Behind Enemy Lines – Training Camp Primer (Part 1)

With less than two weeks before NFL training camps open up, .Net reporter Scott Eklund continues his look at the Seahawks' NFC West rivals as the offseason draws to a close.

Arizona Many of the veterans on the Cardinals squad are enjoying the attitude that new head coach Dennis Green is instilling.

CB Dexter Jackson, who played under Green protégé Tony Dungy, has liked what he’s seen.

“He’s great. He’s bringing the mentality that I am used to,” Jackson said. “Coach Dungy had the same type of fire, obviously because he came from under Coach Green. I know it is a formula that works, and a formula that wins.”

QB Josh McCown said the attitude adjustment is palpable as well.

"You would never know that we were 4-12 last year. You would just automatically assume that we were a playoff team planning on going back,” McCown said. “A year or two ago, you didn't really talk about going to the playoffs without some eyes rolling. But now, when we talk about it, we're serious and we expect it to happen."

Green brings with him an impressive resume. In 10 seasons with Minnesota, Green led the Vikings to a 97-62 record, four NFC Central titles, and eight playoff appearances. The only losing season during his tenure was his final season in 2001.

Green is known for having great offenses and attacking defenses. So far he has some of that talent needed to have an explosive offense. Second year wideouts Anquoin Boldin and Bryant Johnson and rookie WR Larry Fitzgerald will team to form one of the best young trios in the league.

Green loves McCown’s leadership and talent and believes he has the line to protect his young signal caller. RB’s Emmitt Smith and Marcel Shipp complement each other well, with Smith being the better blocker and inside runner, while Shipp makes his yards outside the tackles and catching the ball out of the backfield.

San Francisco Head coach Dennis Erickson has a ton of young players and is looking forward to training camp to see what he really has. The wide receivers are the most intriguing to Erickson and he loves their enthusiasm and athletic ability.

Second-year player Brandon Lloyd runs “better than most people think”, according to Erickson and his hands are exceptional. The loss of elite WR Terrell Owens will be felt, but Erickson believes rookie Rashaun Woods (who really came on during the final mini-camp) and veterans Cedric Wilson and Curtis Conway will more than compensate for the lack of a playmaker.

RB Kevan Barlow is an exciting prospect for the 49ers. He is 6’1” and 238 pounds, but he runs well, and is a load to bring down. He will be the featured back this fall, after the loss of Garrison Hearst to the Denver Broncos.

Behind center will be a youngster no matter who takes the snaps. Three-year veteran Tim Rattay, who was expected to be the starter, tore his groin in mini-camp and will not be fully recovered until the end of training camp at the earliest. Second-year man Ken Dorsey is the likely starter until Rattay returns. Dorsey has built up his bulk and strength during his two offseasons and his natural leadership skills make him an asset even when he is backing up Rattay.

On defense the Niners have one of the best young linebacking corps in the NFL. Julian Peterson, Derek Smith, and Jamie Winborn are all quick and they make plays. Peterson may hold out until the start of the season as the team’s franchise player. Peterson and his agents, Kevin and Carl Poston, have said he will not play without a long-term contract.

St. Louis Players have noticed a difference in the styles of former defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, who left to take the helm of the Chicago Bears, and his replacement Larry Marmie.

Smith, whose calm, southern drawl was overshadowed by his in-your-face style, could be seen cajoling players and emphasizing points. His emotion permeated the defense and their intensity in practices and on game day mirrored his demeanor during the week.

Marmie is much more cerebral and rarely raises his voice. His is more of a teacher and expects his players to know their assignments and to play with determination and grit.

The differences end in their personalities however. Marmie plans to change little in what Smith instilled over the last four seasons in the Rams’ defense. Marmie may blitz more, using his athletic linebackers and safeties, and he won’t sit back in cover-2 as much as Smith did.

Marmie has some nice talent in the back seven. LB’s Pisa Tinoisamoa, Robert Thomas and Tommy Polley are smaller linebackers who rely on speed and quickness to make plays.

CB’s Jeremetrius Butler and Travis Fisher aren’t big and strong, but they are quick enough to stay with the fleet receivers that teams regularly send into the patterns.

Safety is where the Rams are in very good shape. FS Aeneas Williams is like a coach on the field and even though he has lost a step, he can still cover enough ground to make plays in the deep patrol. SS Adam Archuleta is like an extra linebacker and while he is only adequate in coverage, he is superb at making plays in the running game. Rookie S Jason Shivers will see most of his time on special teams, but he excels at laying wood to the ballcarriers and wide receivers that come into his area.

The Rams promise to be more aggressive in 2004 with this set of tough players in the back seven.

Don’t believe the rumors about RB Marshall Faulk possibly retiring if his knee causes him problems during camp. A local radio station in St. Louis reported last week that the reason head coach Mike Martz decided to draft RB Steven Jackson when he fell to them with the 24th selection in April was because Faulk has intimated he would retire if his knee is not fully healed. According to inside sources, this rumor is false. Faulk’s knees and ankles are fine and he should be able to put up solid numbers in 2004.

.NET Reporter Scott Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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