I spent part of two days at Rams Park this weekend and came away encouraged (not gulping the Kool-Aid but encouraged). Among my observations:
--The offensive emphasis is obviously on playing faster. Al Saunders is flying around challenging every wide receiver on every play. I know Marc Bulger and Tory Holt as well as I know anyone in a Rams uniform and spoke with both this weekend. They're both very happy Saunders is here. Torry told me that Saunders will get on anyone, rookie or starter, if he sees something he doesn't like on film.
--Bulger is as energized as I've seen him in a few years. Not only is Saunders a difference maker for him, but having Trent Green here as his back up will help Bulger as well. Marc can't let negative circumstances affect his ability to lead the way he did last season. He's too good a player for that. Trent can help him in that way.
--One veteran wide receiver told me was not overwhelmed by what he saw from ANY of the Rams' rookie receivers. He described second round pick Donnie Avery as "very raw."
---One off season acquisition that has flown under the radar screen is the signing of Tight End Anthony Becht who played with Bulger in college and was a first round pick of the Jets in 2000. He's big, strong and an accomplished blocker at the point of attack. He was so good versus the Rams last season in week three that Scott Linehan jumped at the chance to sign him as a free agent. Not only should Becht impact the running game, but he should allow Randy McMichael to be a bigger factor in the passing game. This weekend, we saw McMichael running a lot of downfield patterns in two tight end sets.
---It's obvious that the coaching staff is not happy that Alex Barron has skipped off-season workouts at Rams Park. In the non-contact drills, Adam Goldberg is working with the first unit at right tackle instead of Barron. Because Orlando Pace is still not cleared for contact, Barron was with the first unit at left tackle during contact drills.
--Scott Linehan is as relaxed and confident as I've seen him in the two-plus years I've known him. Interesting considering that he knows he has to win and win now. I did a lengthy interview with him after today's practice and you can see it tonight on Sports Sunday. Linehan remains as accessible and media-friendly as the day he walked in to Rams Park. I'm pulling for him to have a great season.
--The Torry Holt speculation about his future is much ado about nothing. What he told a Charlotte reporter was innocent and in good fun. He was asked if he'd one day like to play with his brother Terrence in his home state. What would you expect him to say, "no, that would suck?" Of course he said that would be great. Anything else would have made him a target in Charlotte. It cracks me up when we in the media ask a question that has only one possible answer and then try to make it into a controversy when the athlete or coach answers honestly. Here's the deal---Torry has two years left on his deal and he's very happy to play it out. But, he isn't even sure if he'll want to play in 2010 and isn't sure if the Rams would make an offer. To read anything more into his comments is a waste of time.
--It's still strange not to have Jack Snow on hand at Rams Park. On days like today, I still miss him very much. His presence is missed by many at Rams Park. He would have been a great daily resource for Linehan during last year's disastrous season.