St. Louis Rams Training Camp: Early Storylines to Watch

Steven GerwelContributor IIIJuly 21, 2014

Members of the St. Louis Rams warm up during training camp at the NFL football team's practice facility Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

This is the last week of the offseason for St. Louis Rams players, as training camp opens on July 25. 

The news will kick into high gear following the start of camp, and we'll finally get a chance to see some of the position battles play out. Also, it will be the very first opportunity for fans to get a look at the 2014 rookie class. 

For weeks now, we've been discussing potential training camp battles, as well as the various pre-training camp headlines. Now, with camp just days away, it's time to take one last look at the most recent storylines. 


Jo-Lonn Dunbar's Status Is in Question

We knew all along that there would be an intense battle at linebacker between Jo-Lonn Dunbar and second-year pro Ray-Ray Armstrong, but Dunbar's recent arrest may have simplified the situation. 

According to Nick Wagoner of ESPN, Dunbar was arrested after allegedly getting into a physical altercation outside of a Miami club. Dunbar is facing charges for battery and disorderly conduct. 

Unfortunately, this is not the first incident involving Dunbar. In 2013, he was suspended for four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He was cut from the team as a result, but the Rams eventually re-signed him after he served his suspension. 

It's possible that Dunbar will experience similar repercussions from this latest incident, but it's still unclear what the exact punishment will be. 

Frankly, this incident does not justify a pink slip for Dunbar. After all, is getting into a scuffle really that serious? We're guaranteed to see at least half a dozen fights (a bare minimum) throughout training camp, and it's doubtful any of those players will be cut. 

If the Rams cut Dunbar, they're basically saying "fighting is acceptable, just don't get caught by the police. That's the real issue."

Although, it's possible St. Louis will retain Dunbar and instead hand down a less severe punishment. Perhaps, he'll be fined by the team and be forced to run a few extra sprints. 

At the very least, this situation gives the Rams a golden excuse to give Armstrong a shot at the starting job. 

If you attend camp, keep an eye on the linebackers. If Armstrong is taking a good chunk of the first-team reps, then Dunbar is clearly in the doghouse. If not, then it's possible the Rams view this as a relatively minor incident. 


Same Defense, New Leadership

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The Rams' defense will basically be the same as the 2013 unit. The personnel is relatively the same, and there will still be a heavy emphasis on rushing the quarterback. 

The primary difference is the presence of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who will undoubtedly add his personal touch to the unit. Fans will watch the defense closely throughout camp in an effort to spot the minor differences. 

The secondary in particular will be under heavy scrutiny, as the unit struggled in 2013. The Rams are hoping Williams' leadership will have an immediate impact on the group. 

For starters, it'll be interesting to see if Williams completely eliminates the infamous 10-yard cushions between the cornerbacks and receivers. The strategy hurt the defense last season, so that should be one of the more obvious adjustments

Also, one of the primary things to analyze throughout camp is the young St. Louis secondary versus the diverse group of receivers on offense. If the defensive backs can stand tall against the receivers, it'll be a very positive sign. 

Another exciting aspect to focus on is first-round rookie Aaron Donald. Donald was drafted as a defensive tackle, which will be his primary position, but training camp will give us an opportunity to find out if he'll be utilized as a defensive end on a regular basis. Also, we'll get to see how many reps Donald takes with the first-team unit. 

Overall, Williams is expected to take the defense to the next level. The unit has the potential to be elite, so the health, development and production of this group will be a key storyline throughout camp. 


Is Kenny Britt the Receiver We've Been Waiting For? 

Since the departure of Torry Holt in 2009, there has been a gaping hole at wide receiver for the St. Louis Rams. 

It's not that the Rams haven't attempted to fill the hole. On the contrary, there's been a number of half-hearted efforts—Mike Sims-Walker, Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton, Brandon Lloyd—that have all failed.

The Rams also have a few receivers on the roster who appear to be going down the same road (Brian Quick, Austin Pettis). 

However, the desperate fans are hoping that St. Louis' fortunes will finally change with the addition of Kenny Britt, who was added in free agency this offseason. 

Britt got his career off to a promising start with over 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons, but injuries and off-the-field mishaps have spoiled his potential. 

Regardless, there's no denying that Britt is a talented player. His promising 6'3" height, his aggression and his playmaking skills are a difficult combination to find in an NFL receiver. 

If Britt can get back to his former self and become a presence on the outside, the St. Louis offense will suddenly turn into a force to be reckoned with. 

Britt's presence could open things up in the slot for electric playmaker Tavon Austin. It'll also force defenses to be honest and avoid stacking eight men in the box, which will help to boost an already dangerous St. Louis run game. 

Rams fans know by now that they shouldn't get their hopes up when it comes to project wide receivers. Although, if Britt consistently turns heads at camp, it'll be a very positive sign. 


Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.