NFC West: Keith Toston

Matt Cassel among active Chiefs vs. Rams

December, 19, 2010
ST. LOUIS -- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has done little during warm-ups at the Edward Jones Dome.

He might play anyway.

Cassel's name was not among the list of inactive players Kansas City submitted 90 minutes before kickoff. The Chiefs named Tyler Palko as their third quarterback. The Chiefs did not immediately disclose any lineup changes. Cassel or Brodie Croyle could start at quarterback.

Cassel has already missed one game since having an appendectomy. He practiced on a limited basis during the week and did not participate fully in warm-ups at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday morning. Croyle and Palko threw intermediate routes to receivers running at full speed. Cassel tossed soft 8-yard passes to a team staffer while working off to the side.

The Chiefs' inactive list featured cornerback Mike Richardson, safety Ricky Price, fullback Mike Cox, safety Reshard Langford, linebacker Charlie Anderson, center Rudy Niswanger and defensive tackle Anthony Toribio.

Inactive for the Rams: safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Justin King, running back Kenneth Darby, fullback Mike Karney, linebacker David Nixon, guard John Greco, receiver Mardy Gilyard and tight end Mike Hoomanawanui.

The situation at running back is a little troubling for the Rams. Darby is the top backup for Steven Jackson. The team has been naming Karney inactive by choice.

Rookie Keith Toston is the No. 2 running back behind Jackson.

Steven Jackson neglected near goal line?

October, 29, 2010
Bobby from St. Louis asked during the most recent NFC West chat whether the Rams were neglecting Steven Jackson once their offense reached the opponents' 10-yard line.

"It seems like every game they have a drive stall in there because we run play-action rollouts or quick drops," Bobby wrote. "The Earl Thomas pick in end zone vs. Seattle, back-to-back sacks vs. San Diego and a couple near-picks vs. Tampa this weekend come to mind. Why not let the workhorse back (among the best in the league) pound the ball four times and test the defense's will?"

I've had time to break down the Rams' personnel use through the Tampa Bay game, allowing me to isolate 36 plays at the 10 or closer. Jackson ran the ball on 10 of these plays. He lost yardage once, gained a single yard five times, had a 3-yard run from the 9 and a 7-yard touchdown run on a second-and-goal play against the Chargers. He averaged 1.3 yards per carry on these 10 rushes.

The Rams tried and failed to run Keith Toston into the end zone from the 1 on two occasions against the Washington Redskins, both from power formations with three tight ends. Jackson had left that game with an injury, however, so it's tough to hold that one against the Rams' coaches. Kenneth Darby had a 7-yard run to the 2 against the Bucs on a three-receiver play featuring Darby and Jackson in a split backfield.

One sequence against the Chargers stood out as supporting your premise.

The Rams had suffered a 6-yard sack on first-and-goal from the 4. Jackson was not in the game for this play. Jackson came into the game on second-and-goal from the 10, but the Rams fooled no one with weak play-action featuring Jackson releasing horizontally into the right flat area. Bradford took another sack.

A penalty against the Chargers on third down produced first-and-goal from the 1. The Rams lined up with three tight ends as if to run, only to have Bradford pass. He took another sack. Only then did the Rams hand off to Jackson, who scored from the 7 on a trap play from three-receiver personnel.

It's clear the Rams trust quarterback Sam Bradford. They like the way he throws with accuracy on the move. They know defenses are keying on Jackson. They want to use this to their advantage by having Bradford run rollouts and bootlegs. It's a good strategy, but a playcaller can sometimes outsmart himself. I wouldn't argue with a few more carries for Jackson when the Rams reach the 10.

The chart shows Jackson's stats by field position, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Their field-position numbers break down rushes inside the 10. I included plays beginning at the 10. The rushing stats match because Jackson has not carried from the 10 this season. Note, also, that the chart includes some duplicating information. Carries inside the 10 show up in two categories.
Clare Farnsworth of says Matt Hasselbeck played coy before revealing the truth about his pregame routine. Hasselbeck: "OK, typically what I do is I’ll have noise-cancellation headphones on. But it’s not plugged into anything. I just don’t want to hear people, or their music. I just need silence; focus. Otherwise people want to talk to you. So I wear headphones with no music. Just leave me alone. ... I just tuck (the cord) into my shorts or my pocket." Sort of like pretending you're on the phone to avoid having to speak with someone. Not that I've done anything along those lines.

