NFC West: Barrett Jones

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Barrett Jones is out for the rest of the preseason and likely beyond because of back surgery, coach Jeff Fisher confirmed Sunday afternoon.

"Barrett is going to be weeks away," Fisher said. "Barrett has had some minor surgery on his back so he will not participate in the preseason. Beyond that, I don't know."

Jones
Late last week, we covered the Rams' lack of experienced depth behind the starting offensive line with mention of Jones' back injury. At the time, I was told that Jones would be out for "awhile." Anytime a back surgery is involved, it's probably best not to take a guess at a possible return. In fact, it's probably best not to count on Jones returning at all at this season.

Jones' injury, combined with rookie Demetrius Rhaney's knee injury suffered in practice last week leaves the Rams thin at center moving forward. Fisher said Rhaney had an MRI on the knee and the results were better than expected, though Rhaney is also going to miss a chunk of time.

"We got good news," Fisher said. "We suspected the worst but got good news. He has no ligament damage whatsoever. The cartilage looks good, solid, no cartilage damage. He's got a severe bone bruise I guess I would classify it and he's going to be out for some time. These things typically take time.

"I can't tell you whether it's going to be four weeks or six weeks but I would not expect him back within the four week time period."

Without Jones and Rhaney, the Rams have turned to versatile lineman Mike Person to provide center insurance. Scott Wells is working as the starter and Tim Barnes remains solid as the top backup but Person worked with the third team offense in the middle against Green Bay on Saturday. Person also played left tackle and left guard in the game, playing all 71 offensive snaps in the game.

While the Rams don't have to make any snap decisions on Rhaney or Jones, they did lose running back Isaiah Pead to a torn ACL and will likely have a roster spot open to replace him. That spot could theoretically go to an offensive lineman.

"I think we are good right now," Fisher said. "We've got depth, we've got flexibility. We're going to look. This is a time you typically continue to evaluate the bottom half of your roster and watch the waiver wire and we'll make room with Isaiah's spot. If somebody is out there we'll consider it but we're not looking to replace position for a position."
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Slowly but surely, the St. Louis Rams are drawing closer to having their five projected starting offensive linemen available to play together.

It's a sight, that in this training camp, has only been apparent in early practice walk throughs and a couple of other reps. Left tackle Jake Long (knee), center Scott Wells (illness) and right guard Rodger Saffold (stinger) have missed various parts of camp, and when one has returned, another has departed.

 While it's unlikely Long will return Saturday against Green Bay, he's been taking almost all of the reps with the first-team offense in practice. Wells has been doing the same and could be in line to play against the Packers. Saffold is still out but is also expected to be back sooner than later.

Backups such as Barrett Jones, who is battling a back injury that has already cost him a chunk of camp and could keep him out for awhile, and Brandon Washington have also been unavailable.

As is the case with any injuries, there are corresponding opportunities available for the team's many young linemen. With Davin Joseph the only backup lineman with any noteworthy playing experience, the Rams have a few spots to fill and only a few more weeks to figure out who will earn them.

"We are light in numbers right now," line coach Paul Boudreau said. "The young guys have been getting a lot of work. The only real starter I had [last week] was Joe [Barksdale] and then Davin who had actually played NFL football. All the other guys, it was a great opportunity for them.

"So from that standpoint, it’s been really good. It’s going to make it easier to decide who seven, eight and nine is because you actually get to see them play, practice and they are getting a lot of reps."

Reps are certainly not lacking for those linemen jockeying for position on the 53-man roster. Tackles Sean Hooey and Mike Person played 56 and 54 snaps against New Orleans last week, the most on the team. Center Demetrius Rhaney, tackle Mitchell Van Dyk and guard Travis Bond weren't far behind with 42, 42 and 35 snaps, respectively.

But the simple act of playing won't be enough to secure roster spots in a crowded group. Boudreau, coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are looking for standouts who also bring a certain amount of versatility.

Person has been a prime example of making an impression by his willingness to line up anywhere. He's played both tackle spots, left guard and, for the first time this week, actually worked on snapping the ball at center.

Entering a season without much experienced depth is nothing new for Boudreau, who has made a career of coaching up unknowns. Given the injury histories of three of his starters and the youth of the backups, there's still reason for concern.

"It does [concern me] right now," Boudreau said. "But I think after four preseason games, they are going to play a lot of football and the good thing is we have been cross training guys. ... It’s good to get it done early so when they get in those emergency situations, it’s not for the first time."

Even with Wells, Long and Saffold expected to get some work in the preseason, there will still be plenty of time for the other linemen to make a case. The Rams have gone heavy on offensive linemen in the past, carrying 10 on the opening day roster and as many as 11 at other points in 2013.

That may not be necessary this year considering the presence of versatile pieces like Saffold and Robinson, who can play inside and out. Assuming there are three or four spots available behind the starting five and Joseph, center Tim Barnes is the only other lineman who has starting experience in the league. He looks to be in good shape, but there's a lot to sort out amongst a group including Jones, Hooey, Person, Washington, Bond, Rhaney and Van Dyk.

"I just try to tell them you are in pro football," Boudreau said. "Pro football doesn’t just mean you get paid to be a pro. Pro football means you do stuff that coach doesn’t have to tell you to do. Get noticed in the right way."

Rams Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp.
  • For the first time since suffering the knee injury that ended his 2013 season nine games too early, quarterback Sam Bradford practiced on back-to-back days as he went through another entire workout Saturday. Bradford appears to be feeling just fine and also looked to be throwing the ball a bit better Saturday than he did Friday as he continues to knock some rust off. According to coach Jeff Fisher, the challenge for Bradford isn't knee-related as much as making sure his arm is managed. Bradford's excitement for returning to action has to be controlled a bit and the Rams have had to back him off of throwing on occasion.
  • Now that camp is here, we can finally start talking about football when it comes to rookie defensive end Michael Sam. From Saturday, there were some good things to discuss as Sam flashed some of the pass-rush ability that afforded him so much success at Missouri. The caveats that the Rams aren't yet in pads and he's working against backups such as offensive tackle Sean Hooey need to be mentioned, but Sam took a good step in the right direction Saturday and drew some praise from some of his coaches. He beat Hooey several times to get to the quarterback in team drills and followed by doing the same in one-on-one pass-rush drills. On one play in team drills, Sam beat Hooey quickly and forced backup quarterback Shaun Hill to throw the ball sooner than he'd like, resulting in an interception for cornerback Lamarcus Joyner.
  • The daily offensive line update didn't change much from Friday. Greg Robinson (left tackle), Rodger Saffold (left guard), Davin Joseph (right guard) and Joe Barksdale (right tackle) were in the same positions as Friday. But with Scott Wells still not practicing Saturday, Barrett Jones got some work with the first-team offense. Tim Barnes took the bulk of the repetitions Friday, but it's clear the Rams are set on following through with their plan to mix and match.
  • Most of the same names as Friday did not practice Saturday. That includes Wells, safety Christian Bryant, fullback Kadeem Jones, linebacker Johnny Millard, end Sammy Brown and offensive tackle Jake Long. End William Hayes did some work on the side, but Sam took his reps with the second-team defense. A few Rams were also shaken up during practice. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson departed with an apparent leg injury and did not return, though it didn't look serious and he watched the rest of the practice standing on the sideline. Receiver Emory Blake and tight end Justice Cunningham also came up with injuries. Joyner briefly left the field but was able to return and finish practice.
  • The Rams had some interesting twists on a couple of normal drills during Saturday's practice. During one-on-one passing drills, the coaches are putting an emphasis on getting the defensive backs to cover without using their hands as much. So defensive quality control coach Dennard Wilson gave the corners a pair of tennis balls before each play. When the ball was thrown, the defensive backs were allowed to drop the balls to make a play on the football. Clearly, the Rams are hoping to cut down on defensive pass interference and illegal contact in 2014. Also, the Rams changed things up to work on leverage in some individual drills, clearing space in the crowd and having the linemen take turns driving each other up the hill on the south end of the practice field.
  • By league rule, the Rams can't put the pads on until early next week. When they do, they're almost certainly hoping that it evens things up a little bit when it comes to pairing the top offense against the top defense. Once again, the defense controlled the action for most of the team drills with Bradford having little time to throw in the face of consistent pressure. It's coming from all angles, whether it's ends Robert Quinn or Chris Long or up the middle from tackles Kendall Langford, Michael Brockers or Aaron Donald. On one play there was light contact on Bradford, but it didn't bother him much. Still, they'll have to be careful as camp progresses. For what it's worth, Fisher said the top offense won't match up with the top defense as much when the pads come on.
  • Stedman Bailey looks like the most consistent receiver on the team in terms of route-running and catching the ball. He had a good day again Saturday, creating separation with a double move for one touchdown and beating Janoris Jenkins down the sideline for another. Fellow receiver Kenny Britt made a nice grab on a contested ball against rookie cornerback Marcus Roberson.
  • The Rams are back at it Sunday with a 6:30 p.m. ET practice.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams wrapped up organized team activities with their ninth and final practice Thursday. For those keeping score at home, yes, that's a day earlier than expected; coach Jeff Fisher canceled Friday's previously planned practice.

As always, it should be noted that much of what happens in these OTAs should be taken with a grain of salt (especially for the linemen). The players are not in pads and contact must be extremely limited. It's best not to get too excited or too down on anything that happens.

Back to back for Bradford: Quarterback Sam Bradford spent the bulk of OTAs on a strict plan for his involvement. Usually, that meant a couple of periods of seven-on-seven drills and a period of hurry-up in team drills. But Bradford did a little more than usual Thursday and did extensive work in back-to-back practices for the first time in the offseason. Bradford had gone two in a row earlier but was more limited in one of those practices.

Bradford
Bradford
Bradford was also at his sharpest, at least relative to the other sessions open to the media. Now, for the first time since he suffered his knee injury in October, Bradford will get to spend quality time back home in Oklahoma. Bradford said he feels good and all signs point to him being ready to go when training camp opens.

"I was really happy with everything that went on during the OTAs," Bradford said. "A big part of it for me was obviously physically getting back out on to the field, seeing how my knee reacted. It's been fantastic. We were actually able to do a little more than we anticipated so that's very positive.

"Out there today, it felt probably the best its felt all OTAs and [I'm] just really looking to build on that."

Line dancing: Working without the services of left tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells, the Rams tweaked things on the offensive line a bit. Rodger Saffold kicked out to left tackle with Davin Joseph sliding in at right guard and Barrett Jones got work at center with the first team. Long did some work in individual drills.

It doesn't mean much at this point since the Rams are anticipating Long and Wells returning to the fold soon enough, but it was a departure from the previous alignments in which Sean Hooey or Mike Person had rotated at left tackle. Tim Barnes has also taken reps at center in the days where Wells has been absent.

Sitting it out: The Rams got some players back to practice but still had their share of missing pieces. Receiver Jamaine Sherman, safety Christian Bryant, safety Maurice Alexander, running back Chase Reynolds, linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, Wells, Long, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and defensive end William Hayes did not participate.

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson, defensive tackle Kendall Langford and safety Matt Daniels returned to work after not practicing Tuesday. Daniels had missed most of the workouts but was able to finish Thursday and had a couple of pass breakups in team drills.

Receiver Kenny Britt and cornerback Darren Woodard, both of whom left Tuesday's practice early, were back and participated.

Closing competition: Per custom, Fisher put his offensive and defensive lineman through a punt-catching drill to wrap up the final OTA. The drill asks the linemen to stand about 80 yards removed from the JUGS machine and catch a punt. The side that catches more doesn't have to run a final round of wind sprints.

In an impressive showing, the defense came up with five grabs to win and force the offense to run.

Final impressions: Receiver Stedman Bailey made a strong closing argument before training camp, coming up with a few impressive grabs, including a diving catch for a touchdown from Bradford during seven-on-seven.

In what was one of the more impressive and humorous plays of the day, undrafted rookie defensive tackle Deantre Harlin broke up a pass by batting it into the air then showed concentration by snatching it for an interception. The enthusiastic cheers coming from his defensive teammates quickly turned to laughter as Harlin got turned around and began running the wrong way before course correcting.

Looking ahead: With OTAs and the offseason now complete, the Rams will disappear for a little while. The rookies must stay through Friday but after that, it will be quiet around Rams Park until rookies report July 21. The veterans will join them July 24 with the first open practice set for July 25.

Fisher has already given the team the annual talk about making good decisions in the offseason and noted Thursday that there weren't any issues last year. He hopes for a repeat of that this time around.

When the Rams do return to St. Louis, Fisher said he expects most of the players who did not participate during OTAs to be ready to go. In addition to Long, Fisher said Bryant is the only other player who might not be fully ready to go at the start of camp.

Rams begin offseason program

April, 21, 2014
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The St. Louis Rams kicked off their offseason conditioning program Monday. Access is as limited as the on-field work players can do during this time, but there will be plenty of things worth watching as they head toward the more open organized team activities.

As required by the collective bargaining agreement, participation in the offseason conditioning program is "voluntary" but, of course, strongly recommended. And some players can collect bonuses for participating. The program, which runs through mid-June, will lead to the aforementioned OTAs, where players can finally get on the field in a more practice-like environment.

In the meantime, here's a few things to keep an eye on over the next two months.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesThe Rams offseason conditioning program may offer some insight into how Sam Bradford's rehabilitation is going.
1. Bradford and Long's recovery: Season-ending knee injuries to quarterback Sam Bradford and left tackle Jake Long came weeks apart, leaving Bradford further along in his rehabilitation. But the Rams have remained optimistic that both players will be able to make timely returns with Bradford's sooner and Long's still coming in time to start the regular season at his normal spot on the line. The offseason program will be different for both players as they focus on rehab, but it's not out of the question that Bradford could be throwing again before OTAs are complete. Only time will tell if both players are truly on track for a timely return. We'll at least get an idea of how far they've come in the next couple of months.

2. The Williams effect: Two years after he was initially hired to handle defensive coordinator duties, Gregg Williams will finally get his chance to work with the players in place and mold his defense. While Williams' scheme is one shared with coach Jeff Fisher, there are sure to be wrinkles and adjustments he'll bring to the table. In most cases, any time a scheme change or tweak is made, the first exposure and installation of it comes during this time. Although players can't practice at full speed in the traditional sense, it can lay the foundation for training camp. Likewise, it's also a chance for Williams to see his players' strengths and weaknesses up close, which can change his approach to how they'll eventually be deployed.

3. A Britt bounce back: The Rams' signing of receiver Kenny Britt is a low-risk one that they hope comes with a high reward. Coming off his least productive NFL season, any production they can get from Britt would be a nice bonus. In fairness, Britt has battled knee issues in recent years and should now be far enough removed for those problems to be less of a problem. The offseason program represents a fresh start in new surroundings for Britt. If he's to make good on the promise he once showed, he must do it now.

4. What about Barrett?: Each member of the 2013 rookie class provided at least some sort of contribution last season. Except for offensive lineman Barrett Jones. Jones' rookie season amounted to little more than a redshirt year as he recovered from a foot injury and worked to add size and strength. The former fourth-round pick came to St. Louis with an impressive résumé and some expectations that he could be a long-term contributor. There could be some opportunity to make those contributions as soon as this season, but much will depend on how Jones' offseason has gone. A bigger, stronger Jones coming out of the offseason program would provide the Rams an intriguing option for a possible starter at left guard at best and a solid interior swingman at worst.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As every other member of the St. Louis Rams' 2013 draft class has had at least one game full of snaps and opportunity, offensive lineman Barrett Jones has stood calmly on the sideline watching and waiting.

