– On Saturday morning in St. Louis, Rams QB Sam Bradford donated his time to an extremely important cause near and dear to him when he served as honorary chair of the 14th Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure downtown.
– On Saturday afternoon, the University of Oklahoma, Bradford’s alma mater, announced that Bradford made a large donation of a different kind. Bradford donated $500,000 to the school that propelled him to becoming the No. 1 overall pick by the Rams in the 2010 NFL Draft.
“Obviously, Oklahoma is really the reason I am where I’m at today,” Bradford said. “I had a great experience at OU. It was a dream come true for me to go there and get the opportunity to play football. I just felt like me making a donation is a small thing I can do to help show my gratitude for what they did for me.”
– Bradford, who is a native of Oklahoma City, played three seasons for the Sooners and became one of the most prolific and high-profile players in the school’s extensive history. He enjoyed everything about the experience. Well, almost everything.
– Not that Bradford ever complained but on his way out of Norman, he told Oklahoma Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Joe Castiglione that he one day intended to make a donation to upgrade the quality of the meals available to Oklahoma student-athletes.
“They are building a new dorm facility and I think my money is actually going to the training table,” Bradford said. “I never complained about it when I was there but when I left I definitely told Joe Castiglione that if there was one thing I could change, our training table would be better. I hope that when it does get built and it is finished I hope that future student athletes can have top of the line meals, the best there is. And I hope that their experience is as good at OU as mine was.”
– Indeed, Bradford’s donation is not only going toward the training table at the under construction new dorm called Headington Hall but the table will bear his name upon completion. The “Sam Bradford Training Table” will become a state-of-the-art dining facility inside the Wagner Dining Hall and be available to all Oklahoma student-athletes and students in the dorm.
“Sam Bradford’s gift is deeply appreciated,” OU President David L. Boren said. “It will help many future participants in OU’s athletics program. Gifts like Sam’s also set an important example for others who have played on our teams in the past.”
– Castiglione echoed those sentiments in expressing gratitude for Bradford’s generous gift.
“Sam Bradford developed into a consummate leader and an award-winning student-athlete at the University of Oklahoma,” Castiglione said. “Sam embraced our incredible tradition here at OU and was relentless in helping his teammates enhance it. In Sam’s typical humble fashion, he continues to serve as a wonderful role model for all OU alumni through his actions and deeds like this generous gift to OU Athletics and Headington Hall. Just as others before him, he leaves a legacy which allows future student-athletes to enjoy that same experience of a lifetime he relished. We appreciate Sam’s commitment to this project that will benefit a wide range of students, and improve the quality of life for the entire OU campus.”
– In his time with the Sooners, Bradford set 15 school records, including most passing yards (8,403) and TD passes (88). For his career, he completed 604 of 893 passes, finishing with a 6.25-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio, one of the best marks in college football history. He also set the NCAA freshman/sophomore record for TD passes during with 86 and won the 2008 Heisman Trophy.
Posted in From the Sidelines | 2 Comments »
– Don’t be surprised if you happen to see a St. Louis Ram or two or 10 around town this week as the team kicks off what has become the now annual rookie week in which the entire rookie class is introduced to the St. Louis community via a variety of avenues.
– Rookie week begins in earnest this morning when the Rams and the rookie class will host a group of youngsters for a youth football camp at ContinuityX Training Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The campers will get instruction in all parts of the game from the Rams rookies.
– Then, later today, the rookies will head off to a bowling event for the Team Activities for Special Kids (TASK) this evening where the rookies will bowl with some very special kids and event sponsors Solutia.
– On Tuesday, the rookie class will spend most of the day in the classroom, as they partake in presentations centered on the many responsibilities that come with playing in the NFL. That includes a law enforcement presentation as well as things such as a presentation on real estate.
– Tuesday night, the drafted rookies will head back to the training facility for a special private event with Edward Jones Dome suite holders.
– On Wednesday, the presentations will continue including a financial services class courtesy of Edward Jones.
– Wednesday night, the rookies will head off to private reception downtown with more suite holders and sponsors.
– Then, on Thursday, comes perhaps the keynote event of the week as the rookies join the entire Rams staff for a trip to Joplin, MO to participate in the Governor’s Challenge. Following an early morning departure, the entire staff will arrive in Joplin to spend the day helping to build five houses in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity. After a day of work, the entire staff and rookies will arrive back in St. Louis late Thursday night.
