St. Louis Rams: Rookies to Be Excited About
This could be the most exciting class of rookies the St. Louis Rams have had in a while. There are potential playmakers on both sides of the ball. The preseason is always a good time to gage rookies and where their level of game is. Do they have the desire to make an impact? I think some have proven they do, but the question remains: can they translate their desire to results in regular season play?
A few of these rookies really opened my eyes with their play in August, and a few could have probably used an extra game to prove themselves. Here are some St. Louis rookies to be excited about in 2012.
Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson
Johnson could be making an impact soon early in the season
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Picked in the second and third rounds respectively, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are two cornerbacks who will play this year. We'll start with Jenkins, who stands at 5'10'' and is the shorter of the two.
As I mentioned in my previous article, the ceiling for Jenkins is incredibly high. He showed signs of great ability in the final preseason game against Baltimore when he intercepted a tipped pass and proceeded to run avoid tacklers en-route to the end zone.
That's the kind of electricity this team needs on defense. Jenkins just needs to work more on his tackling ability and keep his head on straight.
His history is one that has been noticed as he had to transfer from Florida to North Alabama after being dismissed from the team following his junior season. Hopefully, he's gotten his act together since then.
Trumaine Johnson played football at Montana, and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds at the NFL Combine. After sleeping late and missing the first day of OTAs, Johnson was able to come into his own when the preseason started. He had two deflected passes in the four games, and used his unique bulky frame (6'2'', 204) to prevent receivers from gaining yards after the catch.
The good news for Johnson is that according the Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch, the Rams are open to trading veteran starting CB Bradley Fletcher. Johnson, as Thomas says, has cemented himself as a nickelback or third cornerback.
Pead is a quick threat on the outside of the field
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Jerious Norwood, Carnell 'Cadillac' Williams, Stephen Davis, Kenneth Darby, Samkon Gado, Travis Minor, the list goes on and on.
Those are a few notable backup running backs the Rams have had over the last five years. Fans hope the presence of Isaiah Pead will help to wash away the bad history of runners behind Steven Jackson.
Pead went to Cincinnati, and rushed for more than 1,200 yards in his senior season. His one-yard touchdown run against Kansas City in game two of the preseason comes to mind, a run in which he leaped over the line with style and flipped into the end zone. In the preseason finale against Baltimore, he rushed for 58 yards on 10 carries including a 28-yard scamper.
St. Louis picked him in the second round, and what he has that Steven Jackson doesn't is young legs. He's the prototypical running back, something the Rams haven't really had in terms of a back up to S-Jax.
So the question is when does Pead come into the game? Should Schottenheimer insert him on third and longs when the Rams need yards to get a field goal, or is he a goal line guy as he proved on his only touchdown run of the summer? I don't even think Pead will know until he sees action against first team defenses.
He should be the team's primary return man, but the potential is there for him to be a presence in the backfield.
Brian Quick and Chris Givens
Quick could have a lot on his plate on opening day
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Sure, the Rams still don't have a definite deep threat. They were 26th in the league in terms of yards per catch, and even worse (30th) in yards per pass attempt.
By the middle of the season, that could change. Brian Quick showed great signs of being that guy in the preseason, and his boisterous 6'4'' 220 frame reminds Ram fans of Danario Alexander and the potential that he brought to St. Louis not too long ago.
The one difference with Quick is health. The Appalachian State standout has a clean bill of health after a confident preseason, and gave Rams fans a reason to believe Sam Bradford may have some solid options to use when the season opens. Bradford was very happy with what he saw from Quick, notably against the Chiefs when he was able to get separation on veteran cornerback Jacques Reeves.
Chris Givens is another rookie receiver who fans are talking about. He ran a 4.1 40-yard dash at the combine, and can give St. Louis speed on the perimeter of the field.
Believe it or not, the play of the offensive line will be integral to how the receivers play this season because Sam Bradford will need all the time he can get with rookies running routes.
Zuerlein is a once in a lifetime kicking prospect
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I certainly can't leave out the first starting rookie kicker in St. Louis Rams history. Greg Zuerlein (they call him Young GZ) impressed in training camp and the preseason to say the least.
His longest kick of the preseason wasn't the 52-yard one against the Chiefs, or the 55-yard boot against Dallas. It was the 59-yard field goal against the Ravens in week four. Amazing.
Zuerlein went to a Division II school named Western, and set an NCAA D-II record by making 24 of 25 field goals in his senior year, good for a 96 percent accuracy rating. Not to mention, he was 9 for 9 on kicks of 50 yards or more. He's a humble kid, as most kickers are, and I'm excited to see what he can do at the NFL level.