Rams officially break camp with several key issues still to tackle
Stan McNeal ranks the biggest issues still facing the Rams heading into preseason game No. 3.
By STAN McNEAL FS Midwest
ST. LOUIS -- Training camp ended for the
Rams on Wednesday afternoon, officially anyway. Mainly that means no more workouts will be open to the public and, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, work days for the players become a bit shorter.
It doesn't mean they're done training, though. While they're four weeks into their preseason work, more than two weeks as well as two more exhibitions remain before the Rams open the regular season against Arizona on Sept. 8.
That leaves Jeff Fisher and his staff plenty of time to address the biggest issues facing the team. After two uninspired performances in preseason games, they can use it.
To this point, perhaps the biggest positive to come out of Rams camp has been what hasn't happened. They have avoided injuries for the most part. Right tackle
Rodger Saffold dislocated his left shoulder in the preseason opener but has since returned to practice, and Fisher said after Wednesday's workout that he expects Saffold to play Saturday night at Denver.
Here's a look at what else I learned or think I learned during training camp, the official part of it, anyway.
Daryl Richardson will be the featured running back
The Rams finished their OTAs saying they could replace Steven Jackson with a running back by committee with Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Zac Stacy and even
Benny Cunningham splitting the load. While anything is possible, Richardson is looking a lot like a guy who will get the ball most of the time.
Though Richardson has emerged as the clear choice at running back, the battle for his backup is far from decided. Pead has done so little since being drafted in the second round in 2012 that his chances of even making the 53-man roster are less than certain. Given a chance to showcase his stuff with the first-teamers against Green Bay, Pead gained 11 yards on his first carry and then a total of eight in his next 10 attempts.
One back who took himself out of the mix was Terrance Ganaway, who went into Fisher's office Wednesday morning and told him he was giving up football and returning to school.
Sam Bradford is turning to a familiar face
While most of the early buzz has gone to new tight end
Jared Cook and rookie receivers
Tavon Austin and
Stedman Bailey, second-year wideout Chris Givens has picked up where he left off last season. The two have connected on 50-plus-yard plays in each of the first two exhibitions, and Givens also has caught several long passes in practice.
Of course, it is difficult to say what will happen when the games begin to count.
Chris Williams will start at left guard
This is total speculation because Williams and Shelley Smith continue to rotate working with the first-teamers. Fisher, however, might have tipped his hand the other day when asked how Smith performed against the Packers. Just after the coach had been fairly expansive in praising tackle Joe Barksdale, he uttered little more about Smith than, "He was OK."
Safety spots still up for grabs, too
After dealing with a banged-up knee last week, rookie
T.J. McDonald was moving well in Wednesday's practice and seems to have a firm hold on one spot. At the other,
Rodney McLeod is pushing Darian Stewart for first-team status. McLeod looked good after he took over for Stewart, who tweaked his hamstring, against Green Bay. When Stewart was on the field against Green Bay, he missed a couple of tackles that did not help his cause. Stewart did not practice Wednesday, either, which figures to give McLeod another opportunity to show his stuff at Denver.
Backup quarterback remains up for grabs
Not necessarily in a good way, either. Neither Austin Davis nor Kellen Clemens has done enough in practice or the preseason games to distinguish himself. What they have done is shown that the Rams could be in big trouble if Bradford is injured.
Cook has learned something, too
After spending his first four seasons with Tennessee, Cook has found one notable difference on his new team.
"You don't have to get these guys up for practice," he said. "That's something that I'm not really accustomed to. They bring their own intensity. They bring their own enthusiasm, which is awesome."
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.