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Tar Heel draftee aims to catch on at receiver

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  • Tar Heel draftee aims to catch on at receiver

    MAY 29, 2009 -- Brooks Foster turns up field with the ball during an organized team activity training session at Rams Park in Earth City. (David Carson/P-D)

    By Bill Coats

    Far better known for producing top-shelf basketball players than NFL-caliber wide receivers, the University of North Carolina nonetheless provided an impressive bounty of pass-catchers for this year's draft.

    Hakeem Nicks went to the New York Giants in the first round (No. 29 overall), Brandon Tate was selected by New England in the third (No. 83), and Brooks Foster was the Rams' fifth-round pick (No. 160).

    That threesome piled up career totals of 324 receptions, 5,004 and 35 touchdowns for the Tar Heels. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Foster, who contributed 97 catches for 1,237 yards and six TDs, described himself as the trio's de facto leader. "A lot of the players looked up to me," he said. "We helped each other out."

    Getting the ball thrown his way could be a challenge at times, he acknowledged. "It was tough, but I never worried about getting lost in the shuffle," he said. "We three receivers, we knew how good we were. We had a good time competing, and we just got better off each other."

    With veterans Torry Holt, Drew Bennett, Dane Looker and Dante Hall no longer with the club, the Rams are banking on a gaggle of young wideouts. Second-year pros Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton figure to be the starters, with three-year vet Laurent Robinson in the No. 3 spot.

    The rest of the jobs — the Rams probably will keep six wide receivers — are up for grabs. Foster is the only wideout the team drafted this year.

    Coach Steve Spagnuolo likes Foster's potential. "We need a little bit of time with him, but he's been good," Spagnuolo said.


    Although both are expected to land starting jobs, the team's top two draft choices, tackle Jason Smith and linebacker James Laurinaitis, remain with the second units for now.

    "That's probably a philosophy thing," Spagnuolo said. "I guess what I believe in is, you earn anything that you should get. These guys haven't even played in a game yet. We have a lot to find out. We still haven't put the pads on."


    Defensive tackle Kirston Pittman (heel) remains sidelined. Wideouts Burton (hamstring) and Derek Stanley (knee) were limited. ... Two more practices are scheduled for today, with minicamp wrapping up with a single workout Saturday morning.

Related Topics


  • r8rh8rmike
    Wide Receivers Short On Numbers, Credentials
    by r8rh8rmike
    Wide receivers short on numbers, credentials
    By R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer
    56 minutes ago

    ST. LOUIS (AP)—Donnie Avery(notes) might as well get used to double coverage. He’s only in his second season, but the St. Louis Rams’ other three wide receivers have even thinner resumes.

    Avery, a second-round pick last year, caught 53 passes with three touchdowns and has the speed to make defenses take notice. The rest of the quartet combined for 24 receptions last year and also are young, with none of them having two years’ experience.

    It’s a far cry from the days when quarterback Marc Bulger(notes) had Isaac Bruce(notes) and Torry Holt(notes), both likely future Hall of Famers, zipping downfield.

    Coach Steve Spagnuolo joked that the backup plan for a roster that carries only four wide receivers calls for offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to suit up. He can at least count on a trio of tight ends led by Randy McMichael(notes) as well as running back Steven Jackson for diversity in the opener Sunday at Seattle.

    Spagnuolo pointed out most teams don’t activate more than five wide receivers for games anyway, leaving the Rams only one body short heading into his head coaching debut.

    “Where we’re lucky, where we are fortunate, is we’ve got some versatile tight ends,” Spagnuolo said. “You get two injuries when you have five active, you’re looking at the same thing.”

    The Rams are skimping at wide receiver because of concerns at other positions. They’re also carrying 10 linemen on both sides of the ball, which will force several starters into duty on special teams.

    Quarterback Marc Bulger, who’s expected back from a broken pinkie on his throwing hand, said he’ll have plenty of options in the Rams’ new West Coast offense.

    “I know this time of year there are concerns at different positions where you might have to steal a guy or two, and I think once things get worked out we might add wide receivers,” Bulger said. “But we feel confident with the guys we have now.”

    Jackson holds the franchise record for running back receptions with 90 in 2006. McMichael had 39 catches in 2007, his last full season.

    Avery made light of a question about the lack of depth at wide receiver, pointing to the locker stalls of Derek Stanley(notes), Keenan Burton(notes) and Laurent Robinson(notes) as if he was introducing his teammates.

    “All of us are fast,” Avery said. “All of us are deep threats. If we get the ball in our hands, we can make something happen.”

    Robinson was acquired from the Falcons, general manager Billy Devaney’s old team, after slumping to only five catches in an injury-shortened 2008. He’s had to prove himself before, emerging from Illinois State as a third-round pick in 2007.

