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Chris Hovan adds experience to Rams defense ..

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  • Chris Hovan adds experience to Rams defense ..

    By Bill Coats

    Ten years in the trenches of the NFL have taken their toll, new Rams defensive tackle Chris Hovan conceded. "I'm not walking right anymore," he said.

    His enthusiasm hasn't suffered similarly, though. "I'm still blessed to be playing football," he said. "I do still have a passion for this game, and I have two or three years left in this old body."

    The 6-foot-2, 296-pound Hovan, 32, signed a free-agent deal with the Rams and reported to the practice field Thursday for the start of a three-day minicamp.

    Originally a first-round choice by Minnesota (No. 25 overall), Hovan spent the last five seasons with Tampa Bay. He became expendable when the Buccaneers took defensive tackles Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma and Brian Price of UCLA with their first two draft picks in April

    "That's just the nature of the business," Hovan said. "I didn't take any offense to it; it's not personal. One door closes, and I'm just grateful that another door opened here in St. Louis."

    Hovan joins a defensive line that now features a couple of more veterans to mix in with a group of youngsters. Earlier during free agency, the Rams brought in tackle Fred Robbins, 33. He also was drafted by the Vikings in 2000 (second round, No. 55 overall).

    "That has been a little bit by design," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I think on most of these successful teams in this league, usually at every position they have somebody with some experience, a leader, a good example. We've got that kind of filtered in now."

    Hovan might have as big an impact in the locker room as he will on the field, Spagnuolo noted. "He's played a lot of football. He's a tough nut," Spagnuolo said.

    No matter what role the Rams carve out for him, Hovan vowed that he'd embrace it.

    "Whatever Coach Spagnuolo asks of me, I'm there to do," he said. "If it's a role player, that's fine. How many reps doesn't really matter to me. Whatever situation that he calls upon, I'll be there for Coach."

    Hovan, a former Boston College All-American who has started 149 of 156 games in the NFL, had opportunities with other teams after his release. He called the Rams "the best fit for me," largely because of their approach on defense.

    "Last year I didn't have my best year," he acknowledged. "I played a two-gap defense, and I played a little bit heavier. That's not my style. I'm a 300- to 305-pound guy, and I get up the field.

    "I think this defense suits me a little bit better. It's an attacking defense, relentless pursuit. I think once I get acclimated to what we're doing, I'll be more comfortable and ready to make some plays."

    The Rams will play at Tampa Bay on Oct. 24, and Hovan already is looking forward to the chance to silence his critics.

    "Of course. I'm not going to lie to you and say no," he said. "But at the same time, you can't listen to what everybody says. You have to be focused and look ahead at what you can do. ...

    "I can't thank the Buccaneers enough for everything they've done for me, and before, the Vikings. Now I owe it to the Rams organization to do everything for them."


    Tackle Jason Smith, who left practice early Tuesday with a toe injury, was back at the morning workout Thursday. But he felt irritation in the toe afterward and was sent for an MRI exam. The results were not immediately available. ... Minicamp will resume with two more practices today, then wrap up with a single workout Saturday morning.

  • #2
    Re: Chris Hovan adds experience to Rams defense ..

    I wasn't really thrilled that this article started off withe quote, "I'm not walking right anymore." but, I like the guys attitude. He seems to have a chip on his shoulder and sounds like he enjoys getting to the passer. Like I stated in previous threads I'm not exactly thrilled with the development of most of your young DT's. Hopefully this guy come in and add a good veteran presence.


    • #3
      Re: Chris Hovan adds experience to Rams defense ..

      Too bad his play has extremely deteriorated. Not looking for much from him.


      • #4
        Re: Chris Hovan adds experience to Rams defense ..

        Tx - just curious. Why do you say that?

        Do (have) you watched him and /or Tampa that much, or are you just figuring since they let him go, he must be washed up?. IDK - to me, with the addition of two pretty much sure fire draftees, he became understandably expendable, but I don't automatically conclude from that that he cannot contribute, especially at his salary, and as (probably) a rotational type player.

        Cheer up - y'all are about to join the Pac 10. ;)


        • #5
          Re: Chris Hovan adds experience to Rams defense ..

          Hard to know what to expect from Hovan .. Was he playing hurt last year? Was he healthy? Has father time simply eroded his skills? One thing I think is fair to say: Spags and Billy are better equipped to determine what Hovan has left than any of us fans. I doubt they would have brought him in if they felt he had nothing to offer but "locker room presence." Chris will have to earn a spot on the roster just like anyone else, and maybe he will, and maybe he won't. No sense beating the guy up until he's had his chance. I have no idea what to expect from Hovan, but I'm willing to waive judgment until he's had the opportunity to show what he can do, or can't do ..


