NFC West: Rocky McIntosh

Morning Ram-blings: Early Christmas?

September, 2, 2013
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The St. Louis Rams spent the exhibition season almost going out of their way to be boring in terms of planning for their four opponents. Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas said the Rams just "stood around" in the teams' preseason opener.

That perfectly understandable and common approach served only to delay unveiling how this year's revamped offense is going to look to an antsy fan base. St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote about what he's expecting from the many new toys for quarterback Sam Bradford and discussed with general manager Les Snead how long it might take for those pieces to come together.

As we discussed in this space yesterday, the Rams again have the youngest team in the league. They are especially green at receiver and running back, two areas that must produce in relatively short order. Coach Jeff Fisher also made mention of the fact the Rams have young players with a lot to learn before everything can click.

The first real look at how it all comes together will be Sunday when Arizona comes calling at the Edward Jones Dome. Then and only then will we have a true idea of what toys the Rams have to play with this season.

Elsewhere:

The daily rundown of our content from yesterday: First, I pondered some potential practice-squad additions, and later the Rams confirmed the eight players signed to it. ... I also took a look at how the roster stands after the cut to 53 on offense and defense/special teams.

The Lions released former Rams linebacker Rocky McIntosh to make room for safety DeJon Gomes, whom they claimed off waivers. McIntosh signed with Detroit about two weeks ago after spending 2012 in St. Louis. The Rams did not bring him back in free agency, and further separated themselves from him when they drafted Alec Ogletree at No. 30 in April's draft. As of Sunday night, the Rams had six linebackers on the roster, four of whom are rookies. Fisher has made it clear in the past he prefers to develop young players rather than stick with older veterans when those players are backups. That would seem to make it unlikely that a reunion with McIntosh could be in the offing, but bringing in a veteran linebacker until Jo-Lonn Dunbar returns is still something to consider.

Al.com took a look at undrafted rookie Daren Bates, who made the Rams' 53-man roster despite getting just one offer (from the Rams) after the draft and after he lost weight to try out at safety and had to gain it back to play linebacker in St. Louis. I'll have more on Bates and some of his undrafted brethren this week, but he figures to be one of the team's core special-teams players this season.
The St. Louis Rams entered their first season under coach Jeff Fisher with a starting lineup averaging 26.7 years old. That was eight months ago. At least eight of the starting spots figure to change over this offseason. The new starters are almost invariably younger.

As a result, the current projected starters average about one year younger overall even though 14 of them are eight months older than they were entering last season.

Some of the positions remain open for competition, but the trend is unmistakeable. One of the NFL's youngest teams has gotten younger in lots of places. Seven of the 10 oldest players entering last season are no longer with the team (Mario Haggan, Quintin Mikell, Wayne Hunter, Rocky McIntosh, Steven Jackson, Robert Turner and Matthew Mulligan).

We can easily see the Rams' leadership putting its stamp on the organization in ways that make sense for the long term. It's tough to know in some cases whether the benefits will be immediate. There figure to be growing pains and a few disappointments along with the excitement that comes with developing dynamic young talent.

D'Marco Farr, Randy Karraker and I discussed expectations surrounding the Rams in relation to their NFC West rivals during our conversation Tuesday on 101ESPN St. Louis. We'll be talking Rams and the NFC West on Tuesday afternoons from this point forward. This will replace my Tuesday conversations with Bernie Miklasz on the same station. Bernie recently vacated his show. I'm looking forward to the new arrangement and to reconnecting with Bernie as he takes on an expanded role at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and its website.
Kevin from Los Angeles suggests the San Francisco 49ers could "easily" use their NFL-high 14 draft choices this year to leverage higher-round picks in future drafts.

"It seems like a team desperate for bodies this year would gladly give up future picks," Kevin writes via the NFC West mailbag. "With the glaring needs of some teams, wouldn't it be possible for them to go into the 2014 draft with six or seven picks in the first three rounds, or even the 2015 draft with 10 such picks?"

Sando: I think the 49ers would like to use some of those 14 choices to set up future drafts. Eleven of the 14 picks are eligible for trading. The three compensatory choices are not.

The chart shows which picks the 49ers hold at present. The 31st or 34th choices come to mind as ammunition for landing a first-round choice next year. A look back at recent drafts could provide some precedent.

In 2009, the Seattle Seahawks sent the 37th overall choice to the Denver Broncos for a 2010 first-round pick. This trade worked out great for Seattle. Denver used the 37th pick for Alphonso Smith, who lasted one season with the team. The pick Seattle got from Denver wound up being 14th overall. The Seahawks used that choice to select Earl Thomas, who has become a Pro Bowl safety.

