In the small confines of the Harlen C Hunter Stadium at Lindenwood University, the St. Louis Rams held their first official scrimmage of the 2009 season tonight. A full squad of about eighty players was on hand to try to put their best face forward and earn one of the 53 spots on the team's roster.
This kind of training camp scrimmage is a simulation of an actual game, the only real difference being that no one pays any attention to the score and the defensive players don't actually touch or rough up the quarterbacks.
The team was divided in half; the defensive players wore blue, the offensive players wore white, and the team's four current quarterbacks wore red shirts.
Ever changing offensive and defensive lineups took the field and played an actual game. The defense seemed much more impressive to me than the offense, which makes sense considering new head coach, Steve Spagnoulo's background as one of the NFL's most effective defensive coordinators.
Early in the game, on the first drive, Jonathan Wade pummelled new wide receiver, Laurent Robinson, with a particularly brutal hit that made all of the spectators seated around me gasp.
On Mark Bulger's second drive, Quincy Butler made an impressive interception. Linebacker KC Asiodu also managed to intercept a pass from backup quarterback, Brock Berlin. Will Witherspoon effectively spiked a pass out of the waiting arms of Ronald Curry.
Despite just being a postseason scrimmage, the rough play on the field led to the leg injuries of two of the Rams' defensive players. Both defensive lineman Adam Carriker and safety Eric Bassey ended up leaving the field on crutches.
St. Louis quarterbacks did not complete too many passes until receiver Keenen Burton stepped up his game towards the end of the game, catching two nice passes from Mark Bulger.
The Rams' running backs also didn't put on too many impressive displays this evening, although, to be fair, Steven Jackson didn't make too many appearances during the game. His spot on the roster is pretty secure, and with him, at least the Rams' running game is in good hands.
It remains to be seen whether the mostly ineffective Rams offense that was on display in this exercise was the the result of their sloppy play or an improved and effective defense. Of course, all the tackles and interceptions in the world won't help if a team's quarterback seems incapable of putting points on the scoreboard.
It seemed clear to all who witnessed the scrimmage tonight that the ineffectiveness of their passing offense is the burden that the Rams are going to have to overcome to compete in the NFL this season.
Still, watching this scrimmage, I couldn't help but be impressed by the diminutive Spagnuolo. He stood in the backfield throughout the evening's events, very involved in what was going on. He watched the plays develop, and commented on the performances of specific players as they left the field.
After about 10 drives or so, the team started to practice goal-line offense and defense, and various field goal situations. Second year kicker Josh Brown made a particularly impressive 50-yard field goal. With the way the collective Rams quarterback core looked in this game, his kicking skill could come in mighty handy.
Perhaps a little more light on this team's actual condition will be shed on this a week from now, when the Rams take on the Jets in their first preseason game. For now, though, Rams' fans had a fun night of free entertainment, one that gave many of us at least a slight bit of optimism for the struggling team's prospects for success next season.