Predicting St. Louis Rams Training-Camp Standouts

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 29, 2015

Predicting St. Louis Rams Training-Camp Standouts

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    With St. Louis Rams training camp just days away, fans are eager to find out which players will stand out at practice.

    Fans obviously know what to expect from the team's stars—Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald, Chris Long—so it's the new players who'll truly be under the microscope. The new guys are unknown commodities, so camp is an opportunity to see what these players can do and determine if they'll help propel the team to a playoff run. 

    We'll take a look at some of the new players in St. Louis and decide which ones have the best shots at standing out in camp.

OT Rob Havenstein

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The success of the offensive line is vital to the 2015 season, so fans will be eager to see how the revamped line is coming along.

    While fans should expect some early struggles, several of the young linemen will prove that they belong from the get-go. Rob Havenstein is one of those guys.

    Despite being a rookie, Havenstein has run-blocking skills that no other lineman on the team—other than Greg Robinson—can exceed. His ability to open up running lanes will be noticeable from Day 1.

    Also, unlike the other young linemen at guard and center, Havenstein will be lining up at right tackle across from Chris Long. Long isn't a relentless run defender like Quinn and Donald are, which should allow Havenstein to stand out and make things happen on the right side.

    Rams fans want to hear positive reports on all the new offensive linemen, but as a second-round selection, the pressure to make noise will be greater for Havenstein.

RB Terrence Franks

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    One of the more exciting aspects of camp is the unexpected emergence of no-name players who, against all odds, make one too many big plays and wind up on the final roster. 

    The Rams are more talented than they were several years ago, so it's getting increasingly difficult for those low-end guys to make the team. But still, it's possible that one or two of the bottom-tier players will step up and make things interesting. 

    It's hard to predict who that could be, but running back Terrence Franks is someone to watch. 

    The undrafted rookie out of Texas State is a speed demon. He reported on Twitter that he set a school record after running the 40-yard dash in 4.29 seconds, which is wildly impressive for a 214-pound man. Veteran Chris Johnson holds the NFL record after clocking in at 4.24 seconds at the 2008 combine, but he was nearly 20 pounds lighter than Franks at the time (195).

    Franks served as a complementary back behind Robert Lowe for the Bobcats, though his 6.7 yards per carry in 2014 exceeded Lowe's average by 0.8. He also scored almost as many touchdowns (11) as Lowe (13) despite seeing 91 fewer touches on offense.

    Franks needed a bigger part in that offense almost as badly as Tavon Austin needs one with the Rams. 

    His incredible speed and explosiveness will not go unnoticed at Rams Park. If he generates enough buzz, he might surprise everyone and earn a spot on the team.

    At the least, he should be an interesting candidate for the practice squad.

WR Tyler Slavin

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Tyler Slavin lit up the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference for New Mexico Highlands last season. He amassed the second-most single-season receptions in conference history with 119, along with 1,418 yards and 17 touchdowns.

    Slavin began his collegiate career as a Division I prospect for the Arizona Wildcats. He had 24 receptions and 224 yards for Arizona in 2012 before making the move to a smaller school, presumably for the benefit of a guaranteed starting job and an opportunity to show off his skills.

    At 6'2" and 215 pounds, he boasts powerful size and gets by with his physicality. He lacks the dangerous vertical speed NFL teams covet, but he's hoping that his nastiness alone will suffice. 

    Slavin's two major challenges will be adjusting from a small school to the NFL stage as well as acclimating to the speed of the game.

    If he overcomes those two obstacles, he'll turn heads at camp and could give Chris Givens a run for that final roster spot.

QB Nick Foles

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    Michael Thomas/Associated Press

    Training camp is one of the more quarterback-friendly environments. The red shirts ward off vicious defenders, and the receivers are less likely to be drilled by their own teammates in the defensive backfield.

    This allows quarterbacks to thrive at practice, sometimes filling fans with false hope regarding the actual capabilities of their team's quarterback.

    That's why Sam Bradford always seemed to be on the verge of a breakout year, only to falter once the real games began (though injuries and a poor supporting cast played large roles, too).

    Quarterbacks always stand out at practice because they're in situations that allow them to thrive. So without a doubt, Nick Foles will impress spectators at camp.

    Whether his excellent scrimmage play will be an indicator of greater things to come remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: His training-camp play will fuel an enormous wave of hype.

RB Todd Gurley

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    According to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com, Todd Gurley passed his conditioning test and is hoping to participate in individual drills as soon as training camp begins.

    Gurley's return from his knee injury will be slow and steady, but hopefully he'll come along with no setbacks and will see real action in scrimmages toward the end of camp.

    Since he's still in recovery mode, it's unlikely that he'll generate camp headlines on a daily basis, but we'll see the flashes of greatness that made him a top-10 pick from time to time.

    Gurley is the most hyped rookie at Rams Park this year and the team's most exciting offensive draft pick since Austin. Without a doubt, a number of reports will mention him throughout camp, even if we're merely hearing updates on his progress.

    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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