- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Alec Ogletree ended fellow linebacker James Laurinaitis’ four-year run as the St. Louis Rams’ leading tackler in his rookie season.

As with the rest of the defense, there’s no resting on that accomplishment.

Everybody is getting pushed and prodded to do more by new coordinator Gregg Williams. No doubt, many of them are hearing that distinctive barking from the sideline in their sleep.

“A guy like him, he’s basically the leader of our defense - the vocal leader anyway,” Ogletree said. “He comes in and demands respect, and everybody respects him.

“You want to play for a guy like that.”

The preseason opener against New Orleans could mean more than a typical exhibition for Williams, who served a one-year suspension for his involvement in the Saints’ bounty scandal.

Saints coach Sean Payton has downplayed the angle and repeatedly assessed it as “not a big topic.”

“It is not even a big deal at all,” Payton said. “What’s important is just getting our guys ready to know what they’re doing, putting their best foot forward and playing well.”

Though Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the game plan will be basic, it’s highly unlikely Payton will subject quarterback Drew Brees to Williams’ aggressive tactics - even in the preseason.

Brees is nursing a left oblique injury and has been limited to light throwing on the side since last Friday.

Plus, his wife is due to give birth to a daughter in the middle of the month.

Tight end Jimmy Graham said blitz pickup has been an emphasis this week with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who nearly took a position with the Rams a few years ago. Graham remembers playing the 49ers in the preseason opener in 2011, Williams’ final season with New Orleans and “it was like zero blitz like four times out of nine.”

The Saints had six sacks, two on starter Alex Smith and four on Colin Kaepernick, and 10 quarterback hits in that game. One sack was by a blitzing safety and two more came from linebackers.

“So, it’s going to be great work for the quarterback, for the O-line, for the tight ends, I mean, for everybody across the board,” Graham said. “That’s who he is and he brings it, so you know we’re going to have to be ready for that.”

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford will be held out, too, though several times he’s pronounced himself all the way back from knee surgery that sidelined him the final nine games last season.

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