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Jackson shows bruising running style

MACOMB, Ill. -- Five observations on the St. Louis Rams from training camp practices on July 29.

1. Steven Jackson could be an interesting fit in the Rams offense, which plans to use a little more running this season. His style -- and this isn't because of his dreadlocks -- is similar to Ricky Williams. He's a powerful between the tackles runner, who would rather run through a tackler than avoid him. It's interesting to note backup Lamar Gordon looks a little quicker to the hole. But Jackson looks like he can be that 20-to-25 carry a game back. It will interesting to see how Mike Martz integrates him into the offense.

2. The offensive line looks stouter because of two adjustments created by the hip injury to Dave Wohlabaugh. Andy McCollum has moved back from guard to center while Wohlabaugh is sidelined. Being promoted to left guard is Andy King, a 310-pound practice squader who could play at around 320. Defenses with big defensive tackles caused some problems for the left to interior of the line last season and if King impresses, Wohlabaugh might be in a dogfight to keep his starting job. The right side of the line improved last year by putting Kyle Turley next to dependable Adam Timmerman.


3. Third-round choice Tony Hargrove might be the long-term sleeper at defensive end in the efforts to replace Grant Wistrom, who got $14 million to sign with Seattle. The 6-3, 269-pound end from Georgia Tech has a strong inside move and the type of bull rush power that could give tackles troubles. He's working with line coach Bill Kollar, who is one of the best. It might be too much for Hargove to jump to the front of the line for playing time this year because he's raw, but watch him. For now, the Rams are going to run numbers at offensive tackles from the right end spot, giving Bryce Fisher, Sean Moran, Erik Flowers and Tyoka Jackson the chance to compete for playing time on the other side of Leonard Little.


4. The big guys are back at defensive tackle. Now that former defensive coordinator Lovie Smith moved on to the Bears as head coach, the mandate to force defensive linemen to lose weight is gone. Jimmy Kennedy, who had a miserable rookie season mostly on the inactive list, looks better. He was ordered to get down to around 310 last year, but his natural weight is anywhere from 325 to 335. Ryan Pickett is in the 320s. Damione Lewis a still a little under 300, but he's the movement tackle in the group. Pickett and Kennedy will rotate at the tackle spot, but both players seem to be shooting the gaps with more speed now that they are allowed to play at weights that feel more natural.

5. The strength of this defense may be in the linebacking core. Tommy Polley, Robert Thomas and Pisa Tinoisamoa can all run. As their health goes, so goes the hopes of this defense. New defensive coordinator Larry Marmie is going to incorporate more combination zone coverages and a few more man-to-man pressure schemes into the defense. What isn't going to change is the range and playmaking ability of the linebackers, who have the speed to cover deeper zones and the range to rush the quarterback.

Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com.