The St. Louis Rams' final open practice for the public took place this week at team headquarters in St. Louis. It’s been an interesting few days around Rams Park.
The team traded cornerback Josh Gordy to Indianapolis for what was essentially an undisclosed bag of peanuts (aka draft pick) in 2014. That was followed by the signing of free-agent defensive tackle, and former first-round pick, Vernon Gholston.
For all the talk surrounding Rams Camp regarding who’s at right tackle (Barry Richardson or Jason Smith?), how Sam Bradford’s ankle is looking (just don’t ask him) and the latest comings and goings on the renegotiation of the team’s lease on the Edward Jones Dome, this Rams team is all about youth, energy and the future.
How are the rookies looking after two preseason games and a few weeks of practice? Here are report card grades for Rams rookies at this stage of the preseason.
Michael Brockers (Grade: C)
Everything coming out of Rams Camp has been good regarding first-round pick DT Michael Brockers. He gets good push at the line and holds his place against the run.
At the young age of 21, Brockers is surely a long-term project for Jeff Fisher and his defensive staff. It’s good to see Brockers hold his own against the first units of other offensive lines. More will be expected as the season progresses. This is just the start for Brockers, albeit a good one.
Brian Quick (Grade: B+)
Quick looked very strong in last week’s preseason game against Kansas City, grabbing three balls for 20 yards. Quick made a strong play on a nine-yard reception, losing credit for a touchdown after officials overturned the call after replay.
Quick has been working with Rams pass-catching legend Torry Holt. Holt has been teaching Quick to use his size and strength to shield smaller defensive backs. If Quick can continue to get open and make plays, the Rams can get that necessary deep threat back into the offense.
Isaiah Pead (Grade: C)
Anytime you can get in the end zone during an NFL game, you deserve credit. Pead did just that, by scoring on a one-yard rush against Kansas City that finished off Quick's overturned score just moments before.
The box score told a different story for Pead, as he finished with minus-eight yards on eight touches against KC's second-tier unit. Pead is not expected to gain the “tough yards” between the tackles. That’s why God made Steven Jackson. But Pead will be expected to keep defenses honest and be a legitimate threat out of the backfield.
Pead needs to be more aggressive, attack the holes in the line and keep moving forward. Hesitation from a running back is a defense’s best friend.
Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson (Grade: A-)
I’ve been trumpeting my excitement for the Rams’ defensive backfield for weeks now. These guys have not let me down.
Jenkins was spectacular against Kansas City’s top unit, forcing a first-quarter fumble that set up the Rams’ second touchdown. That was a continued improvement from the first game against Indianapolis, where Jenkins tipped a couple of passes in coverage.
Johnson also impressed against KC, batting away a pass in coverage that was intercepted, eventually leading to the Pead touchdown. Johnson was relatively quiet in the first preseason game, but if the recent performances of Jenkins and Johnson are any indication of things to come, they have an eye for the ball, and Rams fans should be pleased with the team’s decision to invest heavily in these DBs.
Chris Givens (Grade: C+)
Givens has held his own on the field during the first two preseason contests. He’s caught three passes for 40 yards and averaged 26.5 yards on two kickoff returns over the two preseason games. Givens' speed is evident, and it’s good for Rams fans to see him progress as the preseason continues.
Rokevious Watkins (Grade: D+, with room for improvement)
I don’t mean to downplay Watkins with such a low grade. I think he’s the Rams' left guard of the future and will probably be on the starting offensive line by the end of the year. However, by showing up to camp overweight and out of shape, it's fair to discuss Watkins’ discipline.
Still, that’s really old news by now. Since the start of camp, Watkins has been working hard and appears to be making great strides to get back to form. Watkins led the blocking on a late touchdown by Darryl Richardson against Kansas City. It's all about continued small steps for the big guy.
Greg Zuerlein (Grade: A)
Zuerlein is doing exactly what was expected when the Rams selected him as long-time PK Josh Brown’s replacement. Zuerlein continues to impress with his leg, nailing both of his attempted field goals in the preseason.
The FG against Kansas City was a 52-yard attempt that crossed the bar with plenty of room to spare. On the television broadcast, former Rams great Marshall Faulk said the ball was still on its way up when it hit the net. It wasn’t, but it sure did feel like it.
Zuerlein will lead the Rams in scoring this season, and he has a very good shot at becoming one of the best PKs in the NFC.
Austin Davis (Grade: B)
It’s unknown just yet whether the Rams will keep three quarterbacks come Week 1 of the regular season. Austin Davis is, however, making the case to Rams coaches that they should.
Davis has been very efficient leading the offense in game action. He’s completed 17 of 25 passes (68 percent) for 154 yards combined in both preseason contests, including a nice completion on fourth down in the waning minutes of the Kansas City game.
Sam Bradford is the present and future of the Rams at quarterback. But if the Rams can develop Davis into a viable passing threat, it could pay off down the line in trade value for the team.