Five encouraging signs from Rams OTAs
JUN 20, 2014 12:31p ET
ST. LOUIS -- The Rams wrapped up their organized team activities Thursday, with coach Jeff Fisher cutting the OTAs one short of the 10 allowable by giving his players Friday off. After all, enough was enough.
"We're pleased," Fisher said. "We told guys, 'You're not going to compete for the division here the next couple weeks. The only thing you can do is set yourself back.'
"It was a step-by-step process and we got everything in. We came through it very, very healthy. We got the 'rooks' caught up, which was good. Over the Memorial Day week, they came back and they were able to compete. Sam (Bradford) got on the field two consecutive days. Jake (Long) got some stuff done in individual. So, we're in pretty good shape now before the break."
With training camp beginning in late July -- rookies report July 21, veterans July 24 -- it figures to be all quiet on the Rams front for the next month. But OTAs revealed some encouraging signs that should give fans some comfort until it's time to put on the pads.
Of course, it's important to note that players competing in helmets and shorts resembles flag football more than NFL competition.
BRITT WILL HELP
The Rams chose not to upgrade their wide receiver corps through the draft because Fisher and general manger Les Snead were confident in the youngsters they had coming back -- and a veteran they signed in free agency.
The addition of Kenny Britt represents a low-risk move with a potentially high reward, if the former first-round pick can return to the form he showed his first two seasons in Tennessee under Fisher.
"We knew he'd do well," Fisher told FOXSportsMidwest.com. "He needed a fresh start. I know him well. He'll be successful here."
When he ran past both the Rams' starting cornerbacks, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, to haul in touchdown passes early in OTAs he showed that he can still be a playmaker. He has emerged as a vocal veteran leader for a wide receiver group that was lacking one.
"He's doing a great job," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "Still learning the system. It's been a little different for him, but each day he makes one or two big plays. It's kind of a big-man's game, that's what it's gone to. Very, very pleased with what he's done so far."
If Britt is successful here, the St. Louis passing attack should be much improved. That could make the difference between making the playoffs or watching them from home once again.
ROBINSON GETTING COMFORTABLE AT GUARD
The Rams had plenty of options with the No. 2 overall pick, including playmaking wide receiver Sammy Watkins, but it looks like they made the right choice in offensive lineman Greg Robinson.
Robinson admitted that the transition from playing left tackle at Auburn to playing left guard with St. Louis has not been easy. But the 6-foot-5, 332-pounder felt more and more comfortable as time went on and told reporters Thursday he felt good about it, even mentioning that his goal was to become an All-Pro guard.
The Rams' offensive line will be a concern again this season, with left tackle Jake Long coming off a season-ending knee injury and center Scott Wells having dealt with injuries the last two seasons. Robinson's addition, along with the signing of veteran guard Davin Joseph, helps solidify the line.
If St. Louis can line up its five regulars this fall -- Long at left tackle, Robinson at left guard, Wells at center, Rodger Saffold at right guard and Joe Barksdale at right tackle -- the Rams should be fine. But that's a big "if" considering the injury history of Long, Wells and Saffold.
DONALD WILL CONTRIBUTE EARLY
The Rams' second first-round pick, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, has drawn rave reviews from his teammates and coaches during OTAs.
"Aaron Donald has my vote for rookie of the year already," Schottenheimer said. "He's a really good player."
Asked which of the rookies has stood out to him, linebacker Alec Ogletree, who was an impact rookie himself last season, named the defensive tackle from Pitt.
"He's been doing pretty good in my eyes," Ogletree said. "He came in working the first day he got here and out on the field you can tell that he's a very disruptive guy. He's been causing a lot of havoc for the offense."
Donald clearly makes an already-strong defensive line better.
WILLIAMS WILL MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
As a whole, the defense will be better this season -- because of Donald, because of experience gained by young players last season, but most of all because of the man in charge of the D, Gregg Williams.
"It's been great," Fisher told FOXSportsMidwest.com. "As soon as we hired Gregg I got numerous texts from defensive players expressing their excitement. The culture has changed in the defensive room, and it's only going to get better."
Williams' hiring as defensive coordinator this offseason gives Fisher a familiar face he can rely on with more than a decade of experience in that role, unlike the past two seasons. Williams also brings an edginess that has been missing. Tim Walton he is not.
SAM WILL MAKE THE TEAM
Sam Bradford, sure. But we're talking about Michael Sam.
Sam is attempting to be the first openly gay player in NFL history. If OTAs are any indication, he has a very good shot at doing that. He held his own in OTAs while taking reps with the backup defensive linemen.
The seventh-round pick from Missouri isn't expected to make an immediate impact along the Rams' defensive line, the strength of their team. But he does look like a worthwhile prospect to develop as a pass rusher.
"He's working real hard," Fisher told FOXSportsMidwest.com before the final week of OTAs. "He's improving at his technique at the position. He takes to coaching well. We've seen improvement just over the last six OTAs."