Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ricky Manning Jr., Brannon Condren, Gary Stills

Info on the Rams' newest or impending members:

On the field, Ricky Manning Jr. has 14 career INTs in 5 seasons. In the '03 postseason he established himself as a big-time defensive playmaker. He ripped a ball away from Torry Holt in Carolina's playoff in at St. Louis and he picked off Donovan McNabb three times to help send the Panthers to Super owl XXXVIII. The Bears signed him to a $21 million offer sheet in 2006. While Carolina deliberated on hether to match, Manning, Maurice Jones-Drew and former UCLA player Tyler Ebell were arrested in L.A. for a brutal assault at a Denny's. It was Manning's second assault arrest; he got in a fight with two bodybuilders outside an L.A. bar in 2002. Though he steadfastly claims that Jones-Drew and Ebell did all the beating, Manning pled no contest to felony assault while charges were dismissed and dropped for the other two. Manning says he pled out to avoid the unpredictability of a trial, even though he believes videotape of the incident would exonerate him. Manning had a career high 5 INTs in 2006, but none last season, and he tumbled down Chicago's depth chart as a result, until they finally cut him last week.

Manning is probably veteran insurance against the high likelihood of Fakhir Brown and/or Tye Hill missing games due to injuries. Brown's injured right now, and the brittle Hill is probably due to pull, tear or snap something any day now. Manning's an upgrade over Jonathan Wade, Darius Vinnett(PS) or David Macklin (cut). But that's about it. I would be disappointed if Jim Haslett puts Manning on the field ahead of Ron Bartell. He looks like a good pickup for depth. As far as his knucklehead quotient, I wish I could say something better than "he's not Pac-Man Jones". There may be enough doubt around the Denny's incident to cut him an even break, I don't know. He gets so much as a parking ticket around here, I want him out.

Condren was drafted out of Troy by the Colts last year. Injuries kept him out of the Colts' safety rotation until the second half of last season, when he also played special teams. He's a very good athlete and a good tackler. He picked off a couple of ricochets for the Colts a couple of preseason games ago at Atlanta. Richard Owens was released to make roster room for him, but the most appropriate comparison would be to Classy Eric Bassey. Condren's advantage appears to be that he gives the Rams a backup strong safety behind Corey Chavous; with Bassey on the active roster instead, they'd have three free safeties and one strong.

Gary Stills' signing is still pending as I write. He is a career special teamer who represented the Chiefs in the Pro Bowl in 2003 as special teams specialist. Joining the Ravens in 2006, he set a team record for special teams tackles with 44, matching his career high from 2002. He followed that with only 15 tackles last season, though, and the 34-year-old was released by Baltimore in favor of younger special teams bangers like Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski.

This is pretty much a trend with the Rams: sign a special-teamer who played well for Kansas City but is likely past his prime. (See: Hall, Dante.) Then again, who on the Rams' coverage units now actually is any good? Maybe Todd Johnson? Chris Massey? My biggest hope for Stills is that if he's good enough at special teams, he'll become the coach.

No comments: