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Thread: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

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    RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    RamView, July 25, 2013
    Training Camp Report from Rams Park

    The pulse of football in St. Louis quickened today as the Rams welcomed a possible record crowd to Rams Park for the opening of training camp. On the field, the defensive line showed why it'll be a handful for the rest of the league again in 2013, while other units have some catching up to do.

    * QB: Yes, Sam Bradford's the starter, but the depth chart at QB was one of today's surprises, as Kellen Clemens held down QB2 with Austin Davis at QB3. I don't think that's a good kind of surprise. Clemens' accuracy and arm are average at best, he can't really drive a sideline throw, he's altogether uninspiring. He won't win you anything off the bench and he's as good as he's ever going to get. So it's a disappointment to me that Davis doesn't already have a headlock on the job. He made a couple of nice plays on the scramble, including a sideline pass to Andrew Helmick, that could get him there, and a couple of other seeing-eye passes into crowds. A big issue right off the bat is he and center Ryan Lee blowing snaps. That blew up a couple of plays on the launching pad. Nobody got very good blocking today, either, which casts a different light on things. A fun surprise came at the end of the day with the revealing of QB4: Johnny Hekker. Hekker got about a dozen reps throwing swing passes and dumpoffs in rookie 7-on-7 before UDFA Tim Jenkins finally got some action. Jenkins isn't beating Hekker out for QB4, either. Let's just say he doesn't exactly drive the ball downfield. Back to QB1, in case anybody was worried... didn't see any bad throws from Bradford and his deep ball looks fine. He looks like the leader on offense, too, taking Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson aside during a handoff drill to get some details straight. Behind Sam, though, things aren't as clear as they seemed they'd be at the end of last season.

    * RB: The Rams aren't kidding with the RB-by-committee system. I'm not sure I saw a RB get back-to-back plays. Pead appears to be the lead dog, but I doubt he saw any more action than Richardson, who's already showing off the ability to pick through trash that made him so effective early last season. Terrence Ganaway got a healthy amount of work. I tend to write him off as window dressing but think I'd better come around. Loved Zac Stacy's “wiggle” and change of direction. Didn't love that he put a ball on the ground. Only fumble I saw all day. Benny Cunningham looked full-go but I didn't see him get a chance to do anything flashy. Eric Stevens wiped out during one of the agility drills. Well, he is a fullback.

    * Wide receivers: The first session of training camp last year was a dink and dunk fest. The willingness the Rams show to throw deep from the outset of camp this year, though, shows positive signs to where this offense is headed. For the first time as a Ram, Bradford will have a game plan and receivers that stretch the field. The West Virginia rookies were responsible for several big plays. Tavon (not Trayvon, guy in crowd) Austin burned the secondary deep for one TD and de-jocked Trumaine Johnson (I think) with a deke after a short catch that likely would have gone for another long TD. Instant offense. Austin also took a handoff late in 11-on-11, and the way he disappears into traffic and darts around, that's going to be another productive play. Seeing the injury troubles of similarly-sized Percy Harvin and Danny Amendola, though, DeSean Jackson, too, I think the Rams' biggest challenge may be resisting the temptation to give Austin too many touches. Stedman Bailey beat Janoris Jenkins and Darian Stewart deep for the other long TD of the day. Chris Givens nearly had another after beating Stewart for a bomb but couldn't hold on after hitting the ground. The receivers had a good day all around. I don't remember many, if any, balls hitting the ground. Brian Quick looked good when I checked on him, catching the ball well. He also blocked well on screens. We're going to have a spirited competition for WR6 should the Rams decide to keep one. Andrew Helmick caught everything in sight and seemed to get open on every snap, though he benefited a lot from defensive formations giving him a lot of room out of the slot. But, very good hands and he works the room in the zone well. He's also keeping Steven Jackson's tradition alive of taking every ball he gets all the way to the end zone. Do keep an eye on the Lindenwood Lion. Emory Blake “popped” a lot for me as well, with a leaping catch of a screen pass and a tricky catch in traffic. Lived up to his scouting report.

    * Tight ends: Obviously a positional blind spot for me; I'm probably the only person there who didn't notice Jared Cook much. Saw him make a couple of nice athletic catches in 7-on-7 but don't remember him much in 11-on-11. Corey Harkey seemed to be the TE getting the biggest push today but will have to improve his pass protection to maintain that push. He got overextended against Chris Long in 1-on-1 drills and Chris beat him soundly with an inside move.

