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RAMS : Defense Patched, So Robinson Eyes Offense

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Rams have been spending most of their time recently trying to patch together a defensive unit, but with the return of three defensive holdouts over the weekend and the addition of cornerback Mickey Sutton Tuesday, Coach John Robinson has had a chance to focus his concern on the offense.

Conditioning will likely be a factor for former holdouts Kevin Greene, Doug Reed and Michael Stewart, but rushing the passer, plugging up holes on the run and knowing your spot in a zone defense don’t require the precise timing that is involved in the Rams’ intricate passing game.

So now, Robinson has new things to worry about going into Sunday’s season opener against the Packers in Green Bay.

Both starting receivers--Henry Ellard and Flipper Anderson--are coming off hamstring injuries that have severely limited their practice time. Ellard has caught one pass in exhibition play and Anderson didn’t get a reception in an exhibition game.

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“I’m worried about getting started offensively,” Robinson said. “The talent is coming back, but we’ve been off the practice field for some time now, and I think the timing could be a problem. We’re just going to have to be precise and efficient offensively to get off to a good start in the season.

“We can’t screw the game up and win with the skill level that I think this team has, because that skill level has been eroded by injury circumstances and the loss of time. I’m worried about those residual negative things that will heal themselves in time. I feel good about the football team, but it would be great if we had one more week before we opened. I feel that kind of pressure.”

Quarterback Jim Everett will be the one feeling the pressure shortly after the opening kickoff Sunday. But Everett, who’s so positive he sometimes makes Mr. Rogers seem like a pessimist, is doing his best to downplay the problem.

“I think it will be a minimal thing,” he said. “It’s not like these guys are walking in off the street or something. We’ve had some experience working together.

“I suppose it could have some effect, but it shouldn’t take more than the first quarter or so. . . . only kidding. This week of practice should be enough.”

The Rams picked up linebacker Greg Clark off waivers from Green Bay Wednesday. Clark, who went to Green Bay as a Plan B player from Miami, will play primarily on special teams.

But Robinson, who has seen his share of films of the Packers’ exhibition games this week, said Clark, a third-year player from Arizona State, is “a pretty good inside linebacker, too.”

The Rams’ plans to take some pressure off Greene by moving Bill Hawkins to weakside tackle, where he would also be a designated pass rusher, have been put on hold. Hawkins has been slow to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery he underwent in December and is “still playing on a leg and a half,” according to Robinson.

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“One of the most disappointing things about training camp to me is that both Bill Hawkins and (defensive tackle) Mike Piel have been so slow coming back from injuries of last year,” Robinson said. “It might be a little bit psychological at this point.”

Piel is still favoring his left elbow, which was dislocated twice last season.

Derrick Faison, the rookie free agent receiver with the nickname “Big Bird,” continues to be one of Robinson’s favorite topics of discussion.

“He’s definitely been the most entertaining player in training camp,” Robinson said. “He’s ready to play, but he’s not sure what all those numbers mean. I mean he’s a bright person, he’s just still learning the game and learning the nuances. He gets excited and doesn’t run the patterns precisely the way we want him to.

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“He certainly has the ability to jump and catch the ball, though. We threw a pass to him (against Washington) and (cornerback Darrell) Green was covering him and Green was about knee high to Big Bird when he went up for that one.

“He can really get up in the air. Over a period of time, he’s going to be an impressive player in this league, I think.”

Ram Notes

All-Pro wide receiver Henry Ellard agreed to a three-year contract extension Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. . . . Cornerback Mickey Sutton, picked up on waivers from the Buffalo Bills, will start at left corner against Green Bay. The Rams considered moving safety Anthony Newman to corner, but decided it was best to have as few players as possible playing out of position.

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