Ogletree, McDonald set to get first test

Just like last year, from the beginning of training camp the St.
Louis Rams have been preparing two high draft picks to start on
defense.

They’re hoping to get similar production from this year’s
duo.

”I feel confident I can do it, and it feels good to know they
feel the same way,” free safety T.J. McDonald said after practice
Tuesday night. ”Not every play is perfect, but one thing I can
control is my hustle.

”I give my all every play, and if I don’t do everything perfect
at least it looks good.”

Outside linebacker Alec Ogletree was the second of the Rams’
first-round picks after a productive career at Georgia. McDonald
was taken in the third round out of USC.

”They’re both very instinctive players, and they’re
intelligent, and they’re studying,” coach Jeff Fisher said.
”Neither one of them is struggling whatsoever in the system and
the scheme. They’re going to be impact players for us.”

Both are atop the unofficial depth chart and about to get their
first real test in the preseason opener Thursday night at
Cleveland.

”It’s very exciting, to be on this stage,” Ogletree said.
”It’s something I’ve wanted to do all my life and I’m looking
forward to being out there.”

McDonald was fired up about the practice in the Edward Jones
Dome over the weekend, but knows he needs to harness the
adrenaline.

”It’s happening now,” McDonald said. ”I’m going to let my
preparation in camp, everything they’ve taught me, let that guide
me through it.

”I’ll try not to get too emotionally involved, but I’m
definitely going to soak it in.”

Fisher overhauled the defense his first season with six new
starters including tackle Michael Brockers and cornerback Janoris
Jenkins. Both were named to Pro Football Weekly’s all-rookie
team.

The Rams tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks last season, and
veteran leaders believe they have the potential to be a top 10
defense. The youth movement has been fueled by a surplus of
first-rounders from the trade that sent the No. 2 pick in the 2012
draft to Washington, which the Redskins used to select Robert
Griffin III.

Will Witherspoon provides insurance at linebacker in his second
go-around with the Rams. He also can help mentor the 21-year-old
Ogletree, who was first-team All-SEC last year and has the speed to
go sideline to sideline.

The Rams are replacing both safeties from last season. Holdover
Darian Stewart, who was second on the team in tackles in 2011, is
the likely starter at strong safety.

Brockers was a first-rounder last year and had a strong finish
after missing the first month with a high ankle sprain, finishing
with four sacks.

Jenkins was a second-rounder last year and made a dazzling debut
with three interception returns for touchdowns and a fourth score
on a punt return.

Fisher said Daryl Richardson has the inside track on the running
back job after a productive rookie year as Steven Jackson’s backup.
Isaiah Pead, a second-rounder last year who played little as a
rookie, and fifth-round pick Zac Stacy are also in the mix.

Players had to handle the heat for the first time in perhaps a
couple weeks, with a high temperature of 89 degrees at practice. It
had been unseasonably cool with temperatures in the 70s.

”They did fine,” Fisher said. ”Obviously they’re in good
shape and I thought they handled the heat pretty well.”

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