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  • Rams Rookie Roundup

    Rams Rookie Roundup
    Monday, January 18, 2010

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    After an offseason roster overhaul, the 2009 Rams had a decidedly youthful feel to it.

    As one of the three youngest rosters in the league, opportunities were abound for young players at every position to make a difference, especially members of the 2009 NFL Draft class.

    And almost to a man, every member of that seven-man class made an impact on the field at some point or another.

    Most general managers hope to find a couple of starters and some role players in each draft but at various times, five rookie Rams started games. Some made greater impacts than others but almost all showed some promise that they can and will make a bigger difference well into the coming years.

    OT Jason Smith – First Round, No. 2 Overall

    Entering the draft, the Rams had placed a high priority on bolstering the offensive line. They did it in a big way, adding the top rated tackle on the board in the form of Smith.

    After a training camp spent learning the ropes, Smith emerged as the team’s starting right tackle in the season opener. Smith provided the Rams a physical presence on the right side and was one of those opening the hole for running back Steven Jackson’s game winning touchdown against Detroit.

    Although he has been hampered by knee and head injuries, Smith has made progress in his time on the field and figures to be a bedrock for the offensive line for many years to come.

    IN HIS WORDS: “Obviously the more you do something, the better you get at it,” Smith said. “As a team, we want to play hard, play physical and play together. I am just one piece of the puzzle. I just know that to go out and get better as an individual will help the team. I’m a guy that is always about we and not me.”

    THEY SAID IT: “He’s doing a nice job,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “I listen for little things like in the huddle he is calling the down and distance. For a rookie to be aware of that every play, that’s impressive to me. He is vocal. He is a confident guy so we kind of hang our hat on that right now.”

    MLB James Laurinaitis – Second Round, No. 35 Overall

    Perhaps no rookie in the league, let alone on the team made a greater impact in year one than Laurinaitis.
    Laurinaitis became the first rookie since Pisa Tinoisamoa to lead the team in tackles and Laurinaitis set a rookie franchise record for tackles in a season.

    Laurinaitis moved into the starting lineup early in training camp and hasn’t vacated the position while playing through his share of bumps and bruises. He doesn’t figure to leave that role anytime soon and has established himself as a cornerstone player for the franchise.

    IN HIS WORDS: “That’s one thing you will find out about me,” Laurinaitis said. “I am a perfectionist so even though I might think I am catching on a little bit, the goal is always way up here and you always catch me saying I am falling short. I always look and filter to not let the good plays resonate in my mind. I let the bad plays resonate because that’s the stuff you have got to improve on. I will say there have been a few less kind of mental busts where you are supposed to make a call and maybe week one and two, you make a few more than you do lately. That’s just getting comfortable in the system. Until I am perfect every week I am not going to be happy. But you can ask every player in the NFL, nobody ever plays a perfect game so that is always the target.”

    THEY SAID IT: “I have been pleased with him,” defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. “He has really grown as a player. We put a lot of management responsibilities on him as far as making checks and calls and those type of things. He seems like he gets more comfortable in that role and I have been very happy with the progress he’s made since he’s been with us.”

    CB Bradley Fletcher – Third Round, No. 66 Overall

    Fletcher had come on strong after earning a starting job in time for the Oct. 11 game against Minnesota.

    After getting his first start against the Vikings, Fletcher had slowly but surely started to get more comfortable in his spot and was starting to pick up on some of the nuances of his position.

    Fletcher had shown a knack for sticking his nose in on the running game, making 30 tackles including 22 solos in his seven professional games.

    And though he had gone through some growing pains with a penalty or two along the way, Fletcher appeared poised for put together a strong second half of the season and stake his claim to the job on a more permanent basis.

    But Fletcher suffered a season ending knee injury against Indianapolis on Oct. 25 and will have to fight his way back from that ailment to continue the progress he’d already made.

    IN HIS WORDS: “I feel that I have my best football ahead of me right now and I am looking forward to showing that on the field,” Fletcher said.

    THEY SAID IT: “Bradley has got a lot of upside; he is a young guy; he is a long arm corner, he’s tall; he is linear; he is a guy that has got reasonable deep speed,” Flajole said. “As much as you press, a lot of times people will have a tendency to try to take shots down the field on you. He is very good at the line of scrimmage – now he’s got a lot to learn – but he is. He is growing; he’s got the kind of frame that you like and we are trying to make sure he is on a natural progression to continue to get better and better.”

    DT Darell Scott – Fourth Round, No. 103 Overall

    Considered a work in progress coming out of Clemson, Scott has developed ahead of schedule in his first year with the team.

