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  • Thursday Notebook

    Thursday, September 23, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Ryan Pickett and the Rams’ defense are positive that it isn’t as bad against the run as it might have appeared last week.

    After all, the group had, perhaps, the most difficult challenge in the league. Quick and shifty running back Warrick Dunn and bruiser T.J. Duckett provide enough of a challenge, but it was No. 7 in red that gave the Rams fits. Quarterback Michael Vick doesn’t discriminate, though, giving every team and every defender an equal opportunity to look foolish.

    Pickett said playing against Vick helps against any running quarterback, but he doesn’t know of any like Vick.
    “Nobody is faster than Vick,” Pickett said. “I haven’t really seen a human being that is faster than Vick. Anything fits our style except Vick.”

    The challenge won’t be as daunting Sunday when New Orleans comes to town. The Saints will likely be without running back Deuce McAllister, who has an ankle injury. His replacement is a combination of RB Aaron Stecker and former top choice Ki-Jana Carter. That pair doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of defenders, but another mobile quarterback backs those two.

    Aaron Brooks is that mobile quarterback and his success against the Rams in years past make him dangerous through the air or on the ground. He has run for nearly 1,000 yards in his four-year career. On the other side, St. Louis is allowing an average of 172.5 yards, 29th in the league.

    Pickett said that kind of number could give other teams the idea that the run defense isn’t where it needs to be yet.

    “I would think that would give them that impression,” Pickett said. “Why wouldn’t you with the kind of success they have had running against us? We definitely feel like we are much better than what we were last week.”

    NÜTTEN RETURNS: Offensive guard Tom Nütten returned to practice Wednesday and is getting closer to contributing. Nütten has missed every practice and game since he injured his toe against Washington in the third preseason game. Nütten said the injury was a “severe” case of turf toe, in which he actually dislocated it.

    He said the injury might have been a blessing in disguise, though. When Nütten reported to the Rams on August 20, he was well under his playing weight. His excitement about being back in the NFL was ruined by the injury.

    “It wasn’t the Cinderella story that I had in mind,” Nütten said. “I try to find the positive in it. If I’m here, I’m going to give it 100 percent and if I can’t go in the field, then I can do it in the weight room, the meeting room and get up to snuff on that. I was able to do that in the last three weeks.”

    The injury allowed him to use the time off to lift weights and workout. He has added pounds through the workouts and a little help from center Andy McCollum and guard Adam Timmerman, also known as the “Doughnut Brothers.”
    He said the time away from playing has paid off physically.

    “It’s pretty much right where I want to be right now,” Nütten said. “My strength went up pretty quick. Thanks to Adam and Andy bringing me one or two (doughnuts) once in awhile. It helped.”

    INJURY UPDATE: LB Brandon Chillar was added to the Rams’ injury report Thursday with a foot injury. His status is probable. There were no other changes to the Rams’ injury report from Wednesday, which listed cornerback Travis Fisher (broken forearm) and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (foot) as out; linebacker Trev Faulk (torn hamstring) as doubtful; cornerback DeJuan Groce (sprained knee) and Nütten as questionable; and quarterback Marc Bulger (right elbow), guard Chris Dishman (toe), defensive end Erik Flowers (back), cornerback Kevin Garrett (foot), defensive end Leonard Little (knee) and linebacker Tommy Polley (ribs) as probable.

    Fisher, Kennedy, Faulk, Groce and Chillar all missed practice Thursday

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Run Defense Focuses on Discipline
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, September 30, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    The Rams’ defense isn’t exactly getting a break when it lines up opposite San Francisco running back Kevan Barlow. It will, however, get some relief with Tim Rattay or Ken Dorsey at quarterback.

    The appearance of one or both of those quarterbacks in the *****’ backfield is a welcome change to the mobile quarterbacks St. Louis has faced in each of the past two weeks.