The Broncos made that trade with Seattle in part because they had an additional 2010 first-round choice acquired from Chicago in the Jay Cutler trade. The 49ers' division rival, St. Louis, has an additional first-rounder in 2014. I don't think the Rams will be trading that pick to San Francisco.

In 2007, the New England Patriots traded the 28th overall pick to the 49ers (used for tackle Joe Staley) for the 110th pick and a first-rounder the next year.

In 2006, the New York Jets traded the 35th pick to the Washington Redskins for the 53rd and 189th choices, plus a second-rounder the next year. The Redskins made that move because they wanted Rocky McIntosh.

Those are a few examples of teams acquiring future picks. The 49ers are in prime position to do the same. They appear to have more picks than available roster spots. There are no guarantees another team will play along, however.

2013 UFA counts for NFC West teams

March, 12, 2013
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The NFL has released its official list of restricted and unrestricted free agents.

The chart breaks down the UFA counts by team in the NFC West.

A quick look at the lists, which include a couple players who have already reached agreement on new contracts:

Arizona Cardinals

UFA offense (4): D'Anthony Batiste, Pat McQuistan, Rich Ohrnberger, LaRod Stephens-Howling

UFA defense (8): Michael Adams, Nick Eason, Quentin Groves, Vonnie Holliday, Rashad Johnson, Paris Lenon, James Sanders, Greg Toler

RFA: Brian Hoyer, tendered to second-round pick.

Note: The Cardinals announced Johnson's agreement to a three-year contract.

St. Louis Rams

UFA offense (8): Danny Amendola, Kellen Clemens, Brandon Gibson, Steven Jackson, Barry Richardson, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Chris Williams

UFA defense (6): Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Mario Haggan, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Rocky McIntosh

RFA: Darian Stewart, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: The Rams announced Hayes' agreement to a three-year contract.

San Francisco 49ers

UFA offense (4): Leonard Davis, Ted Ginn Jr., Randy Moss, Delanie Walker

UFA defense (6): Dashon Goldson, Tavares Gooden, Larry Grant, Clark Haggans, Ricky Jean-Francois, Isaac Sopoaga

RFA: Tramaine Brock, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: Walker has reportedly agreed to terms on a contract with the Tennessee Titans.

Seattle Seahawks

UFA offense (2): Cameron Morrah, Frank Omiyale

UFA defense (5): Alan Branch, Patrick Chukwurah, Leroy Hill, Jason Jones, Marcus Trufant

UFA special teams (2): Steve Hauschka, Ryan Longwell

RFA: Clint Gresham and Chris Maragos, tendered to right of first refusal; and Clinton McDonald, tendered to seventh-round choice.

Who cleans up when Rams send pressure

December, 29, 2012
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The item Friday on the St. Louis Rams' blitz tendencies showed how many sacks the team has collected by the number of pass-rushers deployed.

This followup shows which players collected those sacks.

Rookie first-round pick Michael Brockers is one player to watch Sunday when the Rams face the Seattle Seahawks. He was just returning from a high-ankle sprain when the teams played in Week 4. Brockers has dominated at times in recent weeks. He has two of his four sacks when the Rams sent seven or more pass-rushers.

Safety Quintin Mikell is another player to watch for the Rams. He has three sacks on all-out blitzes.

The St. Louis Rams' defense could not stop the Green Bay Packers or New England Patriots from flourishing on third down.

Those teams converted 16 of 27 chances in recent victories over St. Louis.

Early downs could present the biggest challenge for the Rams against San Francisco in Week 10. The 49ers like to line up with multiple backs and/or tight ends to stress opponents' base defenses. That will be a key matchup Sunday at Candlestick Park.

As the chart shows, the 49ers are averaging 6.3 yards per carry and 9.2 yards per pass attempt against 4-3 defensive personnel on early downs. Those figures both rank third in the NFL.

The Rams allow 4.0 yards per rush and 7.9 per pass attempt from their 4-3 defense in those situations. League averages are 4.4 and 7.8, respectively, for the 20 teams regularly running 4-3 alignments as their base defenses. Those are respectable figures overall, but a look inside the numbers reveals some inconsistencies.

The Chicago Bears, playing without Matt Forte, managed only 2.8 yards per carry on 20 first- and second-down rushes against the Rams' base defense. Advantage, Rams.