    After playing in the opener against Seattle, Scott was inactive the next four games. But Scott kept working and by the Nov. 29 game against Seattle, he had earned a starting job, making him the fourth Rams rookie to start a game.

    Scott continued to get starts and produce, flashing glimpses of his potential.

    IN HIS WORDS: "I'm definitely looking forward to making the best of it, and just showing the coaches that I belong here," Scott said.

    THEY SAID IT: “He has showed that he can do a pretty good job,” Spagnuolo said. “He is a big body in there. He moves around really pretty well. The things we do with movement I think he does a nice job at that. We will keep developing him. I think (Defensive Line Coach) Brendan Daly has done a real good job with him and I would like to see him continue to progress.”

    WR Brooks Foster – Fifth Round, No. 160 Overall

    Foster flashed a nice combination of size, speed and skill during the offseason program and into the opening days of training camp.

    Ultimately, Foster’s debut season was cut off before it ever began as he suffered an ankle injury in the preseason that landed him on injured reserve on Sept. 1.

    The Rams still have high hopes for Foster, who will get a chance to compete again next offseason.

    IN HIS WORDS: “I’m versatile,” Foster said. “I can play any position. I can play the slot, I can play the flanker, I can play the split end, I can run any route. I can give you speed, I can give you strength. I can do everything.”

    THEY SAID IT: “He’s a big wideout for us,” Spagnuolo said. “He was productive at North Carolina. Of course, there were other guys on that team. We feel fortunate he was there when we picked him.”

    QB Keith Null – Sixth Round, No. 196 Overall

    Coming from tiny West Texas A&M, Null had perhaps the biggest adjustment of all the rookies in his first year.

    Null spent his college career in a spread, shotgun heavy offense and was asked to go under center and learn a pro style offense.

    After some bumps in the road, Null worked out many of the kinks in time to make his NFL debut as a starter on Dec. 13 against Tennessee after injuries put Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller out. He finished out the final four games as a starter.

    Null showed some promise and the Rams will continue to develop him in the coming months.

    IN HIS WORDS: “I am going to go out and play with confidence no matter what happens each week,” Null said. “I am going to go out with the confidence in the ability God has given me and that’s what my confidence is in anyway so I am not going to doubt that. I would love to get out and play again. The more experience I can get, the better.”

    THEY SAID IT: “I think he’s got a lot of the attributes you’re looking for in a quarterback,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “As is the case at all positions, he’s worked very hard at developing his skills and he’s getting better every day.”

    RB Chris Ogbonnaya – Seventh Round, No. 211 Overall

    The Rams took a late-round flier on Ogbonnaya in hopes that he could provide some depth for starter Steven Jackson.

    Ogbonnaya had a solid preseason and earned a spot on the practice squad where he learned the NFL ropes and had the opportunity to learn from Jackson and the other veterans on the roster.

    After Jackson started having back problems late in the season, Ogbonnaya moved up to the active roster and flashed some potential in the final games of the season, including a strong performance in limited work against Arizona on Dec. 27.

    IN HIS WORDS: “I have progressed a lot, getting acclimated to the speed and getting acclimated to everything,” Ogbonnaya said. “I get a lot of reps during practice and just bettering myself running the football and in the passing game and the protections, all of that stuff. We meet a lot so it’s hard to not pick it up. But doing it the last six months, I have picked it up pretty good and I have a great grasp of it. I understand the protections and what certain routes supplement other routes.”

    THEY SAID IT: “He’s a physical, slashing runner,” Devaney said. “He’ll fit what we’re trying to do. He’s a downhill, power kind of guy.”

  • #2
    Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

    after going over that list,it would seem the FO did a very good job,barring injuries all of these guys would have made some sort of contribution,we could use two more drafts just like that one to get back on track.


    • #3
      Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

      I cannot wait to see our spring training camp this year. I want to see a healthy Brooks Foster and Ogbonnaya. Foster erally intrgues me, He runs good routes, very physical and strong for the position (linebacker strong), and is an athlete, he could be a good one if he's healthy.


      • #4
        Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

        The Optimist- 7 out of 7 draft picks made a contribution. Great job Devaney and Spags!

        The Pessimist- It's no surprise that all 7 draft picks played and contributed to a team that was 2-14 the previous season. But to end up with a worse record than the season before at 1-15 kind of says it all as far as how well Devaney and Spags really did with our draft picks.

