NFL Nation: Tim Carter
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Biggest surprise: The Rams cut former special-teams captain Todd Johnson, a safety, and they also flushed out two veteran receivers they hoped would contribute, Ronald Curry and Tim Carter. Keeping rookie quarterback Keith Null over the more experienced Brock Berlin made sense because the Rams' top two quarterbacks, Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller, have lots of seasoning. The biggest roster surprise came when the team traded 2006 first-round cornerback Tye Hill to the Falcons. Free-agent addition Quincy Butler stuck on the 53-man roster after a strong training camp and preseason. He looked better than Hill, frankly, and the Rams' new leadership wasn't afraid to part with symbols of past failures. Placing defensive tackle Adam Carriker on injured reserve cleared another spot.
No-brainers: The Rams also released linebacker K.C. Asiodu, defensive tackle Antwon Burton, tight end Eric Butler, defensive end Ian Campbell, linebacker Dominic Douglas, tackle Renardo Foster, fullback Jerome Johnson, center Tim Mattran, running back Chris Ogbonnaya, cornerback Cord Parks, running back Antonio Pittman, safety Mark Rubin, guard Roy Schuening, tackle Phil Trautwein and receiver Sean Walker.
What's next: The Rams still need to make one move by the 6 p.m. ET deadline for complying with the 53-man limit. With only four running backs on the roster, counting fullback Mike Karney, the team probably needs to seek help at the position. Backup Samkon Gado suffered injured ribs in the final exhibition game. The Rams lack quality depth and they are starting over. As a result, the team could pursue players released from other teams.
Update: The Rams placed defensive lineman Eric Moore on injured reserve to comply with the 53-man limit.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams' roster requires additional study after a thorough house-cleaning this offseason. With so many new faces, I feel less familiar with the Rams than with the other teams in the division. This initial look at the roster will hopefully help bring some focus.
Donnie Avery's injury and overall health concerns at receiver could influence how many players the Rams carry into the season at the position.
Marc Bulger's broken pinky shouldn't affect the roster as long as he recovers on schedule. Teams must reduce to 75 players by Sept. 1 and 53 players by Sept. 5. Those initial 53-man rosters sometimes change by Week 1 kickoffs. For that reason, I've been focusing on Week 1 rosters when setting baseline expectations for each position.
The chart provides a framework for how many players the Rams might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Seahawks.
Here's a quick look at which Rams players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:
|AP Photo/Jeff Roberson|
|St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo has taken control of the Rams' locker room.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Steve Spagnuolo has much to prove as a first-time NFL head coach.
Winning over the St. Louis Rams' locker room is no longer one of them.
"Just the way he came in and took control of this building was impressive," quarterback Marc Bulger said in lauding the way Spagnuolo "captivates the team and has everyone focused on one goal."
Players tend to say nice things about their bosses, or else, but Rams players aren't just paying lip service as they work through an unusually physical training camp complete with live tackling.
Steven Jackson, a harsh critic of Rams dysfunction under previous leadership, nearly interrupted an important family matter in Las Vegas just to attend a voluntary March practice (Spagnuolo ultimately told Jackson not to worry about it). If Jackson weren't buying into Spagnuolo, we'd know it.
While others used Memorial Day Weekend as a respite during the ever-shrinking NFL offseason, new Rams center Jason Brown rented a U-haul and made the 13-hour drive from North Carolina to St. Louis. It was about the only time Brown could make the move without jeopardizing his perfect attendance in the Rams' offseason program.
Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe practiced with the team all offseason even though he remained unsigned until July, hoping to score a long-term deal.
"I thought he was very classy in the way (Atogwe) handled the franchise tag and I thank him almost every other day," Spagnuolo said. "That tells me a lot about him."
It might reveal plenty about Spagnuolo as well. The no-nonsense approach he adapted from mentors Tom Coughlin and Andy Reid has brought structure to a floundering organization. Brown, signed from the Baltimore Ravens in free agency, says he sees parallels to John Harbaugh.
Spagnuolo has gotten the Rams' attention and held it through the first two weeks of training camp. The vibe is unmistakably positive.
"The hiring of Coach Spagnuolo is definitely the biggest move this offseason, the right step for us," Bulger said. "You are either onboard or you are not. I respect that approach and I think everyone has bought into it."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Avery reported soreness in his foot Saturday, but never did the Rams expect to find an injury this significant. Avery apparently suffered it during the team's scrimmage Friday night.
The Rams have conducted a very physical camp, but none of their injuries appear related to live tackling. This is a very tough break for a rebuilding team without enough depth to compensate for injuries to certain positions, notably receiver.
With Avery out, the Rams might need to consider adding another veteran. Keenan Burton, Laurent Robinson, Ronald Curry, Tim Carter, Derek Stanley, Brooks Foster, Jarrett Byers and Sean Walker are the other receivers on the roster.
According to the Rams, the MRI showed more damage than the initial X-ray revealed.
Update: With the regular-season opener five weeks out, Avery has a chance to return in Week 1 or Week 2.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Jacob Bell as the Rams guard tries to maintain his weight and bounce back from a tough first season in St. Louis.
Also from Coats: He predicts a 7-9 record for the Rams. Coats during a chat: "I, too, think the Rams have more talent than has been shown the last couple of years, and [Steve] Spagnuolo just might be the right guy to exploit that. However ... it's not easy to overcome a losing culture. If things start heading downhill early [injuries, distractions, losses], it could get ugly again."
