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Little, Long among Rams to watch

8/9/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

We've already broken down the Rams' various position battles and overall roster. Now comes the fun part: watching these battles play out. The Rams open their exhibition season at Tennessee tonight. A few things to monitor:

  • Leonard Little. The Rams' left defensive end finished last season with one sack. From afar, his career appeared to be waning. The Rams think otherwise. They expect Little to enjoy a resurgence now that his surgically repaired toe is healthy. This team's defensive line can be very good, particularly rushing the passer, if Little reemerges as a force from the outside.

  • Drew Bennett and the receivers. The Rams' opponents have had to worry about Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce for the better part of a decade. Holt is the only receiver opponents fear now that Bruce is playing for San Francisco. Bennett is a known quantity. Second-round choice Donnie Avery probably will not play tonight. Let's see if fourth-round choice Keenan Burton can get our attention. He made headlines early in camp.

  • Orlando Pace. Keep him healthy. That's all that matters now. Losing Pace would deliver a severe psychological blow after what the offensive line went through last season.

  • Antonio Pittman. The Rams miss holdout running back Steven Jackson. Pittman can make them feel better in the short term by showing he's ready to start.

  • The safeties. Eric Bassey and Jerome Carter could be fighting for a roster spot. The Rams might need to watch the waiver wire at this position.

  • Chris Long. The first-round draft choice is making progress. He will start at right defensive end. Here is what Long told me last weekend: "A couple days ago, I think there was a point where I had a couple of revelations here and there. Technique-wise, I fixed some things that help me just kind of play more (as opposed to thinking). Stance things, steps, hands."

The Rams' rosters is pretty straightforward. We see relatively few position battles. That can change if a player emerges unexpectedly during exhibition games. The Rams lack quality depth in quite a few areas. An injury at linebacker or along the offensive line would hurt.