Also from Farnsworth: Russell Okung worked at left tackle for Seattle again, with Tyler Polumbus moving to the right side while Sean Locklear rested a sore knee. I could see Polumbus staying at right tackle because Locklear is not yet established there in the Seahawks' eyes (the team already reduced his salary and wiped out remaining years on his deal).

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times revisits Leon Washington's high school days and finds out the Seattle kick returner once scored a 99-yard touchdown as a punter, not as a returner. Not bad.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks added pass-rusher Chris Clemons to their injury report.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at LaRod Stephens-Howling and the impact kickoff returns for touchdowns can have on a game. A stat Stephens-Howling will not want to discuss come contract time: "According to, teams that returned a kickoff for a touchdown were only 33-43 from 2005 through 2009."

Darren Urban of says the Cardinals' 2-1 record is helping receiver Larry Fitzgerald work through some personal frustrations. Fitzgerald's numbers through two games were similar to or better than the ones he posted through two games last season, but a two-catch outing against Oakland in Week 3 did not go over well. Fitzgerald: "I just want to double my catch performance from Sunday and I’ll be a happy man. If I can just get four, I’ll be … We are 2-1 and that’s what it is all about. If we were 0-3, I might pull my hair out but I’m good right now."

Also from Urban: He breaks down Stephens-Howling's kickoff return for a touchdown against Oakland.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams running back Steven Jackson. Kenneth Darby would likely get most of the carries if Jackson's groin injury prevents him from playing. Keith Toston would get some carries, too.

Also from Thomas: Migraines continue to sideline Clifton Ryan. I spoke with Ryan in the Rams' locker room one day after the team's Week 1 game against Arizona. He seemed fine. The migraines became a problem later in the week and Ryan has not played since the opener.

More from Thomas: The Rams hope corporate sponsors can help them avoid a local television blackout Sunday.

More yet from Thomas: Safety Craig Dahl should be able to return Sunday. He suffered a concussion at Oakland during a violent collision that rocked his head. I saw the collision clearly from the pressbox and knew immediately Dahl would be hurting. His head rocked as though hit by a punch he never saw coming.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have not joined the list of teams leaning on more than one running back when all are healthy. That is because they have an elite back. Teams with elite backs have no incentive to put someone else in the game. The 49ers have faced similar circumstances with Frank Gore. When's a good time to take your best player off the field? Rams general manager Billy Devaney: "We've got one of the best backs, if not the best back, in the NFL ... that loves staying on the field. It's hard to get the guy off the field. When he's playing, he wants the ball. ... That's not a knock on Darby or Toston, either. We don't view it as that, that we have one back and we don't have any other back on the roster."

Nick Wagoner of says Darby is ready to carry more of the load. The Rams had surprising success running the ball after Jackson left the game against Washington. They stuck with the run and it worked.

Also from Wagoner: The Rams brace for the Seahawks' improved return units.

Matt Maiocco of says 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Johnson has been called upon in relief previously. He took over play calling under Wade Phillips with the Falcons after the team fired Dan Reeves. Johnson: "He asked me to call the plays for the last two weeks. I had go in there on Monday and come together with staff and go into Tampa and play against a very good defense. We had Michael Vick at quarterback, and the one stipulation I had was, 'Don't run him.' So go play a football game with Michael Vick and don't let him run."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Vick finished with his highest passer ratings of the season when Johnson took over. Johnson on the perception that Alex Smith has missed high: "Maybe one high pass, but a couple of tipped balls have been situations where we've got a guy rushing and he's backed off and batted a ball and things like that. But I think for a quarterback, you have to find throwing lanes. That's why Doug Flutie could be 5-9 and be an effective passer. Because you don't throw over defensive linemen. You throw through throwing lanes. And that's where we do our fundamental football drills and we slide and we reset and we do certain things that we get him to the proper throwing lanes so the balls don't get tipped ... But I don't think the tipped balls or balls sailing on him have been problems."

