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Rams Mailbag: Identifying Camp's Biggest Position Battles

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  • Rams Mailbag: Identifying Camp's Biggest Position Battles

    Rams mailbag: Identifying camp's biggest position battles

    Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer

    EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Well, we are almost there. The St. Louis Rams are set to open training camp on Friday with rookies reporting Monday and the veterans jumping in on Wednesday.

    But before we get there, we’ve got time for another edition of the Rams Twitter mailbag.

    As always, you can find me on Twitter @nwagoner. Please use hashtag #RamsMail so I can see your questions. On to business.

    SeattleRams ‎@seattlerams
    @nwagoner Headed into camp, which position battles look to be the most contested over the summer? Center? OLB? 3rd RB? #RamsMail
    1:20 PM - 22 Jul 2015
    @nwagoner: Center is certainly the one that takes the prize here. I legitimately wouldn't be surprised by any outcome in that battle between Barrett Jones, Tim Barnes and Demetrius Rhaney. For perspective, last week I projected Barnes as the starter heading into camp (though it's really a dead heat) but also believe that he could be cut when they get to 53. The Rams are going to rotate all three players with the first-team offense and I believe they'd like Jones to win the job and Rhaney offers more upside. At this point, Barnes has some starting experience but that might not be enough to save his job after we go through camp and the preseason. And for what it's worth, had the Rams not drafted tackle Isaiah Battle, I could've seen a scenario in which all three centers made the cut to 53. Maybe injuries will factor in and change things again, but attempting to project who starts at center on Sept. 13 right now is a really difficult exercise.

    John Palmieri ‎@JPalmieri30
    @nwagoner Are the Rams currently trying to get an extension done with Janoris Jenkins? I think he is a must keep player. #RamsMail
    8:54 AM - 23 Jul 2015
    @nwagoner: Currently? I don't know if that's in the works at the moment but I do know the Rams have had some preliminary discussions with some players they'd like to keep around. Remember, they have a lot of unrestricted free agents after the season, so it stands to reason that if they have decided fully that they want to keep some of them, getting them done sooner than later would be a good thing. I believe they have interest in keeping Janoris Jenkins and wouldn't be surprised if he was in the mix for a deal. I'll be sure to check in on this further as we get into camp.

    derrick costoplos ‎@costoplos
    @nwagoner I really thought Mason was the future,but it's looking like a Lendale White/CJ combo thing now with Gurley.true?#RamsMail
    8:01 PM - 17 Jul 2015
    @nwagoner: I don't think it plays out that way. Tre Mason will get his opportunities, and certainly more than his share, until Todd Gurley is healthy. But when Gurley is at full speed, he's going to be the primary guy. The Rams view him as their Adrian Peterson or Marshawn Lynch. Jeff Fisher even acknowledged he could be his new Eddie George. In other words, the Rams didn't draft him to be part of an elaborate timeshare. He'll be the focal point of the offense sooner than later.

    Cody Zick ‎@zick823
    @nwagoner do you think Andrew Donnal or Jamon Brown will win a starting spot on the O-line? #RamsMail
    2:12 PM - 22 Jul 2015
    @nwagoner: Well, Jamon Brown was already working with the first team at right guard in the spring and the Rams seem pleased with his progress. I suppose things could change, but he seems to be in a really good spot when it comes to winning that job. Andrew Donnal is probably going to settle into a backup spot.

    Gerald S. Reynolds ‎@ranchghost_g
    @nwagoner #Ramsmail How can the team seriously compete with that offensive line?
    7:40 AM - 24 Jul 2015
    @nwagoner: Well, I suppose one could argue that simply making some changes will make the line better than it was last season. Despite their line woes a year ago, the Rams were competitive. But I also am assuming you mean can they contend rather than compete? We know the Rams will compete and be in the majority of their games. To me, the offensive line is the single biggest question of any position group on the team. That's not breaking any new ground, but it's certainly the case. How do two rookies fare? Who starts at center? Can Greg Robinson elevate his game? Can Rodger Saffold stay healthy? That's a lot of questions to answer. I fully expect there to be plenty of growing pains for that group, but if it can prove capable of at least getting the job done in the run game and not be a total sieve pass blocking, the Rams will have a fighting chance. Still, it's probably going to be a constant work in progress for most of the season, and it's fair to wonder if it will be good enough for the Rams to actually contend for a playoff spot.

