Rams complete first phase of camp with high expectations
Stan McNeal discusses Rams' noticeable quickness on turf, position battles and more from scrimmage
By STAN McNEALFS Midwest
ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Sam Bradford learned something about the
Rams during their two-hour-plus workout at the Edward Jones Dome on Saturday. As quick as his new teammates have been scurrying around on the grass fields at Rams Park, they look even quicker on the artificial turf where the team will play its home games.
"We do play faster," Bradford said. "In here today, there was a lot of speed."
The fastest of the new Rams, rookie receiver Tavon Austin, noticed a difference, too.
"I felt like I was home back at West Virginia," Austin said. "It felt good to get out there and make a couple of plays, show the fans what I can do."
Bradford actually noticed the Rams moving faster Friday when weather forced the team to move part of practice into its indoor facility at Rams Park. "When we got on that artificial turf, there was a noticeable difference about how much faster we were," Bradford said.
Bradford likes going to Cook
The highlight of the workout was an effective march down the field in the hurry-up offense that included a nifty catch and move by Austin and ended with a touchdown pass to new tight end Jared Cook.
"It's good to see us put something like that together," said Bradford, who might have found a new favorite target in the 6-foot-5 Cook.
"I think you saw today my trust with Jared," Bradford said. "I've got all the trust in the world if I put the ball up there he's going to go get it. Every time we step on the field, that comfort level grows."
Bradford talked earlier this week about the physicality of receiver Brian Quick, whose rookie season was considered a disappointment by all. Rams coaches have said that Quick has shown much improvement in knowing where to be in his second training camp and he has used his size and athleticism to make some nice plays. Judging from passes he hasn't caught, however, he still has a ways to go in the consistency department.
Position battles remain very undecided
Shelley Smith worked with the first team at left guard Saturday but his competition with Chris Williams for the starting job is far from settled. The two have alternated days working with the first team, Fisher said.
Don't expect a winner to be declared in any of the battles for first-team jobs, which also include running back and safety.
"We're getting a better sense but we'll rely heavily on preseason games," Fisher said. The Rams open their preseason Thursday night at Cleveland.
Special-team jobs, however, are different. The players you see on special teams in the preseason opener will have grabbed an edge for those jobs.
"We're anxiously awaiting our new core group of special teams players to see what they can do in live situations against the Browns," Fisher said.
Crowds and expectations are growing
When Fisher walked onto the field about half an hour before the workout started, he received a nice and lengthy ovation from early-arriving fans.
"That's great. It's football," Fisher said about the response. "It's been six or seven months and we're back at it again. People are excited."
The Rams estimated nearly 15,000 fans showed up for the free workout, an increase of about 4,000 from last year. Does the coach sense a different vibe in his second season?
"I would make an assumption that the expectation level is much higher than it was," Fisher said. "That's a fair assumption. That's where we are, too."
Back to work on Monday
Eight full-squad workouts into training camp, the Rams will take their second day off on Sunday before holding practices open to the public on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. Then it will be off to Cleveland on Thursday for the first of their four preseason games.
"This completes phase one of camp," Fisher said following Saturday's practice. "Things are going to go fast now and we gotta get game ready, get the guys ready to play football. I'm sure Cleveland is going to have a lot to prove in the first preseason game."
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.