Top 5 Training Camp Battles
Jun 8th, 2013
by David Barber
It is expected that once the St. Louis Rams have cut down to their 53 man roster, that they will be the youngest team in the NFL. This means a lot of young inexperienced players will be hungry for a spot on the starting lineup. The most exciting part about the Rams roster is that they don’t have too many old faces expected to make the starting lineup. This makes it very hard yet very compelling for Ram fans to predict the starting positions. It is understood that every position should technically be up for the taking, but some positions will be under the microscope a little more than others.
Having the running back position ranked number one as the most intriguing training camp battle must be completely foreign to the Ram nation. Over the last 15 years, the Rams have had the luxury of handing the ball off too Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk and all time leading Rams rusher Steven Jackson. Now with Jackson grinding out reps with Matt Ryan over in Atlanta, the starting position is wide open. The logical decision would be Daryl Richardson as the starter, due to seeing the second most carries behind Steven Jackson in the 2012 season. Daryl Richardson finished the 2012 season with an impressive 98 carries for 475 rushing yards. Isaiah Pead was expected to be the second running back (behind Jackson) going into the 2012 season, as he was a 2012 second round draft pick. From the get go Pead found himself behind the eight ball, as the Cincinnati college program had a different academic schedule to most colleges. This resulted in Pead to miss all of rookie mini camps and OTA’s. Going into the 2013 season it looks like Pead will again be behind the eight ball, as it was announced that he will be suspended for the week one clash against the Arizona Cardinals, for breaking the substance abuse policy. He is however allowed to participate in all OTA’s, training camp and pre season games.
Zac Stacy is a fifth round draft pick out of Vanderbilt who will be under close watch from Jeff Fisher and the Ram nation. This guy was some what overlooked in the 2013 NFL draft, resulting him to fall to the Rams in the fifth round. Given his statuer at 5ft9 and 216 pounds, it was automatically assumed that he would be a goal line/short yardage runner. This would’ve been a massive slap in the face to Stacy, as he is the first Vanderbilt player to rush 1,000 yards back to back, and the first to pass 3,000 yards (3,143). Stacy had the longest rush (90) for a Vanderbilt player and he was the 8th player in SEC history to rush back to back 1,000 yards. With a 40 yard dash of 4.5 flat, it is understandable that Stacy will have his eyes set on the every down back position . At some stage of the season, Stacy will be the starter for the St. Louis Rams.
Depth Chart Prediction (leading into week one)
2.Zac Stacy (will earn starting role before mid season)
Unlike the running back position in the past, the wide receiver position seems to be a constant question going into training camp. Since Sam Bradford was drafted in the 2010 NFL draft, he has thrown to over 35 different wide receivers in his very limited career, so finding a good ‘one, two’ combo is an understatement. Tavon Austin will most likely get the majority of the receptions out of all the wide receivers, but this will be from the slot position, very similar to how Danny Amendola got his catches. Chris Givens was a little bit of a one trick pony earlier in the 2012 season, but quickly developed into an all round receiver who Bradford could heavily rely on. Expect Givens to add to his 2012 season of 42 receptions for 698 yards and three touchdowns. With Givens likely to be the number one wideout and Austin expected to play the slot position, who is Bradfords number two guy? All Ram fans are hoping that Brian Quick can develop into a younger Vincent Jackson. With his 6 foot 4 and 220 pound frame, Quick possesses the perfect size to become a dangerous threat for opposing defences. At the moment, the Ram fans are left with more questions than answers after Quick’s 2012 season. With one more offseason under the same playbook, we could see a breakout year from Brian Quick. While much of the spotlight was on Tavon Austin, many people forgot about his Mountaineer teammate in Stedman Bailey. Bailey was voted the second best wide receiver (behind Marquise Lee) in all of college football in 2012, but was still over looked in the first two rounds. Don’t let his 5 foot 10 and 195 pound frame fool you, as he has a knack to consistently go up and make a big time grab. Ram fans must be excited about this player, as he could very well be the number two receiver.
Depth Chart Prediction
3.Tavon Austin (Slot)
With Roger Saffold moving to the right tackle position to make space for the four time pro bowler Jake Long, the Rams offensive line all of a sudden turned into a strength. The Rams offensive line looks great on paper, but if the Rams want a top 10 offensive line they must maintain their health, something the Rams havent been able to do in recent years. Despite having four solid starters on the line, the Rams are still trying to find answers at the lef guard position. Former tackle Chris Williams has been taking the first team snaps at the OTA’s. Not sure how much Ram fans should look into that, but he was a solid versatile offensive linemen last year, so maybe Jeff Fisher and Co. found his niche at the left guard position. The other options are Barret Jones and Rokevious Watkins. Barret Jones was drafted to come in as that versatile linemen who can literally play anywhere on the line. Last year at Alabama he playing center, year before he was at left tackle and in his sophomore season he was playing guard. The answer remains if he is solely good enough to fill that void at left guard. Rokevious Watkins on the other hand, is strictly a plug in guard. At 6 foot 3 and 340 pounds, it is hard to believe that he would fit anywhere else on the line. Watkins was the week one starter in the 2012 season, but fell to a season ending injury. Like Pead, Watkins will be suspended for the first regular season game, as he abused the substance policy. Will this have an effect on his depth position?
Depth Chart Prediction
With Quintin Mikell’s contract status up in the air and looking like he wont wear the Rams jersey again and Craig Dahl leaving to San Francisco, it is understatement to say that the safety position is up for grabs. Going into the 2013 NFL draft the Rams had next to no safety production. T.J. McDonald stands at 6 foot 3 and 220 pounds, which would make him a great strong safety prospect. It is likely that McDonald will fill in Mikell’s roll of standing in the box, laying some knockout hits and getting to the quarterback. While T.J. McDonald is the favourite to be the day one starter at strong safety, the free safety position is vacant for any training camp body. Right now Darian Stewart would be taking first team snaps. Darian Stewart has showen that he is more than capable of becoming the day one starter after having a stellar 2011 season. But there still must be some questions on his on field performance, as Craig Dahl was beating Stewart last year for the starting role. Rodney McLeod has worked hard over the 2012 season, trying to make a name for himself on special teams. It would be very interesting to see how he holds himself during the offseason, because put up a great preseason last season at free safety. But since Stewart is only 24 years old and has had a full year of starting experience, it is expected that he will be Fisher’s guy for the week one clash against the Arizona Cardinals.
Depth Chart Prediction
Sam Bradford is the clear cut leader of this offense. For the first time since college, Bradford will have the same offensive coordinator as the previous year. Instead of putting hours and hours of studying a new playbook, Bradford can now put most of his hours conducting the offense and making the players around him get up to speed. Expect big strides from Sam Bradford this year. Kellen Clemens was brought in last season mainly due to having previous years of experience under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. This was one of the reasons why Clemens won the second quarterback job, as he could act as a mentor to Bradford. Now with all three quarterbacks being familiar with the offense, expect Austin Davis to leap frog Clemens for that back up role. While Clemens at times looked shaky during the 2012 pre season, Davis only looked poised and comfortable in the pocket. In college, Davis broke all of Southern Miss’s quarterback records, which happens to be the same college future hall of fame quarterback Brett Farve went to.
Depth Chart Prediction
I don't think there will be all that much of a battle for the #2 spot at QB. Davis beat out Clemens last year as well. The first 4 positions listed should be provide some spirited competition. Can't wait!