  • #2
    Re: Rams Mailbag: Identifying Camp's Biggest Position Battles

    ... Jamon Brown was already working with the first team at right guard in the spring and the Rams seem pleased with his progress. I suppose things could change, but he seems to be in a really good spot when it comes to winning that job. Andrew Donnal is probably going to settle into a backup spot.
    Agreed. And glad to see this status about JB and ADonnal.


    • #3
      Re: Rams Mailbag: Identifying Camp's Biggest Position Battles

      Only point I heartily disagree with Wags is the RB position... We should be in a two back rotation to start the season of Tre and Bam Bam. Then if and when Todd G. is ready to play I would work him in slow and steady and we would go to a Triple threat back field... Finally if Todd is hitting on all cylinders and fully healthy he might get 50 percent of the carries then split the rest with Tre around 30 percent plus and the other backs like Bam Bam the left overs. That is if all are healthy, we should not have to put a guy out on the field as a decoy who is not healthy enough to really be effective. As we had to or chose to with Zac his first season. I would wait a full year before declaring Todd Gurley my starter, and I would still split the carries. But that is just me I love the idea of the depth we have on this team no reason to run anyone into the ground imho!


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        Rams Mailbag: Talking Wide Receivers
        by r8rh8rmike
        Rams mailbag: Talking wide receivers

        Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer

        EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In Saturday's mailbag, we got a chance to offer some early impressions from training camp with an emphasis on, you guessed it, the offensive line.

        Today, we turn our attention to the wide receivers.

        As always, you can reach me on Twitter @nwagoner. Please use hashtag #RamsMail.

        @nwagoner: First, I'm a big fan of the use of the word hierarchy instead of simply asking how the depth chart would shake out. So kudos on that. Right now, it looks like it's going to be quite similar to last season. Assuming Brian Quick continues on his path to recovery, he'll be one of the starters opposite Kenny Britt. The Rams like having the two bigger guys on the outside not only for pass-catching purposes, but also as run blockers. From there, the slot position is an interesting one. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Rams sprinkle Stedman Bailey into the slot more with Tavon Austin operating as a sort of movable piece capable of playing inside or outside. I still expect Quick and Britt to get the most reps followed probably by Austin and Bailey.

        @nwagoner: I don't think I'd go as far as to say any are really standing out. Bradley Marquez was a guy that did some really good things in the spring and caught some eyes but he hasn't done a whole lot in training camp. He did have some good moments in recent days but I wouldn't say he's been a "standout" necessarily. Daniel Rodriguez has been fun to watch with his ability to catch punts behind his back and with other footballs in his hands but that's obviously not something that's going to put him closer to a roster spot. The others, guys such as Tyler Slavin and Isaiah Ferguson, have been mostly nondescript, though Ferguson has flashed every once in a while. I don't see anyone who looks poised to take Chris Givens' spot right now, though that could change as we get into the preseason slate.

        @nwagoner: It's awfully hard to answer right now since we don't know the extent of Aldon Smith's latest run-in with the law and what the subsequent punishments will be in a court of law or from the NFL. Recently, the Jaguars came out and said receiver Justin Blackmon probably won't play again. Of course, Blackmon didn't have the resume of Smith in the NFL, but he did have the draft position. Really, it's up to Smith on how he handles himself moving forward to determine his future. As a human being and, to a far lesser degree, a Mizzou alum, I hope he can figure it out even if he never plays another down.

        @nwagoner: This question is almost as difficult to answer as the previous one. The Rams haven't tipped their hand, as Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones and Demetrius Rhaney continue to rotate. To my eyes, Rhaney looks like he has the most upside as a pure blocker but...
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      • MauiRam
        Have Rams solved their offensive line issues?
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        Sat Jul 11, 2015 11:24
        By Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer

        EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams made some rare mid-July news this week when they used a fifth-round supplemental draft pick on Clemson offensive tackle Isaiah Battle.

        That move brought their haul of rookie offensive linemen added this offseason to a whopping five. It also coincides with the return of the Twitter mailbag. And, as you'd expect, there were questions about Battle and the line.

        Justin Koski @koski_justin
        @nwagoner with 5 new OL, is the answer to the Rams oline riddle finally on the roster?

