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Rams are getting set to gear up again

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  • Rams are getting set to gear up again

    By Bill Coats

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Late afternoon had crept into early evening Jan. 10 when lightning struck the Edward Jones Dome. The bolt was a 69-yard pass play deftly executed by Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme and wide receiver Steve Smith that brought the Rams' season to an abrupt and crushing conclusion.

    It was 23-23 when the Panthers faced third down and 14 on the first play of the second overtime. Inexplicably, Smith split the Rams' deep defense and Delhomme found him in full stride in the middle of the field, streaking toward the end zone. The capacity crowd was yanked into an eerie silence as the NFC West champions, 12-4 in the regular season, suffered sudden death in the opening round of the playoffs.

    "I just went, 'Arrrrrrggggh,'" Rams wide receiver Torry Holt said. "Your heart just drops all the way down to your toes. That's the kind of hurt you feel."

    Now the team is gearing up for training camp and a new season. The players are to report to Western Illinois University in Macomb by 5 p.m. July 27, with the first two workouts scheduled for the following day. Camp will continue through Aug. 20.

    During the six months since the 29-23 loss to Carolina, some significant shifts have taken place in the team's landscape. Here's a review of the most noteworthy happenings during the offseason:

    Two defensive linemen sign with other teams

    Two starters on the defensive line, right end Grant Wistrom and tackle Brian Young, accepted free-agent offers from other teams. Wistrom signed a six-year, $33 million deal with Seattle, and Young went to New Orleans.

    Damione Lewis heads to Macomb as the heir apparent to Young's spot. Should Lewis falter, Bernard Holsey, a free-agent pickup who started all 16 games last season for Washington, could move into the lineup.

    Replacing Wistrom, whose 60 tackles last season included seven sacks, could be more problematic. For now, Sean Moran - a former Ram who returned as a free agent - is No. 1 on the depth chart, with Bryce Fisher and Erik Flowers listed as backups. Tyoka Jackson also could figure into the mix.

    Defense is going from Lovie to Larry

    Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith was hired as Chicago's head coach on Jan. 14. Five days later, Rams coach Mike Martz named Larry Marmie as Smith's successor.

    Smith had turned an unsteady defense into one of the NFL's best units. Marmie, who spent the previous eight years with the Arizona Cardinals, the final 3 1/2 as defensive coordinator, said that like Smith, "I like speed. . . . We want to continue to play in the same way, with the same style."

    At quarterback, a Kurt dismissal

    Marc Bulger, who started 16 games last season at quarterback and was the most valuable player in the Pro Bowl, was rewarded with Martz's faith - the coach announced in May that Bulger, 27, would remain No. 1 - and a fat contract ($19.1 million over four years). Chris Chandler, 38, arrived as a free agent, and the Rams took Michigan State QB Jeff Smoker in the sixth round of the draft.

    All of which made imminent the departure of injury-plagued Kurt Warner, a two-time league MVP. The Rams released Warner on June 2, and he signed with the New York Giants.

    "You're always disappointed when a marriage, so to speak, ends like that," Warner, 33, said after arriving in New York. "You have so much success and things were so great that you would love to ride off into the sunset and have success and finish up that way. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way."

    Little is again arrested for DWI

    Left defensive end Leonard Little, an All-Pro who piled up a team-high 12 1/2 sacks last season, was stopped by Ladue police April 24. Little was charged with driving while intoxicated as a persistent offender, a felony. He could receive up to 4 1/2 months in prison.

    In October 1998, Little's Lincoln Navigator ran a red light at a downtown intersection and collided with a car driven by Susan Gutweiler, 47, of Oakville. She was killed. A breath test showed that Little had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 percent, nearly twice the legal limit. After pleading guilty of involuntary manslaughter, Little was sentenced to 90 days in jail as part of a work-release program, 1,000 hours of community service and four years' probation. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue suspended him for the first eight games in 1999.

    Little, 29, was excused from the team's full-squad minicamp in May but is expected to be present for the start of training camp and to be available for most, if not all, of the season while awaiting a resolution of his case.

    The draft provides an unexpected bonus

    Oregon State running back Steven Jackson thought he might go to Detroit in the first round of the draft. If not the Lions, then perhaps Dallas or Denver. But when Jackson remained available as their pick approached, the Rams pounced: They traded up two spots and grabbed the 6-foot-2, 233-pounder with the No. 24 overall selection.

    Martz said he was "dumbfounded" that Jackson was still on the board. "This is an opportunity to add great value to this football team that we did not anticipate," Martz added.

    And if Marshall Faulk's balky knees buckle, Jackson could find himself in a spot that he did not anticipate - at least, not so soon: As the team's No. 1 ballcarrier.