The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins fared better. Seattle carried 23 times for 141 yards while also averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt in these situations. Washington used play-action from regular personnel to strike for a 68-yard touchdown when the Rams' base defense stacked eight in the box on first-and-10.

Former NFL assistant Rick Venturi, in grading the Rams' defense for 101ESPN St. Louis, gave high marks for linebackers Jo-Lonn Dunbar and James Laurinaitis. But that was only part of the story.

"The SAM backers, whether it was [Rocky] McIntosh or [Mario] Haggan, have just been a wash," Venturi said. "They've been totally mediocre, but they don't play very much. Very few people play 21 or base personnel [frequently] any more. That is going to change this week in San Francisco. Those guys are going to have to earn their money."

The 49ers have executed 65.6 percent of their first- and second-down rushes from two-back sets. They have averaged 5.5 yards per carry when doing so.

2012 Rams defensive snaps: Weeks 1-5

October, 13, 2012
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A periodic look at which players are playing and when, starting with the St. Louis Rams' defense:

2012 pre-camp analysis: Rams 'D'

July, 3, 2012
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Our two-day look at NFC West rosters continues with projections for the St. Louis Rams' defense and special teams.

Defensive linemen (13)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.8

Safest bets: Chris Long, Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford, Robert Quinn

Leading contenders: William Hayes, Eugene Sims, Darell Scott, Matt Conrath, Jermelle Cudjo

Longer odds: Trevor Laws, Jamaar Jarrett, Cornell Banks, Scott Smith

Comment: The Rams have three relatively recent first-round draft choices starting on the line, plus Langford, a free-agent addition from Miami. The position should be a strength for years to come. Brockers and Langford give the team needed bulk in the middle. It's tough to know what the new coaching staff thinks about some of the other talent. Hayes received a $100,000 roster bonus, an indication the team has hopes for him. Sims and Scott each played more than 20 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Cudjo was on the roster but did not play.

Linebackers (10)

Average number kept since 2003: 6.3

Safest bets: James Laurinaitis, Jo-Lonn Dunbar

Leading contenders: Rocky McIntosh, Mario Haggan, Josh Hull, Aaron Brown, Sammy Brown, Alex Hoffman-Ellis

Longer odds: Justin Cole, Noah Keller

Comment: Laurinaitis is the only mainstay player at the position. Dunbar projects as a starter after the Rams paid a $1 million signing bonus to him in free agency. McIntosh and Haggan are veteran newcomers with starting experience. They're stopgaps until the Rams can address the position next offseason. It's looking like at least one undrafted rookie linebacker will stick on the roster.

Defensive backs (14)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.2

Safest bets: Cortland Finnegan, Darian Stewart, Quintin Mikell, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson, Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher

Leading contenders: Matt Daniels, Josh Gordy, Jerome Murphy

Longer odds: Kendric Burney, Quinton Pointer, Jeremy Caldwell, Rodney McLeod

Comment: Secondary depth is vastly improved, and not just through improved health. Fletcher was arguably the most promising cornerback on the roster last season. Now, it's tough to know whether he fits into the team's long-term plans. Depth at safety might be better than it appears. The Rams had a high enough grade on Daniels to give him a $10,000 signing bonus as an undrafted free agent from Duke.

Special teams (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.1

Safest bets: Greg Zuerlein, John Hekker, Jake McQuaide

Leading contenders: Tom Malone, Garrett Lindholm

Longer odds: Travis Tripucka

Comment: McQuaide, the snapper, is back from last season, but this group lacks experience overall. Zuerlein was a sixth-round pick. Hekker was an undrafted free agent. The Rams wanted better directional punting than Donnie Jones provided, particularly after watching Patrick Peterson score twice on returns last season.
The St. Louis Rams have been hurting at outside linebacker for some time.

One obvious reason: The team hasn't used higher than a seventh-round choice for an outside linebacker since using a 2006 third-rounder for Jon Alston, who played three games for the team and was gone after one season.

The trend continued this year when the Rams used a seventh-round choice, 209th overall, for Hawaii outside linebacker Aaron Brown.

The Rams are set at middle linebacker after using a 2009 second-round choice for James Laurinaitis, who has started all 48 games over three seasons.

The chart shows the Rams' starting linebackers over the past three seasons, according to Pro Football Reference. Of those listed, only Laurinaitis remains with the team. No other linebacker on the roster has started a game for the Rams. Some players listed in the chart started additional games for the team before 2009.

The Rams could not realistically address all their needs with the available resources this offseason. Outside linebacker remains a position they'll have to address in the future, presumably with something more valuable than the seventh-round choices they used for Brown (2012), Jabara Williams (2011), inside linebacker Josh Hull (2010), Chris Chamberlain (2008) and David Vobora (2008).

