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Observations from Rams' morning practice

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The Rams practiced in pads Tuesday morning, perhaps their final practice with live tackling before they get into the preseason routine.

A few things I noticed:

  • Coach Steve Spagnuolo is everywhere. He bounces from one positional group to another, sometimes running 50 yards at a time between stations. He offers personal instruction in some of the defensive groups, particularly the secondary. Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher received one-on-one instruction from Spagnuolo in this practice.

  • Linebacker Will Witherspoon was easily the most impressive linebacker. He caused problems rushing the passer and taking down running backs behind the line of scrimmage. Veteran linebacker Chris Draft sat out this practice after taking a thumb to the throat. The Rams are having the injury checked out as a precaution.

  • Linebacker Larry Grant picked off a Marc Bulger pass near the goal line and would have had a big return. Grant also blew up a running play, stuffing Kenneth Darby. The early camp reports about Grant making a positive impression held true.

  • The Rams change up their personnel at tight end frequently. I'm not sure if they were just resting starter Randy McMichael, but there were times when he wasn't part of double-tight end groups. McMichael is the most established receving threat at the position. He did drop a pass Tuesday, though.

  • Cornerback Tye Hill had some problems with swelling in his surgically repaired knee, Spagnuolo said. I watched receiver Nate Jones beat Hill for a touchdown despite relatively tight coverage. The Rams would like Hill to contest such plays more aggressively. "Compete!" was an order heard often in drills pitting cornerbacks against receivers. In this case, Hill was hurting. He did not finish practice.

  • Injured receiver Donnie Avery took off his walking boot for some conditioning drills, including while laying on his back and raising a medicine ball held between his ankles.

  • Keenan Burton and Tim Carter were getting work at flanker, with Laurent Robinson at split end.

  • The Rams' West Coast offense uses the same terminology for personnel groups as the one Mike Holmgren ran in Seattle for nine years. The Seahawks have new terminology this season.

  • Derek Stanley is practicing without a sleeve or brace on his surgically repaired knee. The coaching staff would like him to continue working on ball security and finishing plays. Spagnuolo praised Stanley for his progress in those areas.

  • Running back Samkon Gado is getting extra work while an ankle injury limits fullback Mike Karney. Gado willingly slammed into middle linebacker James Laurinaitis while lead blocking for Steven Jackson. The staff has been pleased with Gado's versatility, although Gado did muff a kickoff late in practice.

  • Second-year defensive end Chris Long did not stand out during one-on-one pass-rush drills. Left tackle Alex Barron seemed to handle Long effectively. Backup defensive linemen Eric Moore, Victor Adeyanju and Ian Campbell blew past backup offensive linemen Renardo Foster, Daniel Sanders and Eric Young, respectively. Hollis Thomas badly beat center Tim Mattran, while Gary Gibson beat guard Roger Allen III.

  • First-round choice Jason Smith continues working with the second-team offense at right tackle. He handled Campbell in one-on-one pass rush. Smith did not work against starting defensive ends in that drill Tuesday.

  • Defensive end Leonard Little would have had a free shot on Bulger when the first-team offense faced the first-team defense in modified live drills (I say modified because tackling was live for running plays, not passing plays, while quarterbacks were off-limits to contact, as usual). Right tackle Adam Goldberg wasn't necessarily to blame for Little racing into the backfield untouched. He blocked to the inside.

The Rams have a special-teams session scheduled for this afternoon. Also, I'll be speaking with Bernie Miklasz of 101ESPN at about 1:20 p.m. CT. Listen live.