    Stanley was a seventh-round pick in 2007 and began last year on the practice...
    -09-10-2009, 04:30 PM
  • eldfan
    St. Louis Rams Team Report
    by eldfan
    New Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo promised his team the first few days of training camp would be "a bear," and while the weather wasn't too hot and the two-a-days had just one practice each day in full pads, the intensity was high as well as the hitting.
    During the first two morning practices, the ones in full pads, there were about 30 plays with live tackling.

    After the first day, Spagnuolo said, "We need to find out quickly - you've got to remember again it's a whole new staff and a lot of unknowns - really the only way to find out is to put them in those kind of situations. As we go along here every day we will decide how many of those periods will be live. It was really two periods and about 30 plays of live."

    When questioned further by the media, Spagnuolo winked and said, "Do you think it was tough? I didn't think it was that tough. It was physical."

    Of course, Spagnuolo did admit to something else: "I'm doing this every time. I've got my hands behind my back (crossing fingers)."

    Said linebacker Will Witherspoon, "Usually you don't go live that first day of pads but it's good. You really want to get the feel of hitting again, striking guys again. That was kind of the key point of it and getting the feel of hitting through a guy. It was great. I think it was good for everybody to come out here and just get moving and get in the momentum of the game."

    Added cornerback Ron Bartell, "One thing I have learned over the years is that it's a lot easier to be hard on guys and then kind of back off than it is to be light and try to get hard on guys again. I think he knows what he's doing. He knows when to let up. Right now, it's day two so I think we'll be fine."

    The hitting even included running back Steven Jackson.

    "He's got to get hit, everybody else has got to get hit," linebacker Chris Draft said. "We have got to get ready too. Right now, that's what we have. We have our chance to get out here, run to the ball and be able to tackle the ball. It doesn't matter who has it."

    Players have been running to the ball, gang tackling, and picking up even incomplete passes to run with it to get in the mindset of creating turnovers and making plays. While the defense has been maligned in recent seasons, Spagnuolo believes there's more there than is realized.

    "I think we've got guys with that kind of attitude," he said. "I do believe that. We've got to keep healthy. (But) we've got to do the things out here to kind of get ready for the competition that we're going to face going forward."

    Concluded Bartell, "You better have some attitude. I don't think we've carried the attitude the past couple years that we should've had, and we paid for it on the field. So (the coaches) are coming in, they're instilling...
    -08-03-2009, 09:55 AM
  • MauiRam
    NFL: Spagnuolo pleased with progress of defense ..
    by MauiRam
    May 25, 2010 6:37 PM
    The Telegraph

    ST. LOUIS — Steve Spagnuolo is a defensive-minded coach.

    In his first season as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams, the architect of the New York Giants’ Super Bowl-winning defense watched his Rams finish 29th defensively out of 32 teams during a 1-15 season.

    With players entering their second season in Spagnuolo’s system, the coach is pleased with what he’s seen so far during organized team activities.

    "We’re certainly ahead of where we were last year with the communication and getting things set, and people feeling comfortable," Spagnuolo said after Tuesday’s practice at Rams Park. "Defense is all reactionary, so when you eliminate the learning curve of thinking instead of reacting, you usually play better defense and play faster."

    Anchoring that defense is second-year linebacker James Laurinaitis, who has been a fixture at Rams Park since the season finished in January.

    "He must have texted me 10 times during that period when they were off asking, ‘Is there something I can do? Send me film. What do you need me to do?’" Spagnuolo said of the former Ohio State linebacker. "He’s everything you see."

    The Rams added two more Ohio State linebackers in the offseason, with Na’il Diggs and Bobby Carpenter joining Laurinaitis and Larry Grant. Spagnuolo said he was impressed with the size of the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Diggs and how easily Carpenter transitioned from the 3-4 system in Dallas to Spagnuolo’s 4-3.

    "The thing that’s helped him is the fact that he’s familiar with some of the guys already," Spagnuolo said of Carpenter, whose career at Ohio State overlapped those of Laurinaitis and Grant. "They bonded right away. They’ve got that Buckeye thing going on."

    Diggs is one of only six players over the age of 30 on the Rams’ current 91-man roster. Spagnuolo said the "more experienced players" like Diggs and free agent acquisitions Hank Fraley and Fred Robbins can teach the younger players "how to be a pro."

    Spagnuolo and Robbins, a former Giants defensive tackle, have "high expectations" for the season in terms of productivity and leadership on a young team. Robbins, a 33-year-old 10-year veteran, was signed as a free agent in March.

    This is the second week of OTAs at Rams Park. The Rams practiced Monday and Tuesday and will go again on Thursday. That practice is closed to the media.

    After this week the Rams have three OTA sessions remaining and a mandatory mini-camp from June 10-12. The roster is currently at 91 players, but must be down to 80 by the start of training camp in late July.

    While the weather last week was mild, the first two practices this week have been in unusually warm 90-degree heat.
    -05-26-2010, 02:19 PM
  • MauiRam
    Brooks Foster ..
    by MauiRam
    Since it's the off-season, how about we take a gander at Brooks Foster?

