Rams place priority on proctecting Bulger

Monday, May 4, 2009 ~ Updated 11:57 PM
Rams quarterback Marc Bulger throws Friday during the team's three-day minicamp in St. Louis. (JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press)

Improvements to the offensive line has Bulger feeling optimistic.

ST. LOUIS -- It's early May, so Marc Bulger can afford to be optimistic about the St. Louis Rams' changes. Not too optimistic.

The Rams have made several upgrades on offense, signing big-ticket free agent center Jason Brown and drafting tackle Jason Smith with the second pick. They've added a fullback and a blocking tight end to protect their highest-paid player.

It all sounds good, although Bulger noted he's been upbeat this time of the year before.

"The culture around here has changed, and it's great," Bulger said Sunday after a three-day minicamp. "We can talk all we want in the spring and during camp and during preseason about how good we're going to be and how the changes are great.

Rams rookie tackle Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, takes part in drills during minicamp.

"But until we start winning games, we have no room to talk."

The 32-year-old took a beating while the Rams were going 5-27 the last two years. The quarterbacks absorbed 45 sacks last year, and he had more interceptions (28) than touchdown passes (22) in 2007-08.

The Rams also made improvements at quarterback, signing former Rams starter Kyle Boller to a one-year deal as the backup and drafting prolific Division II star Keith Null from West Texas A&M in the sixth round.

But Bulger, at least for now, is the guy.

"I really think the world of Marc," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I still think he's one of those guys that gets the ball out quick. He can put some pressure on the defense."

Especially with more time to throw.

The upgrades do not include wide receiver, where the Rams have shed veterans Torry Holt, Drew Bennett, Dante Hall and Dane Looker. Laurent Robinson, a low-key acquisition from the Falcons, caught only six passes last year, and St. Louis didn't pick a wide receiver until the fifth round of the draft.

The Rams' new West Coast offense is likely to lean on running back Steven Jackson and tight end Randy McMichael, limited to four games due to injury last year, along with second-year players Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton. All but one of the nine wide receivers at the minicamp were 24 or younger.

"A lot of these kids, I don't know some of their names other than their numbers right now," Bulger said. "But we've got some speed. We have some sleepers in there that I think are going to surprise you guys."

First, everyone has to learn the new system. Bulger included. He said players appeared more comfortable the second minicamp under Spagnuolo, and was assured by new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur that a lot of the offense has been introduced.

"It's comforting to know it's within reach," Bulger said. "Obviously, we've got to learn all the nuances, but we can actually say all the plays and not stutter."

There's plenty of time to iron out other kinks, like the center snap exchange with Brown.

"It's just a feel thing, literally," Bulger said with a chuckle. "Sometimes you don't get it exactly how you want it. I don't think we're going to have too many bumps in the road."


* Spagnuolo wasn't happy with the initial workout Friday, but said players responded to his challenge the rest of the weekend.

* The coach said rookies struggled most on defense, noting "guys were swimming" during red zone drills.

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