Round Two: Training camp's surprise players ..
ROGER HENSLEY | Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2010 12:20 am
QUESTION: Other than Sam Bradford, which one Rams player has surprised you the most during this training camp so far – be it good or bad?
Danny Amendola. He had a decent year after joining the Rams during last season, but figured to have a real battle making the squad, especially after the team drafted Mardy Gilyard. But Amendola has been the best receiver in camp, plus he had a long punt return for a TD on Saturday. He now appears to be a lock to land a spot on the final roster.
What has surprised me the most – but I expect it to change quickly – is how bad the offensive line looked last week. This unit has as much pressure on it to excel as any on the team. With more work together, things should – and better – improve.
TOM ACKERMAN (KMOX Sports Director)
Jason Smith. I know he’s been dealing with injuries, but at this point I thought I’d see more out of a No. 2 overall draft choice. First, Smith was moved to right tackle to make way for rookie Rodger Saffold, a natural LT. That’s fine. But then Smith was beaten often in the first game against the Vikings, leaving the franchise quarterback exposed. I do expect that Smith will show improvement before September 12; at least I’d certainly hope so. The Rams have invested a lot of money and premium draft picks in their offensive line. Winning starts there. The team can’t afford a crack in that foundation.
The player that has continued to surprise me – carrying over from last season – is linebacker James Laurinaitis. In the 2009 draft, all the talk was about the offensive line, and eventually, turned to No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith. Fast forward to 2010 training camp and it was the Rams’ second-round pick last year that is making the bigger impact on this team – by far. Laurinaitis grew into a starting role last year and seems to be stepping up as a team leader in only his second season. For my money, the middle linebacker position is the most important position on defense. He is the epicenter of everything going on ... all else extends out from there. And Laurinaitis seems to be thriving in the role.
But it’s not just his play, it’s the way other players are often quoted saying so many positive things about how Laurinaitis is starting to run things on defense. Others already talk about him like he’s a seasoned veteran. And it’s how Laurinaitis does not shy away from taking any and all questions (not just the softballs) from reporters. By doing so Laurinaitis shows that he is not shying away from being “the man” on defense.
As important as quarterback Sam Bradford is to this team’s future, Laurinaitis’ continued growth as the quarterback of the defense could prove to be equally important.