St. Louis is the only team to use no picks in the third through sixth rounds for a linebacker since 2007. The team has used a league-high five seventh-rounders for the position over that span. Free-agent additions Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Rocky McIntosh and Mario Haggan are among the leading candidates to start at outside linebacker.
Andy from St. Louis senses unjustified surprise over the unsettled nature of the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback competition through mandatory minicamps.

"Shouldn't that have been expected?" he asks. "Two of the QBs in the race are career backups (Matt Flynn had one really good game, but doesn't sample size mean anything anymore?). The other is a middle-round draft pick. They have three back-ups, so it shouldn't shock anyone that none of them are starter-quality."

Mike Sando: Thanks for the question. Unfortunately, the replay official has initiated a challenge and the referee, me, has overturned the premise.

Seattle's quarterback competition could not be settled without exhibition games. There was never an expectation one candidate would jump to a huge lead before training camp. The fact that no one has seized the job does not necessarily mean the team has no quarterbacks worthy of starting. Coach Pete Carroll was going to promote competition through the offseason and into training camp. That was the plan in the absence of exhibition games.

I covered the Seahawks' final minicamp practice last week and didn't even think to report on whether one of the quarterbacks had won the job. Yet, it's unusual to divide reps three ways. That isn't sustainable. At some point, the Seahawks will have to decide whether they're comfortable enough with Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson to consider moving past 2011 starter Tarvaris Jackson or adjusting his $4 million salary.

If the job remains unsettled deep into training camp, you'll be onto something. In retrospect, that happened with Arizona during its 2010 competition between Derek Anderson and Matt Leinart. Neither really stepped forward to seize the job. Before long, it became clear the Cardinals had no viable starter. We don't have enough evidence to say whether Seattle is headed down a similar road, but you're right about Flynn, Jackson and Wilson having much to prove.


joe_cool35 read the earlier item on the NFL's all-22 video release and thought the effects could be far-reaching.

"Another perspective where this can help the general public comes from the coaching perspective at the collegiate and high school levels and possibly even younger," he wrote. "Players are being taught and drilled with proper mechanics from a younger and younger age. Having the ability to dissect the premier players at their respective positions can serve as a great instructional for players of all ages."

Mike Sando: Good point. It's been tough to analyze schemes without seeing all 22 players at the same time throughout a play. Also on this subject, I can pass along additional information from the NFL, which has answered a few of my questions:
  • While the NFL's Game Rewind broadcasts will remain in high definition, the all-22 video will be in standard definition. NFL teams have shot the all-22 video in broadcast-quality standard definition, according to video directors I've spoken with over the years. It's my understanding that some teams shoot the video in HD, but the video exchange system is set up for SD.
  • The general public will receive what the teams receive: each play shot from elevated cameras along the sideline and end zone, showing all 22 players on the field for every play, with no frills. The video does not include sound.
  • The focus this season will be on making available the content. The league has not ruled out making production improvements in the future.
  • The video will be available online and via tablet (iPads and select Android devices) and delivered through the Game Rewind system. The $69.99 price buys access to all 256 regular-season games on demand (not live, of course).

I've been a Game Rewind subscriber for years. The quality for network broadcasts is outstanding if you've got the necessary bandwidth. The experience wasn't nearly as good when I had a 1.5 Mbps DSL connection. Upgrading to 12 Mbps and higher made a pronounced difference in quality.


Will from Boston offers additional information regarding Steven Jackson following our discussion Tuesday morning.

"He is one of just eight running backs to rush for at least 9,000 yards and catch 360 passes in his first eight seasons," Will writes. "He did it in the second-fewest number of games. Jackson needs 907 rushing yards and 31 catches to become the 12th running back to reach the 10,000/400 mark."

Mike Sando: Interesting stuff. Pro Football Reference confirms that Edgerrin James needed fewer games than Jackson to reach 9,000 yards rushing with 360 receptions, and that only 11 players have reached 10,000 yards receiving with 400 receptions.


Paul from San Francisco passes along a link to one of the "Secret Superstar" pieces from Pro Football Focus, this one analyzing Arizona Cardinals nose tackle David Carter.

Mike Sando: This is an interesting series and one we'll monitor, Paul.

St. Louis Rams fans should note that one of the players singled out, Perry Riley, displaced linebacker Rocky McIntosh from the lineup last season. The Rams signed McIntosh in free agency after the Redskins decided they could upgrade with a younger player.