        @nwagoner: That's one of the biggest questions surrounding this team right now. But unfortunately there's no answer for it at the moment. The Rams made a conscious decision to rebuild the line with youth rather than adding veterans, which is fine but it also feels like a bit of an overcorrection. To be sure, big free-agent investments made on the line didn't work out either, so going the other way does make some sense. But it also seemed like the Rams could have added at least one veteran piece at a cheaper rate to help out right away. The team believes Robert Havenstein and Jamon Brown can start right away, and there's a real chance they will. Beyond that, banking on a fourth, fifth or sixth-round pick is probably asking too much. But in an ideal world, they can all offer solid depth with one developing into a starter. Regardless, offensive line coach Paul Boudreau has a big task in front of him.

        CHuff @huffster21
        How many of these olineman can we realistically keep? I assume some would get plucked from our practice squad.

        @nwagoner: Over the past few years, it hasn't been unusual for the Rams to go heavy on offensive linemen. They've kept 10 or even 11 at various points in Jeff Fisher's tenure. But nine is probably a realistic number with 10 an outside possibility. Even assuming that, they're probably going to end up releasing a player or two that might come with some level of name recognition. I'd venture to guess that one of the three centers competing for the starting spot, for example, will be squeezed out in the final tally. If you don't project to be a starter, it would be wise to add some versatility to your game if you want to make this roster on the offensive line.

        James Armstrong @jamessarmstrong
        Nick what can you tell us about Isaiah Battle. Anything special or just an OL numbers game?

        @nwagoner: The Rams believe they got good value with Battle. In other words, a player who would have gone a round or two higher under normal circumstances but had enough question marks to drop him a bit in the supplemental draft. They have no plans to rush him, and anyone expecting him to compete with Havenstein right away will probably be disappointed. But he does have some athleticism and really long arms. He showed some prowess as a...
        -07-11-2015, 06:35 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Rams Mailbag: Closer To Contention?
        by r8rh8rmike
        Rams mailbag: Closer to contention?

        Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer

        EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams roster is mostly set for 2015, though some tweaks could still happen between now and September. So, are they closer to competing for an NFC West division crown?

        That's one of the many topics on your mind this week.

        As always, you can find me on Twitter @nwagoner. Please use hashtag #RamsMail and I'll do my best to get to your question.

        @nwagoner: I can appreciate where you're coming from, but never give them a good shot? I don't really know what that means. If things break right, I think they can contend for a playoff spot. But things haven't broken right and they still have some serious questions to answer. I'd like to see them on the field in OTAs and, more importantly, training camp before rushing to judgment, and I reserve the right to change my post-schedule-release prediction until then. In the meantime, you're right that they should be improved at quarterback with Nick Foles instead of Shaun Hill or Austin Davis. But I'm not entirely sold on Foles yet and there are still major, major questions on the offensive line. And for as good as we all believe the defense can be -- and it could be very good -- that group needs to be more consistent and cut down on the game-changing mistakes. Using the past to predict the future in the NFL is often a fool's errand, but until we see otherwise, it's pretty hard to project this team taking the next step. Consistency comes first. If and when it does, buying in will be easy.

        @nwagoner: I actually think the Rams are in position to make a bit of a move in the division. That isn't necessarily a function of what I expect them to do as much as other teams taking a step back, but I do think it's possible they could move from fourth to second in the division. I think San Francisco looks poised for a tumble. It's never good when you replace a successful coach with an unknown coach who is basically just the opposite of the one you had. Rams fans circa Mike Martz followed by Scott Linehan can attest to as much. Arizona should still contend, but I wonder what becomes of the defense without Todd Bowles calling the shots and whether Carson Palmer can stay healthy. The Rams can compete with the Seahawks on the field twice a year but need to be more consistent in other games to have a shot at winning the division. I don't think they're ready for that just yet. It's been a strange three years in the division for the Rams under Jeff Fisher. They were very good against the West in 2012, awful in 2013 and slightly below average last year. I expect something closer to 3-3 or even 4-2 against the West this time around.

