Behind Enemy Lines – Training Camp Primer (Part 2)

With less than a week 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.

St. Louis – One of the biggest competitions in camp will be the battle for the LDE position that was vacated when Grant Wistrom left to sign with Seattle in free agency. Tyoka Jackson, Bryce Fisher, and Erik Flowers are the likely candidates who will vie for playing time. There still is the possibility that the Rams could sign oft-injured veteran DE Joe Johnson. Johnson is a St. Louis native and he would come cheap.

While Wistrom was a great leader in the locker room, the magnetic Jackson is expected to fill Wistrom’s shoes nicely off the field. Jackson is a vocal leader who players love having in the locker room.

For the ninth consecutive year, the Rams will hit the fields at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL. Players will report to camp on Tuesday July 27th and the opening practice will be the following day.

One highlight of camp will be when former Rams defensive coordinator and new Bears head coach Lovie Smith will bring his team to Macomb for a practices and a scrimmage August 5-7.

"Having a scrimmage there at the stadium on Saturday morning makes it exciting for everybody," Rams' Head Coach Mike Martz said. "It gives us a chance to look at a lot of our young players under competitive situations, and the same for the Bears.”

The Rams break camp on August 20th.

San Francisco – A great battle is shaping up in the deep patrol. 2003 starting FS Zack Bronson was released in a salary cap move and the battle between Ronnie Heard and Dwaine Carpenter. Heard is the odds-on-favorite to win the position and he is looking forward to making his own name with the Niners.

“I’m my own guy. I want to start my own thing here,” Heard said following a workout last week. “Obviously I learned a lot from Zack and I have great respect for him because he taught me about the NFL. But I want to start my own legacy. I’m not trying to be Zack Bronson or Merton Hanks or anyone else.”

Heard was an undrafted free agent in 2000 and his contributions on special teams and as a reserve have allowed him to play in 53 total games and make 10 starts.

“I’ve done something each year that has caught someone’s eye and that’s why I’ve made it to this point. I think that I’ve shown that I can do a number of different things,” Heard said.

Heard has a big task ahead of him this season. He will be asked to play centerfield in the 49ers defense and he will be expected to learn the new terminology and alignments of new defensive coordinator Willy Robinson.

“The biggest difference is that we are incorporating the 3-4 so now it’s like we have two different defenses and that’s definitely to our advantage,” he said. “What that means to me is an increased importance on knowing what personnel is on the field so I know where I will need to help.”

The Niners open camp on July 29th when rookies report and the veterans report the following day on the 30th.

Arizona – Look for a big season from Weakside linebacker Raynoch Thompson. Thompson has been the Cardinals’ best defender the last two seasons and the new defense installed by defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will feature Thompson’s athleticism and playmaking ability.

Thompson will roam the field and his speed will allow him to track down plays all over the field. His abilities in rushing the QB will be useful since the Cardinal front-four could be one of the weakest in the league.

One major coup pulled off by new head coach Dennis Green was the signing of former Broncos DE Bertrand Berry in free agency. Berry had bounced around for several seasons and finally found a home in the Mile High City. He led the Broncos in sacks in 2003 with 11.5. Berry seems excited about the coming season and what is happening in the desert.

“Individual accolades are fine, but I play to win,” he professed. “I play to be a champion. I think to bring the state of Arizona a winning team, that is something I would always be able to look back on fondly and say to myself, ‘Hey, I was part of the turnaround.’ In Indianapolis we were 3-13 in 1998 and we went 13-3 in 1999, and so I know it can be done. I look at this team and I don’t see any reason we can’t win. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people this year and for years to come.”

The Cardinals open camp on August 1st when rookies and veterans report to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ.

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


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