– The Rams just wrapped up Friday afternoon’s practice and with the weather continuing to cooperate in ways tht would normally only be found in places like San Diego, the tempo remained high and the competition only increased.
– After a big day for the offense in Thursday’s first practice, the defense got back in the mix on Friday as the sides seemingly traded plays. More on the on field happenings in a moment.
– First, a quick rundown of the injury list. OL Barrett Jones, TE Lance Kendricks, DT Jermelle Cudjo, S Matt Daniels, TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, OT Braden Brown and DE/LB Sammy Brown did not participate in the practice. All are nursing some form of injuries and the former four are working on some injury designations though they still count against the roster.
– On the field, there were more positive signs for the offense. Traditionally, it takes a bit for the offense to catch up to the defense in camp but given the team speed and all of the offseason work QB Sam Bradford put in with his new weaponry, the offense seems to be a bit ahead of the curve. Bradford connected on more deep balls and looked more sharp on intermediate routes.
– WR Chris Givens made an acrobatic back line catch in the end zone despite tight coverage by CB Janoris Jenkins. Givens actually was out of bounds before the catch but it was still an impressive catch considering the tight coverage Jenkins had.
– The defense had a nice day with a number of pass breakups, particularly by the defensive backs. LB Alec Ogletree made a nice play to knock a crossing route away and S T.J. McDonald looked particularly good in coverage with a handful of pass breakups.
“Someone is going to make a play when you are competing against each other,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “The offense either makes it or the defense makes it so from my perspective, those are good things. But yeah, the defense got their hands on a lot of balls today. It’s good to see some of the younger DBs make some plays.”
– In fact, there may be nore more encouraging early sign than McDonald’s work in the early going. Upon being drafted, many questioned McDonald’s ability to cover but early returns would indicate that it’s a task he’s more than capable of handling. Again, it’s early and there are no pads yet but McDonald’s work has earned early praise from Fisher.
“I’m especially pleased right now with T.J.,” Fisher said. “Each day there’s improvement. There’s more and more familiarity with what we are doing. He’s making more plays. He’s just an excellent athlete and a good football player.”
– When asked about the competition at safety – where McDonald and Stewart are getting most of the first team work, Fisher acknowledged that it’s a spot that will get attention in this camp. He also cited some strong early work from Rodney McLeod.
– CB/S Quinton Pointer also had a nice day, coming up with a couple of interceptions, including one during team drills.
– TE Mike McNeill made an impressive one-handed catch down the seam in team drills. McNeill is in an intriguing battle for tight end spots behind Kendricks and Jared Cook. Catches like that certainly won’t hurt his cause.
– One early standout in the seven on seven and team drills among the undrafted free agents is WR Andrew Helmick. The local product (Lindenwood) has showed up well in the first two days of full squad practice. Granted, he’s not doing it against the likes of Jenkins or Cortland Finnegan but he seems to have a knack for getting open and he too made an impressive one-handed grab down the left sideline. Keep an eye on him as camp continues.
– The work by both lines has been pretty solid so far but it’s important to note that pads haven’t been put on yet. We’ll monitor that more closely when the pads come on. DT Matt Conrath is bigger and looks stronger as well. He got his long arms on a couple of passes at the line of scrimmage during team drills.
– One thing that’s clear about this team is that these guys genuinely like each other. Pranks among the vets became a common occurrence last year (crickets in James Laurinaitis’ car, anyone?) and they have carried over to this season.
– CB Cortland Finnegan brought a little game called “Smack Cam” to the table this year. The idea is that if you are a player and you are wearing Rams gear, you are a target and can be hit at anytime with a whipped cream pie. Finnegan apparently got CB Trumaine Johnson and DE Chris Long early in the proceedings but he got his comeuppance twice on Friday. The first was a simple sneak attack in the morning while Finnegan was in the training room.
– But Long and Johnson were not satisfied and hit Finnegan with a double pie while he addressed the media. The residuals hit many members of the media as well and Finnegan claimed responsibility. It’s all in fun, of course, and there’s a great chance we’re only seeing the opening stages of the Smack Cam.
– Finnegan did take some time to talk about more than jokes, though, saying that he too has been impressed with McDonald and McLeod and he’s looking forward to seeing how the competition at safety plays out.
– Finnegan also noted the improved speed in the offense saying WR Tavon Austin is “as advertised.” Finnegan likes the improved competition from the offense, though, saying the idea is that practicing against that group can only be good for the defense.
– The Rams have another practice that is free and open to the public set for tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. at Rams Park.
– The real fun will begin early next week with Monday’s 3:30 p.m. practice the first open workout scheduled to have the team in full pads.
– Thanks for reading.
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