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A "Special" Emphasis for Rams This Week

Posted Sep 30, 2010

While Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo acknowledged Monday that he slept a little better following the Rams’ win against the Redskins last week, his special teams coordinator wasn’t quite so fortunate.

That’s because Tom McMahon got right to work on scouting the Seahawks and what he saw when Leon Washington returned kicks and Golden Tate brought back punts, was enough to cause insomnia for anyone in his position.

“There’s no question (you lose sleep),” McMahon said. “People that say that it doesn’t (aren’t telling the truth). (Leon)’s a tremendous player. Golden is a tremendous player. In their schemes, they do a great job. And the big thing you have got to remember are the guys blocking for him, they believe in him. So that’s the thing when you start having success. So yeah, you stay up at night and you have to scheme him. That’s part of coaching. At the end of the day, we have got to shed blocks and make tackles.”

Indeed, perhaps no matchup of units in Sunday’s game against the Seahawks will have more bearing on the outcome than the Rams’ coverage units versus the Seahawks’ dynamic return duo.

Through three games, Washington leads the NFL in kickoff return average with 63.3 yards per attempt on four tries. In last week’s win against San Diego, Washington provided almost all of the scoring punch as he returned two kicks for scores, including the game winner late after the Chargers surged back into the game.

With Washington coming to town, the Rams have spent extra time in practice this week focusing their efforts on finding ways to at least slow down or contain the dangerous scat back.

“He’s pretty scary,” Spagnuolo said. “He leads the league in kickoff returns so Tom and Derius are focused on it. I think we have worked on it both days out here which is what you have got to do when you face a team like that. They are good on special teams all across the board. We are aware of it and hopefully we can do something about it.”

Perhaps overshadowed by his scintillating teammate is Tate, the electric rookie out of Notre Dame who handles the punt returns.

But the Rams are plenty aware of Tate’s early season exploits as he has surged to the league lead in punt return average at 25.2 per attempt on five tries with a long of 63 yards.

Tate is the only punt returner in the top three not to have one of his returns go for a touchdown, meaning he’s been pretty consistent on each of his attempts.

“They are both former running backs,” McMahon said. “I know Washington is still a running back but you look at Tate and he played running back in high school. You see those skills in the return game because they can break tackles…you have to get in there and get them on the ground. You can’t just one arm these guys. That’s what they are doing. They are making people miss tackles and then those turn into another 10 yards and they make another guy miss and it just compounds itself.”

So the talent of Washington and Tate is undeniable, but that begs the question of what the Rams can do to slow them down?

The simple answer is for punter Donnie Jones to kick at great angles with great hang time to take away Tate and for kicker Josh Brown to boom the ball out of the back of the end zone so Washington never gets a chance.

It’s not terribly realistic to assert that can happen on every play but McMahon does acknowledge that Brown will need to have a productive day against his former team.

“We need touchbacks,” McMahon said. “We need those big kicks. He wants that. But within your scheme, you have to do things that not only help him but help your coverage unit, too. You’re not always going to get the touchbacks. You can’t put it all on him but yeah he needs to have a big week.”

Making matters more difficult for the Rams are injuries to some of their top special teams players such as receiver Dominique Curry and linebacker Chris Chamberlain.

They added running back Chauncey Washington earlier in the week in hopes that he’ll be able to step in and contribute right away on coverage units.

McMahon says his group’s focus has to be on what they do have and not what has been lost. 

“The biggest thing is you can’t look at what’s not in the kitchen anymore,” McMahon said. “You have got to look at what’s there. And what we have here, we are going to go down and cover. I think the guys will play well and play their tails off.”

RAMS ASK FOR EXTENSION: With some late corporate help, the Rams have inched close enough to sellout status for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks to ask the NFL for an extension.

Tickets for the game are still available here at stlouisrams.com or by calling 314-RAMS-TIX.

If the Rams are able to meet the sellout requirements by Friday, the game will be televised locally on KTVI-Fox 2 at noon on Sunday.

INJURY REPORT: Spagnuolo didn’t have much to report in the way of injuries Thursday as everybody that sat out Wednesday’s practice stayed pretty much status quo.

Running back Steven Jackson did not practice again because of his groin injury.

“He was still a little bit sore so it’s day to day,” Spagnuolo said. “We’ll wait and see what happens.”

Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe also sat out again as he battles a thigh injury.

Because of the number of injuries the team has across the board, Spagnuolo said the Rams don’t have any hard and fast plan for saying a player must take X amount of reps or participate in a certain amount of practices to be able to play on Sundays.

“There’s never been a steadfast rule, I don’t know where that came from,” Spagnuolo said. “You want your guys to practice but you just take each position a little differently. We will assess it. Right now we have a lot of guys that are injured so we are kind of in a different situation. We have got to be smart and get the best people out there.”

Receiver Laurent Robinson (foot) and safety Darian Stewart (hamstring) were held out of practice again and will be monitored in similar fashion to Jackson and Atogwe leading into Sunday’s game.

Defensive tackle Clifton Ryan’s migraines remain an issue and there was nothing new to report on that front.

Safety Craig Dahl continues to make progress from his concussion issues and appears primed to return to the lineup this week.

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