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      • r8rh8rmike
        Rams Mailbag: Setting Expectations For Rams' Defense
        by r8rh8rmike
        Rams mailbag: Setting expectations for Rams' defense

        Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer

        EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In Saturday's mailbag, we discussed what reasonable numbers for new St. Louis Rams quarterback Nick Foles might look like. Today, we turn our attention to the defense and what constitutes a disappointment.

        That and much more on the docket today, so we'll get down to business. As always, you can shoot me questions on Twitter @nwagoner. Please use hashtag #RamsMail.

        @nwagoner: That's a good question, and there's multiple ways to look at answering it. In some sense, it's unfair to expect a defense that hasn't even cracked the top 10 under Jeff Fisher to suddenly become a top-5 group. But on the other hand, this is a unit that absolutely has the talent in place to reach a top-5 level. But I tend to lean toward making the answer yes. At this point, I think we'd all agree that in the fourth year under Fisher, making the playoffs should be the goal and expectation. For the Rams to get there, I believe they need the defense to play at a top-5 level all season. If that group falls short of that, it's hard to imagine the offense being good enough to make up the difference, especially early in the season. The key for the defense is getting off to a faster start and playing with more consistency, especially in the secondary. If they cut down on the big plays allowed on the back end, that top-5 status should be within reach. One other area to monitor, even in the preseason, is run defense. A slow start in that area last year pretty much wrecked any chance the Rams had of reaching their vast defensive potential. Much like with the rest of the team, seeing will be believing when it comes to this.

        @nwagoner: Well, if they aren't, there's a problem. Fisher always says that he and the scouting department will keep their eyes open for opportunities, but when you reach this point in the game, there simply aren't going to be many players available who will make much of a difference. There might be a couple of names out there right now (yes, Evan Mathis is available), but the Rams don't seem to have much interest in going that direction. They certainly could make an addition or two if there are injuries or someone intriguing pops up on the waiver wire, but what you see is mostly what you're going to get with the roster right now.

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      • r8rh8rmike
        Rams Mailbag: Offensive Line Concerns Persist
        by r8rh8rmike
        Rams mailbag: Offensive line concerns persist

        Nick Wagoner, ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

        EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It's officially April, which means much of the focus has now turned to the NFL draft. Over the next few weeks, the St. Louis Rams will spend most of their time meeting with prospects, in draft meetings and building their final board.

        Most of the heavy lifting is done, but the final details are yet to be put in place. With that in mind, let's get down to business.

        As always, you can find me on Twitter @nwagoner, where you can submit questions for this mailbag anytime using the hashtag #RamsMail.

        @nwagoner: As I've maintained most of the time, center is the one position of the three where the Rams at least seem to have options in house. That's even more true now that Tim Barnes has re-signed. It's a risky proposition since none of the trio of Barnes, Barrett Jones or Demetrius Rhaney have much starting experience (only Barnes does). The only name that's been connected to the Rams from the outside is Stefen Wisniewski, but he's been making the rounds on visits and has yet to come to St. Louis. The Rams have interest there but it doesn't seem like that interest is all that real at this point. It's not impossible that the Rams could make a move at center but it seems less likely than adding a guard and/or tackle at this point.

        @nwagoner: Not necessarily. But I do think it's worth noting that Joe Barksdale remains unsigned and the Rams have clear interest in many of the top offensive line prospects in the draft. They've brought in tackles Andrus Peat and Jamon Brown already and there have been reports that Miami's Ereck Flowers and Pittsburgh's T.J. Clemmings will also be coming in. It wouldn't surprise if Brandon Scherff was also on a long list of potential offensive line visitors. The Rams seem comfortable with the idea of going with a young, inexperienced line next year at this point. There's still time to bring Barksdale back or add a veteran like Justin Blalock, but it looks like a risky approach from the outside. Barksdale is still in play and something could get done there but I also get the sense that the Rams wouldn't mind upgrading at that spot.

        @nwagoner: Way too early to start making predictions until we see how the whole offseason plays out. Unless asked to by the bosses, I'll refrain from offering predictions. As it stands right now, however, it's kind of hard to see how the Rams have done enough to bolster the offense enough to get over the hump. Having a healthy Nick Foles at quarterback should be an upgrade over Shaun Hill or Austin Davis, but they still have major holes at offensive line that could make keeping Foles himself healthy a questionable situation. The Rams have a lot of faith in their defense and I think they have enough talent and an outstanding coordinator who can...
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