Bulking up the fullback

One thing an o-line fix might reveal this season is just what kind of player the Rams have in FB Brian Leonard. Without a doubt he can run and catch, and is, by most measures, the Rams #2 runner behind Steven Jackson (apologies to Travis Minor). However, his size - 6'2" 230 lbs - limits the contributions he makes as a lead blocker. After routine offseason shoulder surgery, the Rams expect him to bulk up and do more lead blocking in the coming season. With speed and technique I have no doubt that he can block okay some of the time, but the lack of a big blocking fullback bothers me a little bit, traditionalist that I am. Think about it Madison Hedgecock is 266 lbs, and a quick perusal of NFL fullbacks puts many in the 250-260 lbs range. Last year, with the line in taters, the lack of a FB hurt the Rams running game.

This season that figures to be better, hopefully, thanks to upgrades on the line. Are those upgrades enough to minimize the impact of a big FB opening giant holes for Steven Jackson? The addition of blocking TE Anthony Becht bolsters the blocking game too, and the Rams could embrace an approach more akin to the Colts, a team opting for two TE sets rather than a FB lead blocker.

At any rate, I'll be interested to see what Leonard can with the ball and without.

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The new mock draft at FL Draft Countdown has the Rams taking Michigan WR Mario Manningham with the 33rd pick. Manningham is getting some love after a big weekend at Michigan's pro day, where he ran a 4.38 40-yard-dash after having a bad week at the Combine, according to Hashmarks. His scouting report at Draft Countdown notes that he's a good route runner, but other sites seem lukewarm on his ability. At 6', I wonder if he's not a little shorter than what Linehan likes in his receivers. The Rams do need a good route runner, but I'd have to think they could have a few to choose from if they go that "route" in the second round.

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The Rams have St. Pat's Day private workout scheduled with Hampton DE Kendall Langford. Langford flashed impressive ability at the Senior Bowl and the Combine, showcasing his pass rush ability and an aggressive approach. At the moment, he's a 3rd or 4th round pick. Here's his Draft Countdown profile and NFL.com profile.

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The SeaChickens also have some interest in C Justin Hartwig. We still have a couple options at C; resign Romberg, making Incognito their center, or brining in someone else. Hartwig, barring some earth-shattering trade news, sounds like the best option, but you have to wonder about the cost/cap equation. Here's Hartwig's Scouts, Inc. profile:

Hartwig is strong, versatile and fairly athletic. He plays big and could fill in at guard. He has good initial quickness and understands body position and angles. He is smart, instinctive and efficient. He can handle the calls and adjustments on the line. He is a solid technician who can get position and wall off. He stays balanced and in control when slipping off combo blocks to get to the second level. He can short pull, then locate and hit moving targets. He can slide and mirror off short pass sets. He has strong, active hands. He plays with awareness and reacts well to zone dogs and stunts. But Hartwig is tall for a center and doesn't play with ideal leverage. He isn't very explosive and fares best using angles instead of drive blocks. He sometimes struggles to maintain pocket depth against bull rushers. He had been durable before spending most of 2006 on injured reserve (groin).

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There's a great discussion going on for the Rams second round pick. Don't forget to make your voice heard.

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