No announcement yet.

Rams can develop talent -- keeping it is the challenge

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Rams can develop talent -- keeping it is the challenge

    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Friday, Sep. 24 2004

    New Orleans Saints tight end Ernie Conwell looked over the Rams roster the
    other day and saw many names he didn't recognize.

    His old team has pretty much turned over since the "Greatest Show on Turf" blew
    away the NFL with its high-powered attack.

    Saints defensive tackle Brian Young hooked up with his old Rams running mate
    Grant Wistrom for dinner before the Seattle Seahawks played in New Orleans.
    They, too, had to marvel at how quickly things change in pro football.

    It's the nature of the business. The Rams have reached the playoffs in four of
    the last five years, winning two NFC Championships and one Super Bowl in the

    And yet the player turnover has remained constant, due to free agency and the
    constraints of the salary cap. Successful teams will always lose key players
    through this system.

    If the Rams defense still had London Fletcher, Dre' Bly, Wistrom and Young --
    four home-grown playmakers who departed for big free-agent dollars -- nobody
    would be concerned about the unit.

    Post-Dispatch scribe Jim Thomas asked Rams coach Mike Martz if he wonders about
    what sort of team he would have today if not for the cap.

    "You try not to think about those things," Martz said. "That's just not the way
    it is. That's just not life in the NFL today. That's just not reality."

    Rams fans have been complaining about the caliber of recent drafts. They lament
    the regression of linebacker Tommy Polley, the halting progress of defensive
    tackles Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett and the second lost season for injured
    defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy.

    But fact is, the Rams organization has developed plenty of talent. Keeping it
    has been the greater challenge.

    The one offensive lineman the Rams have drafted and developed the last few
    years, Ryan Tucker, left for larger dollars. So did slot receiver Az-Zahir
    Hakim, one of the catalysts of the '99 championship run.

    So did Conwell, a terrific blocker and receiver. So did fullback James Hodgins,
    a powerful lead blocker. So did possession receiver Ricky Proehl. The list goes
    on and on.

    "There is really nothing you can do about it," Martz said. "You're always happy
    for guys like Dre' Bly and Az Hakim and Ernie and all these guys that move on
    and make more money. It's part of your family. It's the Rams family.

    "When they leave, it's still . . . as happy as you are for Grant Wistrom out
    there (Seattle), it hurts to see him go. You end up lining up against all these
    guys. It's hard."

    With Jay Zygmunt managing the salary cap and Charley Armey locating some
    bargain replacements, the Rams have stayed competitive in this environment.
    They have done some creative things to keep the roster well-stocked with Pro
    Bowl-caliber players.

    But there is no way to keep everybody.

    "That's what's hard, there is nothing you can do about it," Martz said.
    "Sometimes they think, can't you just do this and that with a contract? It's
    just not there."

    So the Rams try to get the most from what they have. Armey has scrambled to
    fill holes, bringing former standouts like Chris Dishman and Kwamie Lassiter
    back in from the streets.

    The coaching staff is trying to coach up their kids and get more from their
    young linebackers, cornerbacks and interior defensive linemen. The Kevin
    Garretts and Brandon Chillars of this team will be critical to the season

    It's a battle for the Rams, just as it's a battle for the 0-2 Kansas City
    Chiefs, the 2-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 0-2 Miami Dolphins.

    The bad teams cherry-pick talent off the good ones. Piracy leads to parity,
    which is the way the NFL likes it.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking