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*** Official 2011 St. Louis Rams Thread *** (1 Viewer)

Bob Magaw

Footballguy
the rams entered last season a combined 6-42 in the previous three seasons... a 7-9 campaign that was just one game shy of a playoff berth was defined by the somewhat controversial sam bradford pick with the #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft... he resoundingly silenced the critics, starting every game on his way to a brilliant offensive rookie of the year campaign (he captured 44 of 50 votes, with TB WR mike williams and PIT Pro Bowl center maurkice pouncey garnering four and two each, respectively)... the defense was VASTLY improved, led by a break out season for chris long...

the 2011 draft brings a bookend for long in the form of physical phenom and athletic prodigy robert quinn, former NC DE, who some scouts viewed as having the best upside of any pass rusher in the draft... if not for being suspended last season and the medical question, he may have been in the conversation as a top 5 pick... in rounds two, three & four, STL opted to surround bradford with receiving weapons, taking wisconsin TE lance kendricks and All-WAC WRs austin pettis and greg salas (who led nation in several receiving categories in 2010)... the common denominator with these receiving picks - they are all reportedly smart, tough and have excellent hands...

on that note, columnist howard balzer (see below article) had what i thought was an incisive take on the rams draft rationale (opting to prioritize kendricks rather than RB in the second, a round which saw division rival ARI, as well as DET & MIA, address this positional need), supported by some interesting data... the rams were jekyll & hyde-like on offense - nearly top five in red zone appearances, and about bottom five in RZ TDs (and second worst in TD conversion %)...

* i would add that in picking WRs in rounds 3 & 4, maybe STL just wanted bodies, after being decimated at the position last season... than again, some of the rams motely receiving crew (avery, laurent robinson, clayton & DX) make former injury snake-bitten dolphins bust yatil green look like a piker...

you have to think pettis and salas make the roster, leaving four spots... if no injury setbacks (until somebody trips over the chalk lines and blows out an ACL in pre-game warmups of game one), clayton, danny amendola, DX & former 2nd rounder avery could have the inside track, with incumbent WRs like brandon gibson, laurent robinson and 2010 rookie mardy gilyard possibly on the bubble and vulnerable to a positional numbers crunch...

GM devaney and HC spagnuolo clearly have the franchise finally headed in the right direction, after the perenially reverse-peristalsis inducing drafts regurgitated by the shaw/zygmunt axis from the martz/linehan-era...

** more stats & STL draft context...

http://fantasysports.usatoday.com/content/player.asp?sport=nfl&id=5161

"Only four quarterbacks had their completion percentages affected more by dropped passes than Sam Bradford in 2010, according to STATS LLC.

These stats were compiled by Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Bradford had 36 passes dropped in 2010, and only Peyton Manning and Tom Brady had more drops from their receivers. Bradford's two biggest offenders were Brandon Gibson (8.8% of his targets dropped) and Billy Bajema (8.3%). This may help explain St. Louis' decision to draft pass catchers with great hands like Lance Kendricks, Austin Pettis, and Greg Salas."

*** balzer article...

http://www.101espn.com/category/hbalzer-blogs/20110503/Red~Zone-Improvement-was-Rams'-Goal/

Red-Zone Improvement was Rams' Goal

By Howard Balzer

Published: May 03, 2011 @ 3:47am

"The 1999 draft is one I'll always remember.

The Rams were coming off a 4-12 season, and coach **** Vermeil had probably saved his job by firing offensive coordinator Jerry Rhome and hiring Mike Martz.

Leading up to the draft, the Rams had signed quarterback Trent Green and guard Adam Timmerman as free agents, and pulled off the trade that landed them running back Marshall Faulk from the Indianapolis Colts.

The Rams were picking sixth in the first round of that draft, and the popular belief was that cornerback Champ Bailey would be the selection.

But the Rams went in another direction. The choice was wide receiver Torry Holt. In the second round, the Rams added cornerback Dre' Bly.

The reaction then was similar to many of the opinions expressed since tight end Lance Kendricks was selected in the second round of this year's draft: "Well, I like Kendricks, but the Rams could have had (fill in the blank)."

It's an understandable reaction, and one that is repeated in many NFL outposts, especially when the actual choice is a guy not many people know much about and is at a position that wasn't perceived as a need.

The reality of the draft process is that the "they could have picked someone else" mentality could be ascribed to every selection. Heck, if we were able to inject any club executive with truth serum, they would probably admit they have those same thoughts after the fact.

But the further reality is that the draft will eventually be judged based on the players selected and whether they produce. If they play well, no one will care about the players that weren't picked. Of course, if the player bombs, the "what-if" game will be inescapable.

Like the Rams could have had Troy Polamalu instead of Jimmy Kennedy in 2003. Or, Darrelle Revis instead of Adam Carriker in 2007. Then again, as good as Bailey was (and still is), that Holt pick worked out pretty well.

Certainly, as the Rams approached their second-round pick Friday, it seemed as if running back Mikell Leshoure would be a logical choice, given the team's need for a running back behind Steven Jackson. Other possibilities also existed.

But the Rams went with Kendricks, and the surprise of it resulted in emotional reactions. Stripping away the emotion, however, is what's necessary.

There are still those that believe the Rams made a mistake two years ago when they failed to ensure the selection of running back Shonn Greene in the third round. It appeared the Rams were in position to do that with an early choice, but the New York Jets jumped in front of the Rams by trading with Detroit, and got Greene.

He would have been a nice backup for Jackson, but it seems everyone forgets the Rams ended up with cornerback Bradley Fletcher, a starter. Seriously, does anyone really think it's more important to have a backup running back than a starting cornerback?

As for the Kendricks-Leshoure debate, unless Jackson misses significant playing time, Leshoure will be fortunate to be on the field for more than 10-15 plays a game.

Conversely, assuming Kendricks is what the Rams believe he is, he will be on the field for at least 30 plays a game and probably significantly more based on the average of 66 offensive plays per game the Rams ran last season.

It is also important to expand beyond simply positions when pinpointing team needs. Any rational analysis of the Rams' offense in 2010 would lead to the conclusion that the red zone was a barren desert. The Rams made it there often enough, but rarely found water.

It would probably be a surprise for some to discover that only five NFL teams had more red-zone trips than the Rams' 56 in 2010: New England, 67; New Orleans, 61; San Diego, 59; and Atlanta and Philadelphia, 58. Indianapolis also had 56. Of those six teams, all but San Diego made the playoffs and the Chargers were 9-7. Those six teams combined for a 67-29 record.

The Saints ranked lowest of those teams in red-zone touchdown percentage (20th), but they still scored 31 touchdowns, which was more than the 27 total touchdowns the Rams scored all season.

The Patriots scored 42 red-zone touchdowns, the Colts 38, Falcons 35, Chargers 33 and Eagles 31.

Meanwhile, the Rams' red-zone touchdown production was downright ugly. Their 35.7 percent success rate was better than only Carolina (30.3). No other team was under 40 percent. Their 20 red-zone touchdowns topped only five teams: Buffalo and Cleveland, 19; Miami, 18; Arizona, 16 and Carolina, 10. All those teams had significantly fewer red-zone trips.

Consider that 72.1 percent of the rushing or passing touchdowns scored in the NFL last season came in the red zone. Of the 751 total passing touchdowns, 191 (25.4 percent) were scored by tight ends and 155 of those 191 (81.1 percent) came in the red zone.

Yes, it's nice to have outside speed in your receiving corps. But that doesn't help much when the field constricts inside the 20. Red-zone improvement was a huge need for the Rams, and they believe the addition of Kendricks, as well as big wide receivers Austin Pettis and Greg Salas has helped fill it.

They certainly have more of a chance to do that than any running back."

 
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quinn's character may have been called into question by some, due to an agent-related transgression that led to being suspended for the 2010 season... to his credit, he stayed involved with the team... the below article by local STL journalist bryan burwell addresses this issue with a sad but inspiring story...

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/bryan-burwell/article_ce90d711-257c-5069-b542-b81958ea74b8.html

Quinn offered hope in player's time of need

BY BRYAN BURWELL

Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 12:00 am

"Nancy Butters doesn't know all that much about football, but she sure knows plenty about people. Butters is a social worker at Duke University's Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, and you can learn a lot about people when you spend your working hours dealing in the incomprehensible sadness and uncommon inspiration inside a hospital pediatric ward.

This is where Butters first set eyes on a 19-year-old Robert Quinn sitting amidst a room full of kids his age and much younger. Some of the children in the room were lying in beds with IV needles in their arms. Many were frail and bald, barely clinging to life.

But there was nothing frail about Quinn. He was a well-muscled football player, not a terminal cancer patient. It was the fall of 2009, two years before the talented University of North Carolina pass rusher would become the first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams. Here he was, two years removed from being told rather clinically that he had a tumor growing in his head and that soon he potentially could end up brain dead.

"The nurse told me that, then made this very dramatic walk out the room," Quinn remembered. "It was kind of like that Boobie Miles moment (in the movie "Friday Night Lights") when they told him he would never play football again. I looked at my mom and just lost it."

But Quinn was one of those medical miracles Nancy Butters prays for every day. He was lucky because the doctors not only discovered that his tumor was benign, soon after an operation to shrink the tumor and reduce the swelling to his brain, Quinn was back playing sports and on his way to becoming a scholarship athlete and a future NFL first-round draft pick.

And now here he was at the hospital — at her request by the way — trying to provide some inspiration for another young football player named Lavelle Sloan, who had recently learned that he too had a tumor lodged on his brain.

"It was the most amazing thing," Butters said. "Think about it for a moment. It can't be the easiest thing in the world for a kid that young to have survived something like this like Robert had. And you could understand completely if the last thing he wanted to do would be to go into an environment where everyone around him was acting as a reminder of what he'd gotten through. It could have been the last thing he wanted to see or do. But here he was walking right into this ward with kids taking (chemotherapy), and he handled it wonderfully."

Before you start questioning what sort of character the Rams may have drafted with the No. 14 selection in the first round, you might want to check in with Nancy Butters. You have heard the stories about the kid being permanently expelled from NCAA competition for accepting "illegal benefits" from an unscrupulous South Florida jeweler, and maybe you're wondering if the Rams have brought some sort of unsavory scoundrel to Rams Park.

If you feel that way, ask Butters what she thinks. She can't stop finding fine things to say about Robert Quinn.

"I was sitting there watching him get drafted (Thursday) night and I can't tell you how good that made me feel," she. "I know all the things that were said about him and the trouble he got in with the NCAA, but the Robert I know is a fine young man. ... If you know what I know, you'd understand exactly why I feel this way."

A time of hope

So what does she know that you don't know?

This is not the sort of thing you will find on his football curriculum vitae. The story begins in May, 2009, in a small North Carolina town of Spring Lake when a 5-foot-5, 170-pound running back at Pine Forest High School near Fayetteville named Lavelle Sloan was rushed to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center with blurred vision, severe headaches and vomiting. The 18-year-old Sloan underwent tests that revealed a golf ball-sized tumor growing on the right side of his brain.

One day later, he was at Duke undergoing exploratory surgery. When he came to hours later, Sloan sat in his hospital room with his parents and listened as doctors and social workers tried to explain what was wrong. They called it a grade 4 glioblastoma, a malignant cancerous growth that is aggressive and difficult to eradicate. But when you are an 18-year-old kid with a lifetime of dreams floating in your head and some stranger in a white coat starts such sobering conversations, surely all you can hear are the most frightening fragments.

Tumor ...

Malignant ...

Cancer ...

Chemotherapy ...

They told him he would have to give up football, but Lavelle kept hoping, praying and believing that he would beat cancer and find his way back onto the football field for his senior year. The treatments made him too weak to play, but one day in the fall of '09 he was watching a UNC football game on television with his father, Randy McLaughlin, when they heard the commentators talking about Robert Quinn and how he had overcome his brain tumor and gotten back on the football field.

"He's been through what I have," Lavelle said at the time. "He gives me a lot of hope."

In October of 2007, early in his senior year at Fort Dorchester High in North Charleston, S.C., Quinn began waking up each morning with severe headaches. The headaches got worse, and Quinn began acting strangely. "I noticed things were going on," his mother, Maria, said. "The color of his eyes were changing, he was complaining of headaches. He was going to bed early, and that wasn't him. Then one night he went to bed at 9 o'clock on a Saturday and I knew something was wrong. But I just figured he was tired. But the next day he woke up, and something was really wrong."

The headaches were so severe that he collapsed in the bathroom, and his parents immediately took him to the hospital where they discovered a benign tumor on the right side of his brain just above his forehead. He underwent emergency surgery to reduce the size and remove fluid from around the tumor that was causing the swelling in his brain and causing the headaches.

Before the operation, that's when the nurse made the dramatic announcement on the severity of the tumor. "They told us he would never play sports again," Maria said. "I said that was up to God."

Her husband, James, a former world-class high hurdler in college, said the only thing he wanted to know about was "whether (the tumor) was cancerous or not. When it came back that it wasn't cancerous. I was relieved. Then, when they said he might not be able to play sports again, I was okay with that as long as my son was going to be alive. That was my biggest concern."

But Robert was devastated to hear he would never play sports again. He was an undefeated heavyweight state wrestling champion and was receiving countless football scholarship offers, and he couldn't fathom a life without sports.

"I cried like a baby when they told me that," Robert said. "But a few months later, I was back on the mat and winning the state wrestling title again."

Lavelle Sloan heard that part of the story, and he knew he had to meet Quinn. Nancy Butters remembers the conversation she had with him about his new favorite sports hero, and she decided to see if she could get the two kids together.

"But Nancy told me not to tell Lavelle because she wasn't sure it was going to happen," Sloan's mom, Marilyn, recalled.

"To be honest with you, I was just hoping he'd send us a jersey or an autographed picture," Butters said. "But here comes Robert. He showed up, and it just immediately lifted Lavelle's spirits."

The first time they met was when North Carolina played Miami in Chapel Hill on Nov. 14, 2009. Sloan and his family were invited to their first-ever college football game, and during warm-ups he was allowed on the field. Quinn came across the field and brought a few of his teammates with him, and they all gave Lavelle hugs and encouragement. Then, Quinn promised they would meet again.

Two weeks later, when Sloan came to Duke for his intravenous chemotherapy treatments, Quinn came to the hospital to visit.

"I don't know to this day what they talked about in that room, but whatever it was, it lifted Lavelle's spirits," his mother said.

"It was just guy stuff," Quinn said. "We talked football. We talked about life. We talked about the tumor. I told him he was going to make it through. I told him the doctor told me I was supposed to be brain dead, so I'm living testimony that it can happen. I didn't want to go in there and tell him something negative no matter how serious his condition was. I wanted to give him hope. I had to give him hope, because at times like that, that's all you have to cling to."

Aggressive Tumor

By Christmas, things were not going well. Lavelle was losing more weight and getting weaker. He could not take Quinn up on an invitation to visit the team as Quinn and the Tar Heels prepared for a bowl game against Pittsburgh. The first round of chemotherapy wasn't working, and the cancerous tumor was getting more aggressive and doctors were changing him to a physically and emotionally draining 21-day cycle of oral chemo.

Just before Christmas, Robert sent Lavelle a color photograph of Quinn in action, bursting around the edge of some hapless offensive lineman. Across the bottom of the photo was Quinn's autograph and a short message.

"He wrote, "Keep your head up,'" Marilyn Sloan said. "The day that photograph arrived, Lavelle saw it and for the first time in weeks, he got up out of the bed. He was strong and energized. It was such a wonderful thing."

And then there was a long sigh.

"Unfortunately, it didn't last long enough," she said.

On April 14, 2010, Lavelle Sloan died peacefully in his mother's home in Spring Lake, just a week shy of a special graduation ceremony his high school had planned for him. On the day he passed away, Robert Quinn said someone sent him a text message to inform him of Sloan's death.

"I remember looking at my phone and I just broke down in tears," Quinn said. "I just kept thinking about what his mother was going through."

A week later, officials from his high school presented Marilyn Sloan with her son's diploma and his football jersey. She buried him in his jersey. "He kept working, and he was trying to make it to graduation," Marilyn Sloan said. "It was his dream to go to Wake Forest."

One year later, on the day after the first round of the 2011 NFL draft, Marilyn Sloan was in her car listening to the radio and they were talking about Robert Quinn being drafted into the NFL, and she just started to smile.

"It made me think of Lavelle and all the kind things Robert did for him," she said.

Nancy Butters felt the same way as she watched the draft on TV.

"Meeting Robert was the highlight of the last 12 months of Lavelle's life," Butters said. "If you saw what he did with Lavelle and how much time he spent with him and how much he cared for Lavelle when he really didn't have to, you would understand why I feel the way I do. To me Robert was an angel."

 
I liked the Quinn pick, but I didn't care for the Kendricks or Pettis picks in rounds 2 and 3. I like Hankerson much better in round 3.

I understand the drops stat and needing guys that are going to hold onto the ball, but a significant problem the Rams had on offense was the dink and dunk garbage. They need more gamebreakers on offense that can push up the field. Kendricks might provide some of that, but TEs generally aren't game changers. Kendricks might become a good receiving TE, but he won't likely be forcing mismatches a la Gates, V.Davis, or Finley. I don't know, maybe Avery will come back and provide some speed, maybe Danario takes another step... I would like to see the Rams land a Chad Johnson or Steve Smith, if the price is right, a talented guy that can carry the WR corps a bit until they mature.

The red zone stat is an eye-opener... I had no idea that they had that many opportunities. If they bump their success rate up 10%, that is another 6 TDs, not accounting for more opportunities or more TDs outside the red zone.... there may be some real fantasy value in this year's Rams offense. Steven Jackson in particular could see a bump. 4 more TDs last year and Jackson goes from RB13 to RB6. Interesting.

 
I liked the Quinn pick, but I didn't care for the Kendricks or Pettis picks in rounds 2 and 3. I like Hankerson much better in round 3. I understand the drops stat and needing guys that are going to hold onto the ball, but a significant problem the Rams had on offense was the dink and dunk garbage. They need more gamebreakers on offense that can push up the field. Kendricks might provide some of that, but TEs generally aren't game changers. Kendricks might become a good receiving TE, but he won't likely be forcing mismatches a la Gates, V.Davis, or Finley. I don't know, maybe Avery will come back and provide some speed, maybe Danario takes another step... I would like to see the Rams land a Chad Johnson or Steve Smith, if the price is right, a talented guy that can carry the WR corps a bit until they mature.The red zone stat is an eye-opener... I had no idea that they had that many opportunities. If they bump their success rate up 10%, that is another 6 TDs, not accounting for more opportunities or more TDs outside the red zone.... there may be some real fantasy value in this year's Rams offense. Steven Jackson in particular could see a bump. 4 more TDs last year and Jackson goes from RB13 to RB6. Interesting.
good point about potentially untapped fantasy value in STL...possibly shurmer was more dink and dunk philosophically, and as great as bradford was, they were breaking in a rookie QB... AND LT saffold (who acquitted himself admirably, and was a not so hidden key to the success they did enjoy between the 20s)... RT jason smith didn't exactly have a lot of NFL starting reps, either... but they added a valuable year of experience, and could have upside... saffold particularly looked incredibly competent and comfortable in pass protection, and like bradford, didn't play like a rookie...with the added receiving weapons, i think bradford will be turned loose to make more explosive plays downfield...mcdaniels failed as HC in DEN, but given his success as OC in NE, was a coup for STL... brandon lloyd went from a castoff and after thought into a downfield terror for the broncos in 2010...and if hendricks, salas, et al offer superior RAC, they can make more explosive plays in ways other than over the top... plus, the rookies have big bodies, and could also make field stretching plays by having pinpoint accurate bradford throw to a spot while they post up the DB...
 
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another post-draft article on the rams draft strategy by local beat reporter bernie miklasz...

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/bernie-miklasz/article_acd2cf8d-ceb5-5747-bde1-0ed6f5cebbee.html

Rams drafted to help Bradford, offense

BY BERNIE MIKLASZ

Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011 12:20 am | (42) Comments

"The second, third and fourth rounds of the Rams' 2011 draft provided plenty of clues about what to expect in the coming season.

The three picks offered a glimpse inside the team's playbook under new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

The choices represented an obvious acknowledgement of the organization's mandate to secure help for young quarterback Sam Bradford.

In selecting tight end Lance Hendricks and wide receivers Austin Pettis and Greg Salas, the Rams made a statement about the need make a dramatic improvement in the red zone.

And the choices revealed a willingness to import receivers to give shape to the McDaniels' passing offense.

The Rams' approach caught a lot of fans off guard and I'm not sure why. Let me see if I understand this correctly: the Rams have invested $50 million in Bradford, the franchise future. It is believed that the Rams are paying McDaniels a handsome salary to orchestrate the offense.

Bradford was the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010, and he helped the Rams win improve by six wins in his first season with a so-so receiving cast. The team's hiring of McDaniels was greeted with glowing, enthusiastic, reviews. The many rippers of former Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur were ecstatic.

OK, then. Doesn't it make sense to draft three targets for Bradford and three moveable pieces for McDaniels? Did you folks really want to stand pat? And did the critics actually watch the 2010 Rams play football?

Here's a refresher course: the Rams finished 30th among 32 NFL teams in touchdowns from scrimmage. Their average of 18.1 points per game ranked 26th.

In the red zone (inside opponents' 20-yard line) the Rams ranked 30th in the NFL in converting those opportunities to touchdowns. Only five NFL teams had more red-zone possessions than the Rams, but 23 teams scored more red-zone touchdowns.

The Rams ranked 29th in the NFL in red-zone passer rating, and 28th in red-zone completion percentage. Over his final seven games, Bradford completed only 41 percent of his red-zone passing attempts, and had a RZ passer rating of 43. The Rams moved the football but couldn't find the end zone enough. And that had to change, or 2011 will look a lot like 2010 when the Rams have the football.

The response was to draft three athletic, physical receivers that can use size, muscle and body position to win tough battles for contested footballs in the end zone. The Rams lacked that element in 2010.

Pettis (6-3) and Salas (nearly 6-2) play tall, are tenacious and have a history of high-volume production in college ball. All they did was make plays. And Kendricks has the speed and range to beat the linebackers one-on-one; he's athletic. And all three have a good-hands reputation. Rams wideouts and tight ends dropped 30 passes last season.

The Rams added a new and necessary dimension to their passing game. More size and punch at wide receiver; more mobility at tight end.

"I think there's a fit," head coach Steve Spagnuolo said of his three new receivers. "I think we're flexible enough and versatile enough to take these players and use them wisely. I think it can go a lot of different ways, and I kind of like that. Because people that we're going to play have to look at it the same way: how are they going to do this? When you're unpredictable, that's the best way to be."

Spagnuolo and GM Billy Devaney took some gambles, sure. The bust rate for wideouts drafted in the third and fourth round is high, so the Rams are taking a chance. Then again, over the previous five drafts, teams found Mike Wallace, Mario Manningham, Jacoby Jones, Emmanuel Sanders, Austin Collie, Brandon Tate, Mike Williams, Earl Bennett, Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline and Jacoby Ford in rounds three or four.

And tight ends recently chosen in the second round include Rob Gronkowski, John Carlson, Zach Miller, Fred Davis and Tony Scheffler. With a few busts, too.

That's the NFL draft; there are no guarantees. But at least Devaney and Spagnuolo had the common sense to realize that flowers wither and die unless you water them. The bosses could have settled for a guard, a backup running back, etc. In a couple of years we'll know if Devaney and Spags were brilliant -- or sadly off base -- in their assessments.

The McDaniels influence is obvious here. We can assume that the new OC isn't thrilled by the Rams' collection of wide receivers. Several veterans will have to duke it out for jobs, and that's how it should be. This is a mediocre group and the Rams should be trying to upgrade. Especially in the red zone.

And tight ends can be elite, game-changing receivers, too. I can't understand why that point seems to be lost on those who have spent the last 24 hours caterwauling over the Kendricks selection.

A list of some of the most difficult NFL receivers to shut down would include tight ends Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark, Jason Witten, Todd Heap, Chris Cooley and Kellen Winslow Jr. (That's just a partial roll call.) The New England Patriots got 87 receptions, 16 for touchdowns, from young tight ends Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez last season.

And by drafting Kendricks, the Rams hope to join this brave new world of using the tight end as something more than a battering ram. A smooth tight end running free and wild in open space — this would be a positive, no? And in Kendricks and Big Mike, the Rams have that potential.

There are also pragmatic concerns. When I spoke with Devaney on Saturday, he mentioned that McDaniels wants to make use of two tight-end sets and is excited by the thought of putting Kendricks and Hoomanawanui on the field at the same time to exploit mismatches and create space for the outside receivers.

Devaney was bugged by the suggestion that the Rams were negligent in not drafting a pure "speed" wide receiver to stretch the defense.

"There's all different ways that you spread a defense out," he said. "You can spread them out vertically and horizontally. Wide receivers don't have to be the ones stretching a defense all of the time. I think Josh used a great term in one of our meetings, about 'stressing' a defense. Not just stretching it, but putting stress on a defense. And that's what we're trying to do, just by adding players who are multi-dimensional."

Devaney has a point. In Denver, the McDaniels scheme turned Brandon Lloyd into a formidable deep threat in 2010. Lloyd caught 77 passes and led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards. His average per catch of 18.8 yards was fifth in the NFL. Lloyd had the most receptions (18) of 25 yards or more. He averaged 15.9 yards at the point of the catch; that was No. 2 in the NFL.

It was easily one of the most surprising successful individual seasons in the league last season. Lloyd was considered a journeyman before McDaniels relaunched him.

And Lloyd is hardly Usain Bolt. Lloyd clocked a 4.62 in his 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and was called "painfully slow" in one predraft report. I checked the 40 times and the Rams' current wideouts are faster than Lloyd. So is Pettis. And Salas is just as fast as Lloyd.

So how did Lloyd repeatedly burn defenses downfield last season. Much of the credit goes to McDaniels, who found ways to isolate Lloyd, who was able to break away from single coverage.

Speed kills.

Ah, but so does scheme.

"Hell, you can put a daggum track guy out there and stretch the field and he can't catch the damn thing," Devaney said. "He doesn't make a difference, but you've got a 'flyer' out there. Big deal. There's all different ways you can go about it."

McDaniels may have been a poor head coach, but the dude knows how to design an offense. And you don't need to be "Bullet" Bob Hayes to catch deep passes in his offense.

Sure, the Rams had needs that went unfilled in the 2011 draft. I wish they would have gone for a backup RB at some point. But they couldn't have everything. And you don't go to the trouble and expense of drafting Bradford and hiring McDaniels without following up with a serious investment in the passing game.

Yeah, the Rams still need that No. 2 running back, an outside linebacker and a guard.

And that's what owner Stan Kroenke's checkbook is for when the free-agent market opens."

 
Thanks for opening the thread, Bob. The draft was extremely interesting, and despite the general dismay over a couple of surprising picks, the Rams decision-makers showed incredible clarity with their approach. Rams fans all realized that the team's redzone productivity was ghastly last year, and the articles above only paint a clearer picture. I'm still not convinced that Kendricks, Pettis or both had to be taken that early in the draft, but I admire the effort to give Bradford better and more consistent weapons.

Very curious about the team's approach to free agency. Two years ago, the team was hamstrung by big veteran salaries that were dumped shortly afterwards. Last year, when they were poised to take advantage of the cap room they'd cleared, there were further complications with the uncapped year and ownership uncertainty. This time around, the team is stable enough to make some moves. Given the team needs and front office history, I have to think that Barry Cofield and Quintin Mikell are two likely targets, and they'd be more than welcome. Other than that, the brass has already admitted that not managing to pick an RB in the draft was a failure, and that they're looking at a couple of free agents. None of them are terribly exciting, but Ronnie Brown or Cadillac Williams would help - almost as much as a solid right guard.

Yeah, Andy, that Quinn article was a punch in the gut. So happy to have Quinn on the team.

Can't wait for actual football and finding out more about McDaniels' new offense. I'd pay good money for OTA reports, at this point. :ph34r:

 
I'm mostly ok with the draft. What disappoints me most is the redundancy..we clearly felt the change in OCs.

1. I'm disappointed they didn't come out of the draft with a backup RB. This was a very deep draft, and there were plenty of opportunities to pick up a complement, and potential successor, to Jackson. Even if you buy into the "RBs aren't worth drafting early" philosophy, players such as Powell, Harper, Hunter, Carter, Lewis, Rodgers, were all available in the 4th round and later.

2. Salas and Pettis likely spell the end for Robinson and Gibson, and maybe Gilyard. I'm not torn up about that, and I understand the desire for sure-handed catchers. Both of these guys have great hands and we clearly needed to fill out our depth chart with reliable weapons.

But why spend two consecutive picks on slot guys, when that's filled with the one reliable WR we have in Amendola? Salas can probably move outside. when Pettis was taken, my first reaction was "Why isn't that Hankerson, Gates, or Salas?" We lack team speed. Avery's a crapshoot. Alexander can't be the sole deep threat if Avery gets nicked up again and adds to his long list of injuries. If they wanted two WR, I would have liked to see them split the difference with Hankerson and Salas.

3. Jabara Williams seems to be an excellent small-school talent, though raw. I'm excited about his potential. However, considering the weakness we have at OLB, I was really expecting us to grab one. Neither Nelson nor Baker were awesome picks. Why not take a chance on Herzlich with one of those picks?

4. Kendricks. I don't mind Kendricks himself, but on the heels of picking two TEs last year, it's annoying, particularly considering our lack of quality depth on other areas on our roster. The price we pay for new OC, I guess. I think what annoys me is that...

5. Last year, I vocally wanted Gronkowski at the top of Round 2. We took Saffold, which worked out good--ok, good job Rams. Beyond that, though, we could have picked up one of any number of quality TEs in Round 3 or 4, instead of Murphy and Gilyard. This would have changed this year’s draft drastically.

2011 could have read: 1st round Quinn; 2nd round Cobb, Torrey Smith, or Little; 3rd round RB (listed earlier); 4th round Salas.

*That* would have given Bradford some weapons. Therefore, I can't help but be a little disappointed not necessarily at the talent we got, but at the talent we left on the board.

 
Thanks for opening the thread, Bob. The draft was extremely interesting, and despite the general dismay over a couple of surprising picks, the Rams decision-makers showed incredible clarity with their approach. Rams fans all realized that the team's redzone productivity was ghastly last year, and the articles above only paint a clearer picture. I'm still not convinced that Kendricks, Pettis or both had to be taken that early in the draft, but I admire the effort to give Bradford better and more consistent weapons.Very curious about the team's approach to free agency. Two years ago, the team was hamstrung by big veteran salaries that were dumped shortly afterwards. Last year, when they were poised to take advantage of the cap room they'd cleared, there were further complications with the uncapped year and ownership uncertainty. This time around, the team is stable enough to make some moves. Given the team needs and front office history, I have to think that Barry Cofield and Quintin Mikell are two likely targets, and they'd be more than welcome. Other than that, the brass has already admitted that not managing to pick an RB in the draft was a failure, and that they're looking at a couple of free agents. None of them are terribly exciting, but Ronnie Brown or Cadillac Williams would help - almost as much as a solid right guard.Yeah, Andy, that Quinn article was a punch in the gut. So happy to have Quinn on the team.Can't wait for actual football and finding out more about McDaniels' new offense. I'd pay good money for OTA reports, at this point. :ph34r:
thanx for the feedback, abrantes...i agree that i'm not sure if they got ideal value with picks in rounds two & three, but that is somewhat subjective... every team's board is stacked differently, and it only takes one team to blow up your plans, so if you think a player has talent, character, intangibles and football smarts you are looking for, looks like a good scheme fit, etc., you can make a case for pulling the trigger...also like you, overall and in general, i am excited about the attempt to surround bradford with better surrounding talent and supporting cast in the passing game...when healthy, clayton clearly connected with bradford, and avery can be a deep threat, but they don't bring imposing size to the table... amendola is a smurf, and DX flashed potential but has had serial knee problems, and i wouldn't want to count on him long term... hoo hoo has good hands, nifty feet and surprising agility, movement skills and RAC ability for a big man, but may be more valued for his blocking, and isn't the kind of receiving talent that alters opposing DC's game plans...you can make a case that kendricks, pettis & salas could ALL be superior red zone weapons to any receiving weapon on the roster last year, and could help bradford take the seemingly inexorable next step to becoming an eventual top 5-10 QB...agree cofield and mikell would make sense (spags PHI & NYG connection), and would be welcome additions (atogwe gone), and also that the front office landscape is completely different and more conducive to making some surgical moves...RB is an obvious unfilled need... ex-auburn teammates brown and williams could have some merit, but i wonder if they will pursue a younger RB (and one's with less checkered medical history)... they could use a complementary RB, and sproles has been linked to STL by some... he could also help on ST a lot, which has been a weakness for a while... jackson can't play forever, and has taken on a big workload, but an heir apparent-type (not sproles) may not be in the cards... than again, RB is maybe the most instinctive position, so could be plugged and played pretty much immediately after being drafted (next year?)...guard could also stand an upgrade (as you noted), as well as OLB (though the defense was vastly improved statistically in 2010, so maybe not as big a need as some think)...it should be fun watching long and quinn converge on NFC west QBs for hopefully many years! :)
 
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I think Salas with his great skills could make the Rams redone numbers deadly. Pettis could be a great special teams guy but they have Amendola getting the job. The Rams will IMO be in the playoffs with a weak division and developing young talents

 
I'm mostly ok with the draft. What disappoints me most is the redundancy..we clearly felt the change in OCs.1. I'm disappointed they didn't come out of the draft with a backup RB. This was a very deep draft, and there were plenty of opportunities to pick up a complement, and potential successor, to Jackson. Even if you buy into the "RBs aren't worth drafting early" philosophy, players such as Powell, Harper, Hunter, Carter, Lewis, Rodgers, were all available in the 4th round and later. 2. Salas and Pettis likely spell the end for Robinson and Gibson, and maybe Gilyard. I'm not torn up about that, and I understand the desire for sure-handed catchers. Both of these guys have great hands and we clearly needed to fill out our depth chart with reliable weapons. But why spend two consecutive picks on slot guys, when that's filled with the one reliable WR we have in Amendola? Salas can probably move outside. when Pettis was taken, my first reaction was "Why isn't that Hankerson, Gates, or Salas?" We lack team speed. Avery's a crapshoot. Alexander can't be the sole deep threat if Avery gets nicked up again and adds to his long list of injuries. If they wanted two WR, I would have liked to see them split the difference with Hankerson and Salas. 3. Jabara Williams seems to be an excellent small-school talent, though raw. I'm excited about his potential. However, considering the weakness we have at OLB, I was really expecting us to grab one. Neither Nelson nor Baker were awesome picks. Why not take a chance on Herzlich with one of those picks? 4. Kendricks. I don't mind Kendricks himself, but on the heels of picking two TEs last year, it's annoying, particularly considering our lack of quality depth on other areas on our roster. The price we pay for new OC, I guess. I think what annoys me is that...5. Last year, I vocally wanted Gronkowski at the top of Round 2. We took Saffold, which worked out good--ok, good job Rams. Beyond that, though, we could have picked up one of any number of quality TEs in Round 3 or 4, instead of Murphy and Gilyard. This would have changed this year’s draft drastically. 2011 could have read: 1st round Quinn; 2nd round Cobb, Torrey Smith, or Little; 3rd round RB (listed earlier); 4th round Salas. *That* would have given Bradford some weapons. Therefore, I can't help but be a little disappointed not necessarily at the talent we got, but at the talent we left on the board.
thanx for the draft and state of the rams commentary, also, lyon, you have been a long time contributor to the rams threads over the years, and always appreciate the insights...i think just about everybody would have liked to have seen a RB... i am hopeful they can find one like sproles (see above) in free agency... i think they will have to find one to groom as the heir apparent, possibly as soon as next year... fortunately, RB not a position like DE that can take 2-3 years of physical maturity and technical development to excel... as you noted, some of the RBs that populated your list would have required a a 4th... not sure i would rather have had that scenario unfold if it meant passing on salas... it was a bummer to see ATL use our 5th on rodgers...as to the seeming redundancy of the WRs (and TE?), i seem to be higher on pettis & salas (and kendricks) than some... they have been called carbon copies by some, but i'm not so sure they can't both contribute, and be on the field together... pettis was lauded by devaney for his ability to play all three WR positions (this must have been appealing given all the attrition at WR last year), and salas also has been projected by some scouts as having the overall skill set to be able to play outside as well as in the slot... while amendola was a very pleasant surprise in the slot (and mcdaniels is reportedly looking forward to working with him), he has size limitations, and salas could be an upgrade, even if used primarily in the slot... i also like some of the skill position players left on the board... cobb, little, leshoure, etc... the latter two may have come with some non-football related red flags... the team seems to be looking for a certain kind of profile as far as personality and character make up-wise... i thought it was interesting that kendricks, pettis and salas were all team captains (wisconsin, boise state & hawaii), seem to take football seriously and reportedly have exemplary work ethics...pettis and salas are far from speed merchants, but there have been conspicuous examples of WRs that have succeeded at a high level in the NFL in recent years that weren't burners (for instance, hines ward and marques colston, among presumably others)... they aren't fast running 40 yards in a straight line in track shorts, but real football is rarely played that way (if so, the raiders would have a half dozen super bowl wins by now! :) )... to use an example from a different position, brian westbrook was "slow" (maybe a 4.6 guy?), but had outstanding first step quickness & COD skills...pettis ran a sub-optimal (if not pedestrian or lumbering) 40 time of about 4.5... BUT, i think his 3.9 20 yard shuttle was the best among all WRs at the combine (possibly even extending back a few years?)... if you view the DIFFERENTIAL between 40 time and 20 yard shuttle as a measure of lateral quickness, .6 is extremely impressive... as former DAL FB daryl johnston related on a recent total access, super bowl teammate, TE jay novacek had a novel view of gaining separation sometimes having as much or more to do with, not running fast (as most CBs tasked with coverage are as fast or faster), but STOPPING fast...scouts varied on their opinion of pettis... drew boylhart's profile was possibly the most optimistic i've seen (and i would say is admittedly contrarian - not sure the ponzi metaphor helps, or that colston is in fact better than some of the WRs he mentions... be that as it may, i still found his different perspective refreshing :) ), and he actually preferred him to the higher profile (and ultimately pedigree) teammate and fellow WR, titus young..."STRENGTHSAustin has size, strength, speed and football intelligence that translates very well to the next level. He reminds me a lot of Marques Colston (WR Saints). He has an ability to gain great separation when running his routes that you don’t see until game time. He shows the ability to catch the ball in traffic because he has strong hands and excellent body control. Austin can get behind defenses because he has that sneaky long-legged speed that can surprise most cornerbacks if they are looking into the backfield on their hip-flips or get caught using bad techniques. If the defender going up against Austin in a game does this, Austin will work that corner all game long like a Wall Street broker working a ponzi scheme. That’s why I’m calling him Austin (Ponzi) Pettis — he will take advantage of his opponent and build on every opportunity to make himself look good. Austin is a third down and red zone match-up nightmare.CONCERNSThe biggest problem for Austin is that he played on the same team as Titus Young. It is hard to notice all of Austin’s talents because most people were looking at Titus and suggesting that Austin doesn’t have good speed. Austin will have to prove at workouts that he does have good speed and quickness.BOTTOM LINEBeing considered the 2nd best receiver on a team can be a gift and a curse. A gift because it keeps the pressure off you to perform at a high level and a curse because…well, for the very same reason. Austin has not had the pressure to perform like Titus and, as a result, has had the time and opportunity to learn and grow as a receiver. His size is more appealing to me than Titus’; along with Austin’s work ethic, character and intangibles, Austin, in my opinion, should be rated higher than Titus. This may be a shock to most of you, but that’s my analysis of Austin based on the film I’ve watched. I see Titus’ talents, but I also see that he is a speed receiver and, if that speed is matched at the next level, Titus will disappear. I’m sure in this draft that Titus will be drafted before Austin, but make no mistake about it — Austin has the ability to be a #1 wide receiver. Look at it this way. Knowing what you know now would you draft Marques Colston over DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin or Devin Hester? I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer, but for me personally, I’d go with Colston. I just think you have a better chance to get to the Super Bowl with the bigger receiver and those other receivers are complementary. They are impact players, but they will not carry an offense’s receiving game. Austin (Ponzi) Pettis: remember he has the potential to carry your receiving offense."after looking at highlights (see below, with kendricks) of pettis & salas, the fourth rounder does look to be more explosive with the ball in his hands in the open field, but i also thought pettis has some make you miss and deceptive RAC skills... both have impressive stop/start ability...i am actually very excited by kendricks (i also was hoping to get hernandez in the fourth last year, but think he also came with some attendant baggage?)... kendricks didn't put up pinball stats for run first wisconsin, but still managed to make some all american lists and be a finalist for the mackey award... sometimes it is important to put trust in the scouts... i remember when keith jackson was drafted by the packers, despite very little film to go on (he was only thrown to once or twice a game at arkansas)... i'm inclined to give the rams front office, coaching staff and scouting department in the two year old devaney/spags regime the benefit of the doubt... MLB james laurinitis and LT roger saffold (as you noted) would HAVE to be among the better combined second round hauls in the 2009-2010 drafts...one thing a dangerous receiving weapon (and scouting reports indicate he may have upside as a dual threat blocker in run game) at TE position can confer is matchup flexibility and the ability to put pressure on defensive game plans... i think in time, and possibly immediately, kendricks will need to be accounted for by DC's and opposing defenses... if they can successfully attack the middle of the field, that could create spaces in other areas for the passing game, as well as creases in the run game... back to the redundancy point, this may not be the case in formations where kendricks and hoo hoo are on the field at the same time... the latter is a big dude, and if kendricks can be a competent and effective positional blocker, this could make the run game stronger...avery is fast and clayton formed immediate chemistry, but they are on the smallish side... that lack of size, and avery's speed aren't necessarily of use in close... they could have the option of formations in which hoo hoo is an in-line TE, walking kendricks out like a WR (he runs and catches like the former WR he is), flanking pettis opposite him, with salas in the slot... plus steven jackson is an excellent receiver out of the backfield... salas is the "smurf" at 6'2" 210 lbs, pettis and kendricks are 6'3" and hoo hoo is 6'4"... all the 2011 picks from rounds 2-3-4 have outstanding hands... kendricks could crackback from this formation for run plays... or kendricks could run routes out of an in-line deployment and ostensible run formation, keeping defenses guessing and off balance...another thing i like about the kendricks selection specifically is that bradford made good use of 2010 fellow rookie gresham (CIN TE) while at oklahoma... and in general with all the picks taken to bolster our receiving weapons(and it was arguably among the worst, if not the worst corp in the league last year), if they have the quickness to get separation in close quarters, bradford has an exceptionally quick trigger and the field awareness and passing game instincts to get it out of his hands and into that of his open playmakers in a hurry... the newcomers have the hands to secure the ball, and the combo of size, strength and deceptive RAC skills to do some damage once they do...rookie WRs (and TEs) don't always explode onto the scene immediately due to the steep positional learning curve... but there have been dramatic exceptions in recent years, and unlike gilyard, who reportedly had trouble with the playbook, all three of these prospects sound smart, hard working and focused, so i am excited to see how good they can be in aggregate and concert for mcdaniels offense in 2011 and future seasons... * highlights...lance kendrickshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCAuwm3OG6kaustin pettishttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfqGvm5PNuYgreg salashttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsqqmN-ffeY
 
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I'm mostly ok with the draft. What disappoints me most is the redundancy..we clearly felt the change in OCs.1. I'm disappointed they didn't come out of the draft with a backup RB. This was a very deep draft, and there were plenty of opportunities to pick up a complement, and potential successor, to Jackson. Even if you buy into the "RBs aren't worth drafting early" philosophy, players such as Powell, Harper, Hunter, Carter, Lewis, Rodgers, were all available in the 4th round and later. 2. Salas and Pettis likely spell the end for Robinson and Gibson, and maybe Gilyard. I'm not torn up about that, and I understand the desire for sure-handed catchers. Both of these guys have great hands and we clearly needed to fill out our depth chart with reliable weapons. But why spend two consecutive picks on slot guys, when that's filled with the one reliable WR we have in Amendola? Salas can probably move outside. when Pettis was taken, my first reaction was "Why isn't that Hankerson, Gates, or Salas?" We lack team speed. Avery's a crapshoot. Alexander can't be the sole deep threat if Avery gets nicked up again and adds to his long list of injuries. If they wanted two WR, I would have liked to see them split the difference with Hankerson and Salas. 3. Jabara Williams seems to be an excellent small-school talent, though raw. I'm excited about his potential. However, considering the weakness we have at OLB, I was really expecting us to grab one. Neither Nelson nor Baker were awesome picks. Why not take a chance on Herzlich with one of those picks? 4. Kendricks. I don't mind Kendricks himself, but on the heels of picking two TEs last year, it's annoying, particularly considering our lack of quality depth on other areas on our roster. The price we pay for new OC, I guess. I think what annoys me is that...5. Last year, I vocally wanted Gronkowski at the top of Round 2. We took Saffold, which worked out good--ok, good job Rams. Beyond that, though, we could have picked up one of any number of quality TEs in Round 3 or 4, instead of Murphy and Gilyard. This would have changed this year’s draft drastically. 2011 could have read: 1st round Quinn; 2nd round Cobb, Torrey Smith, or Little; 3rd round RB (listed earlier); 4th round Salas. *That* would have given Bradford some weapons. Therefore, I can't help but be a little disappointed not necessarily at the talent we got, but at the talent we left on the board.
Even though the Rams didn't draft a young RB. They will try hard to find one in free agency, Caddy, Sproles, Reggie Bush are all in the sights of Rams staff. McDaniels probably wanted to put many weapons with Bradford. He is a throw kind of a guy and even with a workhorse in Steven Jackson, I think you could see his draft strategy.
 
nice summation of the state of the rams 2011 iteration, addressing most of the remaining holes/areas targeted for improvement addressed above...

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2011/06/rams-in-depth-will-sam-bradford-take-next-step-with-josh-mcdaniels/1

Rams in depth: Will Sam Bradford take next step with Josh McDaniels?

By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY

"St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo made a simple yet prophetic statement soon after selecting quarterback Sam Bradford first overall in the 2010 NFL draft.

"I told Sam, 'Hey, we're joined at the hip now,''' Spagnuolo told the rookie then cast as the energizing face of a reeling franchise coming off a one-win season.

The Rams reaped the first-year fruits of that symbiotic, young coach-quarterback relationship. Their dramatic, 7-9 resurgence served notice that the Rams could be a tough team to beat for years to come given Bradford's Offensive Rookie of the Year performance complemented by a sharp, defensive coaching mind who schemed creative ways to pressure the opposing passer.

The Rams rose from 1-15 doormat to come within a final-game loss against Seattle of winning the NFC West title and clinching a playoff berth. Only the 10-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers experienced a greater turnaround with seven more wins from 2009 to 2010.

Bradford said his Tuesday night game strategy sessions with Spagnuolo concerning upcoming opponents proved invaluable, accelerating the growth of an up-and-coming quarterback whose 3,512 passing yards were second most by a rookie in NFL history, trailing only Peyton Manning's 3,739 passing yards in 1998.

During the lockout, Bradford has reminded of Manning in a new way. The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner housed a couple of his rookie teammates during workouts he helped organize along with cornerback Ron Bartell and defensive leader James Laurinaitis.

"Sam obviously did a terrific job, especially in the fact that it's a demanding position for a guy to come in and play, yet he seemed to make it look easy at times,'' Spagnuolo said in a season-ending news conference. "But I'm sure if you asked Sam, he'd probably tell you he wished he played better in a number of games. Because that's how he is.

"He's a competitive guy. But it was good to have him. I know that.''

The future appears bright in St. Louis considering the Rams have what every competitor in the NFC West currently lacks -- a young answer at the game's most important position who looks to build off a season that exceeded expectations.

Consider the five questions the Rams must answer to take that next step and reach the 2011 postseason:

1. Can new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels raise Bradford's production from rookie prodigy to championship-caliber winning quarterback?

In McDaniels, the former Denver Broncos head coach hired to replace the departed Pat Shurmur, Spagnuolo added one of the toughest offensive minds to defend.

McDaniels was the coordinator of the record-setting 2007 Patriots offense that scored a video-game-esque 589 points and 75 touchdowns. Spagnuolo devised a way to contain that then unbeaten Patriots juggernaut in Super Bowl XLII as New York Giants defensive coordinator.

Sam BradfordCAPTIONBy Brian Blanco, AP

"In the rolodex in my head, we tried to think of the guys that were the toughest to defend,'' Spagnuolo said. "And Josh jumped right out there. Luckily for us, he was available and we were able to get him.

"I've always recognized that he's one of the top offensive minds in the NFL.''

In an effort to keep the offense balanced, McDaniels figures to expand the number of downfield shots the strong-armed Bradford will take off of a play-action run game predicated on the hard running of Steven Jackson. Bradford completed 60% of his passes last season, many of which came on quick-hitting, checkdown passes designed to offset an injury-depleted corps of receivers.

Bradford took every snap and won more games as a rookie than any quarterback selected No. 1 overall since 1970. He also set new league rookie records for attempts and completions, joining Manning and Baltimore's Joe Flacco as the only quarterbacks to take every snap last season.

Despite misperceptions that he is strictly a quarterback guru, McDaniels has always adapted to his talent and said he's intent on finding ways to incorporate Jackson more as an offensive centerpiece given that the eighth-year running back had 90 receptions worth 806 yards during his 2006 career year.

2. Will the Rams find a change-of-pace backup for Jackson?

Jackson earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl honor with 1,241 rushing yards and six touchdowns. More importantly, he cemented his reputation as a team-first player when he played through a painful broken left ring finger and other injuries to help his team win. Jackson turns 28 in July. But with increasing mileage on his seven-season odometer, it would be an ideal time to secure a change-of-pace backup to threaten defenses and spell Jackson. GM Billy Devaney chastised himself in a recent appearance on ProFootballTalk Live after failing to address that priority in the draft.

Jackson averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry last season. And more than ever, the Rams know they need to have a fallback plan for life without Jackson should injury dictate.

"I gotta' admit, I've done a lousy job,'' Devaney said. "We've been trying to address this for two years now, not just for Steven's sake, to extend his career.

"He can't keep going at this pace.''

A couple of candidates whenever free agency returns could be Tampa Bay backup Carnell "Cadillac" Williams or San Diego Chargers tailback/returner Darren Sproles.

3. Did the Rams fix their glaring red-zone scoring weakness in the draft?

On the surface, the answer would seem to be "Yes.'' But given the threat the lockout poses to rookie success, the drafting of second-round Wisconsin tight end Lance Kendricks and plucking Boise State wideout Austin Pettis in the third round and Hawaii receiver Greg Salas in the fourth, a potential red-zone improvement could be undermined by their inability to be coached up in time to make the desired difference.

Bottom line: The Rams ranked 31st in red-zone scoring last season, converting 20 touchdowns (35.7%) on 56 possessions inside the red zone. They tied for fifth in red-zone possessions, but hit a wall inside an opponents' 20-yard line.

The 6-3, 240 Kendrick figures to play "The Joker'' H-back position and fill a void for an offense in need of another matchup problem who can spread the field and open the box for Jackson.

Pettis and Salas are effortless hands catchers and dependable, productive receivers. McDaniels helped Belichick and Brady win three Super Bowls without a true No. 1 receiver threat before. But if the sum of a healthy Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton, Danario Alexander and Danny Amendola are pushed and made better by competition from Pettis and Salas, the Rams should take an important next step in upgrading a 26th-ranked scoring offense that averaged 18.1 points per game.

4. Can the Rams get better interior line play out of their guards?

Despite the hard running of Jackson being an offensive focal point, he and the Rams hit a second-half wall last season in large part because of interior offensive line struggles. The Rams finished 25th in rushing, averaging 98.6 yards per game. Veteran Adam Goldberg wasn't the answer at right guard. Fourth-year guard John Greco proved a punishing run mauler. But he has to prove he can stay healthy to emerge as a needed right guard upgrade. Because center Jason Brown's performance sagged following a strong 2009 showing, the Rams' interior deflated overall. Left guard Jacob Bell also struggled and that cascade effect showed up in Jackson's sub-par yards per carry average.

The good news?

Bradford's fellow 2010 classmate Rodger Saffold was the only rookie to start 16 games at left tackle and punched open holes in the run game while protecting Bradford's blind side.

5. How do the Rams get stronger at weak-side linebacker?

The Rams filled their weak-side linebacker position by committee with Larry Grant starting the first seven games replaced by several other ineffective replacements. They drafted Stephen F. Austin linebacker Jabara Williams in the seventh round with an eye toward plugging that gap and improving their special teams play.

Veteran Na'il Diggs performed well on the strong side in 2010. But he'll be 33 on July 8 and the Rams need improvement on the opposite side since their middle-of-the-pack run defense has yet to be fixed. Defensive coordinator Ken Flajole has familiarity from his 2003-2008 Carolina Panthers tenure with possible free-agent options James Anderson and Thomas Davis. Another possible free-agent candidate who could gain consideration is Tampa Bay's Barrett Rudd.

Spagnuolo's 12th-ranked scoring defense is predicated on a tenacious pass rush that generated 43 sacks, seventh best league-wide. The front seven that added first-round pass-rushing end Robert Quinn to the duo of Chris Long and James Hall is headlined by middle linebacker Laurinaitis, last season's leading tackler. While good corner play is an important part of Spagnuolo's defense, without a hallmark safety, the Rams need more consistent play from their outside linebackers to get over the playoff hump.

Despite missing the playoffs, Spagnuolo sees a young team on the rise toward that championship goal he pursues with a dogged, even-keeled approach.

"The confidence grew,'' Spagnuolo said of his 2010 Rams. "Certainly, the expectations are going to be higher. What I'm really excited about is there's a tremendous hunger there.''

And now there appears to be more talent to help Spagnuolo and Bradford go about satisfying that hunger for championship-starved Rams fans."

 
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Even though the Rams didn't draft a young RB. They will try hard to find one in free agency, Caddy, Sproles, Reggie Bush are all in the sights of Rams staff. McDaniels probably wanted to put many weapons with Bradford. He is a throw kind of a guy and even with a workhorse in Steven Jackson, I think you could see his draft strategy.
The "look to free agency" actually makes me very nervous. I don't want them throwing money and contracts at situational backs. Right now, if Jackson goes down, we're screwed. If we had Cadillac, Sproles, or Bush, we wouldn't be any less screwed. There aren't backs available that *could* carry the load. Maaaaybe Ronnie Brown. Maybe Ricky on a 1-year deal. Regardless, we need viable options on first and second down. Keith Toston is not that option. Nor is Chauncey Washington. Or Kenneth Darby. That's why passing on numerous talented runners in the draft hurt us. Yes, we needed weapons for Bradford. Yes, McDaniels has a passing offense. That doesn't make a backup running back any less of a need.I'm hoping that we bring in a load of UDFA, and that Devaney heats up the phone lines the moment they're allowed to.
 
rams agree to terms with ex-PHI SS quintin mikell on a four year contract...

http://phillysportsdaily.com/eagles/2011/07/26/quintin-mikell-agrees-to-sign-with-rams/

and from espn...

Source: Rams, Mikell agree to 4-year deal

The St. Louis Rams have reached an agreement on a four-year deal worth $28 million with former Philadelphia Eagles safety Quintin Mikell, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Mikell spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Eagles. Mikell tallied 88 tackles, three interceptions and one sack last season.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier Tuesday the Eagles were planning to let all their unsigned free agents leave Philadelphia, "including starters such as Stewart Bradley, Quintin Mikell and Sav Rocca and backup running back Jerome Harrison."

* positions that could still be in play... OLB, DT (cofield?), RB, OG

 
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rams agree to terms with ex-PHI SS quintin mikell on a four year contract... http://phillysportsdaily.com/eagles/2011/07/26/quintin-mikell-agrees-to-sign-with-rams/and from espn...Source: Rams, Mikell agree to 4-year dealThe St. Louis Rams have reached an agreement on a four-year deal worth $28 million with former Philadelphia Eagles safety Quintin Mikell, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.Mikell spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Eagles. Mikell tallied 88 tackles, three interceptions and one sack last season. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier Tuesday the Eagles were planning to let all their unsigned free agents leave Philadelphia, "including starters such as Stewart Bradley, Quintin Mikell and Sav Rocca and backup running back Jerome Harrison."* positions that could still be in play... OLB, DT (cofield?), RB, OG
I'd like to see the Rams get Cofield. He was number one on my wish list this offseason. 27, productive, 4 pillars guy who is a Spagnola soldier.
 
quiet since the mikell signing...

i think i saw in an espn chat an agent passed along a reminder that until today (friday), teams have only been able to meet in person with their own free agents (though this hasn't prevented many signings across the league), which could trigger an avalanche of signings over the weekend...

jim thomas noted a few days ago a few names at the RB & LB position as potentially of interest to the organization (not sure the nature of his sources, the organization seems pretty buttoned down in the devaney/spags-era)...

RB - jason snelling (cec just tweeted DEN could be interested, though they just landed mcgahee) and jerome harrison. there seems to be sunsequent rumblings about snelling coming more into focus, but unsubstantiated as of now.

LB - shanle, leber & diles... shanle was re-signed by NO... i think leber has connections with the coaching staff... diles would be interesting... the LB market has been drying up, with CAR locking up their own, durant going to DET... ernie sims hasn't been mentioned, and his stock is pretty low right now, but he would be an upgrade... larry grant has been cut already... spags seems to value size at the position, so sims may not be a good fit on that score...

unconfirmed like snelling, ATL OG harvey dahl might be a target... STL was rumored to be interested in former GB OG colledge, who signed with ARI... falcons are thought to be prioritizing OG blalock, and already re-upped OT clabo, so they may need to let him go... devaney was in the falcons front office prior to rams... i think snelling played with chris long at virginia, so they could get his input...

* disappointing to see sproles go to NO, but can't blame him for wanting to go to a stronger super bowl contender (which has probably been an issue for a few years, being on the brink, but hopefully won't be as much in a year or two... bradford almost led team to the playoffs as a rookie)... wasn't surprised to see bush land elsewhere, doubt if he would have wanted to play on turf with the creaky knees... even if they had landed sproles, he would have been a great third down/ST weapon (one of the best), but they still would have needed to add another RB... he isn't the kind of back that could have taken over if jackson were injured and missed a few games... snelling could (and did, for turner)... also, jackson is one of the few RBs in the league that can be an excellent three down RB, caught a ton of balls early in his career, so very possible that mcd involves him more in the passing game... once he gets in space, he is a load for DBs to drag down... also, if ambiguous third down and distance, jackson would be a stronger threat to run, which helps passing game.

 
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RB - jason snelling (cec just tweeted DEN could be interested, though they just landed mcgahee) and jerome harrison. there seems to be sunsequent rumblings about snelling coming more into focus, but unsubstantiated as of now.
I've been crossing my fingers that we sign Snelling. I was never enamored with throwing money at Sproles, as I think we're best served by having someone that can actually be a viable backup if Jackson were to get hurt. Snelling's proven he can be a serviceable, and occasionally surprisingly good, every-down back.
 
the rams were busy friday, the first "official" day of free agency...

note to self - bravo to the spags coaching staff and billy devaney/kevin demoff front office axis in doing an INFINITELY better job in the draft and free agency than the shaw/zygmunt, martz/linehan dark ages...

the dahl signing was a good one, as noted... he opened a lot of holes the past few seasons for a power runner similar to jackson, in michael turner... it fills a weak link and achilles heel in the interior OL dating back several years with a player that was at a borderline pro bowl level in 2010... he will bring power, attitude and intensity (has some nasty)... think a more disciplined incognito without the anger management and poor impulse control issues... :) dahl fun fact - former state wrestling champ from NV...

there has been some shuffling in the interior OL... there were conflicting reports that LG jacob bell might be released for refusing to restructure his contract (safe to say he has underplayed his contract so far), but the latest word is this hurdle has been cleared... possibly related to this latest development, former high 3rd round OG john greco was traded to browns (where new HC shurmur was rams OC past two years) for an undisclosed pick (lucky to get a 5th, more likely 6th or 7th?)... swing OL adam goldberg could eventually be retained, once the dust settles from the free agent FRENZY...

the rams have invested a lot of money in the OL, important with bradford now being the centerpiece of the team... the right side of the OL (jason smith, dahl and jason brown) has the makings of a medieval run blocking unit...

MSW - one year contract ($1 mil base, up to 3.7 w/ incentives, a potentially great, anti-drew bennett signing)... just one season removed ('09) from his career best campaign (63-869-7), he has seven TDs in each of the last two seasons... good size, athleticism, talent, but has been injured and inconsistent... upside there, bradford easily the best QB he has ever worked with... when he and brandon marshall were at UCF, some scouts though MSW was the superior pro prospect... in retrospect he clearly wasn't, but it does speak to his physical ability and skills...

http://prod.www.rams.clubs.nfl.com/news-and-events/article-1/Rams-Add-Playmaker-in-Sims-Walker/53ea8ed2-f83c-415f-b5a6-6dc15c01b840

mark clayton has not been re-signed due to lingering issues with his knee rehab, it is unclear at this point if he will be brought back by the rams, spags was non-committal... the MSW signing would seem to make that less likely (rookies pettis and salas are mortal locks to make the roster)...

ex-HOU OLB zac diles - one year deal... coverage not a strong suit, but he is solid in run support... has the versatility to play multiple positions, but WLB would seem to be his best fit... should be a big upgrade over likes of grant/voborra/chamberlain...

former PHI/GB CB al harris signed another one year deal... he was cut after a few games by the dolphins last year, returning from a knee injury with the packers... though 36, could be the nickle back if he has anything left in the tank... spags likes physical press corners...

former BAL and most recently DEN DT justin bannan signed a three year contract, following new OC josh mcdaniels...

ex-GB OLB brady poppinga is scheduled to visit rams park sunday, and could get an offer if his knee checks out (injured in 2010)... the rams could flank ascendant MLB laurinaitis with TWO new starters this season (diles already penciled in at WLB)... interest in poppinga could indicate the organization views him as upgrade over 2010 SLB diggs?

all the rookies have been signed (nice to see quinn's switching agents and attempted legal maneuvering by the spurned ex didn't lead to a delay)...

RB search...

snelling has not been signed, though i think there is interest on the rams part... jim thomas noted that STL could also have interest in another ATL RB, jerious norwood (devaney connection again, as with dahl), as well as ronnie brown, possibly...

articles and camp reports below...

______________________________________________________________

* from rams mssg board (not sure about original source)... interview snippets from some of the newest rams...

Harvey Dahl Post-Practice – July 30, 2011

(On if General Manager Billy Devaney was in Atlanta when he was brought in there)

“Absolutely. He brought me in and I was able to flourish there and do really well. So I kind of wanted to stick with him. The reason I had success in Atlanta was because of him. I figured I would keep going on with him.”

(On his career path taking him through NFL Europe and Atlanta and now being sought after in free agency)

“It’s awesome. Especially on a team like St. Louis where you’re appreciated for that. I was very fortunate and I’m happy to be here and contribute.”

(On if his reputation as a tenacious and dirty player is accurate)

“That’s what they say. I feel like I just play hard. I play physical. I play, I think, the way the game is supposed to be played.”

(On playing with Bradford and RB Steven Jackson)

“That’s awesome. That’s what you have to have to win is a great quarterback and get the running game going. Protect the quarterback and give him time, I’m sure he’s capable of all kinds of things.”

WR Mike Sims-Walker – Post-Practice- July 30, 2011

(On how appealing it is to come to a team with a good, young QB and an offensive coordinator that he has a good idea of what he can do)

“It’s very appealing. Sam (Bradford) is a very special guy. He can do a lot of things. I’m sure (Offensive Coordinator) Josh McDaniels is. I’m happy to have him. I’m just here to play that role, whatever they want me to be.”

(On what he is getting out of practice so far)

“I’m just trying to get the playbook down. Trying to just learn little things at a time. Little by little it will help with the big picture. Just getting concepts down, formations, where to line up – just little stuff like that.”

(On his relationship with Torry Holt)

“Mentor, father-figure. I called him up, as soon as I agreed. I talked to him last night and he just wished me the best and he gave me the ins and outs. Great guy. I respect him with all I got.”

Press Conference – Rams S Quintin Mikell – July 30, 2011

(On why he chose to come to St. Louis)

“The biggest thing is I felt I had a good relationship with Coach (Steve Spagnuolo) Spags. I was familiar with the system, but also, I just like what they’re doing here. I like what the team’s doing the last couple of years. You can see the growth, you can see the excitement in the program. It doesn’t hurt to have a franchise quarterback that can go out there and play so well. Those three things were key to me.”

(On if he sees himself as more of a strong or a free safety)

“Over the years, what we got into with my last team was kind of playing both. Flip-flopping. It kind of keeps the offense off guard. I can play whatever they need me to, but I prefer to switch it up.”

(On if he was disappointed to leave Philadelphia)

“The writing was on the wall, so to speak. I kind of had a feeling. I was surprised that all of us pretty much were gone, but they run their program the way they want. The bottom line is I’m happy where I’m at, and its’ a great situation. It’s going to be fun September 11 (against the Eagles). It’s going to be a good atmosphere for football.”

