St. Louis Rams Training Camp: Week 3 Scouting Report
The St. Louis Rams are entering the third week of training camp. The team has progressed through one preseason contest against the New Orleans, as well as numerous practices, so the reports and observations are finally beginning to pile up.
The embryo of this 2014 Rams team grows larger each day, and the preseason opener gave us a vague idea of what these new Rams are all about. Additionally, the game allowed us to see which of the rookies and low-level players are living up to the hype.
This article will look at a number of players on the St. Louis roster and determine if their stock has gone up or down in recent weeks. The decision will be based on training camp reports, as well as film from last Friday's preseason opener.
Stock Down: WR Chris Givens
One of the great Rams mysteries over the past year has been the sudden and unexpected downfall of third-year receiver Chris Givens.
As a rookie fourth-round pick in 2012, Givens was a pleasant surprise for the Rams offense after producing 698 yards and three scores, including five consecutive games with a reception of 50 or more yards.
Givens lost some of his luster in 2013. He was a candidate for a breakout season, but he was held under 600 yards without a single touchdown.
Givens received some reps as a kick returner against the Saints on Friday, but he was totally absent from the offense and did not have a single catch in the game. To make matters worse, ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner confirmed that Givens is now listed as a third-team receiver on the team's depth chart.
Not only has Givens lost his rookie magic, but now he's shockingly in danger of being on the chopping block when final cuts are made.
Givens must do himself (and the offense) a favor by finally snapping out of this funk.
Stock Down: RB Isaiah Pead
Isaiah Pead missed the preseason opener with a hand injury. Normally, players should not take heat for injuries they cannot help, but this is the polar opposite of what Pead needed this preseason.
The 2012 second-rounder had a terribly disappointing rookie campaign with just 54 rushing yards. As Pead entered his second season, there was some minor optimism, as it seemed quite unlikely he could sink any lower than his horrific rookie performance. Shockingly, he found a way. He cut his rookie rushing total in half and finished with just 21 yards on the ground.
Pead needs preseason carries, and he needs them immediately. If he does not flash serious potential in the upcoming weeks, he's in danger of being unemployed by the end of the month.
Sitting with an injury is not doing Pead any favors. If ever there was a time for Pead to bite the bullet and play through an injury, it's right now.
Nursing an injury and occupying the sidelines for the sake of long-term safety is sometimes a smart move, but not when your immediate future is collapsing before your eyes.
Stock Up: WR Stedman Bailey
Stedman Bailey has pieced together an admirable training camp and preseason, but it's a bittersweet situation, as the second-year receiver was slapped with a four-game suspension in May for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances.
Hopefully, the offense can survive without Bailey for the first quarter of the season, but there's little doubt that the Rams will be anxiously awaiting his Week 5 return.
Stock Up: CB E.J. Gaines
The Rams have acquired a number of new faces at cornerback during the offseason. Among the rookie additions, second-round pick Lamarcus Joyner understandably received the most attention entering camp, but it's sixth-rounder E.J. Gaines who is truly turning heads early on.
Gaines struggled against Saints receiver Brandin Cooks, as did the entire Rams secondary, but he made up for it by constantly swarming to the ball-carrier throughout the game. Gaines was all over the place, which is why he led the team in combined tackles (six).
Gaines nearly had a forced fumble as well after knocking the ball loose from the ball-carrier, but it was not counted as a fumble and the Saints retained possession. Regardless, the play demonstrated the playmaking instincts that made Gaines a fan favorite at Mizzou.
Since the secondary is widely considered the weak spot of the Rams defense, there's no doubt that Gaines is rapidly moving up the depth chart. Expect the rookie to receive considerable playing time in 2014.
Stock Up: The Tight Ends
The Rams may face a very difficult decision when it comes time to determine which backup tight end to retain for the final roster. That is, if they decide to keep just three of them.
Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks are locked in as the top two tight ends for a second-consecutive season, but third-year pro Cory Harkey and undrafted rookie Alex Bayer have been impossible to ignore early in the preseason. In fact, the entire unit has been phenomenal.
Against the Saints, Cook secured an impressive 24-yard grab to set up a 16-yard touchdown catch for Harkey. Kendricks added a pair of receptions for 20 yards, while Bayer was possibly the most impressive of them all after leading the entire team in receptions and yards (five catches, 71 yards), including a 42-yard pickup.
As usual, the wide receivers are the annual subject of concern in St. Louis. Everyone is wondering if this team has a true No. 1 receiver on the roster, but it may be a moot point. If the tight ends keep playing this way, they'll bail out the receivers and solidify the aerial attack for the entire season.
Stock Up: RB Benny Cunningham
With the third-round selection of Mason during the NFL draft, second-year pro Benny Cunningham has sort of been demoted to an afterthought, but don't expect that to remain the case.
Cunningham had five carries for 24 yards, giving him a respectable 4.8 yards per carry average against the Saints. Most of that came from a 19-yard carry, but that's not the point. He's taking reps with the first-team offense, ahead of Mason, and that's what's important.
With 261 yards in 2013, including a 5.6 yards per carry average and a 109-yard performance against the Chicago Bears in Week 12, Cunningham was a perfectly reliable No. 2 last season, especially for an undrafted rookie.
Cunningham was swept out of sight after the selection of Mason, but the St. Louis coaching staff apparently still has some appreciation for his contributions last season. For now, Cunningham has a firm grasp on the No. 2 job.
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.