Rams hope youth can fix run defense

St. Louis is expected to depend on Adam Carriker and Claude Wroten this season.
Monday, August 13, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:43 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008
Rams rookie Adam Carriker tackles the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson in Friday’s preseason game.

ST. LOUIS — Even before he ever played a down, the St. Louis Rams named first-round pick Adam Carriker a starter at one of the defensive tackle spots.

That move speaks volumes about how desperate the Rams are to improve a run defense that allowed 4.9 yards per carry a season ago.

In addition to plugging Carriker into the starting lineup, it also appears more and more that the Rams are going to give another youngster a chance to show what he can do.

Second-year pro Claude Wroten, a third-round pick out of Louisiana State University in 2006, expects to contribute a lot more this year. However, despite words of encouragement from defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, he admits he still needs to improve.

“Coach (Jim) Haslett has said that I have stepped up and gotten better in a lot of situations,” Wroten said. “I feel I’m an above-average pass rusher. But as far as reading my run keys and taking the proper steps and things like that, I can do better.”

As a rookie, Wroten played in 15 games last year for the Rams and recorded 11 tackles with one sack.

Many scouts had projected Wroten to be a first-round pick, like Carriker. But Wroten’s stock fell when in January of 2006, Wroten was stopped for speeding.

Police found drugs in the car, and Wroten was arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Wroten then fell to the Rams, who selected him with one of their two picks in the third round.

Last month, Wroten had more off-field issues when he was arrested on one count of simple criminal damage as a result of a dispute with his former girlfriend.

There is no word on whether Wroten will face any disciplinary action from the league for this latest incident.

Carriker is known for using his hands well to fend off or occupy blockers. Wroten said his hands are fine; his issues are with his lower extremities.

“Really, for me it’s not my hands but my feet,” he said. “My first step on the run phase, I need to improve on that and I’ll be all right.”

Despite heat indexes in the triple digits, the Rams held a two-hour practice outdoors Sunday in the heat of the day. The practice was closed to spectators, but head coach Scott Linehan said it was important for his players to get outside.

“They knew it was going to be hard and hot, but they knew it was going to be good for our conditioning,” Linehan said. “We talked about that as a team and knew it would be good to come outside.”

The Rams will have to get used to the heat, as St. Louis faces road games at Dallas and Tampa Bay in September.

“It’s tough, but you got to do it,” Wroten said.

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