Also from Barrows: Eric Heitmann's return would give the 49ers additional options on the offensive line.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at Smith's passer ratings when throwing to various targets. The number for Michael Crabtree: 6.6. That will obviously improve over the course of the season.

Also from Branch: The 49ers will adjust how they get the ball to Vernon Davis after opponents have taken away the seam route. Little-known fact: Davis is on pace for a career-high 80 receptions. He hasn't found the end zone yet, however.

More from Branch: Johnson wasn't sure whether he would call plays from the sideline or the coaches' booth.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers will not make wholesale changes on offense.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a closer look at Johnson. White: "Take one look at Johnson's life story, and this task may be the easiest of his career. He played quarterback for three colleges and three pro leagues. When none of that stuck, (Mike) Riley made an Oregon State assistant coach out of his former quarterback in 1997. Riley brought him to his Chargers staff in 2000, knowing Johnson would get further coaching than he ever did playing."

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
Roster turnover is a leading topic for discussion in Seattle following the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh in particular.

I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.

This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.

Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).

St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)

Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)

Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)

Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)

Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)

Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)

Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)

Special teams: Ryan Neill

Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)

Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)

Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)

Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)

Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)

Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)

Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)

Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)

Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)

Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)

Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)

Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)

Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)

Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)

Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)

Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)

Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)

Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)

Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)

Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)

Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)

San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)

Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker

Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)

Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)

Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)

Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)

Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt

Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)

The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.

The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.

San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Leonard Little, Jerheme Urban, Isaac bruce, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, Justin Green, Derek Anderson, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Brian St.Pierre, Darryl Tapp, Sam Bradford, Mark Roman, Dan Kreider, Steve Vallos, David Carr, Randy McMIchael, Ralph Brown, Lawrence Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Shaun HIll, Leroy HIll, Chris Patrick, Matt Leinart, Chike Okeafor, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brian Westbrook, Bertrand Berry, Dominique Zeigler, Ricky Schmitt, Eric Bassey, Eric Young, D.D. Lewis, Nate Burleson, Alex Barron, Samkon Gado, Kyle Boller, Brit Miller, Patrick Kerney, Quincy Butler, Michael Robinson, Arnaz Battle, Ray Willis, Jerome Johnson, Derek Walker, Glen Coffee, Brooks Foster, Monty Beisel, Renardo Foster, Mansfield Wrotto, Seneca Wallace, Donnie Avery, Karlos Dansby, Alex Boone, Marcus Hudson, Adam Carriker, Cody Brown, Kurt Warner, Cordelius Parks, Jeff Ulbrich, Chris Ogbonnaya, Neil Rackers, Pago Togafau, Scott McKillop, Kentwan Balmer, Lance Laury, Sean Morey, Mike Gandy, Mike Reilly, Anquan Boldin, Trevor Canfield, Marc Bulger, Nate Davis, Cory Redding, Antrel Rolle, Matt McCoy, Brandon Jones, Alan Faneca, Anthony Davis, Keenan Burton, Jason HIll, Joey Porter, David Roach, Phillip Trautwein, Tyler Roehl, Taylor Mays, Mark Setterstrom, Travis LaBoy, A.J. Feeley, Craig Terrill, Keith Null, Cody Wallace, K.C. Asiodu, Jordan Kent, Kyle Williams, Stacy Andrews, James Wyche, Reggie Wells, Victor Adeyanju, Jonathan Wade, Thomas Clayton, Deon Grant, LaJuan Ramsey, John Owens, Bryant McFadden, Matt Wilhelm, Gerald Hayes, Jeff Robinson, Herman Johnson, Walter Jones, Mike Williams, Justin Griffith, Jason Banks, Jamar Adams, Kevin Houser, Anthony Becht, Damion McIntosh, Louis Rankin, Brandon Frye, Ruvell Martin, Paris Lenon, Leger Douzable, Ryan Neill, Danny Gorrer, Russell Okung, Anthony McCoy, Clinton Hart, Earl Thomas, Leon Washington, Andre Roberts, Chester Pitts, Dan Williams, Mike Iupati, Ben Hamilton, Ryan McKee, Kennard Cox, Kerry Rhodes, Fred Robbins, Chris Baker, William James, Rex Hadnot, Hank Fraley, Mark Clayton, Quinton Ganther, Na'il Diggs, Chris Clemons, John Skelton, Mardy Gilyard, Rodger Saffold, Daryl Washington, Golden Tate, Jerome Murphy, Navorro Bowman, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Wilson, Mike Hoomanawanui, Nate Byham, Fendi Onobun, George Selvie, Thaddeus Lewis, Stephen Williams, A.J. Jefferson, Anthony Dixon, Eugene Sims, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Jermelle Cudjo, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, Tramaine Brock, Dominique Curry, Phillip Adams, Trumaine McBride, Kevin Dockery, Shane Andrus, Tyler Polumbus, Clint Gresham, Roger III Allen, Cyril Obiozor, Brandon McDonald, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Junior Siavii, Troy Smith, Ted Jr. Ginn, Raheem Brock

