Monday, August 20, 2012
Under-the-radar moves revisited: Rams
By Mike Sando
Revisiting three under-the-radar moves for the St. Louis Rams to see how well these June storylines are holding up:
1. Signing Steve Smith. The Rams went into training camp hoping a healthier Smith could recapture some of the form he showed while making 107 receptions for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns with the New York Giants in 2009. Smith's surgically repaired knee seems to be holding up. He's been able to practice and play in both exhibition games. Smith has three receptions for 24 yards to this point. He's a candidate to start opposite Danny Amendola. Those are small victories early in the process. I'd say Smith appears on course even though the results have been more solid than spectacular to this point.
2. Special-teams overhaul. The Rams decided to go young at kicker, punter and snapper. Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein has shown a very strong leg to this point in camp. He has made both field-goal tries in the exhibition games, one from 37 yards and another from 52. He has three touchbacks on six kickoffs. Rookie punter Johnny Hekker has averages of 47.6 yards (gross) and 44.6 (net) on five punts during the preseason. Three of the five punts were downed inside the 20. Opponents are averaging 5.0 yards per punt return. The results seem encouraging so far.
3. Signing Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Linebacker was one position the Rams didn't address very strongly in the draft. Dunbar came to the team from New Orleans in free agency. He was familiar with the defensive system and expected to step in immediately. The Rams needed Dunbar to become a starter right away. That is happening. Rams coaches have credited Dunbar with nine tackles, one for a loss, in 55 snaps through two exhibition games. This storyline remains viable.