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    RamView training camp report, 7/29 (Long)

    RamView, July 29, 2012
    Training Camp Report from Rams Park

    Some rookies shine, some unexpected names step up, some depth chart intrigue, no one gets injured... everything you could ask for out of the first practice of training camp 2012.

    * QB: Sam Bradford was about the last player out of the locker room, about the closest thing I saw to a negative out of him. I don't believe the World's Slowest-Healing Ankle is bothering him at this point; his movement seemed fine. If you want any idea of these QBs' deep-throwing skills, however, Rams Park was not the place to find out today. After a one-year hiatus, Rams Park is once again the Land of a Million Checkdowns. Throws over ten yards seemed few and far between. Kellen Clemens was the least accurate of the passers; he had a couple of the worst misses, at least. Tom Brandstater and Austin Davis both showed some ability on the move and ability finding an open receiver in the battle for QB3. In what must be a Southern Mississippi thing, Davis' second pass was a jump pass for a receiver over the middle that landed at the receiver's feet. Well, it looked good when Brett Favre used to do it!

    * RB: Steven Jackson took just a few handoffs, and as familiar a sight of St. Louis summers as Ozzie Smith doing backflips, took each handoff all the way to the end zone. Isaiah Pead dropped a couple of swing passes, but nothing I'd call an easy catch. On handoffs, Pead showed the speed, quickness and elusiveness that got him drafted. His quickness is immediately noticeable and he should give the Rams the nice change-of-pace back they've lacked for some time. The Rams are definitely using the fullback this year. There were a lot of plays run out of a two-back set. Ovie Mughelli was on the field, but Brit Miller is FB1 and got most of the action there. And in a play that doesn't bode well for my fan club presidency, Ben Guidugli got absolutely ran over by blitzing Rocky McIntosh one play of 11-on-11. Dumped him on his backside.

    * Wide receivers: The first eyebrow raiser of the day: Brandon Gibson is apparently WR1. He and Danny Amendola started with the first unit. Gibson had the highlight reel catch of the day with an excellent diving-out-of-bounds effort, but also revived unwelcome flashbacks of 2011 with the worst drop of the day, a Bradford throw over the middle right in his hands. Amendola had the play of the day, beating a blitz and Cortland Finnegan with a quick slant pass from Bradford and streaking down the vacated middle of the field for a TD. Amendola and Clemens also worked an end-around, which I believe they checked to, against a blitz for a big play. Steve Smith appears to be WR3; he just missed a sideline circus catch. A possible candidate for star of the first practice would be Greg Salas, who I saw make more catches than anybody else, including some tough catches over the middle. Nick Johnson made a nice diving catch, and, like he'd done last training camp, Austin Pettis made a couple of impressive catches of balls well outside his frame. Rookie Chris Givens was usually on the far side of the field and I didn't get a strong impression of him. They tried a few quick slants to him, which you throw hoping he'll break them big, but not much there. He also nearly bobbled away an end-around. I think Brian Quick's going to have to learn to use his size better than he's doing initially. Josh Gordy went through him to bat down one sideline pass. Nice play by Gordy, but that's not the kind of play a bigger receiver should let happen. Quick's definitely got the size, and he plays with the right effort. He just has a ways to go, which isn't completely unexpected. I know at the top I said nobody was injured, but I just realized here that I didn't see Danario Alexander all day. Gotta admit that isn't completely unexpected, either, though.

    * Tight ends: One set of reps in 7-on-7 was for the wideouts; another was dedicated completely to the tight ends. Lance Kendricks caught everything, not that that mattered last season. Jamie Childers caught a tough low pass in the flat. Brody Eldridge had the only brutal drop I recall. I didn't catch much of Cory Harkey blocking, but he brings noticeable size, and he looked like a pretty natural receiver in this drill. Caught well and moved well. Matthew Mulligan's the #1 blocking TE at this point, with Mike Hoomanawanui behind Kendricks.

