ST. LOUIS (AP) -Even before the first preseason game, St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little was convinced things would be different this year. A strong initial effort did nothing to change his view.
The Rams limited the Vikings to 215 yards and three points in a 13-10 opening exhibition victory last Friday, holding Minnesota's offense to three points. St. Louis, next to last in the NFL against the run last year, allowed 87 yards rushing.
``I think our defense is a whole lot better,'' Little said. ``It's been a while since I've been on a defense this good.''
man Adam Carriker in the first round.
Manning both nose guard and tackle, Carriker has helped solidify a line that shouldered much of the blame for last year's woes. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa's return to health after an injury-plagued 2006 also is a plus.
Little said the difference shows in the checkdowns players are able to make before the snap. Unfamiliarity with the defense prevented that most of last season.
``We're more experienced, and you can tell the difference when we're out there,'' Little said. ``We were just learning the defense last year.''
Little said it's time the defense, which allowed nine 100-yard rushing games in the first 12 weeks and 10 overall, help up its end.
``We didn't stop the run well at all last year,'' Little said. ``We've got a lot of talent on defense and we've got to go out there and show it on the field.
``We've got to prove that we can be a defense that teams will think about.''
Little had 13 sacks last year, the second-highest total of his career, and was a Pro Bowl alternate. Hall had five in seven games for the Lions, and his presence could mean less double-teaming on Little.
Last year, the Rams ended up with rookie Victor Adeyanju at the other end after giving up on Anthony Hargrove, who skipped two days of practice and was subsequently traded to Buffalo. In the offseason they also cut ties with nose tackle Jimmy Kennedy, a first-round pick in 2003 who disappointed, trading him to Denver for a draft pick.
The Rams expect more pressure up the middle, which should clear the road a bit for Little to terrorize the quarterback.
Like most of the front-line players, Little saw limited action in the exhibition opener, calling it a night after two series. He was hoping to get a little more this Saturday in the second exhibition against the Chargers.
``We didn't have enough plays that we could really critique ourselves,'' Little said. ``As the preseason goes on, we'll be able to do that because we'll be getting more plays.''
Over the years, Little said he's learned to preserve himself at this time of year.
``When you're younger, you're all gung-ho, you're going out and doing whatever,'' Little said. ``I take care of my body now, and I know what it takes to go through an entire season.''
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