Rams Ready for Mini-Camp ..
Rams Ready for Mini-Camp
Thursday, May 8, 2008
By Nick Wagoner
After a serious offseason make-over that saw the Rams bring in six new coaches, 31 new players and a new outlook, the team will converge at the Russell Training Center for the first time starting Friday for this weekend’s mandatory full squad minicamp.
In lieu of the usual rookie minicamp followed a month or so later by the full squad minicamp, the Rams are speeding up the process and asking the rookies to get on board and get going as quick as possible.
With that in mind, here are some lingering issues, important questions and intriguing players to keep an eye on as the Rams kick off minicamp followed by the start of Organized Team Activities next week.
How quick will the Rams adapt to the new system installed by offensive coordinator Al Saunders?
Saunders has been in St. Louis before, but the number of players still here from his first stint is minimal. Quarterback Marc Bulger knows the basic tenets and has been around, learning in the offseason. With veteran Trent Green’s help, Bulger should be up to speed as much as anyone. The rest of the group remains to be seen. Many of the offensive players have been around for the offseason training camp but not all have been around enough to be caught up on the new system. There will likely be some growing pains in the first weekend but the coaching staff would like to be able to start installation of the offense sooner than later with OTAs right around the corner.
How have the myriad injured players recovered from their ailments?
The Rams had an inordinate amount of injuries in 2007 and need full recovery from many of those injured players to be able to go to work with their expected starting group. Offensive linemen Mark Setterstrom and Richie Incognito are close to being full speed and likely to participate in at least segments of this weekend’s minicamp. Tackle Orlando Pace (shoulder) will be available for parts of this weekend as his clearance for full participation isn’t expected until just before training camp in July. Cornerback Tye Hill says he is ready to go and should be available. Defensive tackle Adam Carriker will also not be ready for the weekend. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) should be ready for the minicamp.
Who will jump out to an early lead in the battles for the starting strong side linebacker and center positions?
The competition to replace Brandon Chillar on the strong side is expected to be a two horse race between young Quinton Culberson and veteran Chris Draft. Draft is sitting as the early favorite, but the Rams have made it clear that Culberson is in the mix and will be given plenty of opportunities to win the job. It’s very early in the process but this weekend is the first in a long line of tests.
At center, the Rams are anticipating a contest between veteran Brett Romberg and converted guard Setterstrom. Setterstrom has been working on his center technique all offseason after recovering from a knee injury. Romberg has the experience and is healthy after some ankle issues in 2007 but Setterstrom will get opportunities as his health returns. Young Dustin Fry could also work his way into the mix.
In a suddenly crowded wide receiver corps, which players will make an early statement and prove most valuable in the return game?
After the release of Isaac Bruce, the Rams were left with a top two of Torry Holt and Drew Bennett. With that duo seemingly set, there are plenty of questions about how the group behind them will separate. The Rams would love rookie Donnie Avery to come in and make an immediate impact and he will get the chance to do so, but Dane Looker, Reche Caldwell and Dante Hall have the experience and a leg up on knowing Saunders’ offense. Rookie Keenan Burton, if healthy, has the potential to make an early impression as well. Smallish wide outs/returners Derek Stanley, Brandon Williams and Marques Hagans will also get plenty of chances to make an impression. Stanley, especially, proved to have some chops as a kick returner late in 2007.
Which players are poised for a breakout?
Every season, a player or two becomes a pleasant surprise and turns into a key contributor. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe went from little used special teamer as a rookie to one of the most valuable pieces on the defense moving forward. This year, it remains to be seen who will step into that role but there are some intriguing candidates. Defensive tackle Claude Wroten apparently has realized this could be a make or break season for him and has been a regular attendee of the offseason program. He’s in great shape and could be ready for his long awaited coming out party. Some others who have had good offseasons and could be poised for a big season are cornerback Jonathan Wade and Culberson.
WHO TO WATCH
QB Marc Bulger – Bulger is probably the most mentally prepared of all the Rams for the start of the minicamp. He has been omnipresent at Russell Training Center this offseason, doing his best to get up to speed on the new offense and taking the reins as a leader. Bulger had plenty to prove after following his best professional season with his worst.
DE Chris Long – There will be plenty of immediate expectations on the No. 2 pick, but he seems more than willing to accept the weight that goes with his lofty draft status. Long will be the immediate starter at the right defensive end spot. This weekend will mark his first appearance in his Rams No. 72 jersey.
CB Tye Hill – Hill is coming off another injury plagued season but he can’t contain his excitement about returning and making an impact on a defense that needs him to perform at the first round level he was drafted.
WR Drew Bennett – Bennett has the difficult responsibility of replacing a Rams legend. The new starting receiver opposite Holt, Bennett had a difficult 2007 in which a hamstring injury plagued him from the outset. By all accounts, Bennett has had a great offseason and badly wants to prove himself. He will get every opportunity to do that, starting Friday.
Free Agent Additions
K Josh Brown
G Jacob Bell
QB Trent Green
TE Anthony Becht
P Sean Douglas
TE Dedrick Harrington
CB David Macklin
WR Reche Caldwell
K Justin Medlock
DE Chris Long
WR Donnie Avery
OL John Greco
CB Justin King
WR Keenan Burton
G Roy Schuening
LB Chris Chamberlain
LB David Vobora
RB Yvenson Bernard
DT Vernon Bryant
WR Matt Caddell
LB Vincent Hall
DE Rodney Hardeway
WR Joshua Hyman
TE Doug Jones
LB Marc Magro
RB Brandon McAnderson
LB Justin McKinney
T Stephen Sene
DT Joshua Thompson
FB Russ Weil
LB Brandon Chillar (Green Bay)
K Jeff Wilkins (retired)
LB Raonall Smith (unsigned)
QB Gus Frerotte (released - Minnesota)
WR Isaac Bruce (released – San Francisco)
G Milford Brown (Carolina)
C Andy McCollum (unsigned – unofficial retirement)
T Todd Steussie (unsigned)
TE Aaron Walker (unsigned)
DE Trevor Johnson (unsigned)
S Hanik Milligan (unsigned)
WHO: The entire Rams roster, which as of now has 85 players, will take to the field and perhaps more important, the meeting rooms for three days.
WHEN: The minicamp opens on Friday and concludes Sunday afternoon.
WHAT: The team’s full squad minicamp, which consists of three practices and meetings that will allow the new look roster to get to know each other, the coaching staff and the respective offensive, defensive and special teams systems.
WHERE: The Russell Training Center in Earth City.
NOTE: All minicamp practices are closed to the public
Re: Rams Ready for Mini-Camp ..
I love seeing how Marc Bulger is preparing himself to be the leader of this team. Everytime I read more about Bulger, the more I start to have this feeling that he may be one of the top quarterbacks if the line stays healthy. Lead us to victory Marc!
We're all interested in seeing what Chris Long can do. He's the starter, and I hope he prevails.