    Atlanta’s Michael Vick rolled up 109 rushing yards and New Orleans’ Aaron Brooks, Vick’s second cousin put up 27 yards on five carries, including a 12-yard run in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. Those quarterbacks hurt the Rams with their arms, also, combining for 495 yards through the air.

    The Vick family tree does not extend its branches to San Francisco and for that, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett is thankful.

    “That’s like a gift,” Pickett said. “We are happy about that. We’re not worried about the running as much. Now we have a chance to get after a quarterback who is not as mobile as Brooks and Vick.”

    The run defense’s struggles haven’t been limited to attempting to stop the quarterbacks, though. Through three games, the Rams are allowing 164.7 rushing yards per game.

    The Saints’ Aaron Stecker had his first career 100-yard game last Sunday, rushing for 106 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. His touchdown run spanned 42 yards. Take away that run and he is averaging about 3.7 yards per carry. That reveals what many already know to be true. The Rams’ run defense isn’t that bad, but has a tendency to allow big plays.

    Defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson confirmed.

    “I would say a lot of it is mental mistakes,” Jackson said. “When you have a one-gap defense, everybody has to be in their gap and we are all accountable. When one guy, myself or anybody else, gets out of their gap, it makes the defense look bad because there is no one else there to help you.

    “You have to go out and execute what you are supposed to do. When you make mistakes, you get exposed by good teams and we have played three good teams. We beat one of them and made a ton of mistakes in the other two games and we lost because of that. If we cut the mistakes down, we will be fine.”

    The Rams’ defense is predicated on discipline and without it, a big play can happen at any moment. Likewise, if everybody on the unit stays disciplined, it will likely lead to a big play for the defense.

    St. Louis will spend a lot of practice time this week focusing on that obedience to stay home and fill the proper space on every play.

    Echoing the sentiments of his teammates, defensive end Leonard Little said this defense is all about focus.

    “We need to stay in our gaps,” Little said. “That’s the biggest thing with this defense, staying in our...
    -10-01-2004, 05:30 AM
  • RamDez
    Pickett will miss game because of back injury
    by RamDez
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch


    First-team cornerback Jerametrius Butler's season is over after surgery last week on a torn knee ligament. Now the status of another starter is in question, at least for the short term.

    Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett is battling a nagging back problem that kept him out of last Sunday's preseason game in San Diego and will sideline him for Monday night's contest in Detroit. Coach Mike Martz said Saturday that even after a thorough series of tests, the cause of Pickett's pain remains a mystery.

    "We've MRI'd him, we've atomic-bombed him, atomic-scanned him, twisted him. We've looked at every inch of him and can't find anything," Martz said. "So I'm at a loss, to be honest with you. I don't know what's going on with him. ... We'll just have to be patient. I don't believe this is something that's going to keep him out for a long period of time."

    Pickett, 6 feet 2 and 330 pounds, was injured during the team's practice at Washington University on Aug. 6. He said he felt severe pain after grappling with 300-pound center Andy McCollum.

    "They've done everything possible to test it. They're really trying to find the root of the problem," Pickett said. "Everything came back negative, so that's a positive. ... They said it's probably some strained muscles."

    Although he said he was "getting better, much better," Pickett stressed that because he'd experienced setbacks while trying to come back earlier, he wants to be 100 percent before he tries to go full-bore again.

    First-team cornerback Travis Fisher also skipped practice Saturday with a sore back, but he said he planned to play Monday. Fisher said the pain started after he received a cortisone shot for a hip injury earlier in camp.

    "Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm over-reacting. But there's some kind of tightness in my lower back, and it happened after I got the shot," he said. "I've been practicing with it for a couple of days, and I kind of backed off (Saturday) to see if it'd calm down a little bit."

    Corey Ivy took reps with the first team in Fisher's place. DeJuan Groce is filling Butler's spot at the other corner.

    Updating other injuries:

    Defensive end Anthony Hargrove reported that he suffered a small fracture in his left hand while making a tackle Friday. He said the hand felt good in practice Saturday and shouldn't keep him off the field.

