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McLeod Making Most of Opportunities
With a dearth of safeties stemming from an injury to Darian Stewart, the position has become a land of opportunity for the remaining names on the depth chart.
In fact, a position that had only three returnees from 2011 and figured to be an open competition for spots anyway, has only seen that battle ratcheted up in the past week. The question has quickly become which young safety will step up and take hold of the job?
It’s too early to make any definitive statements but the early returns have been nothing but positive in identifying undrafted rookie Rodney McLeod as the player stepping up his game.
“Rodney is doing fine,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s doing special teams and doing some good things. Actually in the second half he was involved in some plays last week.”
For those paying attention when the reserves entered the preseason opener against Indianapolis, McLeod was all over the field for the better part of the second half. He played more than 30 snaps, the second most among safeties and continually found himself around the ball.
In that time, McLeod racked up five tackles, three of which were solo stops and forced a fumble. It was a strong start in his climb to make the final 53-man roster.
“I think it was a good start to what I’m trying to do here,” McLeod said. “It was a great start, actually. I am just looking forward to next game going out there and hopefully I can do my job even better.”
Should McLeod continue to improve, there certainly seems to be space available for another body or two at safety. As it stands, the Rams are carrying just six safeties on the roster and with Stewart out because of injury and Quinton Pointer playing more at corner, repetitions are abundant for players like McLeod and fellow undrafted free agent Matt Daniels.
So far in camp, Mikell has been the only consistent starter at safety with Stewart and Craig Dahl alternating at the other spot before Stewart’s issue. Without Stewart, there are even more snaps.
“I have been granted a lot of opportunities since he’s been down but when he’s out there he makes a lot of plays,” McLeod said. “Looking at him, I learn a lot so even when he’s not in, he’s on the sideline telling me what I need to work on and do. I have done that and things have been successful.”
The 5’10, 183 pound rookie out of Virginia doesn’t cut an imposing figure from his safety position but he’s so far been able to show the type of versatility Fisher and assistant head coach Dave McGinnis look for in their safeties.
This Rams defensive scheme does differentiate between free and strong safety but Fisher and Co. prefer to have players capable of handling both spots, especially in backup roles.
McLeod has worked at both spots and even played in the slot a little bit in sub packages. So far, nothing has seemed to faze him.
“That definitely helps knowing strong safety and free safety,” McLeod said. “It’s beneficial to know both positions. You can plug in anywhere. I think all of us are pretty diverse and can play free or strong safety so it’s interchangeable.”
Although he’s a bit on the small side, McLeod hasn’t been afraid to stick his nose in to help defend the run but has a better reputation for his cover skills.
After McLeod went undrafted in April, he went in search of a place that would give him a legitimate chance to make the roster. As a new coaching staff took place in St. Louis and with little depth on the roster at safety, he found a fit with the Rams.
It didn’t hurt that his Virginia teammate Matt Conrath, a defensive tackle who was also undrafted and is making quite an impression on the Rams coaching staff, also opted for the Gateway City.
McLeod said the Virginia program prepared he and Conrath well for the next level.
“We come from a good program but just as a free agent, you never know when your time will be up so we just take every rep and give it 100 percent,” McLeod said. “Conrath has been doing a great job, when I’m not in, I’m watching him. I have been doing what I need to do as well.”
As with most undrafted rookies, particularly defensive backs, McLeod is well aware that the best way to make his name and, eventually, the team is through special teams. He hasn’t played extensively on special teams since his sophomore year at Virginia but said he’s getting used to it again and enjoys working on kickoff coverage.
“I’ll just do anything that is asked of me,” McLeod said. “On special teams try to be an impact guy and then contribute on defense when my number is called. I have been handling things well and learning from all the veteran guys just trying to learn from them.”
ZUERLEIN CONTINUES TO IMPRESS: Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein has been making field goals from distances far and wide during this training camp but the one distance he just hadn’t been able to find the accuracy on was 64 yards out.
In the opening week of practice, Zuerlein missed just right but had the distance. In the second week, at the team’s scrimmage, he again seemed to have the distance but narrowly missed left.
This week, though, the canon-legged Zuerlein finally converted as he blasted one right down the middle that caught the crossbar, bounced up in the air and through much to the delight of his teammates.
Coach Jeff Fisher can’t help but be impressed by Zuerlein’s powerful and accurate leg.
“Obviously he’s here for a reason because of his production and his accuracy and leg strength in college,” Fisher said. “We expected to see some good things but didn’t expect to see at this point what we’ve seen. So, he has to pretty much carry over what he’s done on the practice field and at our little scrimmage two weeks ago into games and get the opportunity.”
Fisher has been witness to a number of talented kickers over the years including Rob Bironas in Tennessee, who once kicked a game-winning 60-yard field goal. But even Fisher acknowledges that the Rams rookie is not the same as what he’s been around in his many years in the league.
“I’ve been around over the years some really good kickers, but he’s a little bit different,” Fisher said.
FULL CONTACT: Rookie running back Isaiah Pead has had his ups and downs in his first training camp as many rookies tend to do.
Pead bounced back last week in practice from some early week struggles but then had some nerves come out in the preseason opener in Indianapolis. When the Rams retuned to practice on Tuesday, Pead had a rough stretch early in the workout, dropping three passes in a row.
As has been his tendency, Pead bounced back with a good practice on Wednesday, according to Fisher. The reason for the turnaround?
“He did a good job today - before he came out, because he put his contacts in,” Fisher said, laughing. “Yesterday, he forgot to put his contacts in and dropped three balls in 7-on-7. Today, he caught the ball well, go figure.”
On a more serious tone, Fisher said it is important for Pead to find some consistency and take his miscues and turn them into positives.
“He’s explosive and he’s catching on,” Fisher said. “His deal to me is the offensive stuff is moving forward, he’s progressing, he’s doing fine. We just have to give him more opportunities. He learned from a couple mistakes in the ball game - put the ball on the ground, responsible also for the exchanged fumble on the draw. Preseason is important to him because he’ll learn from those mistakes and he won’t let them happen again.”
CATCHING UP QUICK: In this week of practice wideout Brian Quick is getting more and more opportunities with the first team offense. In fact, on Thursday, he had perhaps his best practice in his short Rams career as the Rams moved indoors because of weather.
“He thought he was back at App State’s indoor facility, I think because that’s what he did at his workout,” Fisher said. “Maybe he’s an indoor guy.”
After struggling with some drops early in camp, Quick has seemed to get more comfortable in the offense and is starting to earn more chances. Fisher said both Quick and Chris Givens will get more looks with Sam Bradford and Co. in the coming preseason contests.
For Quick, the biggest adjustment has been to running NFL routes from a full NFL playbook (iPad).
“He did a lot of different things (at Appalachian State),” Fisher said. “When we did the visit and did the research, it was obvious to us that he wasn’t going to have a hard time learning concepts and grasping things. (Wide receivers) Coach Sherman’s done a great job working with him and he’s doing a good job so far.”
Re: McLeod Making Most of Opportunities
Any word on Matt Daniels? I've yet to see anything about the guy in training camp. Have high hopes.
Re: McLeod Making Most of Opportunities
That being said Peter king was in camp this week and tweeted that Snead and the Rams may keep 3 UDFA DB's. I would think he would be one along with Rodney McLeod who had a nice game Sat. King said he spoke with Les and Les told him this may happen.
EARTH CITY, Mo.--Ram thoughts 1: Stunningly young team. Could keep 32 third-year players or younger on 53-man team--incl 3 undrafted FA DBs.
Last edited by Rambos; -08-17-2012 at 04:17 PM.
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