Post-camp roster analysis: Rams

September, 1, 2010
The St. Louis Rams hold the No. 1 priority for waiver claims and they'll probably put that status to work following the mandatory reduction to 53 players Saturday.

With that in mind, let's take a position-by-position look at the Rams' roster heading into their second season under coach Steve Spagnuolo (current roster counts listed in parentheses):

Quarterbacks (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.9

Keepers: Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley

Looking safe: Keith Null

On the bubble: Thaddeus Lewis

Comment: Lewis has played well enough to intrigue the Rams, but probably not well enough for another team to claim him off waivers. That makes Lewis a natural choice for the practice squad.

Running backs (5)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.3

Keepers: Steven Jackson, Mike Karney

Looking safe: Kenneth Darby

Not sure what to think: Keith Toston, Chris Ogbonnaya

Comment: The Rams are carrying as many running backs as teams typically keep, but multiple spots could be up for grabs depending on which running backs become available via waivers. I'd rather list Toston, Ogbonnaya and Darby in one group until it becomes clear which backs -- and which types of backs -- hit the waiver wire. Ogbonnaya showed potential last season and looked good early in camp, but his performance hasn't carried over to exhibition games and that could cost him. Perhaps expectations were too high. Darby's toughness and special-teams contributions could help him. Toston runs hard and could land on the practice squad.

Wide receivers (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.3

Keepers: Laurent Robinson, Mardy Gilyard, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Keenan Burton

On the bubble: Dominique Curry

Also: Brandon McRae, Jordan Kent, Danario Alexander

Comment: Curry stood out as an undrafted steal during camp. He has excellent size and has showed good ability on special teams. Burton's durability should remain a concern, but that's the case with Robinson and even Gibson at this point. Gibson's value rises with Donnie Avery on injured reserve.

Tight ends (6)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.0

Keepers: Billy Bajema, Mike Hoomanawanui

Looking safe: Fendi Onobun

Not sure what to think: Daniel Fells, Darcy Johnson

Also: Dennis Morris

Comment: But wait, Fells is the incumbent starter, right? Yes, but he hasn't been durable and there's so much to like about the rookies Onobun and Hoomanawanui. Bajema is an obvious keeper for his blocking and all-around game (he has caught the ball well on limited chances). Johnson has shown toughness and blocking ability, so he could be an option if the team wants to move on from Fells. Perhaps I'm over thinking things here, but the emergence of Onobun and Hoomanawanui during camp creates dilemmas.

Offensive linemen (13)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.3

Keepers: Jason Brown, Jacob Bell, Rodger Saffold, Jason Smith, Adam Goldberg, Hank Fraley

Looking safe: John Greco, Roger Allen III

Also: Eric Young, Drew Miller, Ryan McKee, Renardo Foster, Tim Mattran

Comment: It's tough finding nine keepers here, so the Rams could be active in the waiver-claim game. Greco's versatility works in his favor. Are the Rams still high on Allen's prospects? I know they liked him last season, but that was before reconstructive knee surgery. Trading Alex Barron made sense in the big picture, but the Rams would have better depth here if Barron were still around.

