NFC West: Blaise Winter
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
|AP Photo/Jeff Roberson|
|Marc Bulger looks to bounce back after completing just 58.5 percent of his passes in 2007, a career low.|
MEQUON, Wis. -- The quarterbacks, plural, are the first thing you notice about the Rams after spending two days watching the 49ers practice.
Marc Bulger and Trent Green command the ball and the offense. Arizona and St. Louis have four quarterbacks who would likely start for San Francisco. That makes this division a little harder to figure. The 49ers appear very good on defense and special teams. They will improve offensively with Mike Martz as coordinator. But it's tough to know how much the 49ers' offensive personnel might limit them. If Martz makes that offense even average, the 49ers are competitive.
Back to the Rams. Specifically, a few thoughts after watching the morning session at Concordia University:
- Bulger is heating up. He throws darts on target in the face of the rush. Granted, he knows the defensive players aren't going to hit him in this setting. If you hit Bulger or most other quarterbacks, they aren't the same. But the dump pass he threw to Antonio Pittman against the rush was perfectly placed and delivered on time.
- Tye Hill knocked down an end-zone pass to Drew Bennett. Great play, right? Well, almost. The ball hit Hill square in the hands in the vicinity of face level. He did not come close to catching it.
- Bulger looks like a leader. Even when Brock Berlin was running the offense, Bulger stepped toward the huddle between plays to slap fives with a teammate. Not a big deal, but those are the types of things I look for at a practice. Demeanor and body language matter at quarterback.
- Receivers Matt Caddell and Marques Hagans dropped passes today. The Rams do not have a clear-cut No. 2 receiver, but they have several players who might not be bad as the fourth or fifth receiver. Derek Stanley made a couple of plays on the ball, including a diving grab.
- The usual one-on-one pass-rush drills weren't as extensive as I had hoped. Coaches were working with offensive linemen on picking up twists and the like. Rookie John Greco did stand out a bit in the one-on-one drills. He locked up Adam Carriker on consecutive pass-rush plays, holding his ground well. Greco was drafted as a tackle. He might project as a guard. Either way, the Rams think he could develop into a contributor.
- Chris Long gets in the offensive tackle's face very quickly. There was nothing cute about his rushes in the pass-rush drill this morning. He went right at tackle Julius Wilson, recently signed from the Dolphins. Coaches worked with Long on finishing plays, with an emphasis on how he uses his hips.
- Clifton Ryan did beat Greco in a pass-rush drill. A scout familiar with the NFC West told me last night he compares Ryan to Seattle's Craig Terrill. Both are high-effort defensive tackles. The scout called them "gutty and quick" three-technique defensive tackles.
- Former San Diego, Green Bay and Indianapolis defensive end Blaise Winter looks like he could still play at age 46. Winter is working with the Rams' strength-and-conditioning staff. He also worked with some of the offensive linemen after pass-rush drills. He demonstrated techniques to re-establish proper hand placement, including a vicious move with the elbows. Players seemed to respond well to him. Winter is a motivational speaker. As his site says, "In a world where people are in need of the personal touch Blaise Winter reaches for the soul."