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RAMS : Fisher’s Defenders Have Also Been Hitting the Books

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Rams have been learning defensive coordinator Jeff Fisher’s go-get-'em scheme on the fly and so far, they’ve passed all their tests.

Sunday, Ram defense held the defending Super Bowl champion Giants’ vaunted running game to 116 yards and quarterback Jeff Hostetler to 74 yards passing through three quarters. He added 113 against the Rams’ prevent defense in the fourth quarter.

In the opener against Phoenix, the Cardinals managed only 193 net yards--69 rushing and 124 passing--and only 13 first downs.

“Along with San Francisco, we’re playing the best defense in football,” Coach John Robinson said.

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The Rams’ defense ranks fourth in the NFL and much of the credit for that goes to the defenders, who have been hitting the books as hard as their opponents.

“Our defensive coaches are surprised at how hard the players have been working at learning,” Robinson said. “The preparation part of the defense seems to have caught on. I think (the players) believe that they better know what the hell they’re doing.”

Cornerback Darryl Henley was in the right place at the right time most of the time Sunday and had an interception to show for it, but he didn’t have much time to talk about it. He had to go study.

“It’s been a tremendous learning process and it’s still going on all the time,” he said. “I mean, I take my book everywhere. We sit at our lockers and study all the way up until game time.

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“When we broke mini-camp, Jeff and those guys gave us a playbook that was like 700 pages. Not just to read, but to fill out. I wondered what the hell was going on. I thought I was done with homework.

“You’ve got to take the responsibility to get it done, but I’m still wondering if we can get credit for all this toward an MBA or something.”

Where Credit’s Due: Fisher had to prepare to play New York twice a year while defensive coordinator at Philadelphia, and the Giants don’t even own a bag of tricks. But knowing what the Giants will do and stopping it are worlds apart.

“I think when you’re used to playing a team twice a year and spend time on them in the off-season, you get to know a lot about them,” Fisher said. “But whether you’re successful depends on your ability to transfer that knowledge to the players.

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“We have a lot of intelligent players and they worked very hard to make the defense work.”

He Knows Best: John Madden said on television Sunday that he took immediate notice of defensive end Robert Young, the Rams’ fifth-round pick this year from Mississippi State, when he visited training camp at UC Irvine this summer.

Many Ram fans, however, had probably never heard of the 6-foot-6, 273-pound rookie before.

They might be hearing much more about him soon. With Alvin Wright sidelined by a sore shoulder, Young will start at defensive tackle on Sunday in New Orleans.

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“The thing that excites us as much as anything is the play of Robert Young,” Robinson said. “There’s no question that Robert is young. But he played aggressively, was very active, caused a fumble, pressured the passer several times, and made a big play on kickoff coverage. He ran down and tackled a guy on the 15.

“So he’s really having an impact for us.”

High Hopes: “On the plane home, I was just trying to kill time,” Robinson said, “and I put down about 27 positions that I call starters, the 22 obvious ones, punter, kicker, third wide receiver and some of the nickel people. You’re looking at 15 or 16 who were not starters last year for us. So the team’s undergoing major changes.

“Change and uncertainity, and hopefully progress and not regression, will be the story about this team. This team likes to play. There’s a spirit about the way we’re playing that’s positive. If we keep the progress going, we’ll develop into a good team.

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“And we are going to build this team into a very good team. Nothing will deter us. I don’t have a time frame, but it’s going to happen.”

Ragin’ Cajun: Linebacker Glenell Sanders, a two-time All-American at Louisiana Tech and a native of Clinton, La., should provide the home-state folks with some highlights Sunday night in the Superdome.

He’s what football people call “active.”

Sunday against the Giants, he made five tackles and also received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he protested too vociferously about where the officials spotted the ball after Ottis Anderson made a first down on a short-yardage play in the second quarter.

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“There are some things he does that we think we can build on,” Robinson said. “He’s an attacker. He’s aggressive. He plays with great enthusiasm.

“He’s out of control sometimes, physically out of control. He overextends his body at times and misses (tackles), but he’s the right kind of guy.”


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