Enemy Intel: Rams' LB Plans Changing

The Rams signed a pair of free agent linebackers over the offseason, but they aren't seeing the field as much as they expected. And the Cards lose the man who was probably their MVP, kicker Neil Rakers.

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When free agency began, the Rams knew they needed an upgrade at linebacker, so Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley were signed.

Both were often taken off the field in passing situations, and last week against Houston, Claiborne was taken off the field entirely when he was replaced as the starting middle linebacker by Trev Faulk.

Faulk was solid against the Texans, and it looks like he will start again this week against Washington.

Asked to assess his own performance, Faulk said, "I think I did OK. I mean, I did some positive things and I did some things that weren't so positive. Overall, I think it's a positive experience. We won, most importantly."

Asked whether it was a priority to remain a starter, Faulk said, "No, not really. I am just trying to take things day-to-day and after that week-to-week. I prepare myself the same regardless of whether going in I know I am starting or going in I know that I will be a backup, so it doesn't really matter."

Interim coach Joe Vitt explained why the switch was made from Claiborne to Faulk.

"He has a little bit more range," Vitt said. "He's been in the system a year longer so he's a little more familiar with it. And we're just trying to upgrade the position a little bit."

Now Faulk will have to play a large role in defending against Redskins running back Clinton Portis this week. Faulk said he is light-years from the player that started two games last season.

"Completely different, (like) night and day," he said. "I know so much more and am so much more comfortable right now then when I got a chance to start a few games last year. I think I'm better prepared just from having more experience and having a couple of years in the system now. I definitely feel a lot more comfortable."

Player Notes

--QB Jamie Martin missed another day of practice Thursday with continued blurred vision from the concussion he suffered Sunday against Houston. Martin is not likely to play Sunday against Washington.

--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick again took all the snaps with the first unit in practice Thursday, and almost certainly will start Sunday against the Redskins.

--LT Orlando Pace did some conditioning work on the side, but nothing during practice Thursday because of hamstring and hip problems. However, Pace was walking better, and is expected to test his leg Friday and perhaps play Sunday against the Redskins.

--T Alex Barron underwent surgery Thursday to have the tendons reattached in his thumb. Barron will not play Sunday against Washington.

--OL Blaine Saipaia, who missed last week's game against Houston because of a concussion, did some work in practice Thursday at left tackle.

--RG Adam Timmerman took some snaps in practice Thursday at right tackle, just in case he is needed there this week. Rex Tucker will play there against the Redskins.

--T Matt Morgan, who worked with the first unit in practice Thursday, was placed on waivers when the Rams were assigned guard/tackle Ben Noll on waivers from the Cowboys.

--G/T Ben Noll was assigned to the Rams on waivers from the Cowboys Thursday. Noll was in training camp with the Rams in 2004 and claimed by Dallas when the Rams were hoping to add him to the practice squad.

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A pall fell over the Cardinals' practice Thursday when kicker Neil Rackers suffered an injury to his left calf and exited in considerable pain.

Rackers struggled to get dressed afterward and left the team's facility in a walking boot and on crutches.

He was scheduled to undergo an MRI exam Thursday afternoon. He's listed as questionable on the injury report, but it's seems unlikely he'll play Sunday in San Francisco. It's feared that he could be out for several weeks, perhaps the rest of the season.

Rackers was a heavy favorite to make the Pro Bowl. He made 31 straight field goals to start the season, missing his first just last week. He's now 32-for-33.

He also has six field goals of 50 yards or more, two short of the NFL record, and leads the league with 22 touchbacks.

Team officials were busy Thursday afternoon trying to line up possible replacements. As many as four kickers will be tried out Friday.

Accuracy, not leg strength, will be the top priority, coach Dennis Green said.

"A guy has to be (accurate) in that 42-yard and in range," he said. "I don't think you can expect a guy to be making 50-yarders."

Player Notes

--RB Marcel Shipp is listed as doubtful because of a nerve problem in his neck, although he says he is improving every day. If Shipp can't play, J.J. Arrington will start for the first time since the third game of the season.

--WR Anquan Boldin has 18 catches for 220 yards and a touchdown the past two weeks.

--RB J.J. Arrington hasn't gained more than 45 yards in a game this season, but he's shown improvement in recent weeks. He looks more patient and more decisive. It helps that he's getting hit less in the backfield, too.

--WR Bryant Johnson still isn't fully recovered from a shoulder sprain, but he'll regain the No. 3 receiver role this Sunday. Johnson played in the fourth quarter last week and had four catches for 77 yards.

--TE Eric Edwards caught the first touchdown pass of his career last week and is assuming a larger role in the passing game.

--OLB Karlos Dansby, who didn't play in nickel situations last week, should be ready to assume full duties this week. Dansby was coming back from a groin injury, and coaches wanted to ease him back into action.


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