NFC West: Brian Quick

Rams Camp Report: Day 5

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp:
  • The Rams put the shoulder pads on for the first time in this training camp Tuesday afternoon and it resulted in a little bit more of an even playing field. After the top defense dominated the first-team offense for much of the opening days of camp, the addition of pads got the offense some traction. Quarterback Sam Bradford had what looked like his best practice of camp as he frequently connected on passes down the field. The primary recipient? Receiver Brian Quick. Quick is off to a good start in this camp and only built on that start with Tuesday's work. Bradford and Quick hooked up a couple of times on deep balls in early team drills and then Quick brought even more cheers when he caught another deep ball from rookie quarterback Garrett Gilbert later on. Bradford also hit receiver Kenny Britt for about a 40-yard touchdown deep down the right sideline as Britt got behind cornerback Brandon McGee. That play elicited the biggest cheers of the day.
  • One thing that needs to be cleaned up early on is pre-snap penalties. So far, both sides of the ball have been guilty of jumping early. In many places, you'd allow for the benefit of the doubt since it's so early in camp, but the Rams have been persistent penalty magnets in the two years under coach Jeff Fisher and many of the infractions can be attributed to veteran players who should be past such mistakes. There isn't necessarily one player in particular jumping early, which might make it more frustrating for Fisher and his staff since it can be harder to rein in a team-wide issue.
  • Progress is coming for defensive end William Hayes, offensive tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells. All three have been participating in some individual work early in practice and Hayes and Wells, in particular, look to be close to a return. Hayes said after practice he had a couple of offseason procedures, though the nature of his injuries are unknown. Wells' injuries are also unknown at this point but none of that will matter much if they get back on the field soon. For what it's worth, Hayes says this is as good as he's felt since his second year in the league. That was 2009.
  • A few developments of note at running back. Zac Stacy continues to get most of the work with the first team, but Tre Mason got a few reps Tuesday afternoon and Benny Cunningham is finding his way onto the field some as well. Isaiah Pead sat out the practice and was wearing what appeared to be a cast on his right hand.
  • Some special guests were in the house Tuesday, including the bulk of the University of Missouri football coaches. Defensive end Michael Sam, cornerback E.J. Gaines, receiver T.J. Moe and center Tim Barnes spent some time with the staff after practice and Sam said it was good to see the group. Former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage also took in the workout.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams held their third organized team activity and second session open to the media Friday.

After a heated practice Thursday, things normalized a bit Friday but there were still some worthwhile notes to come from the practice. One quick thing before we get into that, I just want to note 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.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Jeff Roberson/AP PhotoRams quarterback Sam Bradford throws during an organized team activity at the team's practice facility on Friday.
Away we go...

Bradford works: As planned, quarterback Sam Bradford did participate in Friday's practice after sitting out Thursday as he works his way back from knee surgery. Bradford worked in a couple of seven-on-seven drills, one in normal offense and one in the red zone. A little more surprising was the fact Bradford took reps with the first offense during full team drills as they worked on the two-minute offense.

For what it's worth, Bradford looked sharp in his reps. His drops were mostly clean and the ball had his usual velocity when he did uncork a pass. Bradford does indeed appear to be right on schedule for a full-time return at training camp.

More line dancing: With left tackle Jake Long not expected to return from his own knee surgery until midway through training camp at the earliest, Rams coach Jeff Fisher has made it clear the team won't be messing with the stability of the other positions on the line. That means rookie Greg Robinson and Rodger Saffold will remain stable at their spots at left and right guard, respectively.

As for Long's spot, the Rams will continue to look at some of their younger developmental prospects. On Thursday, Sean Hooey got an opportunity to work with the projected starting line. On Friday, it was Mike Person's turn to step in. It's increasingly clear how confident the Rams are that Long will be back for the opener.

Elsewhere on the line, center Scott Wells returned to practice as expected. In other words, the Rams are working with four of their five projected starters right now.

Sitting it out: The Rams still have their share of players not participating in OTAs. In addition to Long, the Rams were without defensive ends William Hayes and Sammy Brown, running back Chase Reynolds and safeties Maurice Alexander, Christian Bryant and Matt Daniels.

Bouncing back: Wide receiver Brian Quick had some rough moments in Thursday's practice but was much sharper during Friday's workout. On one play in seven-on-seven drills, Quick ran a sharp route down the seam, faked inside, getting cornerback Brandon McGee to bite, turned to the outside and made a diving catch on an under thrown ball. But Quick had cleared enough space to get up and finish the play for a touchdown.

McGee, who also had some rough moments Thursday, also showed some resilience, coming up with an interception a few plays later after reading the play and getting a good break on the ball.

Both players need to come with more consistency in the next few months to solidify their spots.

Upcoming schedule: The Rams will be back on the practice field for another open OTA session on Tuesday and Thursday next week.
ST. LOUIS -- A week after losing starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a torn ACL, the St. Louis Rams caught no breaks in hosting the Seattle Seahawks on "Monday Night Football" in Week 8.

