Commentary

Observation deck: Jackson should be special

With Marshall Faulk retied, the spolight is on Steven Jackson who could be poised for a monster season, writes John Clayton.

Originally Published: August 3, 2007
By John Clayton | ESPN.com
ST. LOUIS -- Five observations from St. Louis Rams training camp, gleaned from the team's practices:

1. Carriker coming on strong
I can't remember the last time a college end moved to nose tackle, but first-round choice Adam Carriker looks like a beast in the middle of the Rams' defense. His development could be the key to the season. Carriker has added 20 pounds since the draft; he now weighs 310 pounds. He worked with former Raiders' star Howie Long on drills to learn how to use his hands better and the impact is certainly noticeable. In some drills, Carriker was throwing veteran interior linemen around. The thought is Carriker can anchor the line and improve the team's ability to stop the run, which has been a major weakness for the Rams in recent years.

2. Secondary concerns
The four-game suspension of cornerback Fakhir Brown will hurt the Rams a great deal. Although he's an unknown commodity around the league, Brown has the best coverage skills on the team. His experience and speed enable him to cover particularly well in the first 12 yards of a receiver's route. Brown is appealing the suspension, which stems from a drug screening he says he missed because he was confused about its location. Under league rules, a missed test is the same as a positive test, so the odds of Brown winning his appeal aren't very good. Tye Hill looks much more comfortable as the starter opposite Brown. A first-round pick in 2006, Hill is very good in man coverage. Ron Bartell will start in Brown's absence. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett uses a little more man coverage than most teams, so Brown's return is critical.

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John Clayton

NFL senior writer