    The Rams' second draft pick, third-round defensive end Anthony Hargrove, impressed at both minicamps, displaying startling quickness and strength. Linebacker Brandon Chillar (fourth round) and safety Jason Shivers (fifth round) are being counted on to fill backup roles that previously were held by Jamie Duncan and Shane Walton, who were released.

    So, while much remains the same - 20 of 22 starters are back - about the defending division champs, much also has changed. For the better, in Martz's view. "I like my football team," he said. "I really do."
    Attached Files

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: Rams are getting set to gear up again

    I believe the hardest part about facing a new season, is letting go of the past. Thanks for the history lesson, Dez. But I'm sure all them guys mentioned would love to let it all go. Especially Little, no doubt he has demons that will dog him the rest of his life.

    Major bummer about Wistrom of course, but at least he's with a team I can stomach. Brian is a lost cause to me, I can't cheer for an Aint, no matter who he is.


    Related Topics


    • Nick
      Rams are hoping they end up with defensive line answers (Post Dispatch)
      by Nick
      Rams are hoping they end up with defensive line answers
      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch

      Any coach well-versed in football-speak will insist that all starting positions are open heading into training camp. But realistically, only two spots will be up for grabs when the Rams assemble next week in Macomb, Ill.

      Both are on the defensive line: End Grant Wistrom, the team's first-round draft pick in 1998 and a five-year starter, snatched up Seattle's six-year, $33 million free-agent offer in the offseason. Brian Young, another free agent who was emerging as a top-flight tackle, accepted a four-year deal with New Orleans that included a $4 million signing bonus.

      Those losses are significant for a once-porous defense that had improved into a respectable unit. Last year, the Rams ranked 16th among the 32 NFL teams in total defense, and sixth in the 16-team NFC. They led the league in takeaways with 46 - 24 interceptions and 22 fumble recoveries.

      Wistrom, 28, piled up 108 tackles, fourth-best on the team and No. 1 among linemen, and had 7 1/2 sacks, a total exceeded only by All-Pro left end Leonard Little (12 1/2). Young, 27, had 102 tackles, No. 6 in team totals, including 2 1/2 sacks.

      Defensive line coach Bill Kollar acknowledged that the challenge of filling those holes effectively has him fretting just a bit. "When you end up losing two guys that really played good for you and really set a good effort tone, it makes it tough," Kollar said. "It'll be a pretty interesting task, and we'll just see what we're able to get out of these (other) guys."

      Despite his legal difficulties, Little is expected to report to Western Illinois University on Tuesday with the rest of his teammates, and to be available for the season. Meanwhile, Ryan Pickett started 13 games at nose tackle last year and should fill that role again this season, although he could wind up sliding over to Young's spot. Pickett's performance last season was hampered by a nagging ankle injury.

      The leading candidates to take over for Wistrom at right end are Bryce Fisher, a fifth-year pro who has started just once in 20 games with the Rams; Sean Moran, a former Ram who recently returned as a free agent; and Erik Flowers, a six-year veteran who played in only three games in his first season with the Rams.

      "Fisher will start out as the No. 1 guy," Kollar said. "Now, that's not saying that he is the starter. But right now, he's the guy that we've got in there, and it'll just depend on how it goes during training camp and the preseason games."

      Kollar also indicated that newcomer Anthony Hargrove, a third-round draft selection from Georgia Tech, could figure into the mix. Hargrove stood out at the team's rookie minicamp and was solid in the full-squad minicamp that followed.

      -07-23-2004, 05:47 AM
    • evil disco man
      Training Camp Preview: St. Louis Rams
      by evil disco man
      by Ted Carlson -

      Notable Offseason Moves: According to the Chinese Calendar, the Year of the Ram ended on January 21, 2004 and gave way to the Year of the Monkey. As far as the people of St. Louis are concerned, the Rams' year stopped on January 10, when the team suffered a disappointing overtime loss to the Carolina Panthers on January 10. Despite that defeat, the Rams enjoyed a successful 2003 season, posting a 12-4 record and leading the NFC in points scored.

      The Rams wisely made very few changes to their prolific offense during the offseason. Headlines and controversy surrounded Kurt Warner and his eventual release, but for this team's fantasy outlook, the news proved fairly worthless. Warner ceded his starting job to Marc Bulger early in the 2003 campaign, and the Rams solidified Bulger's position when they handed him a four-year, $17.25 million contract on May 3.

      In anticipation of Warner's departure, the Rams signed veteran, injury-prone statue Chris Chandler to a three-year deal in March. The franchise then completed their quarterback depth chart by selecting Michigan State's Jeff Smoker in the sixth round of April's draft.

