Rounding Up St. Louis Rams' Offseason Buzz, Post-Minicamps

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVJune 23, 2015

Rounding Up St. Louis Rams' Offseason Buzz, Post-Minicamps

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The excitement of the offseason is officially over. Minicamps and OTAs have come to an end, and it's time for fans to endure a long summer break before training camp opens. 

    It's a depressing time of year for NFL fans, but there's light at the end of the tunnel. Training camp opens in just over a month, the preseason begins in about two months, and the regular season kicks off in just over 70 days. 

    Until then, headlines will be scarce and the lack of exciting developments will become overbearing. 

    Before the summer break begins, here's one last roundup of St. Louis' latest offseason headlines.

Tre Mason Is Prepared for a Competition at Running Back

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    When the Rams drafted Todd Gurley at No. 10 overall, second-year running back Tre Mason took it personally. He posted his infamous "Doubting me?" tweet minutes after the selection, and he recently admitted to Joe Lyons of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the pick caught him off guard. 

    "I was in shock, really, because I thought I did a good job last year," said Mason. “At that time, with a pick like that, it’s a replacement.’’

    It's easy to sympathize with Mason's reaction, but he's looking at things the wrong way. 

    The Rams typically stick with the "best player available" strategy on draft day. The selection of Gurley wasn't a response to Mason's play on the field. Gurley was simply the top prospect available and fits the run-first philosophy St. Louis is trying to build. 

    We can apply the same logic to the selection of Aaron Donald in the first round last year. It wasn't an insult to Kendall Langford or Michael Brockers. The Rams simply felt he was too good to pass up, and it turns out they were right. 

    So, the best thing for Mason is to put shattered egos aside and compete for his job, like a professional. Thankfully, that's exactly what he's willing to do, according to Lyons. 

    “At the end of the day, the goal is to win a championship and the only way I can do that is to just keep doing me, to become the best me I can be," said Mason. “I’ll just continue to chase greatness. That’s been the mindset since school; find the record and go out and break it."

    Mason ended his 2014 rookie campaign with 765 total rushing yards and four touchdowns. In his nine starts he averaged 78 yards per game, which would have put him over 1,200 rushing yards had he started 16 full games. 

    With that kind of production, there's little doubt Mason will have a big role to play on offense, regardless of his concerns.

    Not to mention, there's no clear timetable for Gurley's return from his knee injury. Until he returns, Mason will be the unquestioned workhorse back for the St. Louis offense. 

    There's room for more than one back in the Gateway City.

Expectations Are Soaring for the Defense

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    One of the key benefits for the Rams—one that's not getting enough attention—is the fact that the defense will be entering its second year under coordinator Gregg Williams. 

    The unit had a sluggish start during its first year under Williams in 2014. A group renowned for its lethal pass-rush had just one sack in the first five games. The defense also allowed 24.4 points per game during that stretch, which would have ranked 21st in the NFL had it kept that pace. 

    Familiarity with Williams' system will help the Rams avoid another sluggish start. In fact, Williams insists that he already sees a difference, per Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    “The guys took it to heart and really had a very good spring in the weight room, in the training room and then here on the field,” Williams said. “It’s light years ahead of where we were last year because they didn’t know me, I didn’t know them."

    Doing away with introductions and the learning of terminology is a nice advantage. It allows the defense to skip the baby steps and get down to business. The players can spend less time learning the playbook and more time honing their skills on the field. 

    That kind of comfort in a system will inevitably produce confidence among the players. And according to Fox Sports, there's certainly no shortage of confidence from the defensive veterans. 

    "Last year, we were going into the season still trying to really get familiar with the scheme," said defensive end William Hayes. "Guys came in this year with a different mentality. We didn't come in this year trying to figure things out. We've already got everything figured out. We know what's expected of us. And we know the schemes like the back of our hand. It's going to be scary this year."

    Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar also shared his thoughts.

    "It's about time for us to push into that top five defense in almost every statistical category, and I think that's what we're aiming to do, and I think that's what we're going to accomplish," Dunbar said. "I think we can go head-to-head with any offense in this league, and I think we can stand toe-to-toe with any defense."

    Expectations are high at Rams Park, but it's a necessary mindset. 

    The offense will feature a new quarterback in Nick Foles and a new coordinator in Frank Cignetti, as well as three new starters on the offensive line. The group will have its growing pains, which is why the team will rely heavily on its star-studded defense. 

    If the defense makes good on its word, the Rams will be in great shape. 

Jeff Fisher Hoping for an Incident-Free Summer Break

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    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    With minicamp and OTAs wrapped up, the St. Louis players will enjoy a nice stretch of summer break for over a month. That's a nice perk for the players, but head coach Jeff Fisher will be a nervous wreck for the next six weeks. 

    The 42-day break is more than enough time for players to stumble into off-the-field incidents, such as injuries and legal issues. According to a report by Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com, it's definitely a concern for Fisher. 

    “Well, it starts with wave runners, then it moves over to four wheelers, then it goes to family picnics and all that stuff, water skiing and all that," Fisher said. "Then it goes into the off-the-field stuff and be smart. Those messages are being sent as we speak.”

    Wagoner mentions that Fisher stresses the dangers of summer break to his player in great detail. He even shows them numbers and statistics, outlining the increased rate of off-the-field incidents during downtime. 

    "We basically throw the stats up," Fisher said. "We have statistics by position groups. I have statistics based on months and years of experience in the league."

    It's certainly a frightening time of year for the coaching staff. One careless injury to an elite player could put the season in jeopardy before it begins. 

    However, the break does have its benefits. It serves as a chance for injured players to heal before training camp. The Rams have been fortunate enough to avoid any serious injuries during OTAs, but the vacation will have the players fresh and ready to roll for training camp. 

    But until training camp arrives, no news is good news. 

    Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams featured columnist at Bleacher Report and served as the Rams' game-day correspondent in 2014. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or following him on Twitter.

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