Watching as linebacker Alec Ogletree, receiver Tavon Austin, running back Zac Stacy, and safety T.J. McDonald have stepped into starting or expanded roles. Watching as receiver Stedman Bailey has earned increased opportunities, eventually earning a start last week against Arizona. Watching as cornerback Brandon McGee stepped in to fill a void in an injury-depleted secondary. And Jones has waited.

[+] EnlargeBarrett Jones
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceRookie center Barrett Jones, recovering from a foot injury, might get some playing time in the Rams' final three games.
"I’m not frustrated," Jones said. "I’ve just kind of used this as a growth year, a year to kind of adjust to the NFL, really have some experience in the scheme and get faster and stronger, and I think I’ve made the most of it. I’m working really hard off the field, in the film room and the weight room so I feel really good about being ready when my time comes."

The natural question is when, exactly, his time will come? Considering the Rams have been officially eliminated from the playoff chase, many are wondering if that time is now. A player like Bailey, for example, has earned more and more repetitions as the season has gone along and figures to see more of those chances in the final three weeks.

But of course this isn't a YMCA league where everybody gets to play and juice boxes are handed out after the game. If a player gets a chance in the NFL, it's because he's earned it, not because it's mandated.

That said, it seems as though Jones would be a logical candidate to get some opportunities in the final three weeks, especially with starting center Scott Wells now officially on injured reserve with a broken fibula. Tim Barnes started in Wells' stead last week, and while he was OK, it's Jones with the more likely future as a possible starting center.

Given Wells' $6.5 million salary-cap number for next season, it's no guarantee he'll return. The Rams have unrestricted free agents at left guard and right tackle in Chris Williams and Rodger Saffold, respectively, and right guard Harvey Dahl is to count $4 million against the cap, making him another possible cap casualty.

From a Rams perspective, it could make sense to get a look at what they have in Jones with hopes he shows enough to give them some cap flexibility combined with the knowledge they won't have to leave their locker room to renovate up to 80 percent of the offensive line.

Before giving Jones a chance, the Rams have wanted to be sure he's ready. A serious foot injury and lack of strength kept him inactive in the first 12 games.

“Barrett has done a real good job in the weight room, and he’s gained a lot of strength," coach Jeff Fisher said. "So, he’ll be ready to go. Obviously, he’ll know what to do and how to do it, he just hasn’t had an opportunity.”

Upon arrival in St. Louis after the team used a fourth-round pick on him in April, Jones already had a good idea that the Lisfranc injury in his foot was going to take some time to heal. He said the Rams were honest with him right away about his chances for playing this season, and let him know they wanted him to fully heal and add muscle to his 308-pound frame.

"I knew these things kind of take about a year to feel 100 percent," Jones said. "I didn’t know exactly what the situation was going to be. But they have been really great and been up front with me the whole time, so I have no complaints and I’m excited about the future."

Jones is about a month away from the one year mark in terms of being removed from the injury. In the meantime, he's worked hard to reshape his body. Jones was able to become one of the most decorated players in college football history with outstanding technique and intelligence, but by his own admission didn't do a whole lot of lifting or working out when Alabama was in season.

"I just think I was playing so much I didn’t have as much of an opportunity to work out," Jones said. "You’re playing all the time. I worked out really hard in the offseason, but during the season it was more of a sustain kind of deal, so it’s been good to really get in there and hit it hard."

Jones has taken to spending early mornings in the Rams Park weight room, arriving before his teammates about 6:30 a.m. and putting in more than an hour on the weights before meetings begin. As for the mental side, that's never been a problem for the former four-time Academic All American, and it doesn't appear to be one now.

"I feel ready," Jones said. "I think I’ve improved a lot. I’m feeling pretty healthy, and so if I get an opportunity to play in these next few games, I’m excited to have a chance."

It's a chance that could come sooner than later.

Morning Ram-blings: The other center

December, 6, 2013
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In Thursday's coverage, we took an in-depth look at Rams center Tim Barnes as he prepares to take over for injured starter Scott Wells this week and likely over the final four weeks.

Barnes appears poised to handle the job barring an injury of his own, but that leaves the question of what happens should something happen to him? All signs point to rookie Barrett Jones, a fourth-round pick out of Alabama who has yet to be on the active roster on game day.

Although Jones has been stuck behind Wells and Barnes all season, some might wonder why, given his pedigree and draft position, Jones isn't getting a chance to step in. After all, Jones projects as a potential long-term starter in the middle, potentially even as soon as 2014.

For answers, one need only to see the answer Rams coach Jeff Fisher gave when asked how Jones has progressed this year.

“Barrett has done a real good job in the weight room, and he’s gained a lot of strength," Fisher said. "So, he’ll be ready to go. Obviously, he’ll know what to do and how to do it, he just hasn’t had an opportunity.”

It's instructive to note that Fisher immediately pointed to Jones' work in the weight room rather than some sort of understanding of the playbook or on-field technique work. Coming into the league with a Lisfranc injury in his foot, the Rams originally viewed this year as something of a redshirt season for Jones anyway. Adding to that, the team wanted him to add strength and reshape his body before throwing him into the mix.

In the meantime, Jones has been inactive for each of the team's 12 games. This week, that could well change since the Rams have no other obvious options behind Barnes. The Rams would likely prefer to not have to use Jones, but he's certainly more suited to step in now if needed than he was in September.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Thursday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. … In the Ram-blings, we talked a little college football with the Rams' ties to the SEC championship game as the focus. … From there, we dived into some of the draft-related content on ESPN.com right now and discussed some possibilities for how things may play out as the season wraps up. … Next, it was the aforementioned story about Barnes and how he is handling the opportunity in front of him. … We then looked at he current Pro Bowl voting and how Rams punter Johnny Hekker is being left out of a mix he should firmly be in. … Last but not least it was the daily injury update.

