Monday, July 30, 2012
Laurinaitis, Bradford and Rams thoughts
By Mike Sando
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis likes what he sees standing directly in front of him on the St. Louis Rams' practice field.
New defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford are big, tall men. The team lists Brockers at 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds, which seems about right. The 6-6 Langford is listed at 295 pounds, but he looks every bit as large as Brockers.
Both are taller and considerably younger than the men they're replacing, Fred Robbins and Justin Bannan.
The Rams need them to help improve a run defense that buckled repeatedly last season. The team added Brockers in the first round of the draft. Langford signed from the Miami Dolphins in free agency.
If all goes to plan, the Rams' interior defensive linemen will attract enough attention to free Laurinaitis and the other linebackers to do their jobs without as much interference from opposing offensive linemen.
"When teams have to worry and say, 'Hey, we can't block these guys one-on-one, that’s a big deal," Laurinaitis said. "There are only so many guys who can block. Whether it’s me free or the Will or the Sam or whoever, whenever there is unblocked players in the box, that’s better for our defense."
Additional notes from practice Monday, witnessed by 593 fans on a relatively cool day with some sprinkles from above at team headquarters:
- QB watch: Quarterback Sam Bradford is off to a promising start in this camp. I came to St. Louis wondering whether he'd need time to recover mentally and physically from the punishment he took last season. Those questions dissipated quickly. Bradford appears to be moving without limitation. He said his arm feels stronger than it's felt in a long time, and his passing provides supporting evidence. Bradford rocketed one so hard to Danny Amendola that the usually sure-handed receiver couldn't hold onto it. But there were other times when Bradford showed zip, touch and accuracy, including when he connected with rookie Chris Givens in stride for a touchdown.
- Ones-on-ones: The Rams seemed to practice quite a bit with their first-team offense against their first-team defense. Defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn are putting pressure on tackles Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold. False starts have been an occasional problem. Saffold had a false-start Sunday. Smith had one Monday. Coach Jeff Fisher yanks linemen off the field when they commit false-start or offside penalties. Barry Richardson replaced Smith following Smith's penalty. Smith replaced Richardson under similar circumstances later in practice. Saffold did buckle Quinn and overpower him on one play, but overall, the defensive ends' quickness has been problematic.
- Learning curve: Rookie receiver Brian Quick did a better job securing the football following a reception against tight coverage. A day earlier, cornerback Josh Gordy stripped the ball from Quick after the receiver got a little too casual in his technique. Quick made a couple good catches, as did backup tight end Mike McNeill.
- Coaches see all: The Rams were about to run a play when Fisher suddenly spotted a helmet on the ground behind the end zone about 35 yards away. Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar had set it there briefly. Fisher noticed, stopped the offense and called out for Dunbar to pick it up.
- Rookie against rookie: Speed receiver Givens made an impressive initial play on the ball for what was nearly a touchdown, but cornerback Trumaine Johnson, also a rookie, knocked the ball away at the last moment.
- Rookie kicker watch: The Rams released veteran kicker Josh Brown after using a sixth-round draft choice for Greg Zuerlein. I haven't been charting field-goal percentages, in part because the goalposts are short and sometimes it's tough to tell from the sidelines which ones would have succeeded. Zuerlein does seem to have a powerful leg. Quite a few of his attempts have smacked hard off the tower from which the team's video department records practices.
On a side note, it was good getting together with @lannyosu, @SGmosportsmag, @STLphenom @ljramsfan at practice. If you'll be out there in the next couple days, let me know at @espn_nfcwest.