Pro Football Focus has given McIntosh consistently low marks in its grading. The Rams badly needed help at the position, however, and McIntosh does have experience in their defensive system, having played for Gregg Williams in Washington until the 2009 season.


JC from parts unknown noticed that the San Francisco 49ers are planning to spend another week in Ohio between games, this time surrounding visits to Minnesota (Week 3) and the New York Jets (Week 4).

"Do you think more teams will follow and use this strategy, or is any team also doing it?" he asks.

Mike Sando: Ohio makes sense for the 49ers in part because their ownership is from the state.

Arizona remained on the road between East Coast trips a few years back, losing road games to Washington and the Jets. The Cardinals play back-to-back road games only once this season, on opposite coasts (at Jets, at Seahawks).

Seattle has St. Louis-Carolina and Miami-Chicago trips, but I've heard of no plans to remain on the road between those games. The Seahawks should be rested before the second trip; they have a bye before visiting the Dolphins. They had a bye between their only back-to-back games in the East last season.

San Diego faces a Denver-Tampa combination at one point. Oakland does not play back-to-back games in the East.
In a perfect world, the St. Louis Rams would address all their needs through the draft.

The team might yet pull it off over the next couple offseasons, thanks to the bounty of picks the Rams collected from trading the second overall choice in 2012.

Needs outnumbered resources in the immediate term, however, leading the Rams to patch their linebacker problem with shorter-term solutions.

Rocky McIntosh recently joined Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Mario Haggan as veteran additions at the position. Haggan, 32, is the oldest player on the team, but as the chart shows, the Rams remain young overall at every position. They have the NFL's youngest roster on average.

The Rams need McIntosh, Dunbar and Haggan to outperform some of the veteran linebackers subtracted from the roster: Ben Leber, Brady Poppinga, Bryan Kehl and Chris Chamberlain.

That seems like a reasonable expectation.

McIntosh, 29, was in his fifth season as a starter for the Washington Redskins when the team decided Perry Riley, then 23, provided a more athletic alternative. The Redskins, with McIntosh and the now-37-year-old London Fletcher at inside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, already had plenty of veteran moxie at the position. They needed speed. McIntosh probably fit better in the 4-3 defense Washington ran previously.

Scouts Inc. liked McIntosh more than the Redskins did, calling him an "active playmaker" with "great range inside out to the ball."

Dunbar, signed from New Orleans, figures to start at one outside linebacker spot. McIntosh is an early favorite to start at the other one. James Laurinaitis is entrenched in the middle.

The position remains a bit unsettled. The Rams do have a couple of younger options, but with no hitting allowed till training camp, it's tough to know how those players project. The Rams' veteran additions give them insurance, and probably more than that. I'd expect the team to start two veterans on the outside.

McIntosh played for would-be Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Washington. Williams is suspended indefinitely, but the Rams are installing what is essentially the same system Williams ran with the Redskins. That puts McIntosh at a significant advantage over younger players less familiar with the scheme and unproven in the NFL.

Brian Banks will have the West Coast nearly covered when his NFL tryout tour takes him to the San Francisco 49ers next week.

The free-agent linebacker already worked out for the Seattle Seahawks and San Diego Chargers, in addition to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says it's unclear whether the 49ers view Banks, recently exonerated from a wrongful rape conviction, as an inside or outside linebacker. Noted: Banks worked at middle linebacker in the Seahawks' 4-3 scheme. He would presumably project as an inside linebacker in the 49ers' 3-4 defense.

Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News says Alex Smith tightened his grip on the 49ers' starting job, but the No. 2 spot remains open for competition. Coach Jim Harbaugh: "Alex definitely separated himself even more from where he was, which already was a lot coming out of last season. He's the solid starter. I don't think anybody questions that. But nothing is set in stone behind him."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle looks at Aldon Smith's conversion to full-time player.

Also from Branch: Colin Kaepernick finished the 49ers' minicamp on a positive note.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Harbaugh was pleased with the team's performance during its minicamp. Also: "Second-round draft pick LaMichael James was the only rookie ineligible to take part in the minicamp due to Oregon's late graduation. James is expected to attend the 49ers' rookie minicamp next week. Harbaugh, however, will not be there for the rookie minicamp. He is scheduled to leave Friday to spend seven days working to build houses in Peru as part of a church program, he said."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers thoughts on a range of Cardinals subjects, speculating that Kevin Kolb might have a narrow edge over John Skelton in the quarterback race. Also, the team expects running back Beanie Wells to be ready for training camp after taking extra time to recover from knee surgery. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "He's got to work himself back into being ready. We’ve done the right thing with Beanie, as far as the off-season. He’s got to bust his tail over the next few weeks to be ready for training camp because we’ve had some guys look good there." Noted: Wells was arguably rushed into action a year ago, with negative results. The plan this offseason called for greater caution. Whisenhunt expects a payoff.