    Cornerback Duvol Thompson (broken hand) will make the trip to Detroit and might play. He didn't travel with the team to San Diego.

    Reporter Bill Coats
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Phone: 314-340-8189
    -08-28-2005, 02:39 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams' Run Defense Faces Tough Task
    by RamDez
    Rams' Run Defense Faces Tough Task
    Saturday, October 9, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    The Rams’ run defense has faced quite a bit of scrutiny in recent weeks, but with its biggest challenge on the way, the group is playing its best football of the season.

    St. Louis takes on Seattle at Qwest Field on Sunday in what is probably the most important game of the young season for both teams.

    That challenge for the Rams comes in the form of running back Shaun Alexander. In his four seasons, Alexander has racked up 4,241 yards and 46 touchdowns. There is little doubt that Alexander is one of the league’s top running backs. The Rams might be up for the challenge, though.

    Safety Rich Coady said the run defense must be mistake-free if it wants to slow Alexander.

    “When defenses start making mistakes, he’s going to take advantage of it,” Coady said. “I think he’s done that, and I think that’s why they’ve been so successful.”

    After a thoroughly dominating performance in shutting the *****’ Kevan Barlow down, the defense’s confidence is at its highest point this season. Barlow rushed for just 42 yards on 15 carries, and San Francisco finished with 58 yards on the ground. That effort came after the Rams surrendered big days to Aaron Stecker, Michael Vick and Emmitt Smith.

    So, why the change? Simply put, the defense did a better job of staying home and fulfilling assignments.

    Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett had his best performance of the season, causing havoc in the *****’ backfield and plugging the middle. Pickett took some criticism earlier this year for his performance, but Rams’ coach Mike Martz said it is difficult to evaluate a defensive tackle based solely on statistics.

    “I have always felt this way, that inside tackles in the National Football League, it’s very unusual for a guy to be consistently good,” Martz said. “There is so much to learn inside there and it’s just so different. I think both of those guys (Pickett and Damione Lewis) are developing very well this year.”

    CAN’T BYE WINS: Much is made of a team getting an extra week of practice because of the bye. It is even more noticeable when a team gets that bye the week before playing one of its best divisional opponents.

    Seattle had its bye last week after winning three games. That gave the Seahawks extra time to review film and evaluate the Rams. Does that give them an advantage?

    “I don’t know,” Martz said. “It’s an interesting question, and everybody has different feelings about that. I like the bye week in the middle of the season because it gives everyone a chance to catch their breath, and if you have some injuries you would like to give some guys the ability to mend. If you’re on a roll, sometimes people feel like it interrupts that, I don’t believe that. I’m kind of ambivalent about it. I don’t know...
    -10-10-2004, 01:22 AM
  • Nick
    TSN Rams Report
    by Nick
    TSN Rams Report

    Just when it appears that RB Steven Jackson is about to take control of the St. Louis backfield, he gets nicked up and sidetracked. Right knee problems slowed him twice in December, basically costing him two games. Bruised ribs in the playoff game against Seattle limited his effectiveness and may have him at less than 100 percent this week against Atlanta. Jackson is a big, powerful, fast, and patient runner. When it's all clicking, it's a scary combination. But if Jackson truly wants to put RB Marshall Faulk out to pasture, he's got to stay on the field. . . .

    An added emphasis on special teams, coupled with a few personnel changes, paid dividends on kickoff coverage against Seattle. A similar effort is needed against Atlanta or the Rams will find themselves in the familiar quandary of giving their defense horrible field position for much of the game. After spending the past seven games as a pregame inactive, the return of WR Mike Furrey helped the kickoff coverage unit against the Seahawks. Furrey has a toughness and tenacity about him, combined with surprisingly good strength for someone his size, which makes him a natural for his size. The Rams need to find a way to keep him active on game day, even if it means dressing six wide receivers. . . .

