Early Observations from St. Louis Rams Training Camp

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 1, 2013

Early Observations from St. Louis Rams Training Camp

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    The St. Louis Rams are one week into training camp, and the media buzz has been consistently positive. 

    Injuries have been minimal (knock on wood), and the players who need to step up have been receiving promising reports, at least for the most part. 

    Additionally, the hoards of fans attending camp have been a representation of the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the 2013 Rams. 

    Overall, you'd have to be soulless not to detect the marvelous vibe generated by this team. Where the vibe comes from, we'll never know. Could be an astrological, theological or extraterrestrial phenomenon, or maybe it stems from the simple fact that the team has competent leadership for the first time in a decade.

    Either way, the fans are absolutely loving it.

    But in case you've been isolated from the media, here are several observations from Rams Park, based on the reports out of Earth City, Mo.

Fan Interest Is Booming

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    The Rams failed to make the playoffs in 2012 with a 7-8-1 record, but their competitive edge woke up the fans of St. Louis. 

    The team has approached the podium, and now they have our undivided attention, which is precisely what they set out to accomplish in Jeff Fisher's inaugural season.

    With Kevin Demoff in the dunk tank, the entertainment center in the parking lot and the exciting new faces on offense (Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Jake Long), the Rams have managed to pull in an impressive crowd for training camp.  

    On Saturday, July 27, Rams Park hosted a record crowd of more than 2,200, according to Nick Wagoner of StLouisRams.com

    The expectations were mild at best a year ago, but that luxury no longer exists. The Rams remain underdogs in the eyes of the national media, but in their hometown, they're now the center of attention. 

Regardless of Injury, ]Andrew Helmick Is Shaking Up the WR Depth Chart

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    Every year, prior to training camp, fans believe they have a grasp on which players will qualify for the 53-man roster.

    Until an Andrew Helmick comes along. 

    Every camp, a no-name player will shake things up with stellar play, forcing us to reassess our preconceived mental depth chart. 

    Helmick, a local favorite out of Lindenwood, has been turning heads at camp. 

    A hamstring injury will keep him sidelined for several weeks, but he'll return in time for the third preseason game and will force the staff to think long and hard about retaining an extra receiver for the final roster. 

Offense Not 100 Percent with Lance Kendricks out of Action

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    Lance Kendricks was the second most productive tight end in the NFC West last season with 42 catches for 519 yards (behind only Vernon Davis), but he has yet to make his training camp debut thanks to an aggravating knee injury. 

    Kendricks was an underrated weapon in 2012 and was a vital asset as a run-blocker. 

    Despite the addition of Jared Cook, Kendricks is still a key part of the offense. He will run block, catch passes and possibly line up in the backfield during the upcoming season. 

    Until he returns, the offense has yet to truly take full form.

    It's not that they can't survive without him, but he's yet another dynamic weapon, and his presence will help the offense max its potential.

Isaiah Pead Could Be the Guy

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    According to Nick Wagoner at StLouisRams.com, Isaiah Pead has been getting plenty of work with the first-team offense and looks to be the favorite for the starting gig.

    Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk and potential Hall of Famer Steven Jackson are the last two Rams to own the starting running back job, so the next guy in line will surely feel that pressure. 

    It's still unclear if there'll be a traditional starter. Between Pead, Daryl Richardson, Zac Stacy and Terrance Ganaway, it's possible the Rams will enter the season without a clear No. 1 back. 

Left Guard Is a Two-Man Race

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    Prior to training camp, left guard was considered a wide-open race with four, possibly five candidates. 

    Rok Watkins—St. Louis' fifth-round pick in 2012—was released for showing up to practice out of shape, according to Jim Thomas of St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which narrowed it down. 

    At this point, the battle seems to be a two-person race between Shelley Smith and Chris Williams. The two players are alternating reps with the first-team offense, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    Unless the return of Barrett Jones provides some unexpected competition, it will likely come down to either Smith or Williams.

    Note: I'll be attending several training camp practices next week, so keep an eye out for those reports here on Bleacher Report. Also, I'll be posting live observations via Twitter.