Los Angeles Rams  


Spagnuolo: Young players showing positive signs ahead of OTAs


After speaking with St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo on Friday, the first-year head coach shed some pretty insightful information on how things are shaping up as the team prepares for its first organized team activity (OTA) sessions next week. Here's a sampling:

Chris Long, DE
St. Louis Rams

2008 Statistics
G/GS: 16/16
Tackles: 40
Sacks: 4.0

» No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith of Baylor will continue to work at right tackle, with Alex Barron working as the starting left tackle. I'm not sure how long things will stay that way, because most teams don't use top-five selections on lesser-valued right tackles. Still, Barron's athleticism has piqued enough interest in the coaching staff to give him a long look at left tackle.

"What's important to us is not where they start, but where they are at the end," Spagnuolo said. "The way it is, Alex is on the left and Adam (Goldberg) and Jason Smith are on the right. That could change, but it's good to have some versatility."

» Spagnuolo isn't making any predictions for defensive end Chris Long until he sees him in pads, but from what he's seen so far in the offseason, he thinks Long could be special. Keep in mind, Spagnuolo has coached Giants defensive ends Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.

"What we're really looking for is for Chris to make that jump from the first to second year that players make if they're going to be elite players," Spagnuolo said. "I don't want to put any added pressure on Chris, but from what I've seen, the way he works and his intensity in the weight room and his on-the-field conditioning, if he keeps doing that he should develop into a good defensive end."

» Running back Steven Jackson hasn't played a full season since 2006, but as of right now there are no plans to marginalize his offseason workload. In part, it's because Jackson has been pushing himself -– a sign of him stepping up as a team leader.

"He's been full bore like everybody else," Spagnuolo said of Jackson's participation in offseason workouts. "He's doing terrific. He's into what's going on. He's learning a new system, too, like any rookie or anyone else. It's important that he gets the reps."

» Rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis has shown indications that he's the real deal.

"He's one of those smart, really-into-football guys," Spagnuolo said. "If you're going to have that kind of guy anywhere, you want him at Mike (middle) linebacker. We don't have pads on, but all things considered, from what you can tell right now, we're really excited. He's got to go through a growth process, but I do think if he keeps doing what he's doing, he can be a stalwart player."



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