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RAMS : Greene Has Stepped Out of the Spotlight and Onto Front Line

September 18, 1991|JOHN WEYLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kevin Greene will be starring in a McDonald's commercial scheduled to be released next month and it's beginning to look as if that's the only time he will be featured on television. He certainly hasn't stolen any scenes during Ram telecasts so far this season.

The advertisement is built around a can't-get-no-respect theme, which is becoming more appropriate every time Greene steps on the field. The once dominant, quarterback-terrorizing heart of the Ram defense--he had more sacks (46) than anyone in the NFL the past three years--has become just another body in the pile at the line of scrimmage.

Greene was switched from left outside linebacker to right defensive end when the Rams adopted defensive coordinator Jeff Fisher's 4-3 scheme. He made the change with a typically positive attitude and apparently is doing an excellent job of making the transition.

Greene, however, has only five solo tackles in the first three games. Last year, he ended a 39-day holdout a week before the opener and still managed 10 solo tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery in the first three games.

So maybe Ram fans shouldn't expect a lot of highlight-film fireworks from Greene this season because, according to the coaches, his unimpressive 1991 numbers are in no way indicative of the way he's playing.

Is Greene no longer an impact player?

"I think he's that right now," Coach John Robinson said. "Kevin's playing very well right now. He hasn't had the pass-rush opportunities or hasn't had the results, but as a player, if you were playing us, you would say, 'Holy . . . , is that guy playing good.' "

Of course, the Rams' schedule began with three consecutive teams that concentrate on running the ball. And ever since Fred Strickland sprained his left knee early in the game against the Giants, opponents have tended to run the ball over the right side. Brett Faryniarz moved from right outside linebacker to fill in for Strickland on the left side and rookie Roman Phifer, who weighs 230, is now on the right.

Greene, who is listed at 6 feet 3 and 247 pounds, was being leaned on by 6-7, 305-pound Jumbo Elliott all afternoon in Giants Stadium and then got to bang heads with the Saints' 6-5, 285-pound Ken Haverdink Sunday night. And that was before a blocking back came rolling his direction.

Greene seems to be holding his ground and doing his job. That's all the coaches can ask.

Ram fans, however, might be pining for the days when No. 91 scared the daylights out of quarterbacks.

Scene Stealer: Linebacker Glenell Sanders is the guy featured most often in Ram replays these days. He didn't record a tackle in mostly special-team appearances during the opener, but the Plan B signee from Chicago has come on in a flash the past two Sundays.

He was flying all over the field Sunday night in the Superdome.

"Glenell had about as good a coverage night as a guy could possibly have," Robinson said. "He had a fabulous game as a special-teams player."

Just ask the Saints' kick returners.

Sanders was credited with four solo tackles and an assist against New Orleans, but according to the play-by-play, he should have had six solo and one assist.

The Sanders' Sunday Night Prime Time Hit List:

--He stops running back Dalton Hilliard for a one-yard loss on the Saints' fourth play of the game.

--Later in the first quarter, he tackles punt returner Vince Buck two yards behind where he caught the punt.

--Punt returner Bobby Morse has marginally more success in the second quarter, picking up two yards before Sanders slams him to the turf.

--On fourth and one, Sanders and Larry Kelm hit Craig Heyward at the line of scrimmage, but the 290-pound running back bulled forward for the first down.

--Buck manages an 11-yard punt return before meeting up with Sanders.

--Heyward goes head-to-head with Sanders and is stopped for no gain.

--With 1:16 left to play, Gill Fennerty rambles for 21 yards before Sanders drags him down.

Dazed and Confused: After completing only six of 17 passes for 71 yards against New Orleans, quarterback Jim Everett has been the focal point of possible explanations for the Rams' problems. But Robinson said tapes of the Saints' game show a lack of consistency by nearly everyone on the offense.

"Clearly, we had a dismal offensive performance and as we all walked off that field, I think we were very perplexed by it," Robinson said. "It seemed we were overwhelmed in every area. We ran up against a good defensive team and probably made them look even better than they are.

"But as you watch the film, it seems like one or two people were breaking down on just about every play. Offense has a way of looking really pathetic when the whole team doesn't function properly."

Home, Soft Home: After playing two consecutive games on synthetic surfaces, the Rams play the next seven on grass. Four are at Anaheim Stadium. The three road games are at San Francisco, in the Coliseum against the Raiders and at Atlanta.

That's just fine with Robinson, who has seen five starters go down with injuries in the past two games.

"I can't make a scientific statement (about the dangers of (artificial turf), but I sure have feelings about that," he said. "You look at Jim Everett's arms and he has scabs from here to here."

The Rams' next appearance on a synthetic surface won't be until Nov. 17 against Detroit in the Silverdome.

Where's the Rush? The Philadelphia Eagles' defensive line recorded 11 sacks Sunday against Dallas. How many did Ram defensive linemen total in 16 regular-season games last year?

Eleven.

They have two so far this year, a pace that should net them . . . you guessed it, 11.

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