– On Friday, rookies will be all over St. Louis as they split into groups and get a tour of St. Louis with trips to various city landmarks and beloved restaraunts included in the trip. That’ll come on the heels of presentations from US Bank and a local credit education program.
– To wrap up the week, the rookies will join QB Sam Bradford and thousands of others to participate in the Komen Race for the Cure in downtown St. louis. Drafted rookies will join cheerleaders in handing out pink roses to breast cancer survivors at the finish line.
– All in all, it will be a busy week for the Rams rookies before they head out for the rest of the offseason. The drafted rookies don’t finish their work this week as they still must head to Ohio for the Rookie Symposium. Upon the completion of that, everyone will be on their own until the rookie report back for training camp on July 25.
– Stay tuned to stlouisrams.com and Twitter (@StLouisRams) for updates throughout rookie week.
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– With yesterday’s announcement that the Rams had signed veteran LB Rocky McIntosh to a contract, the Rams continued their efforts to bolster the one position they didn’t address much in the draft – save for the 7th round selection of Hawaii’s Aaron Brown. They now have 10 total linebackers on the roster.
– But that doesn’t mean the Rams haven’t attempted to address the outside linebacker position this offseason. They haven’t thrown large amounts of free agent dollars at any outside ‘backers and they didn’t use any premium picks to get one but they have now added three talented veterans and a plethora of hungry young rookies looking to solidify jobs.
– On Thursday, assistant head coach Dave McGinnis made it clear that the Rams do not have a need at MLB. Not that we didn’t know that already but here’s what he had to say after getting the chance to spend the past two months around MLB James Laurinaitis:
“He’s perfect,” McGinnis said. “He’s the perfect middle linebacker for this defense. The ultimate linebacker for this defense when it started evolving was Mike Singletary. I was with Mike Singletary for seven years. The quarterback of the defense is the middle linebacker and in this system he has to be so in tune, I mean he has to be right in the defensive coaches skin. He has to understand it and know it from a lot of different angles. We could not have asked for a more perfect middle linebacker to install this system than James Laurinaitis. I remember watching him come out. I interviewed him at the Combine when he came out and I loved him then and I love him even more now because he’s exactly what you need.”
– So, yeah, I’d say the Rams are pretty pleased with what they have in the middle.
– That, of course, leaves us with two spots flanking Laurinaitis, spots that have been troublesome in recent years in no small part because they’ve been neglected. The Rams have tried a hodgepodge of players there without finding consistent results. Chris Chamberlain had some good moments last year but departed as a free agent to New Orleans.
– This offseason, the Rams have focused their efforts on finding veteran pieces to put outside while also adding a bunch of talented rookies who could potentially fit the bill. With that in mind, and removing Laurinaitis from the equation, let’s take a look at what the Rams have in place on the outside now:
– Jo-Lonn Dunbar: Dunbar was one of the team’s initial free agent moves, falling in line soon after the team pursued the big, high-priced free agents. He’s still young at 27 and the Rams believe his best football is ahead of him. He spent his first four years in New Orleans and played every linebacker spot. He says he’s most comfortable in the middle but he can play either outside spot. With the Rams so far, he’s played almost exclusively on the weak side. It’s possible he could shift over to the strong side because of the addition of McIntosh but he did just go through an offseason program playing one spot so it would also make sense to leave him there.
– Rocky McIntosh: Like Dunbar, McIntosh has been around for a bit though he’s more experienced with six years under his belt. He’s 29 and has played all over in both 4-3 and 3-4 fronts. He played inside and out in college but most of his starts for Miami were on the strong side. For the Redskins, he played weak side linebacker his first four seasons before the team transitioned to a 3-4. Upon that change, McIntosh moved inside and never was truly comfortable in that role. In St. Louis, McIntosh will work outside exclusively and it’s likely he’ll play there in St. Louis though he could get a look on the strong side if the Rams prefer not to move Dunbar.
– Mario Haggan: The most experienced of the linebackers, Haggan is 32 and has been in the league since 2003. At 6’3, 270 pounds, Haggan is the very definition of a strong side linebacker. He’s considered an excellent special teams player and should play a big role there but he also will be in position to battle for the strong side spot.
– Josh Hull: Hull is best served as a middle linebacker and a solid backup/special teamer. He did some work in the very early stages of the offseason at strong side but since the Rams have added the likes of Haggan and Dunbar, Hull has worked more in the middle. That’s likely where he’ll get his reps come training camp.
– Dunbar, Haggan and McIntosh would seem to be in the driver’s seat to win the starting jobs outside Laurinaitis. McIntosh and Dunbar have a bit more versatility than Haggan, who will play exclusively on the strong side. The question is how that will play out. Because of McIntosh’s experience on the weak side, it could trigger a move of Dunbar to the strong side but again, the Rams can sort through that in camp as they might prefer to keep Dunbar at the position he played most of camp.
– Justin Cole: Signed late last year, Cole is a young player with some intriguing upside and special teams value. He can play either outside position (though he spent most of his time on the weak side in the offseason) and will compete for a roster spot in camp.
– The wild card here is a group of talented youngsters that the Rams either drafted (Aaron Brown) or signed as undrafted free agents (Sammy Brown, Noah Keller and Alex Hoffman-Ellis). All of those players have flashed some level of potential during the offseason program and each seems to bring something different to the table.
– Aaron Brown: A bit on the smallish side, he figures to compete on the weak side but is expected to help on special teams. Known as a fearless competitor in his time at Hawaii, he’ll be in the mix.
– Sammy Brown: On the other end of the spectrum, doesn’t have the natural coverage skills to play the weak side so he’ll likely be in the mix on the strong side. Natural pass rush skills but is coming from a 3-4 defense at Houston to a 4-3.
– Alex Hoffman-Ellis: Some positional versatility with Hoffman-Ellis, but he spent the bulk of his time in the middle. We’ll see if he gets opportunities at other positions.
– Noah Keller: Similar to Hoffman-Ellis, Keller showed some flashes during the offseason. He had some nice moments and worked in the middle as well. Will compete with Hoffman-Ellis and Hull for spots.
– All told, the Rams have 10 linebackers and will likely keep six or seven. How that shakes out will likely come as a result of how the starting three shakes out. At a glance, here’s how the competition figures to look in terms of positions:
MLB: Laurinaitis, Hull, Keller, Hoffman-Ellis
WLB: Dunbar or McIntosh, Cole, A. Brown
SLB: Dunbar or McIntosh, Haggan, Sammy Brown
– Obviously, this situation won’t gain clarity until we get to training camp and can see where everyone is working on a daily basis but if nothing else, this can serve as a bit of a guide to what to watch for heading into camp.
– As always, thanks for reading and have a great weekend.
Posted in From the Sidelines | 7 Comments »
– The Rams put the finishing touches on their offseason program this morning with a final minicamp practice that last about two hours with a little bit of fun mixed in at the end. More on that in a moment.
– But first, let’s take a quick minute to reflect on the vast changes made this offseason. The Rams have a new head coach, new staff, new general manager, new scouts, new players all over the roster, in short, a lot has changed. All of the offseason workouts, OTAs, minicamps and meetings are over. Coach Jeff Fisher is pleased with what his team accomplished and believes the stage has been set for his team to compete this year. He has no intention to wait and nobody else does either.
– A reporter asked Fisher today if he got the impression that his team was hungry to win? His answer was succinct but spoke volumes:
“No, not hungry to win, they expect to win,” Fisher said. “Everybody does. The past is the past but we are looking forward with that expectation to win football games.”
– As for the happenings on the field, Fisher made special mention of not being pleased with his team during some pass rush drills but overall thought it was another competitive practice. I’ve written it in this space before but it bears repeating: Fisher is not afraid to let the top units square off on offense and defense. He encourages it and he likes what it brings out of his players because they get extremely competitive.
– One player that’s been mentioned here before but continues to make some impressive strides if undrafted rookie TE DeAngelo Peterson. Peterson beat MLB James Laurinaitis on a deep ball in today’s practice and even drew words of praise from offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
– In fact, Schottenheimer had some interesting thoughts on the tight end position in general. Here’s what he had to say:
“I know one thing, I think starting with Lance (Kendricks), we really liked Lance back in New York when we looked at him,” Schottenheimer said. “I think he’s got a chance to be a terrific all around player. Then we are complementing him with guys that can do some stuff in the running game, also some matchup (stuff). We have some really talented young players. I think if you watch DeAngelo Peterson out here, even Jamie Childers is a guy that showed up and we’ll be excited to get (Mike) Hooman(awanui) back. Tight ends create a problem in this league in our opinion for matchups because you can get in multiple formations with those guys and sometimes they are in the backfield and sometimes they are playing receiver and sometimes they are in line and that allows you to create problems for a defense.”
– The Rams closed their final practice with a little fun as Fisher pitted offense vs. defense in a punt catching game. Of course, the twist was that the offensive linemen and defensive linemen had to catch punts fired about 70 yards down field and way up in the air. The side that caught more didn’t have to run sprints after practice. So, the linemen went through the drills and the end result was a tie… at ZERO.
– Neither side caught a punt and only DE Jamar Jarrett and OT Kevin Hughes even got their hands on the ball.
– Finally, Fisher had to alter the rules and let each side have two skill players catch punts. Danny Amendola and Nick Johnson caught their two opportunities and the offense emerged with a victory.
“We like to try to have fun,” Fisher said, laughing. “You know we are going to do that. It looked like it was going to go on forever. I had to adjust. This is a different machine, I’ve never seen a machine like that but clearly the big guys got an appreciation for how hard that job is. When Danny (Amendola) got out there and caught the first one, they understand now. A couple of them (linemen) are in there icing down. Harvey (Dahl) landed on his head.”
– When I chat with you all on Tuesdays and read various places, one of the biggest concerns that seems to come up heading into this season is the offensive line. Because of injury issues for T Rodger Saffold, T Jason Smith and C Scott Wells, the line the Rams envision starting the year with has had no opportunity to work together in team drills during practice. They have been around one another and worked on individual skills and sat in meetings but they haven’t been able to get the cohesion that comes with communicating and practicing.
– Now, the Rams have not been in pads yet so they aren’t missing out on full on reps in these practices but it’s still a worthy and legit concern. Considering that, I asked Schottenheimer what his level of worry about the lack of reps for the line as a whole has been. Here’s his response:
“I think again that’s where the way things are set up you have to make the most of your meetings,” Schottenheimer said. “You have to make the most of your walk through. There is still plenty of time to get things done. I think we are ahead of the curve because we have been able to put so much stuff in but obviously once we get going, we’ll get those guys put together and that will be a big part of it. But we also want to put together competition. We want to have guys competing against one another and I think that brings out the best in everybody.”
– Indeed, if nothing else, the missed reps for the projected starters has created some opportunities for others to open some eyes. We know there will be an ongoing competition at left guard going into training camp but there have been chances for others to show up during this camp and make their presence felt. Ultimately, Schottenheimer hopes that competition pushes everybody to improvement and a better place.
– Assistant head coach Dave McGinnis met with the media today and had plenty to say on a variety of topics. Most interesting, though, was his response when asked about MLB James Laurinaitis. The first thing McGinnis said about No. 55? “He’s perfect.”
– McGinnis went on to explain that Laurinaitis is perfect for this defense and the way he communicates and leads the group makes him the ideal figurehead for the defense in addition to his vast skill set. Now the Rams have to go about finding his flanks. Jo-Lonn Dunbar is in good shape on the weak side but the addition of Rocky McIntosh only further muddles things on the strong side. Much like left guard, the strongside linebacker spot figures to be one of training camp’s most hotly contested positions.
– All told, Fisher was extremely happy with the work his team got done during this offseason. He saw progress all over the place and tried his best to set a tone for what is to come in training camp and beyond. I’ll have more about what, exactly, the Rams accomplished this offseason in a story for the site tomorrow but for now, I’ll leave you with these words from Fisher on the offseason program that was and what’s to come in the near future.
“It went fast, I think we accomplished everything we needed to accomplish and now it’s up to them,” Fisher said. “It’s up to them to be disciplined and committed to the cause and the program and come back in the best shape and then we’ll have more fun.”
Posted in From the Sidelines | 3 Comments »
– In their ongoing quest to bolster the roster at every opportunity, the Rams made another addition to the linebacking crew on Thursday when they officially signed six-year veteran Rocky McIntosh.
– The free agent outside linebacker comes to the Rams from Washington, where he has spent his entire career previously. McIntosh was originally a second-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, No. 35 overall.
– With the Redskins, McIntosh went through a few changes in defensive scheme and at 6’2, 242 pounds had the versatility and size to play inside and out. He even has some knowledge of the current Rams system from his time when Gregg Williams coached the Redskins.
– McIntosh visited Minnesot and Miami this offseason before arriving in St. Louis for a workout on Wednesday. He did enough there to impress the coaching staff and signed Thursday afternoon.
