Behind Enemy Lines - Training Camps Open

As camps around the league open, .Net reporter Scott Eklund takes a look at more player signings and new schemes being worked on and honed by the Seahawks' NFC West rivals.

St. Louis – While the Rams’ offense has been known for the past five seasons as “The Greatest Show on Turf”, defenses have schemed continually to stop the passing game of the Rams. Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are two of the most dangerous players at the wide receiver position in the league.

Bruce, even at 31, still has the jets to get deep on most DB’s and he is very good at reading coverages. Holt has become one of the top two or three wideouts in the entire league. He has good speed, great hands, and he is dangerous after the catch.

At QB the Rams have a young player in Marc Bulger. Bulger had an excellent season for the most part, but struggled some with interceptions and decision making late in the season.

So in order to offset some of the defensive schemes designed to stop their passing game, head coach Mike Martz and the entire offensive staff of the Rams have decided to concentrate on pounding the ball using their running game.

"We need to run the football extremely well," Holt said. "I think Coach has a big emphasis on that this year. We need to establish the line of scrimmage. If we can dominate up front, maybe we will see eight in the box and get some one-on-ones for the receivers.

Veteran RB Marshall Faulk and rookie RB Stephen Jackson will be counted on to challenge defenses and punish them with a power running game.

"We have to run the ball better than we did a year ago," Martz said. "There are a lot of logical reasons to do it, but the mindset part of it is the most important. We will try to get that going, as we did in 1999 (the Rams were fifth in rushing in the NFL that season). It's easy for us to throw the ball in some sense. We have guys who have a pretty good concept of what we do. We can always go back into that quickly."

On the injury front, bad news came down over the weekend when RT Kyle Turley left practice with a back injury similar to the one he had offseason surgery to rectify. Turley is worried the injury could be career threatening and he flew to California over the weekend to get a second opinion on his bad back.

First Preseason Game: vs. Chicago on August 12th

Arizona – In a surprise move the Cardinals released two veterans along their offensive line. Starting C Pete Kendall and reserve T Kendrick Rodgers were given their releases by head coach Dennis Green and his reasoning for the release seems to be chemistry along the line.

“It became clear to me that we had to make some more changes on the line,” Green said. “That chemistry was not very good at all. I would be naïve to think that was going to change just because I was here.”

Kendall is an eight-year veteran who started 36 games in three seasons in Arizona, including 13 in 2003 at center. Green quickly named rookie Alex Stepanovich, a fourth-round selection out of Ohio State, as his replacement.

“He comes from Ohio State, a program where guys are ready to go,” Green stated. “As you know I said before the draft we wanted guys who were ready to go, ready to play. Alex fits that.”

"I've done my best to get the offensive line to understand what it is going to take to play as a unit and I don't think that has happened yet," continued Green. "I think by bringing a fresh player out of Ohio State who is used to winning, I know what he wants to do. Now those older guys have to figure out how they want to do."

Good news arrived on Sunday as first-round selection Larry Fitzgerald, a wide receiver out of Pittsburgh, agreed to terms on a contract that could set a rookie record. It is believed that Fitzgerald, the third overall selection, has agreed to a six-year deal that could escalate to as much as $60 million and includes guaranteed bonus money slightly more than the $20 million bonus that number one overall pick Eli Manning agreed to with the New York Giants.

First Preseason Game: @ Minnesota on August 14th

San Francisco – Things are getting ugly in the Bay Area. Franchise linebacker Julian Peterson and his agent are in a stalemate with 49ers management as they try to negotiate a long-term contract for the fifth-year pro.

Peterson’s agent, Karl Poston, and Niners GM Terry Donahue have traded barbs over the last two weeks and it appears there is a good chance Peterson won’t be in uniform when the team kicks off the season on September 12th.

The 49ers have offered Peterson a $37.8 million salary with a $15.5 million signing-bonus that they say would make him the second highest paid linebacker in the league behind Baltimore Ravens superstar Ray Lewis. Poston has countered that his client deserves the same kind of payday that CB Champ Bailey was awarded by Denver when he was traded to the Broncos for RB Clinton Portis. Bailey’s contract averages $9 million per year and Poston believes Peterson’s skills are equal to that of Bailey.

Even if Peterson returns before the first regular season game, he is missing valuable time learning new defensive coordinator Willy Robinson’s 3-4 defensive scheme. New terminology along with new personnel will make it difficult for Peterson to just jump right in and start.

In draft-choice news, P Andy Lee and LB Richard Seigler inked deals on July 29th and were in camp on time when the Niners took to the field on the first day of camp July 30th. First-rounder Rashaun Woods agreed to terms on Friday night and took the field with his teammates Saturday morning and head coach Dennis Erickson was happy to see his top draft choice in camp.

“In my experience in the league, you don’t see many of them (rookie wide receivers) jump off the chart, really. Anquan Boldin, last year, had a heck of a year. He was a second round pick, but you just don’t know," Dennis Erickson said. "Again, we drafted him (Woods) because we think he can have some positive impact on this football team this year. I think learning-wise, it’s hard because of formations and different things you don’t see in college all the time. Once I think you clear that then you can really see them play because they don’t have to worry about things and that takes time.”

“He’s been in an Oklahoma State system that’s very similar to a lot of the things that we do,” Erickson added. “He’s a polished route runner. He’s run all the routes; he’s caught the ball in tough situations that are very difficult. He’s a little more polished, I believe, than most of them coming out.”

First Preseason Game: vs. Oakland on August 14th


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