          • #6
            Re: Chris Hovan adds experience to Rams defense ..

            Originally posted by VegasRam View Post
            Tx - just curious. Why do you say that?

            Do (have) you watched him and /or Tampa that much, or are you just figuring since they let him go, he must be washed up?. IDK - to me, with the addition of two pretty much sure fire draftees, he became understandably expendable, but I don't automatically conclude from that that he cannot contribute, especially at his salary, and as (probably) a rotational type player.

            Cheer up - y'all are about to join the Pac 10. ;)
            Yea, I've watched him. His stats have really dropped off and a friend of mine who is a Bucs fan said good riddance. He was a MONSTER when he played for the Vikings but since then he's just taking up a spot.

            Can he have a rebirth? I hope so. However, I wouldn't count on it.


            • #7
              Re: Chris Hovan adds experience to Rams defense ..

              I think the question, then, becomes whether or not he needs to have a rebirth in order to be an improvement over guys like Gary Gibson or Leger Douzable. Hovan may be only a shell of what he used to be, but that shell may still offer more than some of these young guys fighting for roster spots.


              • #8
                Re: Chris Hovan adds experience to Rams defense ..

                Originally posted by txramsfan View Post
                Yea, I've watched him. His stats have really dropped off and a friend of mine who is a Bucs fan said good riddance. He was a MONSTER when he played for the Vikings but since then he's just taking up a spot.

                Can he have a rebirth? I hope so. However, I wouldn't count on it.
                Fair 'nuff. I know the name, but really haven't watched him.

                (You a longhorn fan, and if so, what do you think about the Pac 10 rumor?)


                • #9
                  Re: Chris Hovan adds experience to Rams defense ..

                  Originally posted by VegasRam View Post
                  Fair 'nuff. I know the name, but really haven't watched him.

                  (You a longhorn fan, and if so, what do you think about the Pac 10 rumor?)
                  I went to school at Memphis (yes, I watched Isaac play there. Torched Ole Miss one year), but I am a Longhorn football fan. Not a rumor. It's solid. Love the thought of playing the likes of UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, Washington instead of Nebraska, Kansas State, Missouri.


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                  • mikhal5569
                    Probably The Best Article I've Read All Year
                    by mikhal5569
                    Spagnuolo has Rams on right track.

                    Don Banks.
                    First-year Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has*team on right track - Don Banks -
                    ST. LOUIS -- One of my favorite things to do on an NFL training camp tour is to visit a team that features a rookie head coach, as the Rams do this year after hiring ex-Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo this offseason. Though I'm usually blowing through camp in a day or so, you can often learn a lot from watching those early days of a new regime, seeing whether or not the veterans on that team are buying what the new guy is selling, and seeing a first-time coach in the process of finding out who he can and can't count on.
                    True, trying to take an accurate temperature reading of an organization's new program after interviewing a handful of players for a matter of minutes is your basic snap judgment, writ large. It's far from foolproof. But sometimes it can be dead on.
                    For example, after stops at both the Falcons and Ravens training camps last summer, I came away believing that rookie head coaches Mike Smith and John Harbaugh both had a pretty good handle on what it was going to take to turn Atlanta and Baltimore around, and that they had already put the wheels in motion. It's not that I saw 11-5 seasons coming for both, far from it. But I did see two teams that were in the process of fully buying into Smith and Harbaugh's approaches, and I sensed it would pay dividends at some point.
                    In an inverse way, the same was true for the 2007 Falcons, who I also paid a camp visit to, in order to discover what the new Bobby Petrino era was all about in Atlanta. One day there and I had the feeling trouble was on way for the Birds that season, thanks largely to the degree of skepticism I heard coming from key Atlanta veterans. And you know how that story turned out: Petrino's rookie season was his only NFL season, as his 13-game tenure was a debacle of epic proportion.
                    All that said, I'm ready to make the call that Spagnuolo seems like the right man for the job that faces his downtrodden Rams. While their NFL-worst 5-27 record the past two years breeds a certain amount of willingness to follow anyone with a plan, the Rams convinced me that Spagnuolo has been pitch perfect so far in his make-over efforts in St. Louis.
                    "I was talking to someone in the locker room two days ago, and I said, 'He hasn't told us a lie yet,' '' Rams second-year defensive end Chris Long told me Thursday afternoon, after another two-a-day practice was in the books. "Everything he's said has been on point. I thought we bought into Spags the minute he walked in the door. I had never heard him talk or seen him before, but I knew where he had been, and that resume spoke for itself. On top of that, he's a man who treats people with respect, and when he speaks, guys listen and really embrace his notion of respecting team.''
                    Watching Spagnuolo work a practice is like watching...
                    -08-09-2009, 06:52 AM
                  • BEER
                    Great article.
                    by BEER
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                    With Spagnuolo at the helm, Rams embrace physical style of play