To the surprise of many, present company included, the Rams managed to keep it close on the strength of a stout defensive performance and the power running of rookie Zac Stacy. Making his first start of the season, quarterback Kellen Clemens struggled to get much of anything going against Seattle's top-ranked pass defense but appeared to catch a rhythm on the final drive as Stacy's running opened things up down the field.

Stacy repeatedly gashed the Seahawks all night, posting 134 yards on 26 carries and the Rams found themselves with a chance to steal the win as time ran down. After failing on three shots to take the lead, the Rams had fourth-and-goal at Seattle's 1 with four seconds left.

Given Stacy's performance, it seemed like a no-brainer that the Rams would at least use him as a decoy on the final play if not hand him the ball outright. Instead, Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Clemens later said they got a zero-blitz look in which the Seahawks were set to bring the house. So Stacy split out wide to the left alongside receiver Brian Quick in the slot. Stacy was followed by Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner with cornerback Brandon Browner on Quick.

With no threat of the run, Seattle brought the house at Clemens, who let the ball go as soon as he received the snap. The throw landed harmlessly as Quick struggled to get to the corner of the end zone to end the game. Seattle won 14-9 and the head-scratching play call denied the Rams their best chance at a second win in the NFC West division.

Rams can't overcome lost tempers

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher had a simple message for his football team after the second-half of a 30-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers turned into a battle royale.

“Don’t hurt the football team,” Fisher said.

Unfortunately for the Rams, that message was a day late, an ejection of a key defensive player and four flags for unsportsmanlike conduct short.

After a little more than two quarters of chippy play that never really went to the next level, things got out of hand during a sequence that began with 11 minutes, 21 seconds to go. Rams defensive end Robert Quinn had responsibility for Carolina quarterback Cam Newton on a zone-read play, and Quinn ran through him just as Newton handed the ball off to running back DeAngelo Williams.

[+] EnlargeChris Long
AP Photo/Mike McCarnRams defensive end Chris Long was ejected after throwing a punch at the Panthers' Chris Scott.
“It was a legal hit, just out there trying to make plays,” Quinn said. “Say I did pull up and didn’t hit him and he pulled the ball out, he could’ve made a huge play. I was just out there playing football, not trying to do anything to hurt our team.”

Newton stayed down on the field and was helped off before returning a play later, but the damage had already been done. From that moment, the rest of the game turned into the type of melee that would have had local wrestling legend Ric Flair “wooing” his way through downtown Charlotte.

The main event came two plays later when Rams defensive end Chris Long threw a right cross at right guard Chris Scott during a scrum that seemed to last the better part of a couple minutes. In a fracas where many punches and blows were exchanged, Long had the misfortune of throwing the most obvious haymaker. He was penalized and ejected soon after.

“You know how that goes,” Long said. “They are always going to get the second guy. I need to be smarter than that. I play this game with a lot of emotion. I won’t change that, but there has to be a point where I can reel it in and I can’t let people provoke me I can’t hurt the team.”

Much of the rest of the afternoon’s activities turned into an ugly and embarrassing scene for all parties. Long had things thrown at him by Carolina fans as he walked off the field, and the Rams earned three more unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties, two on guard Harvey Dahl and another on receiver Brian Quick. The Panthers picked up one of their own, a play that forced them to settle for a field goal.

Self-discipline soon became a distant memory, and the Rams allowed themselves to fall into the trap sprung by a Panthers team that didn’t hesitate to prance, preen and instigate to provoke them.

“The thing that you’ve got to do is, you’ve got to just continue to do that kind of stuff in between the whistles,” offensive tackle Rodger Saffold said. “It’s hard to say that to somebody, especially a grown man who has put his heart and soul into the game, and it’s hard to hold back those emotions.

“A play lasts for an average of four seconds? We still have 20, 25 seconds, you have got somebody continuing to egg you on constantly, taunting going on back and forth, things the refs don’t see and you retaliate and you get flagged. It’s things that can’t happen, but I can’t say that I don’t understand, especially with how the game was going.”

While there is something to be said for sticking up for a teammate – who could blame Dahl for going after Carolina safety Mike Mitchell after he openly taunted injured quarterback Sam Bradford on the Rams’ sideline – the Rams simply aren’t good enough to overcome in games in which emotions rise to the level they did Sunday.

At the time when everyone seemed to reach their boiling point, the Rams were trailing 17-5 and had a chance to get a stop and get the ball back to their offense to shave it to a one-score game with plenty of time left.

Instead, Carolina went in quickly for a field goal, a touchdown and another field goal after penalties on Dahl and Quick offered the Panthers prime field position. Suddenly, it was 30-12, and the Rams never really threatened again.

“People think because the game is over those emotions are gone,” Saffold said. “Those emotions are held inside of us. That fire is what’s going to make us come back even stronger and faster.”

