NFC West: Keith Totson

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."

Sizing up NFC West running backs

May, 17, 2010
The Rams' running backs outweigh the Seahawks' running backs by more than 17 pounds on average, not counting fullbacks.

That was among the revelations after Matt Barrows' note about Frank Gore led me to take a closer look at NFC West runners.

Average weights by team: Rams 227, 49ers 220.5, Cardinals 211.2 and Seahawks 209.8. The Cardinals' average reflects returner LaRod Stephens-Howling, listed at 185 pounds. Seattle's average would be higher if LenDale White weren't in shape.

Using multiple backs in rotation should allow teams to carry runners of various styles and sizes. Carrying smaller backs also becomes easier when teams use several instead of relying disproportionately on one.

The chart breaks out the runners individually using listed weights. Jason Wright has played fullback for the Cardinals, but he's more of a utility back than full-time blocker.

No NFL running back has more carries in fewer games than Steven Jackson since the St. Louis Rams' running back broke out with 346 carries and 1,528 yards in 2006.

Count Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. among those who think the Rams erred in leaning too heavily on Jackson last season. I don't fault the Rams' coaches as much as I would fault the Rams' roster, which has lacked -- and continues to lack -- a strong alternative at the position.

The chart ranks NFL running backs by most regular-season carries since 2006. Jackson and the 49ers' Frank Gore rank among the top four. Jackson also ranks third since 2005.

The Rams' options beyond Jackson include Chris Ogbonnaya, Kenneth Darby, Keith Totson and DeMaundray Woolridge.