Monday, August 27, 2007

Linehan Confident in Offense

By Brett Grassmuck

Three of four preseason games are in the books, and although the Rams’ offensive first unit has yet to score a touchdown, coach Scott Linehan remains confident that his offense is better than it was at this point last season.

“I can tell you this: I’m one-hundred percent more comfortable with where we are on offense, believe it or not, than where we were a year ago,” Linehan said. ‘I think our depth is better. If you were to fast-forward and say this is going to be our roster, these are the guys that are going to step in if something happened to the starters, I’d feel much more comfortable with whom we’d be able to put in there and how effective they’d be.”

The Rams’ first-team offense has not been able to find the end zone, but it has had success moving the ball against three of the NFL’s top defensive teams. Against Oakland, a batted ball and an illegal procedure penalty in the red zone limited the first team offense to only a field goal.

“I’m not concerned about (not scoring),” Linehan said. “I’d be more concerned if we couldn’t move the football – if we couldn’t get a first down or we couldn’t drive the ball against the three defenses we’ve played.”

The Rams’ first team offense did not find the end zone in the 2006 preseason, and it led to a slow start, although a season-opening victory against Denver on the strength of six Jeff Wilkins field goals.

“I recognize that, and we recognize as a coaching staff that we didn’t score last year in the preseason, and we started slowly,” offensive coordinator Greg Olsen said. “I just think it’s a totally different set of circumstances as to why we haven’t scored this season as opposed to last season. We’ll continue to work on the problems that we have identified, and I’m confident that we’ll get them fixed for the first game.”

Penalty Kill : The Rams’ defense showed some positive signs on Friday, coming up with their first two turnovers against the Raiders, but five pass interference penalties lead to scoring drives and eventually a victory for the Raiders.

“They were all close plays,” Linehan said. “You can sit here and argue all day that it’s incidental bumping or maybe both guys are in contact. To me, if you’re playing tight coverage and playing man coverage, you really have to be right with your technique.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he was unsure of a few of the judgment calls by the officials, but stressed that the Rams have not had a problem with pass interference, even with their aggressive defensive style.

“We had a few last year, and you’re going to get that, but we haven’t had a problem with it,” Haslett said. “If there’s a receiver running by our corners, or we’re panicking on a ball, then you’re nervous, but you didn’t see that in this game.”

Roster Battles Rage On : Linehan said the battle for the center position between Andy McCollum and Brett Romberg is still too close to call, but a decision will be made on the starter before Thursday’s preseason contest against the Chiefs.

With guard Richie Incognito out with an ankle injury, guards Claude Terrell and Milford Brown are battling for the backup position. Terrell started against Oakland, but Brown received his share of snaps.

“The strong part of our team right now is our depth inside at the center and the two guards,” Olsen said. “There’s competition still going on at that position. A lot of people like to talk about Romberg and McCollum, but you’ve got some guys at guard that are battling as well on a daily and weekly basis and trying to find what their role is going to be. We’re happy with the competition inside.”

On the defensive side, two converted linebackers are vying for the eighth spot on the defensive line. Defensive ends Trevor Johnson and Eric Moore have been impressive during the preseason and both would add depth to the Rams’ pass rush.

Injury Update : Wide Receiver Dominique Thompson and Linebacker Tim McGarigle, who have both been sidelined by injuries for the first part of the preseason, will return to action on Thursday against the Chiefs.

“This is kind of like the bottom of the ninth for (McGarigle), and a lot of guys come up with big hits in the bottom of the ninth,” Haslett said. “We know what Timmy is and what kind of player he is. It’ll be good to see him in action this week. He’ll get a lot of playing time this week, and we’ll get to judge him on that.”

Rams Trim Roster : With the Rams roster needing to be trimmed to 75 players by Tuesday, the Rams released 10 players following Friday night’s contest at Oakland: wide receivers Rasheed Marshall, Nate Morton and Markee White, running back Kay-Jay Harris, fullback Brad Lau, punter Fred Capshaw, defensive end Alton Pettway, linebacker Larry Edwards and defensive backs Jeffery Dukes and Harrison Smith.

The roster currently sits at 76 players, so one more cut will have to be made before Tuesday’s deadline.

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