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Rams need to keep Atogwe, one of most underrated NFL players; mail

The St. Louis Rams need to do whatever it takes to keep O.J. Atogwe. Normally I would couch that initial statement with the phrase "within reason" but to me the Rams lost that right when they elected not to tender the playmaking free safety June 1 at 110 percent of his franchise player salary from a year ago. They had their chance to make sure they maintained his rights and they passed.

The Dallas Cowboys, with a need at safety, should make a strong push for Atogwe themselves. He is a clear upgrade and potential difference maker for a team that is desperate to play the Super Bowl in its home stadium. But it isn't just Dallas that should make a run at Atogwe. The Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and others need to take a long look at him as well.

A common belief among league followers is that all of the attention being given to Atogwe right now is simply a matter of timing because there really isn't anything else of significance currently going on in the NFL. Though I'll agree that part of the attention is a matter of circumstance, he has toiled in relative obscurity for a horrendous Rams team and that more than offsets his unique early June free agency situation.

How well-known and highly regarded would Atogwe be nationally if he played for the New York Giants or the New England Patriots? We're talking about a guy that has pretty much been a turnover machine over the past four years. Just ponder his numbers for a minute.

Atogwe burst onto the scene his second year in the NFL in 2006 with three INTs, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. That's 11 potential game-changing plays in the NFL, where turnovers often can be and are the difference. In 2007 he wasn't able to force any fumbles. No matter, he more than made up for it by leading the NFC with eight INTs while also scoring a touchdown.

But 2008 was the real gem. Atogwe had five INTs, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries including another touchdown. That's 15 turnovers in which he was involved in that year, and the main reason why the Rams elected to franchise him after that season.

Last year was solid but not as spectacular as Atogwe had two INTs, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries before getting hurt in Week 12 and being shelved for the rest of the season. He still is the Rams best defensive player. Yes, Chris Long began to emerge down the stretch and James Laurinaitis was a surprise tackling machine as a rookie. Neither player makes close to the amount of potential difference-making plays Atogwe does. Not by a long shot. That's why the Rams need to sign him if they are serious about winning and improving on last year's 1-15 record.

Mail time...

I always enjoy your columns and your last one in which you interviewed Greg Cosell was one of your best. I miss Cossel's columns from a few years back. Any chance of interviewing Cosell on a regular basis? And which defense did you find harder to prepare for and block -- the 3-4 or the 4-3?--Mike, Pearl City, Ill.

Greg's stuff is outstanding and many of you emailed to tell me that. That is why I try to talk with him fairly frequently, and also why his NFL Match-up show is so awesome. As for your question, the 3-4 offers more possibilities and options for the defense because of the extra defender who had the ability to stand up and move, thus making it harder for the offense to prepare.

I am a regular reader of your columns and enjoy your insight as a former player. Is it possible to order the NFL coaches' film directly from the NFL? Since the off-season feels eternal, I would like to check out a lot of the Chargers' film from last year, especially the playoff loss to the Jets.--Roberto, Tijuana, Mexico

No, it isn't. I ask every year, and every year I am told it is a Competition Committee issue. I think the NFL is missing out on a source of revenue because I know I would buy them.

As a soccer fan, I'm always a little amused with how North American sports handle a draw (or as you would say a tie). It is clear in a sport where possession is exchanged as in NFL that the overtime format has serious flaws and in general I would say that what has been proposed for the playoffs is the right way forward. But all of this debate about the regular season seriously misses the point; that is when faced with a problem you address the cause not the symptoms. The cause in this case is the need for someone to win, a curiously American obsession. The solution is to just call a tie a tie and move on to the next match. Embrace this idea and you too can learn to enjoy all the added benefits this joyous result can bring. Enjoy your summer and I'll keep reading your column when I'm not watching the World Cup.--Mark Keast, Edinburgh, Scotland

Embrace and enjoy the idea of games ending in ties? No thanks. If that is a curiously American obsession than I am proud to be an American because a tie leaves an awkward taste in everyone's mouth. As for soccer, I grew up playing it as a youngster and have really tried to appreciate the game itself the past two World Cups, but I just can't. The coolest thing about it to me is the passion of the fans and players, not the action on the field. I defy someone to tell me that game is more entertaining than American football.

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