Elsewhere:

NFL Insider Mike Sando offers his weekly breakdown of the match ups with a look at the Rams-Cardinals game.

The NFL Live crew makes its picks for the Rams-Cardinals matchup.

Our resident fantasy expert Matthew Berry believes in Rams tight end Jared Cook this week for another big performance against Arizona.

At stltoday.com, columnist Bernie Miklasz writes that Rams fans have been awfully patient with little return on investment and wonders how much longer that will last.

Jim Thomas' interpretation of Barnes' story.

Joe Lyons chronicles Fisher's interest in the SEC title game.

Turf Show Times takes a look at the Rams' issues with drops, especially at receiver.

Week 1: Rams rookie review

September, 9, 2013
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ST. LOUIS -- A look at playing time and production of each of the team’s drafted rookies and a quick glimpse at the undrafted rookie class.

WR Tavon Austin, first round, No. 8 overall: It was difficult for Austin to find space to operate against the Cardinals as he played 41 offense snaps and dropped back for punt returns four times. He finished with six catches for 41 yards on his seven targets and had one carry for minus-1 yard. Finding opportunities in the return game was equally difficult. He returned one punt for 1 yard.

LB Alec Ogletree, first round, No. 30 overall: Ogletree played a lot with 66 defensive snaps and eight more on special teams. He tied cornerback Cortland Finnegan for the team lead with seven tackles according to the unofficial press box statistics. It was a quiet seven tackles for the most part, though Ogletree nearly made a diving interception in the fourth quarter.

S T.J. McDonald, third round, No. 71 overall: The most active of all Rams rookies, McDonald played every defensive snap with 71 and 15 more on special teams. He finished with five tackles and a pass defended. McDonald had a few bone-crushing hits that drew oohs and aahs from the crowd but was mostly workmanlike in his debut.

WR Stedman Bailey, third round, No. 92 overall: Bailey didn’t get a chance to contribute offensively. His day consisted of three special-teams snaps and did not record any statistics in unofficial press box numbers.

OL Barrett Jones, fourth round, No. 113 overall: Jones was a pregame inactive and did not play. He’s behind Tim Barnes as the team’s interior swingman right now.

CB Brandon McGee, fifth round, No. 149 overall: Like Bailey, McGee didn’t get many opportunities. He played a trio of special-teams snaps and none on defense.

RB Zac Stacy, fifth round, No. 160 overall: Stacy spelled Daryl Richardson briefly, playing seven offensive snaps. He had one carry for 4 yards.

Undrafted rookie roundup: It was a busy special-teams day for undrafted rookie linebackers Ray Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates. Both are core players on the coverage units and both made their presence felt on their 17 snaps. Bates dropped Arizona returner Javier Arenas at Arizona’s 8 on a kick return and Armstrong stopped Patrick Peterson after just a 1-yard return on a punt late in the fourth quarter. … Running back Benny Cunningham indeed got the first chance to handle kick-return duties and was solid if unspectacular on his pair of attempts. He averaged 23 yards with a long of 25 on those returns.

No surprises on Rams' inactive list

September, 8, 2013
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ST. LOUIS -- We already knew four of the names that would appear on the St. Louis Rams' inactive list Sunday, but none of the three others that appeared came as much of a surprise.

Safety Darian Stewart (thigh), cornerback Quinton Pointer (thigh), linebacker Jonathan Stewart (hip), and tight end Cory Harkey (leg) were ruled out Friday because of their injuries.

On Sunday, the Rams added offensive linemen Barrett Jones and Brandon Washington, and defensive end Gerald Rivers to the list.

Without Jones and Washington, the Rams have three active backups for the offensive line including tackle Joe Barksdale, guard Shelley Smith, and center/guard Tim Barnes.

Rivers' absence leaves the Rams with William Hayes and Eugene Sims as backups at defensive end.

Taking stock of 2013 NFC West picks

September, 3, 2013
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Eighty-six of the first 88 players drafted in 2013 remain on 53-man rosters entering Week 1. The two exceptions play for NFC West teams.

The Arizona Cardinals' Jonathan Cooper, chosen seventh overall, suffered a season-ending leg injury during preseason. He is on injured reserve. The San Francisco 49ers' Tank Carradine, chosen 40th overall, remains on the reserve/non-football injury list while recovering from a knee injury.

Twenty-five of 39 NFC West choices this year remain on their original teams' 53-man rosters. That includes all seven picks for the St. Louis Rams and seven of nine for the Cardinals. The 49ers and Seattle Seahawks had a higher number of picks arranged lower within each round, and fewer open roster spots to accommodate them.

Injuries have left six picks from the division on various injured lists. Three of the Seahawks' top five picks will not help the team anytime soon. That includes Harper, defensive tackle Jesse Williams (injured reserve) and cornerback Tharold Simon (reserve/physically unable to perform). Percy Harvin, who cost Seattle its 2013 first-round choice, is also injured.

Five 2013 draft choices from the division landed on their original teams' practice squads. One of them, fourth-round choice Chris Harper, subsequently left his original team (Seattle Seahawks) to sign with the 49ers' 53-man roster.