      The bigger draft news, however, was the Rams choice to move up two spots in the first round to grab Oregon State running back Steven Jackson. According to head coach Mike Martz, the selection prompted the entire draft room to burst into boisterous applause, and we can only assume that Martz is telling us the unexaggerated truth. Maybe the Rams personnel was elated to find Martz once again following in Dick Vermeil's footsteps, as the Chiefs walked a similar path by choosing Larry Johnson in 2003.

      Also on offense, the Rams opted to bring back tight ends Brandon Manumaleuna and Cam Cleeland, both of whom were free agents. The pair combined for an uninspiring 39 catches, 435 yards, and two scores in 2003, and we don't anticipate that their pay increase or another year of experience will greatly boost those stats.

      On the defensive side of the ball, the club took a couple sizable hits over the past few months, starting at the top of their staff. Assistant head coach-defensive coordinator Lovie Smith signed up for the Bears' head job, and Martz responded by hiring old Arizona State pal Larry Marmie for the defensive coordinator position. Marmie held the same title for the Arizona Cardinals over the past three-plus seasons, and we all know how tough it's been to gain yards and score on those defenses over the past few years.

      Marmie's biggest challenge will be to reconstruct the Rams' defensive line. Starting right end Grant Wistrom signed on with the rival Seahawks, and starting defensive tackle Brian Young took his game down to New Orleans. The Rams could also be without pass-rushing stud Leonard Little, who is in trouble with both the law and the league after being arrested for a DWI...
      -07-07-2004, 07:46 PM
    • RamWraith
      Competition Fierce, Deep at Defensive End
      by RamWraith
      Staff Writer

      When Rams’ coach Mike Martz looks at his menu of defensive ends; it might depend on what kind of mood he is in to make his selection.

      Martz said he has as many as six possibilities to full the position vacated by the departed Grant Wistrom. Wistrom chose to sign with Seattle in the offseason after six seasons in St. Louis. Replacing a talented pass rusher and charismatic leader such as Wistrom could be tough to do with one player.

      “There was such an emotional attachment there,” Martz said of Wistrom. “We all felt like he was going to end his career here. It didn’t work out that way.”

      With that in mind, the Rams have a variety of choices to replace Wistrom, each bringing something different to training camp. Leonard Little will continue to hold down his position at left end as one of the league’s most feared playmakers. That leaves the six others to fight it out for Wistrom’s former spot.

      Bryce Fisher is penciled in as the No. 1 end on the depth chart. Fisher gives the Rams a solid, disciplined player who honed his leadership skills at Air Force. At 6-feet-3, 272 pounds, Fisher gives St. Louis bulk opposite the speedy Little. He finished the 2003 season with 47 tackles and a pair of sacks.

      Fisher’s spot is written in pencil for a reason, though. He will face stiff competition in training camp for his spot. The group that is angling for his job includes a former first round pick, a recently retired “plane pusher,” a grizzled veteran, a returning Ram and an unknown free agent. Any of them could win the job, but with only three training camp practices in the books, nobody knows who it will be.

      “I think last year I proved that I could play in this league,” Fisher said. “This year I am looking forward to proving that I can be a full-time starter for 16 games.”

      Buffalo drafted Erik Flowers with the 26th pick in the 2000 draft. After two seasons with the Bills, Flowers moved on to Houston, where he adjusted to a new role as an outside linebacker. Flowers is still searching for the fit that can prove his detractors wrong and a clean start in St. Louis could be the cure for what ails him.

      Perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the group is rookie Anthony Hargrove. Hargrove has been one of the camp’s early standouts, showing a quick burst and enough strength to pound against the run.

      After missing his final season at Georgia Tech because of academic problems, Hargrove took a job at Hartsfield Airport as a “plane pusher,” helping Delta move planes in and out and riding alongside the planes to make sure the wings don’t hit anything.

      Hargrove said he didn’t like having to wear the uniform Delta gave him because it was too small. That was the least of his worries there, however.

      “I was always thinking NFL,” Hargrove said. “Working 9 to 5 behind a desk,...
      -07-29-2004, 06:31 PM
    • RamWraith
      Pasch Scouts the Rams --Card Press
      by RamWraith
      by: Dave Pasch
      The Arizona Cardinals will see a lot of familiar faces Sunday when they visit St. Louis for the season opener, some of which they're not looking forward to seeing. That group includes Orlando Pace, who after a lengthy holdout signed a one year contract, and is expected to start Sunday, despite missing the entire preseason. In the past Pace holdouts, he at least played in one preseason game, so maybe he'll be a bit rusty.


      Pace will start at LT, and former Cardinals offensive lineman Chris Dishman will start at LG. The Rams still have Adam Timmerman, and Andy McCollum, but cut last year's starting center Dave Wohlabaugh, and Kyle Turley is out for the year with a back injury, which could cost him his career.