Also from Somers: a look at key questions regarding the Cardinals' offense.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Whisenhunt gave players a break as minicamp was ending.

Also from Urban: where the Cardinals stand.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Kellen Winslow brings an edge to the team's offense. Cornerback Richard Sherman: "It’s amazing. He’s definitely brought a different element out there. And I think we appreciate it on defense. He makes it real lively out there. When he makes a catch you can hear him. We finally have somebody to go back (and forth) with, because sometimes we’re kind of going back with ourselves -- it’s kind of one-sided. They’ll make a catch, then there’ll be a little bit of talk. But it won’t be the kind like we’re doing. But Kellen, we’ll bring some of the trash. … He plays with a lot of swagger, and I like that. I like his style of play."

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune reviews Russell Wilson's performance in practice Thursday, concluding the rookie generally fared well. Williams: "Wilson looked more comfortable working with the first unit offense today. He made a couple impressive throws, but missed on others, including a diving interception by Richard Sherman, who went up high to pull down the ball on a go-route over the outstretched arms of Kris Durham. Wilson also appeared in control, sometimes correcting veteran receivers like Kellen Winslow if he didn’t feel the route was run correctly, something you seldom see a rookie quarterback do."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says fullback Michael Robinson is among those with praise for Wilson.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recaps the Rams' offseason to this point. Coach Jeff Fisher: "I'm pleased with where we are right now. Guys have a great understanding of how we practice and what we're trying to get done in the playbook. It's important when they take off -- and they need to get away -- that they continue to build their conditioning level and work and train for training camp and not put the book down."

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the newly signed Rocky McIntosh participated in the Rams' practice. Fisher: "We worked him out yesterday morning, did a great job in an individual (practice). He's moving around good. He's an experienced veteran, has some experience in the scheme, with the terminology, so he can pick it up fast. He's one of those guys that we're going to put in the mix and compete and see what happens."

Roger Hensley of the stltoday.com asks colleagues for thoughts on the Rams' receiver situation. Thomas: "Most expectations are that when all is said and done rookies Brian Quick and Chris Givens, and veteran Danny Amendola, will be the top three receivers. But Steve Smith, the veteran picked up in free agency from Philadelphia (and former New York Giant) came on strong over the final two weeks of the spring practice period and shouldn’t be overlooked. Greg Salas, who was flashing as a rookie before a season-ending injury, had a strong spring. And even Danario Alexander reminded everyone of what he’s capable of with a couple of big catches Wednesday. So the short answer is the unit should be better, but as to whether there’s a true No. 1 or a game-breaker in the group -- stay tuned."

Matthew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' stadium impasse is heading to arbitration, as expected.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com wraps up the Rams' minicamp/offseason. Wagoner: "As for the happenings on the field, Fisher made special mention of not being pleased with his team during some pass rush drills but overall thought it was another competitive practice. I’ve written it in this space before but it bears repeating: Fisher is not afraid to let the top units square off on offense and defense. He encourages it and he likes what it brings out of his players because they get extremely competitive."

Also from Wagoner: Left tackle Rodger Saffold has added about 10-15 pounds, checking in at 325.
St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn finished his rookie season with five sacks.

Two other NFC West teams had a rookie with more (Aldon Smith 14, Sam Acho seven).

It's not that Quinn disappointed as a first-round choice, but the Rams expect much more from him now that Quinn is the starter.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Quinn must improve his play against the run. Thomas: "With Jeff Fisher now on board as head coach, James Hall no longer on the team and a new defensive scheme in place, there will be no easing Quinn into action in 2012. He is the team's starting right end, and a full-time player. To say expectations are sky-high for him at Rams Park almost is an understatement."

Also from Thomas: The Rams are expected to sign former Washington Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh. Noted: Linebacker was a position the Rams didn't significantly address through the draft. They had too many needs to address them all.