Three picks from the St. Louis Rams and one from the 49ers are scheduled to start in Week 1. Cooper would have started for the Cardinals if healthy.

Harper wasn't the only NFC West draft choice to land on another team. The 49ers' Marcus Cooper, a seventh-round choice, wound up with Kansas City after the Chiefs claimed him off waivers.
As the bulk of their starters sat out Thursday night's preseason finale against Baltimore, it was a busy night for many of the Rams rookies. Here's a look at how much the each member of the draft class played, and how they fared in their opportunities.

WR Tavon Austin, first round, No. 8 overall: Austin didn’t sit out completely like the rest of the projected starters, but made no more than a cameo with eight snaps on offense and one on special teams. He was targeted three times and made three catches for 26 yards. The only punt return he dropped back for was booted out of bounds.

LB Alec Ogletree, first round, No. 30 overall: One of the busiest rookies, Ogletree played 25 defensive snaps and four on special teams. He finished with two tackles in unofficial pressbox statistics. Ogletree needed all the reps he could get during this preseason and played more snaps than any defender during the exhibition slate.

S T.J. McDonald, third round, No. 71 overall: McDonald played a dozen snaps and another on special teams as one of the few regulars to make the start. He made one tackle in unofficial pressbox statistics. Progress was evident in McDonald’s first preseason, and he nailed down a starting spot.

WR Stedman Bailey, third round, No. 92 overall: Bailey continued to get steady work, playing 22 snaps on offense and four on special teams. Bailey had three targets and made two catches for 38 yards. He was a bit shaky on the balls he caught, more so than he had been throughout preseason, but still managed to haul in a couple catches. He showed some willingness on special teams, leading the charge on punt coverage once.

OL Barrett Jones, fourth round, No. 113 overall: Jones continued to get extensive work as the Rams try to get him up to speed, playing 57 snaps on offense and six more on special teams. Jones seemed to be a bit more comfortable than he’s been in the previous three games. He’s going to make the roster, no doubt about that, but it will be interesting to see if the Rams feel good enough about his state of readiness to part ways with Tim Barnes, who plays a similar role.

CB Brandon McGee, fifth round, No. 149 overall: McGee is nursing some sort of unknown injury and didn’t play Thursday night. Last week against Denver, McGee played one play on special teams and none defensively. It doesn’t appear that he’s got a serious ailment, but until we know the extent of it, his status for Week 1 remains in doubt.

RB Zac Stacy, fifth round, No. 160 overall: Seemingly healthy and ready to go for the first time in the preseason, Stacy got his first extensive work of the exhibition season. He played 25 snaps on offense, finishing with 37 yards on 11 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run. There wasn’t a ton of room to work, but Stacy’s short-yardage and goal-line ability might be enough to garner chances in those situations when the regular season comes.

Undrafted Rookie Roundup: Two undrafted rookies that have made positive impressions all along showed up again Thursday night -- running back Benny Cunningham and linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong. … Cunningham played 18 snaps on offense, 12 on special teams and was the sharpest of the team’s backs. He had eight carries for 76 yards and likely solidified a roster spot. … Armstrong was active again at linebacker and on special teams, playing 30 snaps on the former and 20 on the latter. He had another big hit and finished with a tackle and pass defended. … End Gerald Rivers made one final push to make the final roster, leading the team in tackles with six and tossing in a sack, three tackles for loss and a hurry in a defense-high 61 snaps. … It remains to be seen whether it will be enough, but cornerback Darren Woodard was sticky in coverage again on his 57 snaps before he left the game with an apparent hamstring issue. If nothing else, Woodard showed enough in the final two preseason games to merit practice squad consideration.

St. Louis Rams rookie review

August, 25, 2013
8/25/13
11:05
AM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. – It would probably be unfair to expect the Rams rookie class to perform at the level it did in Saturday night’s loss to Denver on a weekly basis. But if nothing else, the draft class and a few undrafted rookies certainly gave everyone a glimpse at the potential that exists for this group.

Here’s the breakdown on how much the seven-man rookie class played and how it fared in those opportunities along with a look at a few undrafted rookies who have made an impression.

WR Tavon Austin, first round, No. 8 overall: The Rams and Austin have waited patiently for him to get an opportunity to do something in the return game but they didn’t wait long Saturday night. Austin took his first punt return of the evening back 81 yards to setup the team’s first score. He played 18 snaps on offense and just two on special teams but both punt returns combined to go for 104 yards. He also made a catch for 12 yards.

LB Alec Ogletree, first round, No. 30 overall: It was a big night for Ogletree, who answered many of the early questions that have been asked of him. He played 53 snaps on defense and four more on special teams on his way to the type of performance that showed why the Rams coveted him in April’s NFL draft. He finished with a line of six tackles, two for loss, an interception, two passes defended, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a touchdown. And he did it against Peyton Manning and one of the best offenses around. It hasn’t been an easy transition for Ogletree to the NFL game and he’s by no means a finished product but Saturday provided some definitive progress.

S T.J. McDonald, third round, No. 71 overall: Playing against Denver’s uptempo offense, McDonald also played every defensive snap in the first half with 53. He also fared a bit better against the Broncos, making three tackles and not missing any obvious tackle opportunities. He also played six snaps on special teams, one of which went for a blocked field goal.

