– 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.”
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