More from Thomas: a closer look at Rams rookie running back Isaiah Pead.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Steven Jackson put the pressure on rookie receiver Brian Quick. Burwell: "When someone with Jackson's stature calls you out like that, it's not intended to be an insult. It's actually a compliment. It was his way of providing a sense of urgency to the kid who certainly looks the part of a stud wideout the minute you lay eyes on him on the football field. Quick looks even bigger than 6 feet 3 when he walks onto the field and plays even bigger, too. He goes up in the air like a basketball small forward and snatches the football out of the air like a power forward and he can glide down the sidelines like a long-striding sprinter."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com contrasts the excitement over Brian Banks' minicamp tryout with long odds before the linebacker. Linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr.: "This is the NFL -- the best of the best -- so it’s going to be really tough for him. Just the fact that he came out here and gave it a shot and didn’t shy away from it, you’ve got to give him a plus for that. But again, this is the best of the best, the highest level of athlete, and he’s been out of it for 10 years. So it’s going to be really, really tough. … Right now, he has a chance. But it’s going to be really, really tough."

Also from Farnsworth: high expectations for Seattle's defense.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice, a player the Seahawks are counting on. O'Neil: "The Seahawks didn't add any front-line receivers. Oh, they'll give Antonio Bryant a kick of the tires and test-drive a few undrafted rookies, but a year after signing Rice to headline their wide-receiving corps, this offseason amounted to a vote of confidence that the Seahawks believe they have the ingredients for an effective passing attack with Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Mike Williams." Noted: I'd put Kris Durham and Ricardo Lockette in that group, possibly at the expense of Williams, depending upon how training camp goes.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Matt Flynn enjoyed a strong day Wednesday at Seahawks camp.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says promising rookie running back Robert Turbin overcame quite a bit to reach the NFL. Turbin: "I think everybody is going to have things they have to go through in life. I think that people who have the hardest time are those who don’t have a goal, who don’t know what they want to do or what they want to be. For me, regardless what might be going on in my life, I always knew exactly what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be: a great football player."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic calls the Cardinals' FanFest a big success, on and off the field. Ryan Williams' return was a huge plus. Somers: "Coach Ken Whisenhunt said it was a significant step for Williams. The coach also lauded Michael Floyd, the first round pick, for catching a long pass. The quarterbacks, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, each had their good and bad moments. It's hard to judge them based on these practices because players aren't wearing pads and there is no contact."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals could use some offensive leadership beyond Larry Fitzgerald. Somers: "To coach Ken Whisenhunt, however, there isn't a dearth of leadership on offense. He's confident that some already have emerged behind the scenes -- tight end Jeff King, center Lyle Sendlein, guard Daryn Colledge and tackle Levi Brown, for example -- and that others, like whoever starts at quarterback, have the character traits to do so."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers notes from FanFest, including this Whisenhunt quote regarding Williams: "He looked good. You forget his quickness, his vision. There is always a little trepidation on your first action like that. It was good to get it out of the way. Now it’s out of his head."

Also from Urban: Rookie corner Jamell Fleming is looking good.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com asks whether becoming an every-down player will lead to more sacks for outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Noted: Smith should be able to find a rhythm easier while playing additional downs. He'll have an opportunity to set up opponents a little more.

Also from Maiocco: notes from 49ers practice.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at which 49ers are impressing during camp. Barrows: "The group of 49ers who have consistently made plays this spring includes Vernon Davis on offense and cornerback Perrish Cox on defense. Cox, however, had scare today when he collided with safety C.J. Spillman while breaking up an end-zone pass to Crabtree. He was slow to get to his feet but eventually re-joined the practice."

Also from Barrows: notes on the defense, from coordinator Vic Fangio.

A closer look at Steven Jackson's TD

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
4:44
PM ET
Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett knows better than most what St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson can accomplish from three-receiver personnel on second-and-long.

Haslett was the Rams' interim head coach when Jackson gashed the Dallas Cowboys for an 18-yard gain under those circumstances two seasons ago. That game marked the Rams' most recent home victory -- until Jackson's 42-yard touchdown run on second-and-14 helped St. Louis defeat the Redskins 30-16 in Week 3.

The play showcased Jackson's ability and, if you looked closely enough, what it takes to turn a short or medium gain into a momentum altering big play.

Jackson had lost 4 yards on the previous play, so this was a likely passing situation. The Rams set up the touchdown with two wide receivers left, one right, Jackson nearly 8 yards deep in the backfield and Daniel Fells, the tight end, in a three-point stance next to right tackle Jason Smith. The Redskins countered with only six defenders in the box.

Jackson took the handoff and ran off tackle to the right. Fells turned Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo to the inside. Smith turned Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh to the outside. Mark Clayton, the wide receiver on the right side, impeded cornerback DeAngelo Hall near the line of scrimmage. Left guard Adam Goldberg let linebacker Andre Carter knife into the backfield, shoving Carter hard enough to prevent him from getting back into the play.