Press Conference – Rams CB Al Harris - July 30, 2011

(On why he wants to play a 14th NFL season)

“I love the game man, love the game. I’ve still got something to prove. I’m here to help win (Coach Steve Spagnuolo) Spags is a great guy. I remember him from back in Philly. (Former Green Bay teammate LB Na’il) Diggs is here. I’m just trying to help build something.”

(On what he wants to prove)

“Just coming off an injury, you can’t leave when you’re hurt. You can never leave when you’re hurt, so you always leave when you’re strong.”

(On what he’s been doing to get in optimum health)

“That’s exactly what I’ve been doing is getting right, working out and just getting back in football shape.”

(On if he feels like he’s right physically)

“Yeah, I feel good. I needed some time to heal up. Like I said, you can never leave the game when you’re hurt.”

(On if he sees himself as a ‘player-coach’)

“Whatever they need me to do. I’m here to help. I’m here to help win some games.”

(On his relationship with Spagnuolo)

“We were in the same meeting room in Philadelphia. Spags has the same mentality as (Former Eagles Defensive Coordinator) Jim (Johnson), bless his heart. Just this defense, I was raised in this defense. This is the defense I came up under.”

________________________________________________________________

** summation of the first wave of free agency signings by local journalist bernie miklasz

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/bernie-miklasz/article_e377ae04-a861-57cb-b5b3-69f8a3faa7c1.html

Rams off to good start in free agent market

BY BERNIE MIKLASZ STLtoday.com | Posted: Saturday, July 30, 2011 12:05 am

"The Rams are off to a very good start in their free-agent shopping.

I like the signings of safety Quintin Mikell, guard Harvey Dahl, wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker, outside linebacker Zac Diles and cornerback Al Harris.

Mikell, Dahl and Diles are starters. Sims-Walker has a good opportunity to be a prominent figure in the Josh McDaniels offense, and his size will be a plus in the red zone. Harris, while beyond his career peak, may be able to provide quality depth at CB.

The Rams arent finished. They have work to do. They still have time to sort through an overpopulated market to find a No. 2 running back and a couple of defensive tackles.

And the Rams may need another guard, too. According to reports, starting left guard Jacob Bell could be on the way out unless he agrees to restructure his cap-heavy contract. The Rams are trying to find more salary-cap to fill other needs. As of 11 a.m. Saturday, there was no definitive word on Bell's status.

The 2011 Rams will benefit from these first-wave signings. Lets take a look:

Mikell was rated the No. 1 safety on the free-agent board by multiple scouting services, and the analysts at Pro Football Focus graded him as the NFLs top safety for his performance in Philadelphia over the past three years. Mikell is a rugged run enforcer who also defends well against the pass; quarterbacks have completed less than 50 percent when targeting him. As a bonus, Mikell can line up at corner in exotic blitz alignments. The Rams had to replace the departed O.J. Atogwe and have actually gotten better at safety through Mikell's combination of physical play, cover skills and versatility.

Dahl, a standout for Atlanta, is big, physical and borderline psycho in his tenacity. (Think of Richie Incognito without the dumb penalties.) Dahl is an ideal fit for an offense that lacked punch in the running game; Pro Football Focus rated Dahl as the NFLs third-best right guard in 2010. And Scouts Inc. ranked him third on the list available free-agent guards and centers.

Diles is another sure and willing tackler; STATS LLC charged him with only one broken tackle in 16 games for Houston last season. But Diles struggles when dropping into coverage, allowing a completion rate of 82 percent over the last three seasons. As long as the Rams line him up to come forward to punish runners, Diles should be an asset. But the Rams shouldn't assume that he can cover.

Sims-Walker, 26, should only improve after playing extensively the last two seasons at Jacksonville. Scouts Inc. rated him as eighth-best available wideout on the free-agent list. Sims-Walker plays tall at 6-2, 215 pounds. An ankle injury slowed him last season, and critics questioned his consistency and polish in running routes. But the Rams are taking in Sims-Walker at an opportune time; he's hungry and anxious to make good on a one-year contract to set himself up for a larger contract in 2012. He will be highly motivated. No question, Sims-Walker should boost the Rams gasping red-zone passing attack. According to STATS, the Jaguars targeted him 13 times in the red zone last season, and he made 10 catches, three for TDs. He had nine red-zone grabs in 2009, five for TDs. Sims-Walker has caught 7 TD passes in each of the last two seasons; the Rams haven't had a WR with as many as 7 TD receptions since Torry Holt in 2007.

Harris, 36, is rebounding from a serious knee injury sustained near the end of his successful run in Green Bay. He played a few games Miami last season and reports were generally positive. If healthy, Harris can still cover. At his best Harris was among the elite shutdown corners in the NFL, but we'll have to see what he has left. Harris, who signed for one year, is certainly worth a look. And if his knee is in sound shape, there's no reason why he can't fill a role as a CB in the nickel and dime defenses."

___________________________________________________________

*** late breaking news by long time rams reporter jim thomas...

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/football/professional/article_f273ea7a-b772-565e-a9a1-685e80945246.html

Rams make roster moves at a dizzying pace

BY JIM THOMAS jthomas@post-dispatch.com STLtoday.com | Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 12:10 am

"A day after the Rams agreed to terms with four veteran players, the personnel wheels were still turning at a rapid pace Saturday.

The Rams agreed to terms with defensive tackle Justin Bannan, agreed to terms with first-round draft pick Robert Quinn, set up a Sunday visit with outside linebacker Brady Poppinga, and continued their search for a backup running back with Ronnie Brown and Jerious Norwood surfacing as candidates.

The team also restructured the contracts of offensive guard Jacob Bell and safety James Butler, with both players apparently taking pay cuts to free up more salary cap space. And related to the Bell restructuring as well as the signing of free-agent guard Harvey Dahl, league sources told the Post-Dispatch on Saturday evening that the Rams had traded guard John Greco to Cleveland. Terms were undisclosed.

After Saturday afternoon's practice, the first full-scale practice of training camp, coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Rams weren't giving up on re-signing two of their own free agents: guard/tackle Adam Goldberg and wide receiver Mark Clayton. Other than that, it was another quiet day at Rams Park.

Bannan, 6-3, 310, was en route to St. Louis on Saturday evening and will sign his contract Sunday. He's regarded as a no-nonsense blue-collar player, but has some athleticism to go with his high motor. Bannan has a quick first step, providing good penetration against the run. And that's what the Rams signed him for — his run defense. With only 6 1/2 career sacks in nine previous NFL seasons, Bannan won't be on the field in obvious passing situations.

Bannan is 32, but it's a "low mileage" 32. He began his NFL career in Buffalo and rarely played behind starters Pat Williams and Sam Adams. Until last season, when he started all 16 games for Denver, Bannan had started more than seven games in a season only once. But as a Baltimore Raven, he had 15 starts in place of the injured Kelly Gregg in 2008 and played well.

Bannan was an unrestricted free agent a year ago, ultimately signing with Denver, but Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo called him early in the free agency process trying to get him to consider St. Louis. Bannan was released by the Broncos this offseason in a cap-related move. But Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was Broncos head coach last season, vouched for Bannan.

Elsewhere on the personnel front, Quinn became the last of the Rams' 2011 draft class to come to contract terms. Even with a last-minute agent switch, contract talks weren't what caused the defensive end from North Carolina to miss Saturday's first day of camp practices.

"It was not a contract issue," Spagnuolo said. "He spoke with me, it was a personal issue."

The Rams' seven other draft picks all practiced Saturday. There was some drama Saturday morning when Bell was a no-show at the Rams' walk-through. Bell apparently balked at being asked to take a pay cut, and for a while it looked like the team might end up releasing him to free up cap room.

But during Saturday afternoon's practice, Bell walked out on the field early in the proceedings, gave Spagnuolo a hug and mingled with his teammates and watched the rest of practice.

Veteran players who have signed new contracts, even those who have taken pay cuts under restructured contracts such as those of Bell and Butler, cannot practice until Aug. 4 (or until the collective bargaining agreement is complete).

With Bell back in the fold and Dahl joining the team from Atlanta, Greco may have felt like the odd man out just a day after signing his one-year tender as a restricted free agent. But Greco's departure may have opened the door for the return of last year's starting right guard, free agent Adam Goldberg, in his old utility role.

"I don't want to lose sight of Adam Goldberg," Spagnuolo said after practice before word of the Greco trade leaked out. "He means a lot to this team, we just have a lot of things going on. When we get it ironed out, we'll see where we go, but Adam is a pretty special guy to us."

Another member of the 2010 Rams, free-agent Clayton, is still talking to the team about returning. But Clayton is coming off season-ending knee surgery.

"Mark, right now, the leg's not right just yet," Spagnuolo said. "So we're just going to hold off. I've talked with Mark, everything is very positive there, but we're just going to see where his injury goes for right now."

At linebacker, former Houston Texan Zac Diles is expected to arrive at Rams Park on Sunday to sign his deal. He's projected as the team's starting weakside linebacker, but it looks like the Rams are looking for help at strongside linebacker as well.

Poppinga, released by the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers earlier this week, is scheduled to arrive at Rams Park on Sunday for a visit and a physical. Poppinga is coming off season-ending knee surgery last season, and if his knee checks out, he could be signed Sunday.

Although he has some liabilities in coverage, Poppinga is regarded as a good run defender and excellent special teams player."

_______________________________________________________

**** camp report (w/ photos) from ramsherd...

http://www.ramsherd.com/2011-articles/preseason/rams-camp-opens-notes-and-pics-from-day-1.html

 
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