“We brought him in, we worked him out yesterday morning, he did a great job in kind of an individual (drill),” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s moving around good. He’s an experienced veteran, has some experience in this scheme and the terminology so he can pick it up fast. He’s just one of those guys we are going to put in the mix; he’ll compete and see what happens.”
– McIntosh is most likely to work at strong side linebacker in training camp where he’ll be in a competition with veteran Mario Haggan and many others to win a starting job.
Posted in From the Sidelines | 2 Comments »
– The Rams are just off the field for Wednesday’s minicamp practice and are now just one day away from wrapping up the offseason program.
– Here’s a quick rundown of what’s going to happen in the next week or so:
On Thursday, the Rams will go through a full squad practice in the mid-morning. When that is done, so are the veterans and the coaching staff. They will all be excused and part ways for the rest of the offseason. Now, all of the vets will have conditioning programs to follow and work on but they won’t have official duties back here until they return for training camp at the end of July.
The rookies will stick around for another week and take part in rookie week next week. The rookie week orientation is intended to get the young players acclimated to St. Louis and will include presentations on money management and much more. In addition, the rookies will be going to Joplin with the entire staff to participate in the Governor’s Challenge, where the Rams will begin construction on five homes in the Joplin area.
The undrafted rookies can then depart next Friday while the drafted rookies head to Ohio for the rookie symposium. When that’s done, everyone is done until training camp begins. The rookies will return to St. Louis a few days before the veterans for a couple of days of camp acclimation before starting.
– On to today’s news and notes.
– As you might have read in this space, WR Brian Quick signed his rookie contract today, a four-year deal. The Rams now have just CBs Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson unsigned. Both are expected to be done sooner than later.
– RB Steven Jackson did not attend today’s practice. He had an excused absence: he’s giving the commencement speech at his old high school El Dorado High in Las Vegas.
– For those that read my chat I mentioned the other day that a free agent linebacker would be in town this week. Well, he’s here: Veteran LB Rocky McIntosh is participating in minicamp and wearing No. 59. McIntosh is a six-year veteran out of Miami, who was a second round pick in 2006. He’s only 29 but had some injury issues early in his career. He spent all six of his NFL seasons with the Redskins.
– No word yet on whether McIntosh will be signed but the Rams get another practice tomorrow to get a look at him before making a decision.
– Owner/Chairman Stan Kroenke was in the building on Wednesday. He spent time with COO Kevin Demoff, GM Les Snead and Coach Jeff Fisher after practice.
– As for the happenings on the field, WR Danario Alexander had another nice day. He went up and made a play on a couple of deep balls thrown his way, coming down with them for big gains. When he’s healthy, he brings a dimension nobody on the roster (save for potentially Quick) can bring. He’s had a good week or so since returning from a hamstring ailment.
– With Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold limited in team drills, the Rams have been using Barry Richardson at right tackle and Quinn Ojinnaka at left tackle. While it’s clearly too early to panic, the Rams didn’t get much time with their top offensive line working during the offseason program. In fact, only guards Harvey Dahl and Bryan Mattison are expected regulars that have been present and playing in team drills this whole time and, of course, Mattison is embroiled in a competition for the left guard job with rookie Rokevious Watkins and others.
– TE Lance Kendricks tweaked his ankle going for a deep ball down the middle the other day but told me after practice it’s nothing to worry about. He’ll be good to go for training camp.
– Kendricks has bulked up some, too and said he’s now checking in at around 250 pounds. He played closer to 245 pounds last season.
– Fisher has been fairly even keeled for most of the offseason but did get a little riled up at rookie WR Chris Givens during a two minute drill. Givens caught a pass and put a move on S Darian Stewart then ran down the field to “finish” the play. But he didn’t get back to the line of scrimmage quickly and when he threw the ball back to keep the “drive” going it bounced away and halted the momentum of the drive. Fisher didn’t go off but let Givens know that during a two minute, hurry up drill, a little urgency is needed.
– QB Sam Bradford gave his thoughts on a variety of topics in meeting with the media today. Bradford said the offense has been installed and pointed out it’s been installed “more than once.” Most of this week has been a refresher course and a chance for he and his teammates to brush up on the offense again before departing for the next five or six weeks.
– Bradford was asked if he was comfortable in the offense yet but said he isn’t all the way there and likes that this year, he can take a little more time before making that proclamation. Presumably, he has more time because he’s actually had a full offseason program to learn and he still has training camp to get fully acclimated.