      Even though the Rams have Marshall Faulk, they still used their first round pick on running back Steven Jackson out of Oregon State. Faulk is 31 years old, and had some injury problems the last few years.

      The Kurt Warner era is officially over, even though it essentially ended when Marc Bulger grabbed the job early last season. Bulger looked great at times, but also threw 25 interceptions, including the post-season. He also had a lot of success, throwing for over 3,800 yards, and 22 touchdowns, but the Rams weren't as dangerous stretching the field, or in the red zone in 2003.

      That wasn't because of Torry Holt. He had his best NFL season, and one of the best EVER with 117 catches for just under 1,700 yards. Isaac Bruce is entering his 10th season, but can still get it done. Dane Looker was a nice surprise last year, and 2003 draft picks Shaun McDonald, and Kevin Curtis are healthier than they were at this time last year.


      Larry Marmie, who spent the last three seasons coordinating the Cardinals defense, will run the show in St. Louis for Mike Martz, who worked for Marmie at Arizona State. Marmie brought with him several former Cardinals, including Justin Lucas and Nijrell Eason. Eason failed to make the 53-man roster in Arizona last year, Lucas was let go on June 1.

      Leonard Little faces felony DUI chargers, which could impact his future in the NFL. He's by far the Rams best player on defense, and losing Grant Wistrom to Seattle in free agency won't help their pass rush. Former first round picks, DT's Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis have been disappointing, and last year's number one pick, DT Jimmy Kennedy is injured.

      The Rams have a good linebacking corps, but their best LB Tommy Polley is banged up, and may not play this week. Rookie fourth round pick Brandon Chillar would start in his place.

      CB Travis Fisher, who led the team last year with four INT's, is out with a broken arm, so 2003 fifth round pick Kevin Garrett will likely get the start opposite 2001 fifth round pick, Jerametrius Butler. St. Louis is pretty good at safety with the tandem of Adam Archuleta...
      -09-08-2004, 04:50 PM
    • AvengerRam_old
      In hindsight, the top and bottom 5 moves of last offseason.
      by AvengerRam_old
      Now that we have the ability to look back and evaluate, here are my top and bottom 5 offseason moves of 2004.

      Top 5 Moves

      1. Drafting Steven Jackson: While he has been underused and hindered by a minor knee injury, he has demonstrated the promise of being an extremely effective every down back. With Faulk on the decline, this was a big move for the long term.

      2. Matching Jeremetrius Butler's Offer Sheet: JB may not be a first-tier shutdown corner, but he is a solid starter who has played well this year, leading the team in interceptions. By matching the Redskins offer sheet, the Rams have secured his services for a very reasonable price, and don't have to break in a new starting CB as a primary aspect of their defensive rebuilding project.

      3. Drafting Anthony Hargrove: On draft day, his selection drew many cries of "what?" and "who?" but Hargrove has demonstrated some real potential as a DE, and plays with a fire that the Rams' D sorely needs. He may never be a superstar, but he should be an important contributer and potential starter for the next several years.

      4. "Handling" Orlando Pace: There is a bit of speculation on my part here, but I believe that the Rams, in not giving in to the Postons' absurd contract demands and, ultimately, driving a wedge between Pace and the Postons, could produce long term dividends if Pace is signed to a long-term, cap friendly contract this offseason. Here's hoping.

      5. Letting Grant Wistrom Go: I like Grant Wistrom. He was a very good player, and an even better influence, during his tenure with the Rams. He has done similar things when he's been able to play this year for the Seahawks. But he simply is not worth the money that it would have taken to keep him. If the Rams had broken the bank for him, it would have been salary cap suicide. And with the productivity of Bryce Fisher and Anthony Hargrove, the loss of Wistrom could hardly be considered the primary reason for the Rams' defensive troubles.

      Bottom 5 Moves

      1. Resigning Manumaleuna/Cleeland: This is a simple equation. The Rams have had trouble in the Red Zone in the past two years. The TE position is essential to Red Zone success, both from a blocking and receiving standpoint. Manumaleuna and Cleeland have been uneffective in these regards since they joined the Rams. And yet, the Rams matched on Manumaleuna (giving up a comp pick) and resigned Cleeland. Let's hope the Rams find an upgrade at TE this offseason. With the success of Antonio Gates, maybe they should start interviewing college power forwards?

      2. Selecting Larry Marmie as DC: Now, I'm not going to sit here and say that I know enough about the ins and outs of NFL teams to be able to say that Marmie is definitely to blame for the Rams defensive woes. However, I do see an inherent problem with Martz hiring such a close friend...
      -12-31-2004, 08:33 AM