    St. Louis Rams Examiner
    Tim Klutsarits
    April 30, 1:29 PM

    Most everyone knows the backgrounds of the top picks in the NFL Draft but where teams have long term success is getting production from later round picks. With the Rams having such a shallow talent pool they are in desperate need of having their later round picks produce immediately. This week we will look at all of the Rams later round draft picks. We have already looked at 3rd round pick Bradley Fletcher and 4th round pick Dorell Scott this week. Today we look at Rams 5th round pick Brooks Foster, wide receiver out of North Carolina.

    WHY THE RAMS SHOULD HAVE DRAFTED FOSTER: The 6'1 211 lbs wide receiver from North Carolina is a tremendous athlete. On top of having good size and speed he is apparently a workout warrior. The North Carolina Tar Heels Examiner Brian Ernst says that Foster "is a beast in the weight room and has set most of UNC's lifting records, even those typically held by linebackers and lineman." On top of his workout acumen he was also a very good basketball player. He was a walk-on basketball player for the Tar Heels when they won the National Championship in St. Louis in 2005. So he does have some good history in the Edward Jones Dome.

    WHY THE RAMS SHOULD NOT HAVE DRAFTED FOSTER: His production at North Carolina was nothing to write home about. Foster had 30 catches for 334 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2008. Part of the explanation for that was that UNC had two high end wide receivers on their roster in Hakeem Nicks (picked in the first round by the NY Giants) and Brandon Tate (who was selected in the third round by the Patriots). So there was a lot of talent at UNC but there is a lot of talent in the NFL too. Foster also has a history of knee problems. He had a knee injury at the end of the season and also had difficulties with his knee at the Senior Bowl. The other concern I have also comes from Brian Ernst who says "that he would make an unbelievably athletic catch and then drop a gimme." That is concerning to hear as well.

    WHAT WILL MAKE THIS PICK A SUCCESS: This pick will be a success if Foster can get into the Rams offensive flow at some point in the season. I believe that if Foster could become a factor in the red zone on "jump ball" passes, creating mis-matches with smaller defensive backs that he could be a real asset. My assessment is that if Foster can somehow become a player that catches about 25-35 balls and rack up about 300-400 yards in the 2009 season then this would be a real get for Billy Devaney and the Rams.

    WHAT WILL MAKE THIS PICK A DISASTER: The pick becomes a disaster if Foster cannot make it on a squad that currently has a three deep of Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, and Derek Stanley. This is easily the easiest roster...
    -07-12-2009, 03:48 PM
  • MauiRam
    Team unity is St. Louis Rams' primary focus right now
    by MauiRam
    By Jim Thomas

    With the conclusion of their third and final minicamp, the long offseason is almost over for coach Steve Spagnuolo and the Rams.

    Over the next nine days, the Rams will sprinkle in six days' worth of practice sessions known as OTAs (organized team activities). Then, the players scatter until training camp begins at the end of July.

    "We have a long way to go, only in that there's still a lot of things that we've got to lay foundation-wise," Spagnuolo said. "What you really don't know until you get into those preseason games is how you stack up against the other teams." Per NFL guidelines, full pads and anything resembling full contact is prohibited during the spring minicamps and OTAs. That all changes with the start of training camp, and of course, the preseason games.

    In the spring, a wide receiver may look flashy running around "in pajamas" as Dick Vermeil used to call it. But how will that receiver respond during two-a-days in August when he goes over the middle and gets thumped by a safety from behind?

    Similarly, the Rams invested heavily in the offensive line during the offseason, luring center Jason Brown from Baltimore with a big free-agent contract and using the No. 2 overall pick in the draft on tackle Jason Smith. Can Smith pass-block well enough to meet NFL standards as a rookie? Will Brown be as good as advertised?

    It's hard to know for sure until the pads come on. So even Spagnuolo and his coaching staff have resisted making hard-and-fast judgments on players so far. To a large degree, that wasn't what the offseason conditioning program, minicamps, and OTAs were about at Rams Park.

    "Right now the primary focus is on those things you really can't measure," Spagnuolo said. "I've talked about that before — the team chemistry, the unity. I'm always pounding that. I'm always talking about how efficient they have or have not been on the practice field. ... I said this way back in the first minicamp (in April) that it was a lot about learning how to practice. I think they've got it now."

    It has also been about learning a new playbook under new coordinators Pat Shurmur (offense) and Ken Flajole (defense).

    "We were talking about that this morning — Pat, Ken and I," Spagnuolo said Saturday. "We're between 70 and 80 percent (installed). … The bulk of it's in."

    The offense will be an intriguing blend of power running behind Steven Jackson and the West Coast passing scheme. But gaping holes remain on the depth chart, and most observers wonder if the Rams have enough at wide receiver.

    Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton and Laurent Robinson finish the spring as the top three wideouts, but Burton has missed valuable practice time because of a hamstring injury. Is...
    -06-09-2009, 09:02 AM