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Evaluating Rams rookies following first preseason game
St Louis Rams
August 13, 2012
By: Ron Clements
Sunday was an ugly beginning to the Jeff Fisher era in St. Louis.
The St. Louis Rams were dealt a lopsided 38-3 whipping at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2012 preseason opener.
While Coltsí rookie quarterback Andrew Luck had a great NFL debut, it was a mixed bag for the Rams rookies at Lucas Oil Stadium.
View slideshow: Rams preseason opener
"Even in a losing effort, we got better because we got a chance to compete against somebody else," coach Jeff Fisher said Monday.
The Rams have 31 rookies on their 89-man training camp roster. All but undrafted rookie tight end Jamie Childers played on Sunday.
Some rookies like cornerback Janoris Jenkins, Rodney McLeod and Chris Givens showed flashes of ability. Others like Isaiah Pead and Matt Conrath had disappointing openers.
First-round pick Michael Brockers, a defensive tackle from LSU, amassed just one tackle in three series. He didnít have much of an impact, but also didnít really get exposed. Fisher said Brockers held his own against the Colts in his NFL debut. The 6-foot-5, 322-pounder was part of a defensive line that got pressure on Luck, but couldnít get there quick enough to record any sacks.
The Rams had just three tackles for a loss and one sack Ė from third-year tackle Jermelle Cudjo Ė in the entire game.
One defensive tackle was did not perform well was Conrath. The 6-7, 261-pound undrafted rookie from Virginia had been working with the first-team defense during practice and in the teamís intra-squad scrimmage. He was pushed around on Sunday by the Coltsí linemen.
With his height and lanky build, playing inside isnít Conrathís strength. Probably best-suited as a 3-4 defensive end, Conrath struggled to gain leverage and get any kind of push or penetration.
Undrafted rookie ends Scott Smith and Jamaar Jarrett contributed with a combined three tackles for a defense that surrendered 430 total yards.
The linebackers, especially the starters, were not very good. While the starters earned a failing grade, it was a sort of incomplete for the rookies.
Seventh-round pick Aaron Brown broke through the line to drop Colts running back Deji Karim for no gain with his only tackle. He also got kicked out by Colts tight end Kyle Miller on a short Darren Evans touchdown.
Sammy Brown, undrafted out of Houston, also recorded a single tackle Ė 9 yards downfield. Another undrafted player, Washington Stateís Alex Hoffman-Ellis, recorded an assist in limited play. Noah Keller had two tackles against Indianapolisí third-string offense, but he also missed an opportunity to recover a fumble when he tries to pick it up instead of simply falling on it.
Quinton Pointer, an undrafted defensive back from UNLV, did not have a great day and got beat by Indianapolis receiver Jeremy Ross for a 33-yard touchdown strike from Chandler Harnisch.
Safety Matt Daniels had three tackles, including one in punt coverage. McLeod, another undrafted Virginia product, was one of the few players to have a good game with four tackles and a forced fumble. He showed versatility in coverage and run support.
Jenkins, a cornerback selected in the second round, nearly picked off a pass in the first quarter. Jenkins definitely displayed the sort of athleticism that has made him a starter so far.
Third-round pick Trumaine Johnson had four tackles while playing most of the second quarter. Two came on short passes and two were on running plays. Johnson has the size and speed to have an impact and showed some of that ability on Sunday.
Givens has the speed to get behind defenses. He was targeted three times with zero completions, including a drop. He did draw a pass interference penalty on one of the throws and later caught a 13-yard pass from undrafted rookie quarterback Austin Davis. Givens also had a 28-yard kickoff return. It was a C-plus day for Givens. Once that speed results in long receptions, Givensí grade will rise.
Davis was solid with a 10-of-16 day, but he only threw for 84 yards and had a late interception. That pick isnít entirely his fault as first-year player Mike Campbell stopped on the post route in what looked to be some miscommunication.
The other Ramsí rookie receivers didnít do much. Second-round pick Brian Quick caught one pass for nine yards and undrafted Nick Johnson had two receptions for 12 yards.
The worst day probably went to the one rookie who played the most. Pead, a second-round pick from Cincinnati, is supposed to be the primary backup to Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson. Things didnít go well on Sunday.
Pead had 10 carries for 33 yards, three receptions for only nine yards, a fumble and a pass-blocking miscue that contributed to a sack. Call it first-game jitters, but Pead has to improve.
The other rookie tailback, seventh-rounder Daryl Richardson, also did little with four yards on four carries. He also had two catches for eight yards. Calvin Middleton, an undrafted player from Jacksonville State, ran the ball three times for 10 yards and had a 12-yard reception. Nick Schwieger, undrafted from Dartmouth, played sparingly and did not record any statistics. Rookie fullback Todd Anderson also did not get much playing time behind veterans Brit Miller and Ovie Mughelli.
Tight end Deangelo Peterson was targeted twice and caught an 8-yard pass. Cory Harkey did not record any stats and will hopefully see more looks on Saturday when the Rams play host to the Kansas City Chiefs.
One of Peadís longer runs, a 7-yard scamper up the middle in the second quarter, was through a hole made by rookie guard Rokevious Watkins. The 6-3, 340-pounder from South Carolina, was surprisingly quick on Sunday while pulling to get in front of the speedy back.
Watkins, a fifth-round pick, was the only rookie lineman of note with center T-Bob Hebert and tackle Joe Long not really getting on the radar. That could actually be looked at as a good thing.
On special teams, neither second-year long snapper Jake McQuaide nor rookie Travis Tripucka screwed up in their five combined opportunities to snap. Rookie punter Johnny Hekker easily outdid journeyman Tom Malone with a 52.5-yard average compared to Maloneís 36-yard mean. Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein made his only field goal attempt Ė a 37-yarder in the second quarter.
Maybe the Rams can provide Zuerlein more opportunities to show off his big leg on Saturday. Until then, the report card on the rookie class remains largely incomplete.
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