    An ankle injury to Tyoka Jackson and a nagging groin injury to Leonard Little have taxed the depth on the defensive line. But rookie DE Anthony Hargrove turned in a surprisingly good performance against Seattle's Pro Bowl LT Walter Jones, and DTs Ryan Pickett and Jimmy Kennedy are becoming a solid run-stuffing duo in the middle. Although still not 100 percent after a training camp foot injury, Kennedy has been playing up to his draft status (No. 12 overall in 2003) over the last month or so.

    KEY MATCHUP: Atlanta's defensive front four played like the Fearsome Foursome against the Rams offensive line in the regular season meeting. All four d-line starters had their moments in that game. Particularly disturbing from a Rams standpoint was the work of DE Brady Smith against Pro Bowl LT Orlando Pace. Pace needs to have a shutdown day. Smith has a non-stop motor, and Pace must never feel like the play is over. Just such a hustle play by Smith caused a key sack and strip of QB Marc Bulger around Pace, resulting in a key Atlanta touchdown. There's no doubt Pace has the size, strength, and athleticism to contain Smith. Doing it is another matter. Bulger needs to have the peace of mind that his backside is being protected on Saturday.

    X-FACTOR:The Rams have a speedy corps of linebackers in Pisa Tinoisamoa, Robert Thomas, and Tommy Polley, but the LBs looked like they were wearing concrete shoes trying to chase Michael Vick when the teams met September 19 in the Georgia Dome. (Polley didn't play in that game because of a rib injury.) The Rams must do a better job of containing Vick, whether it's by using a linebacker...
    -01-10-2005, 11:46 PM
  • RamDez
    Vick has another stellar outing against Rams' defense
    by RamDez
    Vick has another stellar outing against Rams' defense
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Jan. 16 2005

    ATLANTA - The Michael Vick Experience was open for business Saturday night at
    the Georgia Dome. But this time, he had to share the profits with Atlanta's top
    two running backs.

    Vick, the Falcons' multithreat quarterback, shredded the Rams for 201 total
    yards - 119 rushing, on just eight carries, and 82 passing, on 12-of-16

    He threw for touchdowns of 18 yards to tight end Alge Crumpler in the first
    quarter and 6 yards to wide receiver Peerless Price in the third period, as the
    Falcons buried the Rams 47-17 in the NFC semifinals.

    "Vick always come to play," Rams defensive end Anthony Hargrove said. "Whenever
    you go against him, you know you're going to get a handful of stuff. He had a
    great game throwing the ball and running the ball. So, hats off to him."

    The Falcons piled up 397 total yards, and a whopping 327 came on their
    relentless ground game. Tailbacks Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett bruised the
    Rams for a total of 208 yards in 32 carries - an average of 6.5 yards per

    "Whether it was Dunn slipping in here or there or Vick with the bootleg ... we
    worked against it all week, but we just couldn't stop it," defensive end
    Leonard Little said. "They really had their thing going."

    Dunn rushed for 1,106 yards in the regular season, and the bullish Duckett
    added 509. Atlanta's average of 167.0 yards was the best in the NFL.

    "It was pretty much just a straight running game," Hargrove said. "It was a
    matter of them just lining and running the ball, and us just not being in the
    right gaps and not making tackles."

    But defensive tackle Ryan Pickett pointed out that the ever-present threat of a
    Vick improvisation kept the Rams guessing, which created opportunities for Dunn
    and Duckett.

    "You've always got to worry about (Vick) taking off with a bootleg," Pickett
    said. "You have to play things differently, because his threat to run is so
    great. That definitely opens up things for everybody else."

    Added defensive end Bryce Fisher: "It takes one more guy out of the box
    (between the tackles). You have to be out there on him, because when he gets
    the ball out there on the perimeter, if he's got you outflanked, there's nobody
    who's going to catch him."
    That was evident early: Vick scrambled 47 yards on the third play after
    kickoff; two snaps later, he found Crumpler in the end zone, and Atlanta was up
    7-0 just 3 minutes into the contest.

    Vick also was the catalyst on Sept. 19, when the...
    -01-16-2005, 03:48 AM