5 Things We Learned from St. Louis Rams OTAs
The St. Louis Rams are in the midst of the offseason organized team activities (OTAs), which will resume on Monday, June 3 and conclude on Friday, June 14.
Players do not wear pads during OTA practices, so these light, contact-free drills and scrimmages leave a lot to be desired, but it's still an opportunity to get an initial glance at the team before things kick into high gear for training camp.
There's still a lot of questions that need to be answered regarding the 2013 Rams, but for now, here's several things we have learned from OTAs.
Pead May Be Falling Behind Again
Last season, during Isaiah Pead's rookie year, he was not allowed to participate in offseason practices until his college completed its final semester, per NFL rules.
Pead's absence early on was difficult to overcome and eventually resulted in seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson beating him out for the No. 2 running back job behind Steven Jackson.
This time around, the former second-round pick has been given the benefit of a full offseason to catch up, but it's hardly a guarantee that he'll emerge as the top running back.
According to NFL.com, Pead was recently handed a one-game suspension for a substance abuse violation.
Pead is still allowed to practice and participate in preseason exhibitions, so he'll still have a chance to impress the coaches and fight for a job, but the suspension could hurt Pead if the running back competition comes down to the wire (as expected).
Richardson and rookie Zac Stacy are both candidates for the job, as is second-year pro Terrance Ganaway. So if Pead has his eye on the job, he'll need to have an impressive offseason.
Hayes Is Not Your Average Backup
Last season, defensive end William Hayes recorded an impressive seven sacks as a backup with limited playing time.
Hayes, who was brought in on a one-year contract a year ago, entered unrestricted free agency the following season and sparked plenty of interest.
However, we found out during OTAs this past week that the Rams were never in danger of losing Hayes to another team.
According to StLouisRams.com, Hayes is satisfied with his role as the No. 3 defensive end in the rotation and asked his agent to get a deal done with the Rams, regardless of outside interest and more lucrative offers from other teams.
Hayes is a veteran presence on defense, and his production will be a major part of St. Louis' defensive success in 2013.
Givens Will Try to Broaden His Horizons
During his rookie campaign in 2012, wide receiver Chris Givens was primarily known as a deep-ball threat, but that could change in 2013.
Givens had a five-game stretch with at least one 50-yard catch in each game, but he was not counted on as a short-yardage target and was not viewed as a receiver willing to make a dangerous catch in heavy traffic.
But according to StLouisRams.com, Givens has been working heavily on the deep ball during OTAs, as expected, but he has also added some bulk in the offseason.
With the added weight, Givens is likely attempting to become a more versatile player capable of not only getting deep, but also moving the chains with short-yardage receptions.
Givens was highly successful as a rookie fourth-round pick after racking up 698 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. If he can successfully improve other aspects of his game, there's no limit on his potential.
Cook Appears to Be the Top Newcomer so Far
As mentioned in the introduction, the OTAs are not a great indicator of things to come, at least not like training camp, but it's still hard to ignore the excitement stemming from Jared Cook and his presence on the field.
All the reports from OTAs seem to consistently mention Cook as a can't-miss presence on the field, which is exactly what the fans have been wanting to hear.
Cook was signed by the Rams in March and was considered a significant free-agency pickup, but at this point, he seems to be the front-runner for the Rams' top acquisition of the offseason.
Cook is expected to provide the St. Louis offense with a significant boost in the red zone and in short-yardage situations, so his early success and comfort with Sam Bradford and the offense is certainly exciting news for Rams fans.
Bradford Is the Undisputed Leader
With Steven Jackson out of the picture, the majority of the media's focus coming out of OTAs has been centered around Bradford.
With three seasons under his belt, Bradford will be expected to step up his performance and take the Rams offense to the next level.
Since entering the NFL in 2010, this will be Bradford's first time working for the same offensive coordinator two years in a row, which will not only increase his comfort in the offense, but it will also give him an opportunity to focus on other aspects of his game, such as his role as a leader.
In a video interview out of OTAs, Bradford mentioned the benefits of entering the offseason with a familiar playbook.
"It feels so much better knowing the details of this offense and actually having the ability to go over and coach our young guys," said Bradford. "When you're trying to learn an offense for the first time, it's really hard to go over and coach some of the young guys because you're still trying to figure everything out too."
Bradford had a career-best 21 touchdown passes and 3,702 passing yards in 2012, and with multiple weapons added in the offseason and experience in the system, those number are expected to improve this season.
At this point, there's no doubting who's in charge of the team at Rams Park.