Defensive line (12)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.6

Keepers: Chris Long, Fred Robbins, Clifton Ryan, James Hall, Gary Gibson, Darell Scott

Looking safe: George Selvie

On the bubble: Victor Adeyanju, C.J. Ah You, Jermelle Cudjo

Also: Ernest Reid, Eugene Sims

Comment: Durability concerns could cost Ah You. Adeyanju also could be on the bubble depending on what options the Rams have beyond their own roster. Cudjo has made a positive impression during camp and preseason. Same goes for Selvie, although an injury sidelined him part of the time.

Linebackers (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 6.3

Keepers: James Laurinaitis, Larry Grant, Na'il Diggs, Chris Chamberlain

Looking safe: Bobby Carpenter

On the bubble: David Vobora, Josh Hull

Also: Devin Bishop, Cardia Jackson

Comment: Carpenter has gotten some work at defensive end. Perhaps his presence in an emergency capacity at that position could allow the Rams to keep one fewer defensive lineman, at least early. Chamberlain is probably the best special-teams position player on the Rams, enhancing his value. Hull could provide depth behind Laurinaitis because he's a true middle linebacker, whereas Vobora can back up every position. That could be a close call.

Defensive backs (14)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.7

Keepers: Oshiomogho Atogwe, Ron Bartell, Justin King, Bradley Fletcher, James Butler, Kevin Payne, Craig Dahl, Jerome Murphy, Kevin Dockery

Looking safe: Quincy Butler

On the bubble: Darian Stewart

Also: Brett Johnson, Marquis Johnson, Antoine Thompson

Comment: James Butler's knee injury probably makes keeping Payne a higher priority. Stewart could be a candidate for the practice squad.

Specialists (3)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.7

Keepers: Josh Brown, Donnie Jones, Chris Massey

Comment: Strong group here.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says former Rams coach Dick Vermeil would welcome a chance to work for the team under pending owner Stan Kroenke. Vermeil: "Oh yeah, I’d listen. There’s nobody in the United States more prepared to be an owner as Stan Kroenke. It’d be a crime for him not to end up with this football team." How could Kroenke say no? Vermeil would be perfect for the Rams in some sort of advisory role. At age 73, he wouldn't be a direct threat to the current coaching staff, but it would be important for him to temper his comments sometimes.

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript says the Rams haven't signed a veteran backup running back in part because they like Chris Ogbonnaya. Thomas: "Right or wrong, the Rams think Ogbonnaya has what it takes to be a good NFL third-down back. And they like Keith Toston, the undrafted rookie from Oklahoma State although they're not necessarily adverstising it. Yes, once again, I'll say it is puzzling that they didn't bring in a veteran with some tread left to back up Steven Jackson." This affirms what I saw from Ogbonnaya in rewatching Rams games this offseason.

More from Thomas: Oshiomogho Atogwe is on the comeback trail following an injury-shortened 2009 season. Atogwe: "It was tough. I've been playing football all my life. Never missed a game. Never missed any time. So to be completely away from it for so long was hard on me. But during that time I used it to improve myself, and just continue to develop as a man and develop as a person. So that when I did come back to the game, I'd be better off."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Keenan Burton faces a tough fight for a roster spot. Coats: "Ten wide receivers are competing for five or six roster spots, and only Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson and probably rookie Mardy Gilyard appear to be safe bets to make the team." I'd be surprised if Brandon Gibson did not make the cut. Also, boxing promoter Don King was at Rams practice. No joke -- or trickeration.

Also from Coats: Quincy Butler replaced Ron Bartell with the first-team defense after Bartell suffered what appeared to be a significant ankle injury.

The Associated Press checks in with Rams defensive end Chris Long, who made strides last season. Long: "I was just kind of letting things go; not worrying about it so much and just playing. I think that's just me getting better. I don't think it's a flash in the pan thing. I hope not."
The Rams announced agreements with 13 undrafted free agents:

This list is quite a bit longer than the one put together from various reports Sunday. Among the 2009 undrafted rookies remaining with the Rams: cornerback Cord Parks, linebacker K.C. Asiodu, linebacker Dominic Douglas, guard Roger Allen, tackle Phil Trautwein and tackle Ryan McKee.