WR Stedman Bailey, third round, No. 92 overall: Bailey played 28 snaps on offense, where he was targeted three times and came up with one catch for 13 yards. He also chipped in on special teams with seven plays there. Bailey continues to work exclusively with the backups.

OL Barrett Jones, fourth round, No. 113 overall: Jones played 27 snaps with the backup offensive line and three on special teams. The backup offensive line has continued to struggle in the preseason and Jones has had his share of that. He’s still working his way back into shape and he’s had some decent moments but it’s going to take some time to get him fully up to speed.

CB Brandon McGee, fifth round, No. 149 overall: No word on if something is wrong with McGee in terms of health but he did not play on defense and played a lone snap on special teams. Second-year corner Quinton Pointer didn’t play either, leading one to believe the Rams simply wanted to get a long look at the cornerbacks lower on the depth chart before cuts. Either way, McGee had been coming on strong and earning more playing time going in to Saturday night.

RB Zac Stacy, fifth round, No. 160 overall: Seemingly healthy for the first time in a few weeks, Stacy played 12 snaps with the offense and crammed a lot of work into such a short outing. He carried five times for 8 yards with two catches for 19 yards. The Rams are still sorting through the backups behind Daryl Richardson but have struggled to get any semblance of a run game going the past two weeks.

Undrafted Rookie Roundup: Another game, another big play or two for linebacker Ray Ray Armstrong. He played 21 defensive snaps and 17 on special teams, finishing with two tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit. … Cornerback Darren Woodard played 32 snaps on defense and came up with an interception to kill a Denver drive in the second half. … Defensive tackle Al Lapuaho is a roster long shot anyway but didn’t do anything to help his cause with a 15-yard taunting penalty in the fourth quarter. … Backup kicker/punter Brett Baer finally got an opportunity to do some of each but it didn’t go as he’d hoped. He missed a 43-yard field goal attempt and had a punt blocked. He did later drop a perfect 52-yard punt out of bounds at Denver’s 5, though.

NFC West rookie review: Snap leaders

August, 18, 2013
8/18/13
3:00
PM ET
A few notes on playing time for 2013 NFC West draft choices after each team played its second game of the exhibition season:

Seattle Seahawks: Seventh-round choice Michael Bowie played extensively yet again and remains on course to earn a roster spot as one of the backup tackles. He and undrafted free agent Alvin Bailey are combining to give Seattle much greater depth on the line than the team enjoyed in previous seasons. ... Fifth-round tight end Luke Willson blocked effectively against Denver. ... Tharold Simon remains sidelined by injury, making it impossible for him to compete for relevance at cornerback, the position where Seattle might have its greatest depth.

San Francisco 49ers: I was struck by how many special teams snaps third-round outside linebacker Corey Lemonier and sixth-round inside linebacker Nick Moody played. Both figure to contribute in that regard. ... Quarterback B.J. Daniels inserted himself into the conversation with Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien in the race to become the No. 2 quarterback. Having both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick was a luxury last season. Now, the 49ers are like most teams: in big trouble if an injury knocks out their starting quarterback. ... Too bad second-rounder Vance McDonald was hurt. He flashed ability in the preseason opener.

Arizona Cardinals: Second-round inside linebacker Kevin Minter has been overshadowed at times, through no fault of his own. I noticed him right away during camp practices for the hits he was delivering on special teams. The Cardinals are happy with him. ... The starting offense went 10 plays longer than it had in the preseason opener, giving first-round pick Jonathan Cooper welcome reps. Arizona needs Cooper and its offensive line up to speed for quarterback Carson Palmer to connect on the deeper passes coach Bruce Arians favors. ... Running back Andre Ellington had a 24-yard run and a 28-yard kickoff return, a pretty good debut.

St. Louis Rams: I wondered on draft day whether Zac Stacy would factor as the potential starting running back. That obviously isn't going to happen right away. Stacy missed this game to injury and hasn't seriously challenged Daryl Richardson for the starting job. ... The Rams need to develop young offensive line depth, so it was good for Barrett Jones to get 37 snaps. ... Nick Wagoner has the full Rams rookie review for those seeking a deeper look.

St. Louis Rams rookie review

August, 18, 2013
8/18/13
12:30
PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- The Rams made a concerted effort to get many of their rookies some valuable playing time in Saturday night’s preseason loss to Green Bay.

Here’s the breakdown on how much the seven-man rookie class played and how it fared in those opportunities along with a glimpse at a few undrafted rookies who have made an impression.

WR Tavon Austin, first round, No. 8 overall: Was much more involved this week, playing 16 snaps on offense and two on special teams. Targeted seven times in the passing game, Austin came up with four catches for 28 yards. His first punt return attempt gained nothing as he was unable to find room to run.

LB Alec Ogletree, first round, No. 30 overall: Left to play the most amongst defensive starters, Ogletree clocked 39 snaps there and five more on special teams. He made a little progress this week after a rough first go, particularly in terms of communication and assignments. He finished tied for the team lead with four tackles in unofficial pressbox statistics.

S T.J. McDonald, third round, No. 71 overall: Like Ogletree, McDonald didn’t have some of the glaring problems he had last week as he took on a similar workload though the Rams had some coverage issues, particularly in the middle of the field. He played 23 defensive snaps and four more on special teams and finished with one tackle. He walked off the field with trainers early in the game but returned right away.