Jackson cut back to his left at the 35, making safety Kenny Moore miss. Moore had launched his body at Jackson instead of trying to wrap him up (Jackson's 245-pound frame poses an injury risk to defensive backs). Moore missed Jackson and chopped down teammate Vonnie Holliday back at the 37. Jackson was at the 33 by then. Receiver Brandon Gibson hustled from the far left side past the right hash, where he decked cornerback Phillip Buchanan.

Center Jason Brown and left guard Jacob Bell had shoved nose tackle Albert Haynesworth off the line, with Brown peeling off to prevent linebacker London Fletcher from making the tackle near the 30. Hayesworth had made his way back into the play near the 28, but left tackle Rodger Saffold was waiting for him. Buchanan, having been shoved by Gibson, flew into Haynesworth's legs just as Saffold arrived. Haynesworth stood no chance.

Receiver Danny Amendola, working from the left slot, hustled across the formation and back in search of someone to block. He wasn't needed in the end. Jackson outran safety LaRon Landry to the end zone.

Injury note: Jackson suffered a strained groin during the game. The Rams described his status as day-to-day.

Personnel report: Jackson and Rams' offense

September, 25, 2009
9/25/09
11:36
AM ET
The 2006 season might always stand as a benchmark for Rams running back Steven Jackson.

That was the season he rushed for 1,528 yards and caught 90 passes for 803 yards. He has not exceeded 1,042 yards rushing, 40 receptions or 379 yards receiving over the subsequent two seasons.

Those numbers figured to spike this season as the Rams built their offense around Jackson to an even stronger degree following Torry Holt's release. The problem through two games has less to do with Jackson than with the offense overall. The Rams are averaging 20 percent fewer offensive plays this season than they averaged in 2006, about 13 snaps per game. Jackson has carried or caught the ball on 34.5 percent of the Rams' offensive plays, down from 40.9 percent in 2006.

A few things stood out while watching the Rams against the Redskins in Week 2:
  • The offensive line struggled. Jackson's 58-yard run on the Rams' 16th offensive play came out of nowhere. My notes for the Rams' 15 previous plays included these observations: "Richie Incognito got beat and that blew up the play. ... Alex Barron blatantly holds Andre Carter and gets away with it, but Phillip Daniels crushes Marc Bulger. ... Jason Brown injures MCL. ... Barron holds Carter from behind and replays show he grabbed Carter by the collar, but no call. ... Jason Smith misses Daniels off the ball. ... Barron whiffs on Carter, who lined up way outside but still beat Barron with an inside move. ... Line has no answer when Rocky McIntosh blitzes. ... Play had no chance, too much pressure."
  • Donnie Avery was the Rams' third-best receiver. Something isn't right with the first receiver chosen in the 2008 draft. He's dropping passes, losing fumbles, committing penalties and failing to outrun defensive backs. It's enough to make me wonder if the foot injury is behind him. The fumble he lost deep in Redskins territory wasted an otherwise highly impressive drive featuring better play up front and Jackson at his best. Avery needs a breakout game. He is certainly due.
  • This team drops far too many passes. I counted four against the Redskins, two by Avery and two by tight end Randy McMichael.
  • Bulger is taking a pounding. The quarterback was quite resilient throughout the game. A hit he took in his own end zone during the desperate final seconds left Bulger holding his left wrist. How long before he gets hurt more seriously?
  • The defense is almost good enough. The Rams' predictably poor pass rush is holding them back and could make them vulnerable to blowout defeats against teams with more powerful offenses. Overall, though, the Rams have made strides on defense. They can be decent against the run and their secondary appears significantly upgraded so far (with tougher tests looming, however).

One thing surprised me when charting the Rams' personnel use. The team used two tight ends on the first play and then almost never again. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur tried to use two tight ends on a third-and-1 play later in the game, but second tight end Daniel Fells committed a false-start penalty. The play did not count. He used three tight ends on another play. Overall, the Rams used one tight end on 48 of 50 snaps.

The Rams averaged 1.5 yards per carry on six carries from their base offense (2 RB, 1TE). They averaged 8.6 yards per carry on 12 rushes from their "zebra" personnel group featuring one back, three wide receivers and one tight end. Jackson's 58-yard run boosted the average from this group. Fullback Mike Karney made a few effective blocks from the base offense, but the Rams enjoyed most of their success without him.

For download: This Rams personnel report breaks down every offensive play. A second sheet shows production across personnel groups and much more.

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