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Rams' tight ends have success in preseason
ST. LOUIS -- Tight ends have been the go-to pass catchers for the St. Louis Rams this preseason.
Even the Rams' receivers can't match the numbers put up by rookie Michael Hoomanawanui, who caught two touchdown passes in a preseason victory at New England on Thursday.
Hoomanawanui (pronounced Oh-oh-mah-NAH-wah-NEW-ee), a fifth-round draft pick this year, leads the Rams with eight catches for 112 yards. He had only 10 catches for 114 yards in 2009 with Illinois.
The passes are being spread around to the other tight ends, as well.
Six-year veteran Billy Bajema has four receptions for 32 yards; Fendi Onobun, a seventh-round pick, has two catches for 41 yards; four-year veteran Daniel Fells has one catch for nine yards; and Darcy Johnson, a five-year veteran, has three catches for 15 yards.
Hoomanawanui is taking nothing for granted despite his early success.
"All I can do is come out and work hard and get my playbook and make sure I do everything I can," Hoomanawanui said Sunday after practice at Rams Park.
He certainly did everything against the Patriots.
On the Rams' first drive against New England, rookie quarterback Sam Bradford led the offense on a 72-yard touchdown drive. The No. 1 overall draft pick was 4 of 4 for 45 yards on the drive and capped it with a five-yard touchdown to Hoomanawanui.
Hoomanawanui said he could not remember the last time he caught a touchdown pass.
"In my junior year, I think," said Hoomanawanui, who added he had more than 60 text messages plus phone calls and emails after the game. "I don't even know."
Hoomanawanui got his second touchdown of the night when he hauled in a 12-yard pass from Bradford midway through the second quarter. For the game, Hoomanawanui caught four passes for 53 yards against the Patriots' first-string defense.
"Mike has had some great games for us," Bajema said. "He continues to be solid. Anytime a tight end scores some touchdowns, we all take a lot of pride in it. That was a lot of fun getting two from Mike and Fendi close to getting one.
"Fendi has great athletic ability and he's learning. We've got some promising young guys here."
His eye-popping catch was a one-handed grab on the final play of the first quarter. That 23-yard reception set up the first of four field goals by Josh Brown.
"I was running a corner route and I felt like I couldn't get my other hand on it so I just stuck the one paw out there and reeled it in," Hoomanawanui said. "It was cool. I've done it before -- not in the NFL. I tried to act like I'd been there before."
He has definitely caught the eye of Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo.
"No question. He's jumped out there, I think that's pretty obvious," Spagnuolo said. "He made a great catch with that one hand. I thought the catch and getting into the end zone for the first touchdown was a really good play, too. He made some blocks as a fullback. Mike's done some good things. He's what you see out there, and we're happy he's doing it."
Fells didn't play against the Patriots and did not practice Sunday because of a hyperextended knee.
"I don't know how much he'll practice this week," Spagnuolo said. "I'm not sure if he'll get to the Baltimore game. I think he's going to be fine, but we're kind of treading lightly there."
Bajema said the remaining tight ends just pick up the slack for the missing Fells -- a necessity with the big role the tight end plays in the Rams' offensive scheme.
"This offense seems to be tight end friendly as far as where the ball goes, so it makes it a lot of fun for all of us," Bajema said. "We're winding down camp and this is where the fun begins. Real games are just around the corner."
Spagnuolo says it's been a good competition among his tight ends.
"Mike played well the other night," Spagnuolo said. "Billy Bajema is such a steady guy. We've got to get Danny Fells back. He's been banged up. Fendi has been going through the growing pains. Darcy Johnson, you know, he's been in the league a long time. So, we've got five guys that have done some good things in our training camp."
* The Rams announced Sunday they have released cornerback Marcus Brown, guard Joe Gibbs and running back Jamie McCoy as the team approached the Tuesday roster cutdown to 75 from 80.
* Spagnuolo said wide receiver Donnie Avery, who tore a knee ligament Thursday at New England, will be placed on injured reserve. That will leave the team with one more cut before the deadline.
* The Rams end their preseason schedule Thursday with a home game against Baltimore.