                    By Steve Wyche |
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                    EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It's nearly a week into training camp, when players start to wear down as the physical and mental overload start to grab hold. After reading and hearing about how hard first-year coach Steve Spagnuolo was pushing the team, it wouldn't have been surprising to see the Rams simply grind through things Thursday. And with a scrimmage on Friday, watching guys on cruise control was what I expected. So did Spagnuolo.
                    "I was waiting for it," he said.
                    Instead, the Rams staged one of the most aggressive, fast-paced, physical practices I've seen in years. There was non-stop live tackling, full-bore hitting in nearly every drill and a tempo that forced every player and coach to be attentive because, at any moment, Spagnuolo could call for a special teams intervention.
                    "How can you tell if a guy can tackle? How can you tell if a running back can break a tackle," Spagnuolo said about putting his team through "live" workouts.
                    The interesting thing, players seemed to embrace the demanding workload.
                    "Spags is trying to change this whole mentality," rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "This will be a physical team. We're not just going to talk it. We're going to go out there and do it and practice what we preach. If you're not going to be able to be physical, you're not going to be here."
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                    Working in Spagnuolo's favor is the fact that the Rams are such a young group, most players don't realize that the majority of teams don't get after it consistently the way St. Louis has in training camp. There are 23 players on the 80-man roster who are 23 or younger. There are only four players over 30.
                    Besides establishing a physical tone, Spagnuolo said he believes players need to hit early in training camp because starters play so little in the preseason.
                    "I've always believed that if you don't get it done at some point, you'll be behind when the season starts," Spagnuolo said.
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                    -08-07-2009, 02:25 PM
                  • MauiRam
                    Little still sees himself as an every down player ..
                    by MauiRam
                    Aug. 2, 2009

                    The Associated Press.
                    ST. LOUIS (AP) -Leonard Little feels he's much more than a third-down pass rusher for the St. Louis Rams.

                    After Sunday morning's full-pad practice at Rams Park, Little insisted he still can be an every-down defensive end.

                    "I'll always be an everyday player if I'm healthy," Little said. "I don't know where people get this thing where, you know, that I'm just a third-down player. I've been playing every down since I've been starting."

                    But with a new coaching staff headed by Steve Spagnuolo, Little knows things have changed. All he has to do is look around.

                    Little is the only player left from the 1999 and 2001 Super Bowl teams, surviving three coaching changes. The 34-year-old, who was a third-round draft pick in 1998, is heading into his 12th season.

                    "It's tremendously valuable to have that kind of experience and leadership," Spagnuolo said. "It's an important position on defense."

                    Little acknowledged it's strange not to have Torry Holt and Orlando Pace - both released in recent months - around anymore.

                    "I miss the guys," Little said. "You know, we won a lot of games together and we went through a lot of stuff together. It's different because you're used to being around those guys for so long. It takes a little time to get used to it but you've got to realize this is the NFL and stuff like that will happen. You have to adjust to it the best way you can and go out here and play regardless of what happens."

                    Admitting he was nervous it could happen to him, Little said he was prepared for whatever happened.

                    "You never know what's going to happen next," said Little, who is in the last year of a renegotiated contract he signed in 2006. "I knew I could be next."

                    He didn't need to worry though. Spagnuolo liked what he saw from Little on tape and wanted to keep him.

                    "In all the evaluations we did, he was part of the plan," Spagnuolo said. "So far, so good."

                    The Rams recently signed defensive tackle Hollis Thomas, who turned 35 in January. That move made Little happy.

                    "I'm not the oldest guy on the team no more so that's good," Little said laughing. "I told him he could be the grandpa around here."

                    Little had six sacks and two forced fumbles to go along with 18 tackles, but played hurt for the second straight season last year. A hamstring injury slowed him, and he didn't start in the season finale at Atlanta. He also sat out during the minicamps.

                    He's healed now and ready to go for the upcoming season.

                    "I'm fine," Little said. "I'll be fine as long as I keep my body in good condition and stay injury free. I'll do anything they want...
                    -08-02-2009, 10:57 PM
                  • MauiRam
                    Ram-tough defense has St. Louis making a playoff push ..
                    by MauiRam
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                    James Laurinaitis showed up every Tuesday, on his designated day off, in Steve Spagnuolo's office last year. And every week, he left with something else.

