Seems as though the draft just ended and now camp is upon us. Veterans and rookies report Wednesday to Rams Camp. Saturday, July 31, is the first full-squad practice. The Rams and Vikings have a preseason game less than three weeks away.
The 2009 season was not good for the Rams as they finished with the worst record in the NFL (1-15). With number one overall pick, QB Sam Bradford, the Rams and Coach Steve Spagnuola look to improve upon last year.
Position by Position
Quarterback: Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis, Keith Null
Sam Bradford is yet to be signed and is projected to be the starting QB at season's start. Bradford's agents have been talking with the Rams and a deal is expected soon. AJ Feeley comes in as the back up to Bradford. Keith Null comes in as the third QB and Thaddeus Lewis is the number four QB.
Running Back: Steven Jackson, Kenneth Darby, Chris Ogbonnaya, Keith Toston
Steven Jackson obviously comes in as the Rams No. 1 RB and could be the top RB in the NFL. Jackson was the only consistent player on the Rams offense last season. He will get the majority of the carries this season. Kenneth Darby will get the carries when Jackson isn't running the ball.
Tight End/Full Back: Billy Bajema, Eric Butler, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui, Darcy Johnson, Mike Karney, Jamie McCoy, Fendi Ononbun
Daniel Fells and Billy Bajema are firmly entrenched as the top two tights ends, with Fells more of the receiving threat and Bajema more of the blocking specialist.
At fullback, veteran Mike Karney returns for his second season in St. Louis. The Rams probably will keep only one fullback on the final roster, perhaps keeping another on the practice squad.
One uncertainty is the No. 3 tight end job, with rookie draft picks Michael Hoomanawanui and Fendi Onobun battling former New York Giant Darcy Johnson. Hoomanawanui looks like a solid blocker and pass catcher, and had a good spring.
Wide Receiver: Danny Amendola, Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Dominique Curry, Brooks Foster, Brandon Gibson, Mardy Gilyard, Jordan Kent, Brandon McRae, Laurent Robinson
The competition at WR should be one of the more interesting facets of training camp and the preseason. The Rams will enter 2010 with five or six WRs on the 53-man roster, but the battle for the last couple of spots should be interesting. Laurent Robinson and Donnie Avery will be the starting WR's.
Rookie Mardy Gilyard could eventually settle into a slot role as the No. 3 wideout. But Danny Amendola, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, and Brandon Gibson all will be scrapping for favorable position on the depth chart.
Offensive Linemen: G Roger Allen III, G Jacob Bell, C Jason Brown, C/G Hank Fraley, G Joe Gibbs, T/G Adam Goldberg, G/C John Greco, T Brandon Joyce, G Mark Lewis, T Ryan McKee, C Drew Miller, T Rodger Saffold, G/C Mark Setterstrom, T Jason Smith, T Phil Trautwein, T Eric Young
All eyes are on the tackle position, where the projected starters are Jason Smith at LT and Rodger Saffold at RT. Adam Goldberg could potentially open the season at right tackle if Saffold doesn't show he's ready.
Defensive Linemen: DE Victor Adeyanju, DE C.J. Ah You, DT Jermelle Cudjo, DE Hall Davis, DT Gary Gibson, DE James Hall, DT Chris Hovan, DE Chris Long, DT Fred Robbins, DT Clifton Ryan, DT Darell Scott, DE George Selvie, DE Eugene Sims
The Rams hope the addition of veteran tackles Fred Robbins and Chris Hovan shores up the interior, particularly against the run. Robbins, who played for Steve Spagnuolo with the New York Giants, will start. Hovan figures to be a rotation player if he makes the final 53. Clifton Ryan projects as the other starting DT, with second-year man Darell Scott (who flashed potential late last season) pushing for playing time if he continues to develop. Also in the mix is Gary Gibson, who started the first five games of '09 before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
Linebackers: Bobby Carpenter, Chris Chamberlain, Na'il Diggs, Dominic Douglas, Larry Grant, Josh Hull, Cardia Jackson, James Laurinaitis, David Vobora
Say hello to the all-Ohio State starting LB corps of James Laurinaitis in the middle, flanked by fellow Buckeyes Bobby Carpenter and Na'il Diggs on the outside. Carpenter (6-2, 249) and Diggs (6-4, 240) bring much-needed size, which in theory should help in run support. Carpenter, acquired from Dallas in the Alex Barron trade, has much to prove after falling well short of expectations with the Cowboys. Diggs, 32, must show he has some clicks left on his career odometer following his release by Carolina.
Defensive Backs: S Oshiomogho Atogwe, CB Ron Bartell, S James Butler, CB Quincy Butler, S Craig Dahl, CB Kevin Dockery, CB Bradley Fletcher, S Martin Harris, CB Marquis Johnson, CB Justin King, CB Jerome Murphy, S Kevin Payne, S David Roach, S Darian Stewart, CB Antoine Thompson
Safety is one of the few positions where the Rams appear set. Oshiomogho Atogwe, James Butler, Craig Dahl, and Kevin Payne are experienced young veterans, ranging in age from 25 (Dahl) to 29 (Atogwe). The foursome has 133 regular-season starts between them, ranging from Dahl's 12 starts up to Atogwe's 60. The camp/preseason intrigue will be at corner, a position that astoundingly did not record a single interception last season. Veteran Ron Bartell must return to form after being slowed by a nagging thigh injury last season, and the other starting spot is up for grabs. Second-year man Bradley Fletcher looks like the frontrunner if sufficiently recovered from last season's knee surgery.
Specialists: K Josh Brown, P Donnie Jones, LS Chris Massey
There are no camp legs around this year, perhaps a concession to the firm 80-man roster limit in effect since the demise of NFL Europe. There aren't many better units in the NFL than the veteran troika of kicker Josh Brown, punter Donnie Jones, and long snapper Chris Massey. Barring injury, there will be no suspense here.
I expect the Rams to improve from last year finishing the season 5-10. Sam Bradford will put up a good season and win NFL Rookie of the Year. So I expect the Rams will improve but still miss the playoffs and still be one of the teams at the bottom of the NFL.