As the St. Louis Rams try to climb out of the NFL's basement, all eyes are on new head coach Jeff Fisher. With this being Fisher's first camp as the boss here at Rams' Park, these players know they have to make a strong first impression.
It's early, but we have some very interesting developments this early in camp.
With position battles at wide receiver, in the secondary, on the O Line and at linebacker, things should get very exciting. Today I'm going to run down some of the best stories to come out of Rams' camp so far. As always, thanks for reading.
With Long set to become a free agent at the end of this season, the Rams did the smart thing and locked him up. There is no way the Rams could afford to let Long hit the open market. Have you seen what Julius Peppers makes?
According to Larry Hartstein, the deal is reportedly a four-year deal, meaning this exciting young nucleus the Rams have on defense gets to stay together. Next up, the Rams need to get James Laurinaitis a new deal. With Long, Laurinaitis and young defensive linemen Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers, the Rams look very formidable in their front seven.
I came across this terrific article by Mike Sando of ESPN.com where he detailed the one-on-one battle going on right now between Cortland Finnegan and Danny Amendola. Finnegan played a lot of slot-corner for the Tennessee Titans. Amendola primarily plays the slot for the Rams.
That is two really good players locking horns.
I think it's really interesting that the Rams are using Finnegan in this role, and it's fascinating to think of what this could mean for the rest of the Rams corners. If Finnegan is going to slide to the inside to cover slot receivers when teams go three-wide, then who plays the outside receivers?
Rookie Janoris Jenkins figures to play one spot. The other position looks like it could be a battle between fellow rookie Trumaine Johnson and Jerome Murphy, who is coming off of a major injury. Murphy is talented, and he has more experience than Johnson.
Would the Rams really line up two rookie corners on the outside?
Also, with Amendola reportedly looking so good in camp, what does this mean for fellow wide receiver Steve Smith, who also primarily plays the slot? Smith was brought in as a free agent during the offseason, and has an impressive resume. However, coming off of two straight seasons where he was injured, a healthy Amendola could mean Smith has a hard time making this roster.
The good folks over at Turf Show Times had this article where they talked about the Rams possibly playing a lot of Cover 2 in 2012. According to the report, James Laurinaitis is playing lighter this year so he can "run all day."
As we just discussed, the Rams might be painfully inexperienced at corner. By playing a Cover 2, this could take some pressure off of those corners. However, Quintin Mickell struggled in coverage last year, and he's not getting any younger.
The Rams have an excellent defensive line, they are deep in the secondary and they have a stud MLB. Maybe a Cover 2 will help the team mask some of their deficiencies at OLB and with some of their young corners. It will be something to keep an eye on.
The Rams O-Line was awful last year, so the Rams went out and signed Scott Wells, who had been an All-Pro center with the Green Bay Packers. Problem is, Wells still hasn't practiced. At what point should we start to get worried? Wells had a knee scope during the offseason, so we shouldn't panic yet.
Having said that, this O-Line has been awful. We need Wells to get out there to start getting some reps.
The O-Line looked set at four positions, with Rodger Saffold (LT), Wells (C), Harvey Dahl (RG) and Jason Smith (RT) all heavy favorites to be starters. The only open spot was left guard, where imposing rookie Rokevi0us Watkins looked like he might be able to step in and play right away.
However, Watkins showed up to camp overweight and out of shape, meaning he has really, really set himself back in his first pro training camp. That's not only how you lose a starting job, it's how you play yourself out of the league as a young player. Watkins had a chance to make a name for himself as a rookie. Now, he'll be fighting just to make the team.
In another report by Larry Hartstein, Bradford is looking sharp at camp so far. The Rams need Bradford to rebound from his poor sophomore year and play up to his All-Pro talent. Bradford is going to need better O-Line play and more help from his receivers to reach his potential.
Hartstein says that Quinn Ojinnaka worked as the starting left guard, as Watkins is being held out of practice right now. Maybe Ojinnaka will take this opportunity and make the most of it. The Rams are certainly hoping he does.
So does Sam Bradford.
If the O-Line plays well in 2012, expect Bradford to have a breakout season. The Rams have a lot more talent around Bradford, and I truly believe Bradford has the goods to be an elite QB in this league. He just needs time to throw the ball. After being sacked 70 times in his first 26 professional games, enough is enough.
Let's get Bradford some time to throw, and he will take the Rams to that next level.