        Which one are you?
        sigpic :ram::helmet:


        • #5
          Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

          Originally posted by laram0 View Post
          The Optimist- 7 out of 7 draft picks made a contribution. Great job Devaney and Spags!

          The Pessimist- It's no surprise that all 7 draft picks played and contributed to a team that was 2-14 the previous season. But to end up with a worse record than the season before at 1-15 kind of says it all as far as how well Devaney and Spags really did with our draft picks.

          Which one are you?

          A little bit of both. Smith and Laurinaitis are the type of players the Rams need more of. Null was OK, but showed nothing that leads me to believe he's some diamond in the rough. Fletcher has potential but is one of numerous corners who had a grand total of zero interceptions this season for us (an almost unbelievable stat). And Ogbonnaya, Foster and Scott are hardly guys I'm fired up about heading into the 2010 season.

          A decidedly mixed bag here with this group. I am more interested in who the Rams pick in the upcoming draft- and how they plan to address their QB need.


          • #6
            Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

            Yeah...I'm not sure it's a good thing that 5 rookies were starting for us at one point or another, but it's good to see that the players are progressing to the point where they CAN start for us. The future looks bright for these youngsters.


            • #7
              Re: Rams Rookie Roundup

              Although technically not part of The Rams '09 draft class, I think this list isn't complete without Gibson & Amendola.

              Imo, the impact they had was remarkable considering they weren't around for the preparation leading up to the season.

              They also represent just the greenest of a group of players found by DeSpags & the pro side of the personnel dept. The Rams seem to have left behind the era of FA failures like Drew B, Fakhir,et al, for solid additions in guys like Jason Brown, Bajema, J. Butler, and Robinson.


              Related Topics


              • RamDez
                Rams Wrap Up Draft
                by RamDez
                Sunday, April 26, 2009
                By Nick Wagoner
                Senior Writer
                For any team entering the NFL Draft, the ultimate goal is for the value of the players taken to meet the needs of the team heading into the next season.
                And after two days of exhaustive drafting, the Rams believe they did that as well as possible.
                After seven rounds, the Rams stood pat on all of their draft picks and came out with seven players they believe fit the mold of what they are looking for and fill the needs they had on both sides of the ball.
                Each player selected filled a different spot, also, as the Rams took seven players from seven positions though general manager Billy Devaney said that was just the way things fell.
                “We were hell bent on taking good players that were going to be part of this process,” Devaney said. “It wasn’t a case of we have to have one receiver, we have to have a quarterback, we have to take a tackle. It wasn’t anything like that at all. We are like 31 other teams. We are pleased with the way it went. We missed on some guys. It never goes perfect. That happens. For the most part, it went according to plan and overall we are really happy. Now we have to see if these guys can play.”
                The Rams kicked it off by filling their biggest need with a big man. After a long internal debate, the team opted for Baylor tackle Jason Smith with the second overall pick in the draft.
                Smith will be tasked with filling the large shoes left behind by recently released mainstay Orlando Pace.
                Although in the interim Smith might start out at right tackle with Alex Barron on the left side, Smith eventually projects to the left side where the team hopes he can be like Pace and hold down the position for a decade plus.
                “It’s like any other team that you put together,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “You get them in here. We’ll do what’s best. You have to give us a little time to get him a helmet and pads first but we’ll work that all out. It gives us a little bit of versatility and gives us another quality player at the offensive line position.

                “Anything is possible. We’ll use the versatility of him and some of the other guys but that’s viable.”
                For his part, Smith has no fear of stepping into what he figures are a large pair of shoes left behind by Pace. Smith was widely considered the best tackle in the draft and his aggressive, physical style on the field combined with his hard working, charismatic attitude made him a good fit for what the Rams are hoping to build.
                “Well obviously Orlando Pace was a great tackle,” Smith said. “He was drafted high. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler. And he’s a grown man. To this day, he is still a great tackle. He wears probably a size 18 and I wear a 14. He had his shoes, I have to make mine.”
                With the need for a tackle filled, the Rams turned their attention to finding a linebacker or wide receiver in the second round. After a run on receivers that saw...
                -04-27-2009, 12:37 AM
              • 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, 08:55 AM
              • Goldenfleece
                Rams Draft in Review...
                by Goldenfleece
                1. Jason Smith, LT, Baylor – Making a statement about the attitude they’re looking for, the Rams picked up a light-footed and athletic tight end turned tackle with top notch intangibles and loads of upside. The thinking here seems to be that although his technique still needs work and he will have to adjust to playing out of a different stance, Smith can be coached out of his flaws and possesses many other qualities that can’t be taught. Between Smith and Monroe, Jason might be the more fun to watch with his reputation for driving defensive players out of the picture, but time will tell whether he turns out to be the better blocker. In essence, the Rams opted for a growth stock over a blue chip.