    * O-line: Offensive line was about the only unit with noticeable absences. Scott Wells didn't participate. Robert Turner was first-string center in his place and worked with Bradford on snapping drills. First-string left guard: Quinn Ojinnaka, with Brian Mattison at second-string. Left to right, your first-string line was Rodger Saffold, Ojinnaka, Turner, Harvey Dahl and Jason Smith; second-string, Ryan McKee, Mattison, Tim Barnes and T-Bob Hebert at center, Barry Richardson at RT. RG2 (not to be confused with RGIII) fails me, sorry. I believe Barnes split some time there, not sure with who. Risky to say much else about o-line for a non-contact practice. It looked like blitzes would have gotten Rams QBs whacked more than a few times. There were a bunch of screen passes called in a row at one point, and Saffold and especially Smith looked like they were struggling. But, that's a different kind of block, and the DEs, though the third-stringers, were still really getting to tee off on them after a while. Saffold did have a false start. One of the best runs of the day was, naturally, behind Harvey Dahl, barreling out to the second level. Some oddball notes: Kevin Hughes impressed me with some of his run-blocking. Most if not all of today's plays were ran out of shotgun, and I don't remember any bad snaps. It's hard to do otherwise when you're 6'6”, but Barry Richardson plays too tall. You could see it clear across the complex when they were doing stack-and-shed and combo-block drills. He seemed to hold up well enough in team drills, but I don't see much but trouble from Richardson. Pead got tripped up on one handoff because Mulligan couldn't clear his man out of the way. No, I'm not cutting blocking TEs any slack this year. It's been too bad around here for too long.

    * Defensive line/LB: No hitting, not much to evaluate. First-string d-line: Chris Long, Kendall Langford, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn. Second-string: William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Jermelle Cudjo/Darell Dorell Scott and Eugene Sims. Cudjo jumped offsides early and got hot-swapped immediately for Scott, but they came back to him. Rookie free agent Scott Smith “popped” a little bit. He was quick off the ball and presented some trouble even to the starters as an edge rusher. Hughes about turned him inside out on one run play, though. Made him look like a electric football player that went rogue. Starting linebackers were Mario Haggan strongside, Jo-Lonn Dunbar weakside, and James Laurinaitis, of course, in the middle. Laurinaitis and Dunbar were the nickel linebackers. Josh Hull played some Sam and some Mike on the second unit, with McIntosh at Will. An eye-opening rookie, not just for his hairstyle: Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who played 2nd-string nickel with McIntosh and some Mike. I was most impressed with the play where he turned and ran step-for-step with Salas on a deep route. He looks comfortable back there, and his presence this high on the depth chart this early has me thinking the Rams have a find there. Sammy Brown did a lot of blitzing, but his play seemed to be over as soon as he was blocked. Justin Cole played helter-skelter, in a good way; I'd like to think that got him positively noticed.

    * Secondary: Starting corners were Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, and when you see Jenkins in camp, you'll see why. Granted, he's going up against Rams wide receivers, but he sticks to receivers well, turns and runs with them well, jams them at the line well... QBs would look to his side and see if they could throw at him and then have to go somewhere else. Looks like the real deal to me. Bradley Fletcher was strictly nickel. Competition at corner is going to be hot, because Josh Gordy looked doggone good today, too. Broke up a pass and you could tell he came to play. No interceptions, but with few downfield passes, we can live with that. A depth chart surprise surfaced at safety, where Craig Dahl, not Darian Stewart, started alongside Quintin Mikell. Can't say I get that at all. Rookie free agent Rodney McLeod covered an impressive amount of ground defending a sideline pass to Steve Smith.

    * Special teams: Possibly the high point of the day, even for Mr. Never-Draft-A-Kicker here, came during the few plays of practice for the field goal team. Garret Lindholm came out and hit 4-for-4 FGs from 40 to 50 yards nice as you please. Nice, smooth, like a nice scratch golfer knocking 250-yard drives right up the middle of the fairway. But then, freaking Tiger Woods got to the tee in the form of Greg Zuerlein, who didn't just make all four of his kicks, he BLASTED them, hitting the top of the lift platform behind the goal posts every time. Bum Phillips is already asking to check those footballs for helium. Zuerlein's last kick would have been good from 60, and I swear he didn't even take a full swing at it. In terms of quick release, he may be the Kurt Warner of kickers. PLEASE let this hold up when the games count. Amendola, Pead, Jenkins all got work fielding punts at the start of practice. I believe Nick Johnson and Nick Schwieger were in on it as well. There had to be at least 45 minutes devoted just to special teams today, which, good. Notable starters on the first unit on kick coverage included Brit Miller, Mario Haggan, Craig Dahl, Darian Stewart and Greg Salas.

