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Secondary Set to Go

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  • Secondary Set to Go

    Secondary Set to Go
    Tuesday, August 3, 2004

    Staff Writer

    It was only a year ago when the Rams’ defensive backfield appeared to be one of the team’s biggest question marks. Queries such as who would hold down the cornerback positions, how will Aeneas Williams adjust to his new position and who will create turnovers in the secondary dotted training camp.

    Consider those questions answered. Jerametrius Butler took over one cornerback job in camp after a series of injuries to other defensive backs. Travis Fisher not only became a full-time starter, but also made the jump into the mix as one of the league’s better cornerbacks. Williams made the move from cornerback to free safety flawlessly and it seemed like just about everyone in the secondary created turnovers.

    The stability of the defensive backfield led to 23 interceptions or fumbles recovered. This year, with the questions sufficiently answered, most of the jockeying for position is for the backup spots.

    Williams leads the group, as usual. It comes as no surprise that the elder statesman of the Rams’ defense is back for another go-around. Age has yet to catch up with the supremely conditioned safety, who is entering his 15th season. He finished 2003 with four interceptions and four fumbles recovered, scoring a pair of touchdowns.

    One of the few players in the league who actually enjoy training camp, Williams said he is excited about the development of his running mates in the secondary.

    “Having young guys with a lot more experience under their belt, we will be much better as a defense,” Williams said. “Someone is always stepping up.”

    Butler was definitely one of those guys who stepped up in 2003. After spending most of his rookie season on the bench, Butler emerged as the starter early in training camp and never relinquished the job. He finished with four interceptions and a fumble recovery.

    Butler’s performance was enough to garner a contract offer from Washington in the offseason. His play was also good enough for St. Louis to match the offer and bring him back as an important piece of a talented young defense.

    Adam Archuleta makes his return as Williams’ hard-hitting tag-team partner. As the starting strong safety, Archuleta finished 2003 with 101 tackles, five sacks and an interception in 13 games. He developed further as a sort of hybrid safety-linebacker, spending a lot of time close to the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. Archuleta said he expects more of the same in his fourth season.

    “I like my roles to expand,” Archuleta said. “As long as I continue to be able to move around and be stretched as a player and not settle into one confined role then I’ll be happy.”

    Fisher followed his rookie season with another strong year. He finished with four interceptions and earned a reputation as one of the league’s most dangerous interception return men. He had returns of 74, 65 and 57 yard, two of which went for touchdowns. The emergence of Butler and Fisher made it hard for some of the younger defensive back to play, but their roles could expand this season.

    In their debut seasons a year ago, DeJuan Groce and Kevin Garrett handled backup duties as camp opened and could see time in nickel and dime situations. Groce played in every regular season game, getting a start against Pittsburgh. He wasted no time making an impact, intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter.

    Garrett is, perhaps, the fastest Ram. He missed seven games with a fractured wrist and didn’t play much in the nine games he did. He said he hopes to challenge for a larger role this year and appears to be completely healthy.

    “I am a little more comfortable now,” Garrett said. “I know the defense a little more. Last year, I had to come in and learn it. I was a little bit nervous.”

    The battle for the backup safety spots could be one of the most heated in camp. Rich Coady returned to the Rams after a short absence and likely figures to land a roster spot. Coady has struggled with back spasms in training camp and that could put his spot in a precarious position.

    Rookie Jason Shivers followed Archuleta’s example, playing the same position as an Arizona State Sun Devil. Shivers has been solid in early practices, making a few difficult interceptions. He has turned to Archuleta for some advice, but looks to Williams the majority of the time.

    “He’s like a computer,” Shivers said. “Some things you might not understand and you go to him to pick his brain. You devise your plan based on what he does. I couldn’t ask for somebody better to follow behind.”

    St. Louis signed veteran Tom Knight on Monday night to a one-year deal. His experience means he will almost certainly figure into the mix somewhere.

    Of the free agents and rookie brought in to compete, Justin Lucas has probably been the most impressive. It seems secondary coach Perry Fewell praises Lucas at least once a practice for a good read or acrobatic interception. Lucas brings experience in coordinator Larry Marmie’s defense to the group, another former Cardinal entering his seventh season.

    Lucas said competing for a job isn’t a matter of standing out, but of being consistent every day and showing versatility.

    “I just try to do my best each and every time,” Lucas said. “When the play presents itself, I need to make it. As a backup safety one of the places where people forget about is special teams.”

    Special teams could make the difference for many of the players competing for spots in the secondary. Others who are trying to make the roster include Dwight Anderson, Corey Yates and Nijrell Eason. When the special teams drills begin, the only remaining question could be answered: Who has what it takes to stick in one of St. Louis’ most hotly-contested roster battles.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: Secondary Set to Go

    Damn, I need to contact Aeneas on his workout routine. Those are some chiseled abs!


    • #3
      Re: Secondary Set to Go

      HEY!!!!! WHO PUT AENAES'S HEAD ON MY BODY!!!!???? lol

      The secondary made me nervous last year, but i'm a little more comfortable with them this year with some experience as long as Archuleta doesn't knock himself out again.


      • #4
        Re: Secondary Set to Go

        I don't about anyone else, but this makes me excited. The guys look like they are ready to cause some havoc!!
        Always a Rams Fan............

        Rex Allen Markel


        • #5
          Re: Secondary Set to Go

          We got some talent behind Butler and Fisher.....Groce and Garrett are going to play the Nickel and Dime packages this year.

          This is the year of the defense for the that has a nice ring to it.