                2. James Laurinaitis, MLB, Ohio State
                – Rumor has it the Rams were actually trying to trade up to land their linebacker of the future. They stayed put, but still landed a tough, smart field general for their defense. Although his work-out numbers are not eye-popping, this is an exemplary case of a guy who just plays good football. Over the course of his career, he was voted best linebacker in college football one year and best defensive player another.

                3. Bradley Fletcher, CB, Iowa – The first surprise of the day for the Rams, and arguably the biggest surprise from the team in several years, Fletcher is a physical cornerback with good size to speed ratio. Scott Wright listed him as the 14th ranked corner in the draft. Others were less kind. For example, the Sporting News’ draft preview had him ranked 31st among corners, which placed him outside their top 200 prospects overall. This was particularly unusual because the Rams took a player who had previously pled guilty to drunk driving, despite recent comments that any brushes with the law could get a player taken off their list. Now I’m not saying he’s a bad player or a bad kid for that matter, but given the talent available at other positions of need, one can’t help but wonder whether the Rams staff thought he was that good or that our depth was that bad. That said, if the team thought he was the best talent on the board and didn't think he'd last another round, they did the right thing to take him where they did.

                4. Dorrell Scott, DT, Clemson - Now this was probably a much more predictable move. Depth on the defensive line seemed to be an area of concern, and Scott will help fill the void as a guy who can line up on the nose and still provide some pass rush. He didn’t quite live up to the expectations that made him a preseason Outland Trophy candidate prior to his senior year, but there were reasons why people had those expectations in the first place. His potential makes for good value here.

                5. Brooks Foster, WR, North Carolina –
                Many Rams fans thought the team would draft a reliable possession receiver to play opposite the speedy Donnie Avery. Not...
                -04-27-2009, 06:11 PM
              • Bar-bq
                Scott Wright grades the Rams 2009 Draft Class
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                Here's Mr Wright's article, available on, released recently. He's now gone through all 32 teams and assigned each one a grade. We did pretty well!...
                -08-16-2009, 06:18 PM
              • eldfan
                Rams Team Report
                by eldfan
                As the regular season begins, and with the division-rival Seattle Seahawks on the horizon, coach Steve Spagnuolo knows the team's 3-1 preseason record doesn't count for much.
                "I'm perfectly aware that all of this is a honeymoon period," he said. "The real challenge is upcoming.

                "It's nice to be 3-1 after the preseason, but like I told the players, the score counted when we played the games. It doesn't matter now. We're moving on. We came in and did what we thought as a group were the right things to do. But the real test is the regular season, winning and losing."

                Even though Spagnuolo realizes building this team's roster in his image is a work in progress, he does like the team's mindset so far.

                He said, "I think we've got a bunch of hungry guys. I think it's good to be hungry. It's a hungry football team that wants to be a team. We've talked a lot about it and I think the guys have embraced it. At least their actions and the attitudes and what comes out verbally says that to me. So if we can rally around that, that would be good."

                Asked what he expects from his team, Spagnuolo said, "In a nutshell, I want a focused, disciplined, tough football team. We have certain measurements that we have after games that measure that focus, discipline and toughness. I blurt them out after every game and let them know if we met them. I think the team is starting to embrace that, too. We talk about it all the time."

                "If you're a physically tough team, you're able to run the ball and stop the run."

                Said guard Richie Incognito, "That's the identity we're trying to create. Physical up front, and get the running game going ... The coaches are calling it up, dialing it up and they're keeping it coming. We're pumped up, we're excited."

                Former Rams coach Dick Vermeil would often say a coach "has to be believed to be heard." Spagnuolo sees a team that is listening and accepting leadership.

                "That means a great deal," he said. "I thanked them the other night (before the final preseason game). The night before the game for what they did. Back in the offseason program, right through training camp, it was a new training camp. It was a different hotel and we're here. New staff, new this or that, and they didn't skip a beat. They really bought into it."

                How much will the team improve from a two-win season? While Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney know there is a lot of work to do, they aren't willing to accept just minimal improvement.

                "I don't think anybody here is saying, 'Boy, if we just double our win total, we'll be happy about that,'" Devaney said. "If we win four games, then we still stink.

                "We're thinking we have a pretty good team. How fast it meshes and comes together, we're...
                -09-11-2009, 06:59 AM