RamView, August 9, 2007
Training Camp Report from Rams Park

RamView: Close enough today to be nearly decapitated by a Josh Brown field goal. Close enough to hear Steven Jackson belch. Let's see how close I can get to relating what transpired on the field at today's fairly steamy, two-hours-plus morning practice:

Position by position:

* QB/Receivers: Dumb place to start because this is where I paid the least attention today. Marc Bulger drilled a TD pass to Daniel Fells in the goal line drill. Kyle Boller threw a couple of nice sideline passes but also got picked off out there by – Quincy Butler. Boller threw the other INT I saw today as well. I'm not sure which QB had the nice pass on a deep corner route to Brooks Foster – I think it was Boller, but no matter; Foster, who had his man beaten by a step, couldn't come up with a catch he should have. None of the receivers really stood out to me today; Joe Klopfenstein was unlucky enough to have one of the few drops of practice that I saw. (I saw the report on Donnie Avery's injury before I posted this, but I didn't see it happen.)

* RB: I have photographic evidence that Steven Jackson's pretty easily the Rams' most powerful back, and I'm not referring to his ability to burp loudly. They ran the drill through the “arms machine” right in front of us, and Jackson gets through that thing so quickly, I could not get the timing right to get a photo of him inside of it. Every other back I got. Jackson? Just photos of an empty practice apparatus. Very light day for Jackson; very heavy day for Chris Ogbannaya, the poor sucker who received the day's biggest hits in 11-on-11. It was certainly a full-contact practice for him. Mike Karney did some work in drills but I did not see him participate in 11-on-11. Samkon Gado's one of my stars of the day simply because his versatility makes him a pretty solid bet to make the team. He delivered some quality hits playing fullback and looked fluid and sure-handed returning kickoffs. Yet he's supposed to be a tailback, isn't he? Doing everything the coaches ask you to do? Good way to stick on an NFL roster. Having said all that, though, Antonio Pittman seems to be getting an increasing number of turns at RB3. They had the draw play working today; Kenneth Darby got a big hole and broke off a long run.

* O-line/D-line: A rough morning for Jason Smith. Victor Adeyanju handled him in the pass rush / pass pro drill. Smith got outside quickly to stop the initial rush, but Adeyanju and Leonard Little were following that with rip moves back to the inside and getting by him easily. Adeyanju did it to him in drills and Little did it to him in 11-on-11 to slam the door on a run designed to go behind Jason. Smith also false-started twice during the drill to draw Steve Loney's wrath. The game appears to be moving a little fast for Jason Smith at the moment. He looked a little more comfortable in drills at LT, and he continues to get in extra solo work on his footwork. Smith wasn't the only one to struggle on the o-line. Chris Long and James Hall beat Alex Barron pretty cleanly. Little got two pretty clear wins over Adam Goldberg. Gary Gibson's better than a dark horse to make this roster; at least in drills, he ran with the ones today with Adam Carriker sidelined (though not limping noticeably, so I'm optimistic there). I'd say Gibson and Jacob Bell drew. The strength of the o-line was Jason Brown, holding his own against Cliff Ryan, and Richie Incognito, whom Hall didn't beat either time they faced off. Substitution patterns were a little, well, different, today. John Greco got work at second-string center in drills and looked pretty good doing it; I didn't see Mark Setterstrom at work. Renardo Foster appears to have moved up to second-unit LT. C.J. Ah You smoked Eric Young. Roy Schuening looked woeful against DEs Adeyanju and Hall but held his own against Hollis Thomas. And that figures to be a key to the Rams this season: getting those favorable speed matchups inside, attacking the weakness of opposing guards with lesser speed. It's sure working against our o-line, anyway.

* LB: James Laurinaitis ran the whole practice with the ones today, with Chris Draft strongside and Will Witherspoon weakside. So on August 9th, I think we're already looking at our starting day lineup at that unit. Draft delivered the day's biggest -POP- on an Ogbannaya run.

