- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Tyler from Chicago writes: Mike, why was there no coverage of the Rams' last preseason game? I have read your thoughts about the other NFC West teams in their last exhibitions. I understand the Rams are often an afterthought in the NFL, but could Rams fans get a little love from a decent outing last Thursday? I can't remember the last time the starters scored a touchdown in the preseason, and that is not an exaggeration. Thanks.
Mike Sando: There's relief in sight, Tyler. Some technical issues late last week temporarily removed from view some of our recent coverage. My Rams-related observations are back on the site and available here. Overall, the Rams' offense and defense were certainly better against the Bengals. The special teams were horrible, but that might have been an aberration.
I spoke with Rams kicker Josh Brown during a visit to training camp earlier this month. I'll provide a transcript of our conversation here to help feed your Rams fix, indented to help differentiate from my initial answer to you.
Mike Sando: How good will you be on special teams this season?
Josh Brown: We're going to be really good. Really good. We've got Donnie (Jones) returning, Chris (Massey) is returning, so we're stable in our punting and snapping. And I think our field goals are OK, doing a pretty consistent job right now. Our coverage is only going to get better and we got up to No. 2 in the league last year. I mean, we were really good. We're fast. We've got some young, new coaches, which I think is going to carry us because they are going to be able to sustain a lot of energy whenever we get tired. But we've got a lot of pluses here. We're still looking for that breakout return guy, but we've got Derek Stanley, who is a solid returner. I mean, we don't have a Devin Hester. We don't have a Leon Washington yet, and hopefully he'll break out this year.
Mike Sando: The roster has changed quite a bit from last season. How much will that affect the core on special teams?
Josh Brown: I think it will be very similar. You've still got David Vobora and Chris Chamberlain, Todd Johnson and Quinton Culberson. There are a few guys that are going to be gone that were really good last year. Gary Stills was like a moving wall. I mean, he is literally probably the best special-teams player I have ever seen, especially at 35 years old. He is the strongest person I have ever seen. He's unbelievable. He was amazing. If he wasn't so dinged up for being so rough for so many years, he would be a Pro Bowler. When you average 30 special-teams tackles a year -- average -- that is unheard of. If guys have 15, they think they are going to the Pro Bowl, you know what I mean? And this guy averaged 30. He's special. But sometimes your age is your enemy.
Mike Sando: Who on special teams could break out this season?
Josh Brown: I think you're still going to see a lot of the guys that were with us last year that were making a big impact. I still think Quinton Culberson is a great R5/L5. I think you are going to see David Vobora and Chris Chamberlain, guys that are strong special-teams players that are always in the mix. Todd Johnson led the team in special-teams tackles for the last couple years and is a big leader on our special teams.
Mike Sando: What makes a good R5/L5 player?
Josh Brown: It depends on what they are returning, but R5/L5s, you are looking at guys who are either splitting that wedge or coming right off the side of it, and guys that demand a lot of attention.
Mike Sando: The league outlawed the three-man wedge on returns. What affect will that have on the Rams?
Josh Brown: I don't think it's necessarily going to change as far as coverage goes. They are going to have to make some adjustments on their returns and who they are blocking and when, how deep they are setting things. There will be some timing changes, I think.
Brown's family was at training camp on the day we spoke. They were waiting for him while we spoke. Once I realized it, I suggested he might find more value in visiting with them than discussing three-man wedge rules with me. I'm sure it was a tough call for him, but hopefully the Brown family enjoyed their time together.