ST. LOUIS (AP) -There's seems to be a lot of Mike Martz in Scott Linehan.
Throughout the offseason, the St. Louis Rams' second-year coach has been hearing that for his team to become a contender the defense must be upgraded. Linehan has his own agenda, and one much like his predecessor.
Thus far in free agency, the Rams' biggest expenditures have been for the passing game, with wide receiver Drew Bennett and tight end Randy McMichael joining high-paid stars Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce in the lineup. Despite their holes on the defensive line, Linehan, at least publicly, says he just might keep fortifying the offense with the 13th overall pick of the draft.
Before the Rams acquired kick returner Dante Hall from the Chiefs for a fifth-round pick on Tuesday, Linehan expressed interest in taking Ohio State return man Ted Ginn Jr.
``I promise you if a player like Ted Ginn or any other player creates field position or changes the scoreboard, our run defense is going to get a lot better because that team we're playing is going to be throwing,'' Linehan said. ``I don't want to be cynical about it, but I just really feel the accumulation of talent making your team incrementally better, regardless of what side of the ball you're on, is going to make us a much better team.''
Case in point: Indianapolis won the Super Bowl without a dominant defense because the Colts score enough to dictate terms. Rams special teams coach Al Roberts noted that Tony Dungy was just ``playing the hand he was dealt.''
``It's hard to get the players they've got,'' Linehan said. ``The hand we're dealt here is we've got two veteran receivers who are arguably the two highest-paid guys in the league, but it's justified.''
The Rams went to two Super Bowls in a three-year span from 2000-02 with Martz running a high-powered offense. In recent years they've tried to balance out things without much success. Far removed from the glory years, St. Louis has had only one winning season in the last five.
St. Louis has emphasized defense in recent drafts, taking cornerback Tye Hill in the first round last year. Steven Jackson, the No. 1 pick in 2004, is the Rams' first Pro Bowl draftee since Holt was taken in 1999.
It might be a smoke screen, but Linehan said the Rams will take the ubiquitious best player available in the first round. That would be an easier sell if the Rams are able to trade a high pick for Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, who is on the block.
Mock drafts tend to assume the Rams will draft for need, with Nebraska end Adam Carriker, Louisville tackle Amobi Okoye and Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch among those mentioned as possibilities.
The Rams already have addressed their pass rush, acquiring defensive end James Hall from the Lions.
``We want to get an impact player, regardless of position, and address needs as we go,'' Linehan said.
Generally, the Rams have had spotty success on draft day since moving to St. Louis in 1995. Linehan is proud of his first effort, which produced at least a half-dozen players who figure to make next season's roster. Along with Hill, Linehan considers tight ends Joe Klopfenstein (second round), defensive end Victor Adeyanju (fourth), defensive tackle Claude Wroten (third) and offensive guard Mark Setterstrom (seventh) as keepers.
He believes linebackers Jon Alston (third) and Tim McGarigle (seventh), tight end Dominique Byrd (third) and wide receiver/return man Marques Hagans (fifth), also from the '06 draft class, have a chance to make a mark this season.
Linehan, who had no head coaching experience at any level before his rookie season with the Rams, made the final call on draft day last year and will again have that responsibility. He gives the team an ``excellent'' grade for his first draft.
``I think we were right on in our evaluations, which makes you feel good about the process,'' he said. ``There was no 'What are we doing there, that was a reach.'''
As his second draft approaches, Linehan said he's reached a comfort level with the process.
``I feel so good about where we're at as a team, staff and organization based on how we're addressing it,'' Linehan said. ``I don't want to say it's a lot more fun, but it is a lot more fun.''

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