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Ron Bartell's Year

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Training camp starts a week from Thursday. It can't come soon enough. You can tell we're closing in on the start of the season by the steady increase in activity among the local media covering the Rams; although, Fakhir Brown's fueled most of that uptick in ink spilled at the local fishwrap.

While we're on the subject of local media, Jeff Gordon's live chat yesterday at STLToday.com had a few delectable tidbits of information for hungry Rams fans. Those Q n' A session are actually pretty insightful when people ask good questions, which happens about 20% of the time; although, you had to work hard to get past all the angry fans writing in with something to say about the tailspinning Cardinals. Since we've already mentioned Brown, let's head down that road first. Ron Bartell features prominently in the effort to replace Brown through the first four games of the season, with lots of fans thinking fondly of his size and speed. Here's Gordo on Brown's replacement:

Bartell gets the first shot because he is coachable. But he is raw -- and moving back and forth from safety to corner hasn't helped. Wade has much to learn. Walls would be just a stopgap if he moved into the role, but the Rams are glad he's here to provide depth.

Bartell adjusted to the league pretty well, and pretty quickly as he now enters his third year as a pro, after coming from a small, small school, Howard University. He played in all 16 games last season, starting in 5 of them, and showed that hard-to-define, but know-it-when-you-see-it big play ability. His 3 INTs and TD came as a sub. The switching back and forth probably won't help, as Gordo points out, but all that does speak well of Bartell's ability to adapt, and his best play came at the nickel back, which is essentially nothing more than an extra cornerback and should translate well since coverage responsibilities are similar. In Brown's place, however, he'll be seeing the league's best and brightest wide outs.

I still think Walls could really surprise everyone.

It's telling that in the two games Brown missed with injury last season, the Rams were 1-1. The first was the week five win against the Packers. The week six game was the 28-30 loss to the Seahawks that started the mid-season five game skid. Besides the field goals, that game didn't feature the season's regular rushing display as Seattle ran for just 125 yards on 28 rushing attempts. Hasselbeck threw for 268 yards and 3 TDs. Obviously, Brown was missed in the lineup, as just even the slightest disruption by the Rams secondary could have made a big difference toward a 9-7 season. (of course with games that close you can point to almost anything). Whoever takes the reps in Brown's place had better play error free and put in at least 120%. They're not likely to get another career opportunity like this.

Gordo's chat also included some positive outlook on the Bulger contract situation, noting that they're trying to get a deal worked out.

By all accounts, both sides are trying to get this thing done. Bulger has a good agent (Tom Condon) and the Rams president Jay Zygmunt is an expert at massaging the salary cap, so it takes time. But the Rams have no choice but to get this done. Bulger is a precious commodity.

Let's hope they get Carriker signed as well.

3K has a look at week two's tilt against the 49ers. I'm slightly less than impressed by Alex Smith, but I may be the only person in America with that opinion. Weigh in.