“It is nice. It’s nice to be able to come out here and make mistakes,” Bradford said. “And then go in the film room and talk to (offensive coordinator Brian) Schotty (Schottenheimer) and (quarterbacks coach Frank) Cig (netti) and talk about those mistakes and learn from them and then come out here the next day or the following day and correct them and get everybody on the same page. Whereas last year, I’m not really sure we had that opportunity. If there was an install one day then the next day we couldn’t spend much time going back. We had to keep pushing and putting stuff in. This year, I feel like the process has been able to slow down a little bit and we have really been able to get into detail in what we’re doing.”
– Bradford, who is an Oklahoma City native, is a big fan of the Thunder and is paying close attention to the NBA Finals as they take on the Thunder. Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday night but Bradford said he won’t be able to make it back to attend. He did say if the series got back to OKC for a potential game 5, he planned to try to attend.
– What Bradford does have planned for the next six weeks or so is a detailed plan of work he needs to do. He said he has three days per week scheduled to throw but also has a finite plan for watching film and staying in his playbook. When he and the Rams return in July, they want to be able to hit the ground running on both sides of the ball.
– That’s going to do it for today. As always, any observations need to be taken with a grain of salt since they aren’t in pads and we are in June. Thanks for reading and we’ll be back tomorrow to wrap this thing up.
Posted in From the Sidelines | 10 Comments »
– The Rams and WR Brian Quick finalized a four-year contract on Wednesday afternoon as Quick put pen to paper Wednesday afternoon.
– Quick’s signing brings the total number of drafted rookies to sign to eight. That leaves just cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson unsigned.
– Quick, of course, was the first pick of the second round, No. 33 overall out of Appalachian State in April’s NFL Draft.
– The expectations are high for Quick, who will almost certainly immediately assume one of the starting jobs on the outside. At 6”3, Quick provides a big, fast, physical target for QB Sam Bradford. During OTAs and minicamps, Quick made a strong impression on everyone, including coach Jeff Fisher.
“The athletic ability is there,” Fisher said. “The one-on-one stuff is all there. When he knows exactly what to do, he does it right. Two weeks ago, there was a lot of information coming in there. He was a little hesitant. He wasn’t hesitant today. He was very explosive, making plays. He’s a big target, as you can see. Real good out of frame. He just needs to practice. He’s not intimidated by anything. He just needs to practice, needs to see things and once he knows exactly what to do, he’ll do it well.”
– RB Steven Jackson was asked what he expects of Quick in his rookie season and Jackson did not shy away from placing a fair share of expectation on the young wideout.
“He’s a big receiver, big target,” Jackson said. “He has a little bit of a ways to go. What I mean by that is coming from Appalachian State – and nothing against it – but it’s a difference. It’s a difference on this field and it’s a difference in the mentality of a pro, and (Wide receivers) Coach (Ray) Sherman, I’m pretty sure he’ll get him right. But over the next six weeks, he’s going to have work really hard to get ready to prepare for a long season. We’re going to lean heavily on him. He’s a high draft pick and we need someone on the outside to make plays. I’m challenging him right now that we’re going to need him over these next six weeks to prepare himself to be a standout on this team.”
– The Rams and their newly signed rookie wideout will be back on the practice field for the second day of the mandatory full squad minicamp this afternoon.
Posted in From the Sidelines | 1 Comment »
– The Rams kicked off their third and final minicamp of the offseason on Tuesday. The minicamp is mandatory for all players and is the final benchmark of the offseason program before the team returns for training camp in late July.
– Plenty of news and notes to get to from today so let’s dive right into it.
– First, as reported in this space last week, C Scott Wells is dealing with an injury issue. Coach Jeff Fisher acknowledged on Tuesday that Wells had a knee scope a few weeks back. Wells has other important things to tend to that Fisher did not want to reveal without Wells’ permission. It’s nothing bad, of course, but out of respect for Wells and his wife, it’s best to just know that while Wells did have a knee scope that Fisher said would have kept him out of this week’s minicamp and the OTAs, he also has an excused absence for more pressing issues.
– And again, Wells is expected to be present and fully healthy in time for training camp.
– TE Michael Hoomanawanui again worked on the sidelines during Tuesday’s practice. He is expected to return to action in training camp. TE Lance Kendricks left practice early with some sort of issue. It appeared to be a hand or wrist but didn’t seem serious.