More from Coats: The Rams have signed veteran receiver Tim Carter.
Doug Farrar of The League came away impressed after watching Aaron Curry's third practice with the Seahawks. Farrar: "Though these were basically non-contact drills with the most basic formations, Curry showed flashes of excellence in several roles. He was precise and exceedingly quick when he took a false step forward at the line and backpedaled in a zone blitz look five yards back. His side-to-side speed and agility is amazing enough on film, but it really hits home when you're watching him outstride the defenders around him at his size -- he's half a head taller and definitely bulkier than [Lofa] Tatupu and [Leroy] Hill."
John Morgan of Field Gulls breaks down one of Max Unger's plays at Oregon. Unger worked at left guard with the backup offensive line in the Seahawks' post-draft camp. Morgan: "Unger uses guile and football skills to turn his good raw power into sometimes startling functional power."
Also from Morgan: Another play involving Unger.
Scott McKillop of the 49ers provides a rookie diary for 49ers.com. McKillop: "One thing that really stood out to me from our workouts was the conditioning circuit we did both days. By far, it was up there with some of the hardest conditioning workouts I've ever done. I had done stuff like that previously, but I'd never had conditioning and then practice. It's definitely something that signals that we've all gone up another level. We're all professionals now, so you have to take yourself to another level and do stuff you've never done before."
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Alex Smith is down to his final chance with the 49ers, and Smith knows it. Cohn: "Before Saturday's practice, I sat in a room with Smith. He is relentlessly polite, thoughtful and intelligent, and he tried to explain where he's been and where he needs to go. His voice was louder than it has been. In the past he had a soft, conciliatory voice and maybe that was no good. Quarterbacks can't be soft or conciliatory in their work. They are demanding. He started with a long opening statement that evolved into an unburdening, a purging."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with Jimmy Williams, who says he has lost 15 pounds, putting him at 225. The goal is 218 by training camp.
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals face challenges staying atop the division and sustaining the success they enjoyed last season.
Bob Young of the Arizona Republic thinks the Cardinals' relationship with Anquan Boldin will worsen as the offseason continues.
Also from Young: Thoughts on Chuck Cecil as the one-time Cardinals safety heads into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Players weren't even in helmets at Thursday morning's practice, so it was tough to get a real gauge on anyone.
But I spent some time after the session with Larry Kirksey, the veteran wide receivers coach. He's in Year 2 with the Texans, but his 12th year in the league and he's coached Jerry Rice, Jimmy Smith and Terrell Owens.
We went player-by-player and I forced him to offer each guy's downside or weakness at the end -- I've broken those off into a "something less than positive" category.
We went in pecking order, which matches the team's depth chart.
On Kevin Walter: "Kevin had his best year as a pro last year and he's come back a little bit stronger, a little bit faster than he was a year ago. The thing about Kevin is he's a dependable receiver. He's a tough guy, he'll do all the dirty work for you. He wants to take every snap, he wants it bad. To me he's the epitome of a guy who wants to win. I've been very pleased with Kevin. I just think he's a football player." (Walter starts outside, moves into the slot in three-wide with Andre Davis coming on as the third WR).
Something less than positive: "He has good speed, he has size, he has playing strength. Probably it's separation from man-to-man. Because of his body type, he can use his body to separate. I'd say that, but at the same time he hasn't lost many battles out here."
On Andre Davis: "He had a great year last year for us, considering he's bounced around a little bit. He's still playing with speed. I think he has a little more finesse now, a little more knowledge of the offense and knows what is expected of him. His route-running skills have improved. I would say that's been the key for him so far. He's really improved his overall game, route-running, pass receiving, and he's always had speed."
Something less than positive: "I just hope he can stay healthy and continue to play the way he did a year ago. If so, he'll have another great year for us."
On Jacoby Jones: "He has a lot of talent. He needs to play smarter. I think he understands the game, and sometimes because of his speed and quickness, he thinks that can get him by. Well that's not the case. I think when he learns how to use his speed and quickness with the mental aspect of the game he can really get it going on."
Something less than positive: "It's just learning the game for him overall. He's still a young receiver. He got injured last year and didn't play a lot. He's back now so we'll see what happens."
On David Anderson: "He has really improved as far as the slot play is concerned. I just think he's so nifty in there and he has a great feel for the game. He's been the solid guy in the slot, he and Kevin, but they all need to be able to work inside."
Something less than positive: "He's not a very big guy or tall guy, but at the same time he has a knack for making plays."
On Tim Carter: "He's in the mix. The thing he brings to the table is speed, of course. He plays fast. We just got him here late in the OTAs. He's shown signs, shown flashes that he can make some plays. We've still got to get him into the preseason and see how it goes."
Something less than positive: "His familiarity with the system, probably."
The Texans finished last season with five receivers on their roster, and Kirksey said that while it's not up to him he expects it will probably be five again.
He also talked with me briefly about the other receivers at camp.
Harry Williams: "A big, physical receiver who's been a special teams player around here for us. That's his playing strength."
Darnell Jenkins: "A young kid from Miami who's got playing speed. He's just got to catch up with the system."
LeRon McCoy: "I think LeRon's probably got the strongest hands out there and he's a big body type. He's made some plays and picked up the offense fairly well."
Mark Simmons: "A nifty player, but at the same time he's got to get involved in the system and be able to understand it."
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