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RAMS : Dupree’s Tenacity Impresses Robinson

TIMES STAFF WRITER

John Robinson says Marcus Dupree and Cleveland Gary will split time at tailback Monday night against the San Diego Chargers, but the Ram coach continues to be amused, intrigued, and sometimes even amazed with Dupree’s performance.

Dupree carried the ball 15 times, dropped it twice in the first quarter and finished with 55 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons. And Robinson still can’t talk about it without smiling.

“He basically (messed) up the game as bad as you could in the first five minutes,” Robinson said. “I mean it was irreparable when he got finished with the first five minutes. It didn’t seem to deter him any, though. It was interesting to watch and to be around. He didn’t panic at all. He wanted me to keep giving him the ball so he could make up for it.”

Dupree had a 22-yard run nullified because of a penalty. He said it reminded him of the good old days at Oklahoma. Robinson described it as a “big-time” NFL run, though.

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“The game was almost perfect for him in terms of making him realize how far away he is from being a really solid NFL back and just how close he is to being a really outstanding NFL back,” Robinson said. “And when you think about it, that’s an accurate statement.

“He has a million little things to learn to do. Do you realize how young he is and how much he has to devote to efficiency? But the longer and longer the game went on, the lower and lower his shoulders got and the more aggressive he got. There was just that take-over sense. But he’s just not efficient yet.

“I like what he had to go through. So he comes home and says, ‘Gee, I have a lot to do.’ But I’m sure he can’t wait for next Monday.”

Obviously, Robinson also can’t wait to see what Dupree unveils in Exhibition No. 2.

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Was Atlanta’s 38-17 victory a coming-attractions trailer for a sequel to last year’s Ram horror? Maybe “Adventures in Agony II”?

First-year defensive coordinator Jeff Fisher has watched the film and he doesn’t believe so.

The debut of the Rams’ new defense was muddled by a host of turnovers and Atlanta’s quirky run-and-shoot offense, but Fisher said he saw a lot of promising performances.

“As a whole, I was pleased with the outcome,” he said. “This is basically an intelligent group and we just need to keep moving forward. There were some lapses. We had an interception nullified by an offsides penalty, but those things happen. Hopefully, you learn from that and you don’t let it happen again.”

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Robinson, too, had mostly kind comments for his defense.

“With (Atlanta’s) type of offense, it’s difficult to evaluate,” he said. “They really didn’t do much, except score when we had the ball. But their offense had almost no success.

“I don’t know, it’s difficult to tell much other than we were more mobile and handled the multiplicity pretty well. We did not make a lot of errors.”

And, for those Rams who did commit blunders and got less-than-rave reviews after the first-game screening, Fisher offered this bit of reassurance:

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“We’re not putting all the emphasis on the games because we’ve only got four games. So we’re putting a lot of emphasis on individual practices, the meeting rooms and everything else. It all adds up.”

Add Good Omens/Bad Omens: “A year ago, we played our first preseason game in Berlin and were very efficient,” Robinson said. “It was an almost perfect preseason game. And then that’s as far as our season went.”

Second-round draft pick Roman Phifer, a linebacker from UCLA, knew as soon as he walked off the Gator Bowl field Saturday that he had left plenty of room for improvement.

“It was pretty rough,” he said. “I was thinking a lot, kind of still learning the defense. The coaches stressed, ‘If you don’t know (what to do), just go full-speed and get on the ball.’ So I tried to make up for some mistakes by just by running to the ball.”

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How often was he confused about his assignment?

“Not too often,” he said, “but often enough to make it tough.”


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