– CB Cortland Finnegan was held out again because of an apparent hand/wrist issue.
– On to the happenings on the field:
– It’s very clear that Fisher feels good about what’s been installed. In fact, almost if not all of the offense and defense has been installed and Fisher and the Rams seem to be working on a little bit of everything. They wasted no time diving into team drills Tuesday afternoon and had a number of long team periods.
– Likewise, I’ve mentioned it before but it remains as clear as ever, Fisher doesn’t hesitate to match his first units against each other. It makes for some great competition and both sides really get into it. Don’t believe me? On one pass down the middle, QB Sam Bradford threaded the needle between two defenders to Kendricks but MLB James Laurinaitis who had dropped deep in coverage got a hand in the way at the last second and S Darian Stewart came over the top to force an incompletion. The entire defense was fired up and whoopin’ and hollerin’ after the play.
– I don’t know if I take him for granted but it certainly merits mentioning here that WR Danny Amendola has done nothing but be consistently excellent throughout this camp. He catches everything but he actually looks a bit quicker and he’s bulked up some, presumably to help take some of the pounding he gets from going across the middle.
– Brian Quick and Greg Salas had some nice moments during one on one passing drills. Salas made a one-handed grab on a fade route to the sideline over Janoris Jenkins and Quick ran some nice deep dig routes for catches.
– WR Danario Alexander has been back in action for a week or so and is back to showing some of his usual tricks. He made a nice touchdown grab in red zone drills, tapping his toes inside the back of the end zone for six on a ball that was up and away in a place only he could catch it.
– Fisher was asked Tuesday about stopping the run and made it a point to acknowledge that defensive run techniques have been a point of emphasis throughout this offseason, particularly with the defensive line. Fisher said that although it’s hard to gauge because his team hasn’t been wearing pads, he’s been pleased with the progressn and understanding his team has of run fits and techniques in the new scheme.
– RB Steven Jackson talked to the media today and had some interesting takes on a number of topics. I’ll have a story on Steven’s state of the union tomorrow but here’s a little something to quench your thirst. I asked Steven if there were any young players returning from last year’s team that caught his eye and seem to have improved. While acknowledging that no pads have been worn yet, here’s what he had to say:
“That’s more of a question I could answer in August or September but I am very excited, who I am looking forward to watching this year is Robert Quinn,” Jackson said. “I think he’s a natural pass rusher. I think working on the opposite side of Chris Long and the coaching he’s receiving right now, I am really looking forward to him having a breakout season. If there’s anybody I would tell our fans to look out for it would be Robert.”
– Coincidentally, I also planned to write about Quinn this week and had a good chat with him today as well. He said he’s actually dropped 5 pounds in an effort to get a little quicker off the edge and though he knows that will draw questions about his ability to stop the run consistently, he believes that improved technique from DL coach Mike Waufle will help him with that.
– CB Bradley Fletcher said he is ahead of schedule in terms of his rehabilitation but he also said that he isn’t quite where he wants to be. In fact, Fletcher said he’s starting to feel as close to healthy as he had all offseason but he’s not quite there yet. I’ll have more on Fletcher this week as well but he knows this is a big year for him and he’s going to be in the middle of a very heated competition outside.
– I also got a chance to catch up with T Rodger Saffold (who yet again, I will be writing about later this week). I mentioned a while back that Saffold looked noticeably bigger. In talking to him today, not only was that clear but he made it known that he’s put on about 10-12 pounds of pure muscle, most of which appears to be in his upper body. He just plain looks big and strong. I asked Saffold if the impetus for putting on the muscle was to help in any certain area, particularly against the bull rush, something he openly acknowledged was an issue last year.
Saffold said that he sat down with new OL coach Paul Boudreau his first day in the building with him and Boudreau showed him a technique issue he had against that particular rush. It was as simple as that. As for the added weight, Saffold made it clear that this offense requires bigger, stronger, meaner and that means in the run game as well. So to be more physical, he felt it necessary to bulk up. I’m not kidding when I say Saffold looks much stronger. He said he’s at about 325 pounds now. Again, more on Saffold later this week.
– That’s going to do it for today. Be sure to stay tuned all week for more updates and coverage from this minicamp. The Rams are back at it tomorrow afternoon. As always, take all observations from the practice field with a grain of salt in knowing these guys aren’t in pads and going full blast just yet. Also, as always, thanks for reading.