                    On one side of the desk was a rookie head coach. On the other was a rookie middle linebacker, trying to carry out Spagnuolo's vision.

                    "I was trying to understand exactly what he expected," said Laurinaitis, a second-round pick in 2009 who's been in on 199 tackles the last two years and has started all 28 games of his career. "We're very similar, we approach things the same way, we're both perfectionists. It's why we get along. It's why he trusts me at that position."

                    Laurinaitis is at the center of the story, it seems, everyone is missing with the resurgence of the St. Louis Rams.

                    Has Sam Bradford been fantastic? Certainly. Could the Rams have finally solved their offensive line issues with tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith? Seems that way.

                    But as the offense has gotten its act together, one big reason Spagnuolo was hired in the first place -- his ability to run a defense -- has reared its head and produced a promising, if still uneven, defense that's showing flashes of the coach's overall vision. The Rams are sixth in the league in sacks per pass play, second in the NFL in third-down defense and, while they still are in the middle in yardage allowed (14th), the unit's strength in those areas double as fingerprints Spagnuolo has left on the guys.

                    And that trust Laurinaitis referenced is a big reason why this group is on the uptick. The players believe Spagnuolo's scheme is going to maximize their ability, so they give him their best.

                    "It unlocks everybody's potential," said tackle Fred Robbins, who was part of Spagnuolo's championship group in New York, of the defense. "Everyone can make plays. The key in this defense is not to make every play. It's to make your play. It spreads out the sacks and the interceptions so it's not on one guy. Everyone gets in on it."

                    The numbers bear that out. Thirteen different defenders have combined for the team's 35 sacks, and six players register among the club's 10 interceptions, and 10 guys account for the team's 18 forced fumbles.

                    Point is, it's not just a player or two that's benefitting on the defense. Everyone's getting better and, most importantly, being put in position to succeed.

                    "That's part of good coaching," the coach said. "It begins in the middle with a guy who gets guys in and out of things, and that's what James brings to us, from a communication standpoint. The scheme part, you got the guys up front, Robbins and (ends James) Hall and Chris (Long). If you don't have those spots filled, you're going to struggle, I don't care what scheme you're running.

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                  • r8rh8rmike
                    Rams Wasted Little Time Signing Bannan
                    by r8rh8rmike
                    Rams wasted little time signing Bannan

                    BY JIM THOMAS
                    Thursday, August 11, 2011

                    The moment free agency opened in 2010, Justin Bannan's phone rang. It was Steve Spagnuolo on the line. The Rams head coach wanted Bannan then a Baltimore Raven to come to St. Louis as an unrestricted free agent.

                    "Yeah, right at midnight he called me and we just had a good talk," Bannan said. "That was pretty cool. I didn't expect that."

                    Bannan ended up signing with the Denver Broncos, but like a spurned suitor, Spagnuolo wouldn't take no for an answer. When the 2011 free agency period finally opened two weeks ago, Spagnuolo and the Rams went out early and hard once again after Bannan, a defensive tackle.

                    This time, the Rams got their man with Bannan signing a three-year contract worth $8.5 million. Back on the market as a salary cap casualty after just one season in Denver, several teams showed interest in Bannan. So why the Rams?

                    "The fact that they wanted me," Bannan said. "They really went out of their way to let me know that, and to me that goes a long way. In my view, you want to go where you're wanted. The coaches did a great job of reaching out to me early in the week (following the end of the lockout), and getting this thing going."

                    Bannan hadn't forgotten that phone call from Spagnuolo a year earlier, either.

                    "I knew that I was on their radar screen before I went to Denver," Bannan said. "I think having Coach (Josh) McDaniels come over and probably vouch for me was also a plus."

                    McDaniels, the Rams' offensive coordinator, was Denver's head coach a year ago.

                    It's clear Spagnuolo must have seen something he liked on tape of Bannan, or he wouldn't have gone after him two years in a row.

                    "I guess so," Bannan said, laughing. "Hopefully, I don't disappointment him. It's nice to have the coach look out for you like that."

                    When it came to restocking the shelf at defensive tackle, the Rams didn't stop with Bannan. The team subsequently signed free agent Daniel Muir of Indianapolis, and a few days later, re-signed Gary Gibson.

                    "We're always looking for big guys," Spagnuolo said. "We've said all along, we're wanting to build this thing from the inside out, and big men were important."

                    The newcomers, Bannan and Muir, look the part. Bannan is 6-3, 310 pounds, and Muir is 6-2, 312.

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                    -08-11-2011, 12:07 PM