8 Things We Learned About St. Louis Rams During Preseason
Don’t worry about Tavon Austin’s modest preseason totals of eight receptions, 66 receiving yards and no rushing attempts. He’ll be used more extensively in the regular season.
Would you show off your newest dynamic weapon—for the benefit of defensive coordinators everywhere—before the games actually count?
The preseason won’t teach us everything. We're going to have to wait to see the full new-look St. Louis offense, but we did learn some things about the Rams prior to their season opener.
The Value of Experienced DBs
Matt Giordano is the oldest defensive back that the St. Louis Rams have, and despite the fact that he isn’t going to start, he’ll offer two distinct qualities that most of their DBs don’t have.
Of course, he’s been in the NFL the longest. He’s also worked with Rams special teams coordinator Jim Fassel before.
2013 will be either the first or second NFL season for seven of the Rams’ 10 DBs.
Bam Bam Cunningham
Every time Benny Cunningham makes a play, Marshall Faulk loves to call out, “Bam Bam Cunningham.”
We’ve heard that nickname a lot over the past couple of weeks. Cunningham averaged 9.5 yards per carry in his final preseason appearance, totaling 76 on eight rushing attempts. He added a reception for seven yards, but that’s not all he does.
The St. Louis Rams have asked Cunningham to carry, catch and return the ball, as well as playing elsewhere on special teams—including as a punt-protector.
Cunningham’s versatility and effectiveness made him virtually impossible to hide from rival general managers. Les Snead did the only thing he could do in that case: keep the undrafted rookie on the 53-man roster.
The Backup QB Battle Was Decided
Kellen Clemens and Austin Davis spent the summer battling for the St. Louis Rams’ No. 2 quarterback job. Clemens probably won over the coaches with his performance in the fourth preseason game—since his four picks in the first three contests certainly didn’t help.
Maybe the move was made because Davis was still eligible to be placed on the practice squad—although he wasn't actually moved there—while Clemens wasn’t. Maybe it was because Davis showed some symptoms of being stuck in quicksand in the pocket this summer, and Clemens had more active feet.
It could be a little of both, but neither put together too many highlights over the past month. It would be no shock to hear that St. Louis is exploring other avenues for a backup signal-caller.
Daryl Richardson Is Starting RB
Daryl Richardson earned the St. Louis Rams starting running back job in his second offseason after being drafted at No. 252 overall. Isaiah Pead proved that his ball security is a very real and current problem, Terrance Ganaway retired and Steven Jackson left for greener pastures with the Atlanta Falcons.
At this point, the only other options are rookies Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham. Both have showed flashes in the preseason, but the tailback job is now the more experienced Richardson’s to lose. We should be seeing him score his first career touchdown any week now.
We won’t know how it’ll happen, though. The Rams have been calling for No. 26 to split out wide an awful lot, and Sam Bradford is not afraid to target his running back down the field.
Chris Williams Wins Starting LG Job
My campaign to get Barrett Jones into the St. Louis Rams’ starting lineup as a left guard was derailed by two things: his designation as a center and the emergence of Chris Williams at the same position.
One piece of that has been resolved—Jones is now listed as a guard—but Williams looks like he has a stranglehold on the starting left guard spot. It’s a good problem for the Rams to have; for once, they have a little bit of depth to speak of up front.
Brian Quick Is Coming Along
Brian Quick enjoyed a tremendous training camp, showing off the upside that made him the No. 33 pick in the 2012 NFL draft. The St. Louis Rams still have not opted to start him, though, because he still could use a little polish—and Austin Pettis refuses to get passed in the pecking order.
Quick is making progress. With a little more patience and seasoning, he could turn into a star as early as this season. He could truly break out in 2014.
Upset at the Strong Safety Position
Darian Stewart started 13 games in his second season, but his second season wasn’t under Jeff Fisher. He hasn’t made a start since Fisher arrived in St. Louis, and he collected only 10 total tackles in 2012.
Injuries have transferred him from presumptive starter to bench mode, as Rodney McLeod has ascended to the starting strong safety position. McLeod, at 5’10”, 183 pounds, has totaled 12 tackles in the league thus far. He started the St. Louis Rams’ third preseason game (against the Denver Broncos) and finished with four solo wrap-ups.
The Imminent Emergence of Ray Ray
Ray Ray Armstrong seemed destined to make the St. Louis Rams’ 53-man roster for a while now, and it’s finally official: The former Miami safety has successfully converted to an NFL outside linebacker.
This preseason, Ray Ray has looked strong, fast, instinctive and angry. He fit in well with Jeff Fisher’s defense as well as the special teams. That versatility made him all but a lock, but there’s another level to his presence in St. Louis.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who is suspended for the first quarter of the season, will be a free agent after 2013. If he walks, it’s completely conceivable that Armstrong is your starting Rams outside ‘backer opposite Alec Ogletree in 2014 with a full year of experience under his belt.
Jamal Collier graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and is now a law student who covers the St. Louis Rams in his spare time. His work also appears on Yahoo!. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @JCollierD.