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– The Rams just finished their final Organized Team Activity of the offseason about two hours ago and will break for the weekend before returning next week.
– Next week is the final week of the offseason program but it will be a busy one.
– On Monday, the entire Rams team and coaching staff will join the front office staff in the team’s annual playground build in Fairmont City. This will be the fourth such event in as many years and is one of the team’s signature events in the community.
– On Tuesday, the Rams kick off their final, mandatory, full squad minicamp. The group will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before calling it an offseason.
– The rookie class will stay in St. Louis for a couple of additional weeks before the rookie symposium in Canton, Ohio near the end of the month. Then, there is nothing until training camp starts at the end of July.
– As for the happenings during Friday’s OTA, the Rams got to see some good things and positive strides from some players that have been dealing with injury. WR Danario Alexander and CB Josh Gordy got some work in after being hampered by nagging injuries.
– CB Cortland Finnegan departed midway through practice with an undisclosed ailment. He walked off just fine and it didn’t appear to be anything serious. We’ll see what his status is at next week’s minicamp.
– Aside from that, most of the group was status quo with some guys limited with other guys not participating. C Scott Wells did not practice again. I know plenty of you are wondering what his status is but I assure you it’s not something nefarious. He’s dealing with an injury issue. It’s nothing more than that and he should be fine in time for training camp.
– For the guys on the field, it was a good day for a couple of notable wideouts: rookie Chris Givens and second-year man Greg Salas.
– Late in the practice, the Rams began running their two minute drill. Givens took the top off the defense deep for a long catch down the sideline before stepping out of bounds. On the next play, he turned CB Jeremy Caldwell inside out with a nice corner route for a touchdown from QB Kellen Clemens. It was a nice drive by the second unit.
– Givens continues to impress and told me after practice that he is really focused on improving right now. Although he had a reputation as a great route runner coming out of college, he said it’s something he is working on and something he wants to perfect because this is a whole different level of route running with more advanced concepts. For the record, Givens is playing almost exclusively on the outside and he expects that to continue. Danny Amendola and Steve Smith have done most of the work in the slot.
– Salas is potentially an even more interesting case. He’s been impressive throughout OTAs, which is no small feat considering he’s coming off a serious injury that ended his season early. Not only is Salas healthy, he’s been productive.
– On Friday, Salas worked with the top unit and made some impressive catches from QB Sam Bradford including a diving one-handed number that looked nearly impossible considering the velocity on the ball. Count Salas out of the mix at your own peril but he was coming into his own before his injury last year and looks even better so far this year.
– S Darian Stewart was flying around a bit on Friday as well. He appears to be leaner and is moving faster than he has in either of his first two seasons. He made a nice interception during team work.
– CB Trumaine Johnson continues to show a nose for the ball. Janoris Jenkins is getting a lot of the attention (and with good reason) but Johnson has been very good in his own right. He naturally looks for the ball on every play and has outstanding timing.
– DT Michael Brockers, fresh off signing his rookie contract, said he is getting better every day and believes he will be an “all around” player by the time camp arrives. Of course, he wasn’t in pads and hasn’t been all through OTAs but he showed some burst and a nice move to get to the quarterback for a “sack” during team drills.
– As always, take everything above with a grain of salt. Everything is different when you put the pads on. What happens in June generally has little bearing on what ultimately happens when the final cuts are made.
– Stay tuned for news on more draft pick signings. I expect the Rams could strike deals with Johnson, Brian Quick or Jenkins at any time.
– Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.
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– The Rams and first-round pick DT Michael Brockers struck a deal on Thursday afternoon as the 14th pick in this year’s draft inked his rookie deal with the team late in the day.
– Brockers is the seventh member of the Rams’ 10-man draft class to sign on the dotted line as the Rams move closer to getting everyone under contract before the end of the offseason program next week.
– Brockers has been present and participating in the team’s Organized Team Activities and the rookie minicamp, working mostly with the first team alongside Kendall Langford on the inside.
– The Rams used the 14th selection on Brockers after trading down from No. 6.
– At 6’5, 322 pounds, Brockers is expected to play right away and help a run defense that finished near the bottom of the league in 2011.
– Only second round WR Brian Quick, second round CB Janoris Jenkins and third round CB Trumaine Johnson remain unsigned. All are expected to be under contract soon, most likely by the end of next week at the latest.
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