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Pro Football Weekly Training Camp Report: RAMS
ST. LOUIS RAMS
Training-camp site: Russell Training Center, Earth City, Mo.
Training-camp report date: Rookies, July 28; Veterans, July 30.
Key veteran arrivals: OLB Bobby Carpenter, OLB Na'il Diggs, CB Kevin Dockery, QB A.J. Feeley, OG Hank Fraley, DT Chris Hovan; TE Darcy Johnson, S Kevin Payne, DT Fred Robbins.
Key veteran departures: OT Alex Barron, QB Kyle Boller, QB Marc Bulger, DT Adam Carriker, LB Paris Lenon, TE Randy McMichael, CB Jonathan Wade.
Drafted rookies: (1) QB Sam Bradford; (2) OT Rodger Saffold; (3) CB Jerome Murphy; (4) WR Mardy Gilyard; (5) TE Michael Hoomanawanui, DE Hall Davis; (6) TE Fendi Onobun, DE Eugene Sims; (7) CB Marquis Johnson, DE George Selvie, ILB Josh Hull.
Offensive overview: The Rams' offense has nowhere to go but up after managing a mere 16 touchdowns last season. Pat Shurmur is expected to again turn to the Eagles' West Coast offense as a primary model — but with more of a priority on workhorse Steven Jackson, among others, chewing up the clock via the run. Although the Rams are currently designating newly acquired veteran A.J. Feeley, who is familiar with the Eagles' system, as the starting quarterback, the smart money is on 2010 No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford taking the reins before the end of the preseason. While Jackson is the undisputed heavyweight at running back, uncertainty abounds at wide receiver and tight end with mostly unproven players in the mix at both positions.
Defensive overview: As is the case on offense, the Rams' defense is in dire need of more playmakers on a consistent basis after ranking 31st in points allowed, 29th in total yards and tying for last with the Raiders with only eight interceptions (none by cornerbacks) in '09. An emerging nucleus entering this year's draft consisted of DE Chris Long, MLB James Laurinaitis, DT Clifton Ryan, CB Ron Bartell and safeties James Butler and O.J. Atogwe, who finally signed a new contract in late June. A space-eating defensive tackle who could stuff the run was considered a priority entering the draft, with the team seriously considering the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy at one point. But the Rams opted for new blood on the D-line courtesy of the free-agent market, with experienced veterans Fred Robbins and Chris Hovan being added to the DT rotation. Steve Spagnuolo's aggressive and creative blitz packages earned rave reviews in his tenure as the Giants' defensive coordinator before becoming the Rams' head coach. Look for the Rams to do a lot more blitzing on a regular basis.
Battles to watch: Right guard is a position of special interest on the offensive line. Third-year pro John Greco, who started the final three games at the position in '09, will be challenged by newly acquired veteran Hank Fraley and possibly Adam Goldberg, who is arguably the best "sixth man" in the business among NFL O-linemen. Also worth watching will be the battles at wide receiver, where an undisputed No. 1 pass catcher has yet to be determined, and backup running back, where the need for either holdovers Kenneth Darby and Chris Ogbonnaya or promising undrafted rookie Keith Toston to provide sufficient breathers for Jackson is imperative.
Injury update: After getting clobbered by injuries last season with an unlucky 13 players finishing the season on injured reserve, an ominous tone was set in this year's OTAs with an unusual rash of injuries on the offensive line. With starting OLG Jacob Bell already sidelined following knee surgery (he should be 100 percent in time for the regular season), the line was further decimated when starting OLT Jason Smith and probable starting ORT Rodger Saffold suffered a fractured toe and strained knee, respectively, that in effect have shut them down until training camp. In addition, fourth-year OG-C Mark Setterstrom suffered a possible season-ending left arm injury the second week in June. CB Bradley Fletcher, who was steadily improving in a starting role last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, is ahead of schedule in his rehab but is being treated very cautiously. The AC joint on Bradford's throwing shoulder that was surgically repaired late last October appears fully healed. Jackson should be good to go when camp opens following mid-April back surgery. Same goes for Atogwe, who is coming off a season-ending shoulder injury and says he is also fully recovered from "other complications that needed to get corrected."
Fantasy sleeper: After being acquired in a trade from Atlanta, WR Laurent Robinson got off to a very impressive start last season with 13 catches for 167 yards before suffering a season-ending fractured leg and sprained ankle against the Packers at the end of September. Provided he can stay healthy, Robinson has a shot at being a pretty productive pass catcher in an offense that is expected to be a bit more wide open after shooting nothing but blanks in '09.
Re: Pro Football Weekly Training Camp Report: RAMS
Barron, Bulger, Carriker and McMichael are gone? When did this happen? Dang! I need a shave!
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