whom the Rams shouldn't have let leave St. Louis.

    Pickett signed a relatively modest four-year, $14 million free-agent contract with Green Bay last March. Durable and productive, Pickett finished with 92 tackles in 2006. He had one tackle for every seven snaps with Green Bay, the best tackle-to-play ratio of any Packers defender. Green Bay improved to 13th in the NFL in run defense in '06 after finishing 23rd in '05.

    But Pickett's departure now amounts to spilled milk. The Rams need another widebody in the middle and seemingly are down to two options:

    Selecting one in the draft.

    Trading for Carolina's Kris Jenkins.

    Stout and strong, Jenkins is the prototype nose tackle. He was widely considered one of the league's best after making the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons (2002 and '03).

    But shoulder and knee injuries limited him to five games total in the 2004 and '05 seasons. Jenkins later confessed to battling depression and drinking problems during part of that injury down time.

    He bounced back last season, playing in all 16 games and registering 53 tackles and 3 sacks. Jenkins made his third Pro Bowl, although some observers in Carolina felt he still hadn't regained his old form. One week ago, the Panthers let it be known that they would entertain trade offers for Jenkins, who like Pickett is only 27.

    The Rams are interested. But what will it take to bring Jenkins to St. Louis? The Panthers are thought to be seeking at least a first-rounder. The Rams would jump at the chance to acquire Jenkins with a third-round pick. Perhaps the teams could meet in the middle in the second round.

    Failing that, there is a decent but not overwhelming crop of DT prospects in the draft. Michigan's Alan Branch and Louisville's Amobi Okoye both could be gone by the time the Rams pick at No. 13 overall. But Branch has some doubters, and Okoye probably isn't a true nose tackle.

    Although he played end in college, Nebraska's Adam Carriker is a potential alternative who could be moved inside in the pros. On the lean side at 6-6, 296, Carriker is very strong, with a reputation as a good run defender. And whether Carriker does it at end or tackle in St. Louis, the Rams need all the help they can get against the run.

  2. #2
    mikhal5569's Avatar
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    Re: Rams will try again to find run stopper

    Excellent thread. I for one really like Adam Carriker and would go for him over Jenkins, IF Branch and Okoye were already drafted. No matter what the scenario I'm hoping the Rams go after the best defense player available in the 1st. Than go for a trade for Jenkins with the second.

  3. #3
    general counsel's Avatar
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    Re: Rams will try again to find run stopper

    note how much better pickett was last year stat wise than jenkins. also note he has been a lot healthier. Letting pickett go for the kind of money that he got was the dumbest decision the rams have made in years. There was no excuse for that decision. He wasnt paid a ton of money and he was just entering his prime.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel

  4. #4
    Fortuninerhater's Avatar
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    Re: Rams will try again to find run stopper

    Certainly feel your pain General. Let's just hope that's the last one for a while.


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