The Best Rookie Storylines at St. Louis Rams' OTAs
The St. Louis Rams completed their third session of organized team activities last week. They will resume practice on Monday, June 3, and complete their OTA schedule with their final practice on Friday, June 14.
For the majority of Rams veterans, this upcoming season will be their second in the current offensive and defensive schemes, so practices in OTA are more of a review than a full-blown learning process.
However, for Rams' rookies, their minds are currently overloaded with fat playbooks and plenty of new information. These sessions are undoubtedly working our their brains as much as their bodies, which is why the St. Louis rooks are particularly interesting prospects to follow in the early offseason.
Not much can be said as far as performance at this point. Until the Rams strap on the pads in late July, it's impossible to determine who's truly standing out and taking charge, but based on recent reports out of Rams Park, here are several rookies who are already making headlines.
Barrett Jones Sidelined with Foot Injury
Barrett Jones, the Rams' fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, is a versatile blocker who can play practically every position on the offensive line, but only if he can get healthy.
According to Nick Wagoner of StLouisRams.com, Jones was held out of OTAs due to a foot injury.
Jones is currently rehabbing from a Lisfranc injury that slowed him down during his 2012 season at Alabama, according to ESPN, but the Rams are hoping to have him back as soon as possible.
Jones is an extremely intelligent player who could very well be the team's long-term answer at center (after Scott Wells retires or departs), but as of now, he'll presumably be competing for the starting left guard job.
Rokevious Watkins—the likely favorite for the left guard job—was recently suspended by the league for Week 1, according to NFL.com, which helps Jones in his fight for the starting gig, but he'll be unable to gain ground while stuck on the sidelines.
When training camp arrives, the left guard competition will likely be the most intense, so Jones' presence will have major implications on the outcome.
The offseason is still very young, so it's hardly too late for Jones, but his health is something to keep an eye on.
Ray-Ray Armstrong Is Anxious for Action
Ray-Ray Armstrong was one of the best players for the Miami Hurricanes before being suspended for parts of the 2011 season and the entire 2012 season due to improper contact with boosters, according to A. Stacy Long of the Montgomery Advertiser, per USA Today.
Naturally then, Armstrong was the undrafted rookie signing that caused the most excitement among Rams fans.
Armstrong will not be trying out for the team as a safety. He will be forced to make the switch to outside linebacker, which adds to the challenge.
However, according to StLouisRams.com, Armstrong is confident in his abilities and feels he'll improve with practice:
The main thing is repetition. Over four years, I have been playing safety so the stuff you have been doing playing safety, you can’t use too much of that playing linebacker so it’s just playing linebacker, reacting and getting it down and I should be fine.
Armstrong is a great athlete, and it's rare to see a player with his talent go undrafted. If the proper amount of effort is put forth, he could be a major contributor on defense or special teams.
Auburn Alumni Getting Long Look from Coach Fisher
Coach Jeff Fisher's son is a football player at Auburn University, which is a bit of good luck for several Auburn players, considering an NFL head coach had an extended look at their performance every Saturday.
Since Fisher watched those games—likely more carefully than others, it gave three players an opportunity to stand out and grab his attention.
Wide receiver Emory Blake, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen and linebacker Darren Bates were all brought in by the Rams as undrafted free agents, according to StLouisRams.com.
All three players are long shots when it comes to making the final 53-man roster, but with a solid training camp, they could be kept as special teams assets.
It's hard to tell if these acquisitions are the result of a subconscious Auburn bias, or if Fisher's long look at Auburn prospects actually allowed him to mine a few valuable gems. Either way, it's worth keeping an eye on, and we'll discover the answer when training camp arrives.
Local WR Getting Lifetime Opportunity with Rams
When you are a small-school football player, it sometimes benefits to play college ball in a city that has an NFL team. It buys you extra exposure that you may not get otherwise.
For wide receiver Andrew Helmick, his local ties to St. Louis could very well be the reason he's with the Rams right now.
Helmick played football at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., and he was signed by the Rams as an undrafted free agent following a brief tryout that featured only seven passes, according to STLtoday.com.
Apparently, those seven catches were enough to satisfy Fisher, who felt Helmick was worth a look.
There's a lot of competition at wide receiver in the back end of the Rams' depth chart, so it's a long shot for Helmick, but he'll be given every opportunity to impress the coaching staff during training camp.
Tavon Austin Will Take on Multiple Positions
At only 5'8" and 175 pounds, it's hard to fathom Tavon Austin earning a spot as a top-10 draft pick, but the electricity he plays with makes it easy to swallow.
Austin's sky-high draft stock was not just due to his talents as a receiver, but his ability to make big plays at multiple positions as well.
According to STLtoday.com, Austin was spotted at OTAs taking multiple carries out of the backfield at running back.
This comes as no surprise since it's pretty much understood that Austin is an all-purpose weapon, but it also serves as a reminder of how much he's really dealing with as a player.
Whereas most rookie are learning a single position, Austin will be forced to learn the entire playbook as a wide receiver. He'll also take on the added responsibility of learning certain plays as a running back and be learning the finer points of kick and punt returns as well.
It's tough enough for rookies to make the adjustment to the NFL. For Austin's sake, he had better be a quick learner.
When the NFL season arrives, it will be interesting to see if the Rams throw Austin to the wolves immediately or if they gradually increase his play variety as the season progresses.
Either way, the fans will be expecting Austin to make an immediate impact. Hopefully, he will be ready for action.
Is Brown a Man or Ogre?
Among the crop of undrafted rookies brought in by the Rams is a beastly player known as Terrell Brown, who spent his senior year at Ole Miss as a defensive lineman, but will try out for St. Louis as an offensive tackle.
Brown is listed at 6'10" and 385 pounds, which already makes him the biggest player on the roster, but coach Fisher confirmed that his weight is actually over 400 pounds, according to STLtoday.com.
As you can see in the video above, Brown is not a sloppy image of obesity, but actually carries his weight well. Although it's frightening that a human being can comfortably carry 400 pounds, he appears to be a legitimate athlete rather than a circus act.
As an undrafted rookie, the odds are already stacked against Brown so the position switch will only add to the number of obstacles he must overcome.
However, if he can mentally progress and grasp his new job, Sam Bradford would certainly be grateful to have a real-life ogre protecting his back. It's hard to imagine that any defensive lineman will be able to push Brown around.
If the athleticism is there, Brown could be a steal.