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Rams fans get sneak peek at scrimmage ..
BY BILL COATS
Monday, August 8, 2011 12:15 am
In what essentially was just his fourth practice since joining the Rams, Mike Sims-Walker showed why the club signed the veteran free agent to add to its bulging corps of wide receivers.
Unofficially, Sims-Walker had three catches for a team-high 71 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown grab, Sunday in the Rams' only scheduled scrimmage of training camp. The 80-minute session drew about 6,200 to Lindenwood University's 7,450-seat Harlen C. Hunter Stadium.
The scrimmage provided the first glimpse of new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' system, plus a bit of insight into the battle for wide receiver jobs, perhaps the area of the most intense competition in the preseason.
Twelve contenders are fighting for six, or possibly seven, roster spots. If any of them can be considered a lock to make the club, it's Danny Amendola. He posted team highs in receptions (85) and receiving yards (689) last season.
Amendola was back at it again Sunday, latching on to eight passes for 70 yards and a 12-yard TD.
"Nice to see him back out there," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Danny's what he is. He's a reliable guy, and I think Sam (Bradford) appreciates that. I've got a lot of confidence in him."
Amendola said the offense "got a lot of good work in. We made some mistakes, but at the same time we did a lot of good things, showed a lot of progress."
Quarterback Sam Bradford was in for 31 snaps and completed 13 of 20 passes for 140 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. Second-teamer A.J. Feeley got 28 snaps. He hit on six of 17 passes for 117 yards and a TD, also with an interception.
Newly signed Cadillac Williams did most of the work at running back with the first-team offense. He picked up 16 yards on six carries. Another newcomer, Jerious Norwood, carried three times for 7 yards and had a 10-yard catch. Steven Jackson was used sparingly, getting just one carry for 3 yards.
McDaniels offered only a peek at what his offense ultimately will resemble. It was notable that he called for a number of four-wideout sets and occasionally deployed tight ends in the backfield in an H-back role. Rookie tight end Lance Kendricks even carried the ball once, picking up 2 yards.
The scrimmage consisted mostly of situational work, including red-zone, goal-line, two-minute and backed-up (near its own goal line) drills.
The defense, heading into its third season in the same scheme, had the best of it early. The offense was sloppy initially, halting itself several times with penalties and errors.
"What we were going to do was put the new stuff in early and then follow up with some of the stuff we did last year," Spagnuolo explained.
Predictably, the attack perked up under more familiar conditions. "The offense looked fairly smooth to me for having installed some new things," Spagnuolo said.
The highlight for the group came in the red zone (inside the 20). The offense produced touchdowns on four of five opportunities, on passes to Amendola, Kendricks, wide receiver Brandon Gibson and tight end Billy Bajema.
"Red zone was important for us, and we try to do as much of that as we can," Spagnuolo said. "So that was encouraging."
Gibson joined Amendola and Sims-Walker with a multi-reception outing. He picked up 31 yards on three catches. Amendola, Gibson and rookie Austin Pettis started the scrimmage with the first unit, but others rotated in as well. Four wideouts sat out with injuries: Danario Alexander (knee), Donnie Avery (hamstring), Jalil Carter (hamstring) and Greg Salas (knee).
"Hopefully the health thing will come around and we'll get some real competition," Spagnuolo said.
It looks real to Amendola already.
"Everybody's hungry, everybody's ready to make plays, everybody wants to be out there, everybody's competing," he said. "It's fun, because that's when you play your best. ... We're moving in the right direction."
No matter who winds up on the final roster, Bradford is certain the wide receiver corps will be reputable.
"There's no doubt in my mind," he said. "I think they're already a solid group. I think just the competition at that position right now has elevated everyone's level of play. I feel like they come out every day to compete; everyone tries to make plays at all times."
Said Sims-Walker: "We're all out here working hard, fighting and competing against each other. But we're a football team, a family. We just try to do our best."
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