    * Strategery: I know Shurmurball, now Schottieball, I suppose, had to come back, and that it should have come back last year had Josh McDaniels had any sense. Still, I miss the occasional downfield pass, y'know? Quick and Givens got drafted so the Rams can stretch the field, but today, nearly everything's a checkdown. Again, until we know more about the offensive line and the receivers, it makes sense. But, sigh. I already mentioned the fullback is back in the Rams' offense. Weirdly, second play of 11-on-11, Brit Miller's split wide left. I should have expected it from a Greg Williams defense, but the amount of blitzing for a first day of practice was surprising. Better get used to it, offense. Several end-arounds were run to beat blitzes, but that was about it twist-wise. The offense focused on short passes, quick slants and running up the middle. Bread and butter first, and we'll see about any dessert. Solid, sensible approach. I like dessert, though! OK, shut up and eat my peas. A favorite part of the day for me: the defense treating any ball that hit the ground like a live turnover. Jeff Fisher's got them on their toes.

    * Cheers: We got very lucky and had one of the nicest days in St. Louis this summer for the opening practice. Mid-80s with a breeze from the north. Don't get used to that. I would plan for 100-degree weather for any practice you attend. The Rams staff has done an exceptional job with this year's training camp, though. They greet you and thank you for coming. Cheerleaders hand out training camp schedules, which is a first. The north bleachers are all under a tent now, and sitting on the shady side of camp was an excellent experience. The roster handouts reflected Saturday night's signing of Mughelli. There were even a couple of food trucks parked outside the facility. Water and Gatorade were on sale for just a dollar. A-pluses to the Rams staff, and to the Rams fans as well. I got there a half-hour early (or so I thought; some special teams work began well before the announced 3:30 time) and became the first car that had to park outside the beanfield, another first. I'd put today's attendance at an honest 1,500. New era for the team, new enthusiasm in the area.

    * What's next?: The Rams scrimmage in the Edward Jones Dome next Saturday. The big thing I'll try to keep an eye on is the offensive line, which is the unit farthest from gaining my trust here in the early stages. Like most camps, getting to real contact should tell us a lot. Hopefully it tells us a better story than last year.

    -- Mike
    thoey, Rambos, Nick and 2 others like this.

  2. #2
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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/29 (Long)

    Excellent insight, as usual. I figure we'd let Bradford play the role of Captain Checkdown again (which is good IMO). He needs to learn to be confident in the pocket again before making those deep shots. By midseason, expect some doses of Air Coryell from if he's clean as a whistle within the pocket. Hopefully those O-line problems are just camp hiccups, we'll see how they pan out by regular season.

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/29 (Long)

    If I had to choose one player that would give you the biggest misconception during training camp, the award would go to Brandon Gibson.We heard the same praise about him during last years training camp and what exactly did he do in the regular season? Nothing. Sorry but the guys just not doesnt fit the bill as a successful player in the NFL. Hes to mediocre. Im not tryibg to blast Gibson but I really hope he doesnt make the squad. There alot more potential at Rams park.

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/29 (Long)

    Great stuff Mike. Looking forward to more.

    Darell Dorell Scott
    He's never gonna shake that Dorell tag is he?

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/29 (Long)

    Idk about u guys but this has got me pumped. I may be making a trip to St Louis for that scrimmage now.

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/29 (Long)

    The O-line and Gibson being the #1 wr concerns me.

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    Re: RamView training camp report, 7/29 (Long)

    Look forward to your posts Mike,

    I know its STILL the first day but the O line has always concern me
    "The breakfast Club"

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