    * O-line: Depth looks especially suspect right now, but overall this was the unit that struggled the most for the day. The backups really had trouble with blitzes and stunts, and if a full scrimmage, it would have been sacks galore. In 1-on-1, Jake Long could only manage a draw with Robert Quinn, a little surprising. Rodger Saffold, learning a new position, figured to struggle with Chris Long, but Chris beat him twice without even having to work that much. Then Scott Wells gets put on his backside by Mason by-God Brodine. (Other reports say it was Matt Conrath. In my defense, they're pretty identical in size.) I was starting to wonder if the o-line had gotten together last night and stayed out too late, but the guards looked better, with Harvey Dahl and Chris Williams holding their own against Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers. Judging from today, Williams should have a pretty tight grip on LG1. His work there was strong and I thought he was the most impressive o-lineman today. The good news is that he's also played tackle, because the current depth there is off to a troubling start. Joe Barksdale couldn't stay with Eugene Sims and Ty Nsekhe got tossed around by William Hayes. Sean Hooey got consistently bull-rushed into the pocket and needs to get some lead in his britches. And play with better, lower pad level. He did have one of the day's better blitz pickups in 11-on-11. Ryan Lee botched a couple of snaps on third string. Brandon Washington looked slow off the ball and a pretty regular victim. Offensive line always seems to get off to a slow start in training camp. Today was definitely no exception.

    * Defensive line: The Rams didn't lead the NFL in sacks last year for nothin', though. The defensive line looked positively dominant, with Chris Long, Robert Quinn, William Hayes and Eugene Sims forming the NFL's deepest defensive end rotation. Neither Saffold nor Harkey made Long break much of a sweat in 1-on-1s. Chris especially displayed a formidable punch. Jake Long stonewalled Quinn once, but the second time, Quinn, not known for his bull rush, drove Jake down to a knee. Hayes toyed with Ty Nsekhe. And Sims, who I've never been all that high on, looked better today than I've seen him. Just too quick and too strong for a surprisingly-overmatched Joe Barksdale. 4-and-0 for the defensive ends today. Sammy Brown even flashed excellent speed rush against the backups. The fun continued to the middle of the line, where injuries have Mason Brodine on the second string with Matt Conrath for now. One of those two twin towers pretty much decleated Scott Wells 1-on-1. The defense blitzed effectively, vexed the o-linemen with stunts and had a guy in the offensive backfield most of the time. If this translates to real games, look out, NFL.

    * Linebackers: IIRC, opening formation was L-Alec Ogletree, M-James Laurinaitis, R-Jo-Lonn Dunbar. 2nd string: L-Jabara Williams, M-Josh Hull, R-Will Witherspoon. For one play, Ogletree is the early star. The offense tried the old rollout dumpoff pass, but this one was from Bradford to Austin instead of a TE. Big play coming, right? Wrong, Ogletree got right in the hip pocket of that play and strung Austin out to the sideline for a loss. That right there is playmaking this defense simply has not had. Ogletree stayed on the field in nickel formations, too. Set expectations to high, Mr. Spock. Dunbar came back in when the twos went to nickel. Watching Laurinaitis run after Richardson, and stick to him pretty well, was just another reminder that the guy never takes a play off. And, though I'm late, sign me up for the Ray Ray Armstrong bandwagon. He had a sweet pass break-up over the middle and really looks the part at LB.

    * Secondary: Starting safeties (iirc) were Darian Stewart and rookie T.J. McDonald. Stewart broke up one deep ball for Givens nicely but got beaten deep by him another time, and also by Bailey, though that TD play might had come out differently if Janoris Jenkins hadn't lost his footing. You'd have to say Cortland Finnegan got burned on the TD bomb to Austin, but either he's become frighteningly slow at corner or he was expecting deep help. Trumaine Johnson's going to be the source of a lot of heartburn again this year if he keeps biting on moves like Austin's for the long catch-and-run. We weren't going to be surprised to see the Rams have cleaning up to do in the back end of the defense, and they do. On the positive side, Jenkins frustrated Givens into the closest thing to a shoving match all day, and RFA Robert Steeples had a nice pass break-up late and showed well on special teams.

    * Special teams: About the first half hour of practice was devoted to kick coverage drills. Sims and Harkey stood out to me there, Sims for his ability to knife around the 2-man wedge, Harkey for his ability to burst through it. I think that's also the drill where Cody Davis got dumped on his butt. Going to have to play with better physicality than that. No live returns, or even fielding drills, that I saw, though I may have missed some pre-practice activity thanks to IDOT. No idea at this point who the Rams think their returners are. The Legatron show has apparently been severely curtailed this preseason. Greg Zuerlein went 4-for-4, but just from 30, 35, 40 and 45. What, no 70-yarders? And, yes, the overhead cameraman had better get a helmet. Brett Baer also went 4-for-4, but in kicking power, he's a cap gun compared to Zuerlein's Howitzer of a leg.

    * Strategery: To your relief, I'm sure, nothing to complain about here for a change. It wasn't two hours of two-yard passes. Brian Schottenheimer's opening up the field in the passing game and looking for as many different ways to get Austin the ball as possible. Only thing I didn't see was an end-around. Seemed pretty even between QB being in shotgun vs. being directly under center. I've been expecting a heavy dose of shotgun. Defense as usual wasn't shy about blitzing even on the first day of camp. Special teams is always a good tempo-setter for practice because John Fassel has the energy of ten men drinking Red Bull. Thought he was going to go wedge-busting himself a couple of times.

    * Cheers: Beautiful day and the biggest crowd I've seen at Rams Park for training camp. My guess was 2,000; the “official” count was about 1,750. And keep in mind that this was for a Thursday afternoon. If you want a good spot on Saturday, best get there early. Also, check the traffic before you go. I didn't, and paid with a 45-minute delay due to IDOT highway maintenance. Lots of construction going on around here; keep it in mind. If you have the choice, you may want to drive your 4x4 to better handle the Rams' motocross-bumpy wheatfield parking lot. The guys working the field, er, lot, did a great job getting everyone in and out, though. The practice field ran north-south today, with most of the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 action on the north end.

    * What's next?: RamView's definitely planning to cover the open scrimmage in the Dome August 3rd. A report for this Saturday is also a possibility. Like just about every training camp, we're going to have to wait for some real contact to see how well the offensive line's coming along. If that develops as expected, the main issue to watch so far appears to be safety. Sure an improvement over past seasons if that's the roughest-going position on the roster.

    -- Mike
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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    Great post Mike. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Looks like the d-line looks great (no surprise). Hopefully the o-line steps it up. Not too happy about hearing Pro-Bowler Scott Wells getting pushed around my Mason Brodine/Matt Conrath, because although they are extremely tall, they don't weigh that much. I'd be nervous about what will happen if Wells goes up against even bigger guys.

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    Tayvon smoked Cortland on that pass that would have went for a TD. Good stuff.

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    Based on Wells's trouble against the likes of Mason Brodine, I hope this doesn't resort to rushing Barrett Jones under center because he still needs to heal before he's ready for starting reps.

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    I'm not sure why but the o-line seems to take a while to get in gear most training camps. I think of it more as a sign of the d-line being ready to go. Things -should- even out some the first couple of weeks.

    --Mike

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    Thanks for the great write up, Mike! It's refreshing to hear about how great the passing game is looking. Hopefully it won't be too much longer before the offensive line comes along as well.
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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by MFranke View Post
    I'm not sure why but the o-line seems to take a while to get in gear most training camps. I think of it more as a sign of the d-line being ready to go. Things -should- even out some the first couple of weeks.
    Defensive linemen just do their own thing individually on most plays.

    Offensive lines have to be coordinated, everyone reads the same thing, line assignments get called out properly. It can take a long time to get coordinated and why lines that have played together for years are at an advantage. Doesn't shock me that the Rams O-line with only 2 starters returning to their same position would struggle.

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    Great job as usual Mike! Love what I hear about Ogletree.

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    Great read as always, Mike! Any thoughts on T.J. McDonald?

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    OK. Mike's on board. Tighten your seatbelts,
    and please, no smoking until the no smoking sign goes out.
    "The horror"

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/25/13 (Long)

    Thank you for posting this and for all the other updates you have provided. Being that I live in Florida it is difficult to get rams updates about camp without searching for hours. Thankfully you have provided me with the most in-depth updates I can find and I want to thank you. When I say thank you I mean it and that's the bottom like because Stone Cold says so.

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