WR Stedman Bailey, third round, No. 92 overall: Bailey wasn’t as involved in the offense this week though he played 21 snaps with the backups and another play on special teams. He had two targets and no catches as both passes were essentially uncatchable.

OL Barrett Jones, fourth round, No. 113 overall: Jones continued to work his way back into shape, getting the heaviest workload amongst the drafted rookies. He played 37 snaps with the offense and four on special teams. Although he’d worked some as the No. 2 right tackle early in the week, he spent his night mostly at guard.

CB Brandon McGee, fifth round, No. 149 overall: McGee played 20 snaps on defense and two on special teams. He got some work with the top defense in a nickel role in practice during the week but that didn’t come into play much Saturday night. He finished with one tackle but appeared to get dinged up and come out of the game.

RB Zac Stacy, fifth round, No. 160 overall: Did not play after sitting out practice a couple of days prior to the game. Last week, Stacy did not practice and then played against Cleveland. This week, he practiced a bit then sat out then missed the game.

Undrafted Rookie Roundup: With normal backup Eugene Sims not playing, end Gerald Rivers got a lot of opportunities, even with the starting defense. He played a team high 40 snaps on defense, coming up with two tackles and generating some pressure on a fairly consistent basis. … Linebacker Ray Ray Armstrong was again a busy man, playing 36 snaps on defense and 12 more on special teams. He also looked much more comfortable in his second game and tallied three tackles and a pass defended while getting some work with the second team defense. … Safety Cody Davis again had a solid performance with the third team defense, coming up with four tackles, including one for loss, while playing 36 snaps on defense and 12 on special teams. … Receiver and local fan favorite Andrew Helmick (Lindenwood University) got his first taste of preseason after a hamstring injury. He played 15 snaps and came up with a catch for 30 yards on his two targets.

What to watch: Packers-Rams

August, 17, 2013
8/17/13
12:17
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The Rams and Packers kick off tonight at 8 ET at the Edward Jones Dome.

St. Louis is coming off a 27-19 loss in the preseason opener at Cleveland and makes its home debut for 2013.

Hometown fans hoping to see the Rams unveil some of the new weapons they acquired in the offseason will likely leave disappointed as all indications are that the team will again stick to the vanilla game plan it used last week.

With that in mind, here are five things that are worth keeping an eye on as the Rams host Green Bay.

Right tackle redux: Projected starting right tackle Rodger Saffold suffered a dislocated left shoulder two plays into the opener in Cleveland. He hasn’t practiced all week and won’t play against the Packers.

Joe Barksdale, who replaced Saffold last week, has taken almost all of the work with the first-team offense in practice this week and will make the start in Saffold’s place.

Barksdale fared pretty well in Saffold’s stead last week and the chance to start could give him some valuable reps for a group of backup offensive linemen that doesn’t have much in the way of experience.

Behind Barksdale, the Rams don’t have much in the way of tackles. Chris Williams, who started last week at left guard, could get a look at right tackle. The same can be said for rookie Barrett Jones and Brandon Washington, both of whom are projected to play on the interior but have filled in at right tackle this week.

Spread it around: The majority of the starting offense played just 14 snaps last week, leaving for another week the long anticipated first looks at tight end Jared Cook and receiver Tavon Austin. Neither caught a pass against the Browns as Austin was targeted once and Cook did not get a look.

Starting wideout Chris Givens stole the show last week with three catches for 82 yards and will again be involved, but the Rams would like to at least get the likes of Austin and Cook an opportunity or two to contribute.

Going deeper: All week, Rams coach Jeff Fisher has made it known that the first units will play a little longer on both sides of the ball. Part of that is to get the primary starters a few more reps than they had last week, but the other reason is he wants to get some of his younger players who are down the depth chart a chance to play with the top units.

Namely at running back and receiver, don’t be surprised if youngsters such as Zac Stacy, Terrance Ganaway, Benny Cunningham, Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey see a few snaps with the first-team offense.

Looking at linebackers: Veteran Will Witherspoon is all but certain to step into the starting role in place of suspended starter Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Dunbar is eligible to play but Fisher made it clear he wants to use the main workload to prepare the players who will start on the season on Sept. 8.

Witherspoon is a known commodity as he enters his 12th season in the league. Rookie starter Alec Ogletree will also look to bounce back from a rough start last week in Cleveland.

What might be more intriguing in this area is the hunt for talented depth that can serve as reliable backups for the starting group. Josh Hull is the only backup linebacker with any game experience but the Rams have some intriguing options that figure to get work with the No. 2 defense.

The three undrafted rookies -- Ray Ray Armstrong, Daren Bates and Jonathan Stewart -- have flashed potential during camp and proved to be potential long-term contributors on special teams. It seems likely at least one of those three will make the active roster and tonight’s game serves as the next chance to make a strong impression.

Corner three: Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins are pretty well entrenched as the starters at cornerback. Trumaine Johnson entered camp as the likely third corner in nickel packages after he finished the 2012 season as the team’s third corner.

Johnson is probably still in the lead to fill that role again this year, but rookie Brandon McGee seems to be at least stating his case for the job.

McGee got some reps with the first-team defense as the third corner in practice this week and it’s worth monitoring to see if he gets a shot to do it in the game. Considering Fisher’s statement that he wants to give some different young guys a chance to play with the first team, it’s entirely possible McGee will at least get a few reps in that role.

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