* Secondary: Secondary may have been the team's strongest suit today. There were a good number of plays where the QBs were forced to throw the ball away. Boller even had to scramble once! You'd look up and see that every DB had his receiver blanketed. Nice, nice work by practically everybody. Ron Bartell looked solid; the offense continues not to even throw at him. Quincy Butler made yet another interception, jumping a sideline route just like he did at the scrimmage. I think he did get beat downfield a couple of times, though. Justin King made an acrobatic play to take a long pass away for the defense's other interception. O.J. Atogwe's the most tenacious player out there. He's even willing to contest Steven Jackson's efforts to run a play out to the end zone. He even took Darby down once instead of letting him run out the play. There was not a lot of goal line work; James Butler shut down the #2 offense's effort by blitzing in clean for a sack. With King and Bradley Fletcher and Jonathan Wade all playing pretty well behind him, Tye Hill's grasp on a starting spot seems to be getting slipperier. He got beat a couple of times in 11-on-11 and looked visibly frustrated about it. Though either King or Fletcher got beat deep by Brooks on the long ball he should have caught. Craig Dahl did not participate.

* Special teams: So I'm standing in the bleachers behind the near field, trying to take pictures of the action on the far field. I suspect nothing because Josh Brown and Donnie Jones have been mostly goofing around on the field in front of me. I credit my finely-honed football instincts (because NOBODY there sure gave me a heads-up) that I suddenly sensed danger, lowered my camera, and... got a paw up just in time to prevent a Brown field goal from taking my head off. My contribution for the year to Rams special teams. Brown wasn't all that good during the “Banzai” part of 11-on-11, missing a couple of times from where I assume was the 45-50-yard range. Hey, you're going to go after MY head, you better kick better than that, buddy. Special teams practiced onside kicks early and kickoff returns late, where I'm hard-pressed to describe Kenneth Darby as anything short of a disaster. He muffed three kickoffs. One of the assistants had to keep handing him a football so they could continue practicing the return. Gado looked a lot better there than Darby today. Tim Carter and Derek Stanley also got some attempts back there.

* Coaching/discipline: I get more and more jazzed about the Spagnuolo defense as every day of training camp goes by. I really like how he's going to use defensive ends as interior rushers, exploiting the speed advantage they're going to have on guards. I like this defense's prospects of finding the other team's weakness and attacking it relentlessly. I like the energy the defensive players have. They're being asked to be more aggressive, to do more, and I think that always results in a higher level of play. How quickly it manifests itself is fair to ask, but I think Spagnuolo's the defensive coach we've been waiting for around here. Waitress! More Kool-Aid over here! The only offensive wrinkle of note was an attempted flanker option off an end-around; I think Tim Carter was the passer. The play failed pretty miserably, but at least they're trying.

* Cheers: 300-400 fans attending this morning, including a big crowd in the VIP area. The weather was humid, and the temperature was 90 by the end of practice; in other words, St. Louis in August. If I had not had an appliance-related disaster that delayed this report by several hours, I could have let everybody know the afternoon practice was moving inside. Heard the facility manager talking about that very possibility on my way out. I know, lot of help that is now.

* Who’s next?: That may have been my last practice of training camp, depending on whether they keep the other Sunday sessions open. The next focus for Rams Nation is rightly on the preseason opener Friday night against the Jets in New York. Top questions: Is the defense for real? The Jets have a pretty talented offensive line. One thing I do not want to see is Kellen Clemens going off. I believe he is a terrible quarterback and it would be a very bad thing for the Rams to make him look good. Let's start the cries for Mark Sanchez early. Can they stop the run? We can be pretty sure the Jets are going to run a run-oriented attack. The other big developing defensive stories are Laurinaitis as starting MLB and Hill (or otherwise) at CB2. The Rams should not be giving up scary results to the likes of Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey. Offensively, I'm not expecting Jason Smith to start Friday night, but he'll definitely be a person of interest. The offense may be bound to be double vanilla and of dubious educational value, but the work of the offensive line won't be. And on special teams, I'd sure like to see who's going to return kicks, and whether or not they'll be players who actually hold on to those kicks.

The song doesn't necessarily apply to the NFL: if the Rams can make it in New York, it doesn't mean they can make it anywhere. A good, crisp outing would be a promising start, though.

-- Mike