Stronger and faster would be good, but smarter would be even better.

Notes from Rams' preseason finale

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
12:00
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A few, quick leftover observations from the Rams' 24-21 win against Baltimore in Thursday night's preseason finale:

• Rams coach Jeff Fisher was thoroughly disgusted by the continued mistakes of his team in the first half against the Ravens. They finished with 17 penalties for 123 yards and Fisher voiced his displeasure at halftime. Although the bulk of the penalties were coming from players who likely won't make the final roster, it has to be a concern when you fumble three times in the opening five minutes and each fumble came from a player (receivers Brian Quick and Tavon Austin and running back Isaiah Pead) expected to contribute in the regular season.

[+] EnlargeBrian Quick
AP Photo/Bill BoyceBrian Quick had a busy night Thursday with five catches on six targets.
• Quick did bounce back with a solid performance in the first half as a repeated target of quarterback Kellen Clemens. He finished with five catches for 60 yards while being targeted six times. He probably should have hauled in that sixth catch too as he struggled to drag his feet in bounds and haul it in at the same time. Quick is hopeful that he's done enough to earn a role in the offense when the season starts. I believe he's earned a chance to get worked in but I also believe that Fisher isn't going to put Quick into that role on a more permanent basis until he's convinced that Quick can be consistently successful.

• In the competition for the backup quarterback job, Clemens and Austin Davis each probably had his best outing of the preseason though Clemens' effort was probably the best by either during the exhibition slate. He kept plays alive with his legs and was getting the ball downfield on a consistent basis. It still seems logical that the Rams would do what they did last season and release Clemens and bring him back after Week 1 on a nonguaranteed contract but he certainly helped his cause to be the No. 2 guy if the Rams opt to go that route.

• Safety Matt Daniels was all over the place in Thursday night's game, coming up with an interception, making tackles on defense and special teams and just being around the ball in general. The competition at safety is an interesting one and Daniels was probably in good shape to make the 53 before last night but Daniels' efforts might have sewed up a spot.

• Competition for a possible sixth receiver spot didn't gain a ton of clarity as Justin Veltung and Nick Johnson both had their moments. There's still a real chance the Rams will only keep five and Veltung and Johnson could both go to the practice squad.

• Nice night for tight end Mike McNeill, who also finds himself in a battle for roster positioning. It's entire possible the Rams keep five tight ends, especially if they only keep five receivers. McNeill would almost certainly be one if they keep five but his two catches for 48 yards probably bolstered his chances to be No. 4 in the pecking order if the Rams opt to keep that many.

• Should the Rams keep nine defensive linemen as they did last season, they have a tough choice between the versatile Mason Brodine and rookie Gerald Rivers. Brodine scooped up a fumble and generated some pressure against Baltimore. Rivers was active again, coming up with a sack and six tackles. The decision boils down to whether the Rams believe they can sneak Rivers through to the practice squad given the strong film he's put out for other teams to see. If they do, Brodine probably makes it because of his ability to play inside and out. If not, Rivers might make the 53 outright.

• Will the Rams keep four running backs, not including the suspended Pead? Daryl Richardson, Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham appear locked in for roster spots. I mentioned Chase Reynolds as a possibility to make it for at least one week in Pead's absence and he did nothing to hamper that last night. Reynolds had a fumble recovery and scored the winning touchdown on a 17-yard catch and run late. He's been a staple on the first unit special teams throughout preseason and might have earned a job on the initial 53.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Entering his fourth season in the league, St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford feels like the wise old man of the offense.

When Bradford stops and looks around the locker room or huddle he sees a group of youngsters, particularly in the wide receivers and running backs, only a year or two removed from being in college.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesRams quarterback Sam Bradford has grown comfortable in Brian Schottenheimer's offense and is ready to share his knowledge with the rest of the offense.
Not that Bradford minds being considered a veteran on a young team.

“It makes me feel old, No. 1,” Bradford said. “But, I think it’s great. I think those young guys bring a certain energy to our locker room. They’ve got a lot of energy. They’ve got more than some of the vets and it’s great. I think it gives us a spark.”

Although Bradford does have some help in the leadership department from a veteran offensive line that includes tackle Jake Long, guard Harvey Dahl and center Scott Wells, a big part of his responsibility moving forward is embracing a leadership role to ensure the young players surrounding him reach their potential sooner than later.

Upon the departure of running back Steven Jackson, Bradford quickly realized a leadership void beyond just the opening at running back had been created. He’s embraced that role in this camp as he can regularly be found offering pointers to his receivers during practice or working extra with them afterward.

“It’s fun for me because I get to take more of a leadership role and try to help mold some of those young players and teach them the game and teach them through experiences that I’ve had,” Bradford said. “I think it’s great that we have a lot of young guys. I think it gives us an opportunity to take a lot of steps forward.”

The reality is that Bradford probably wasn’t as equipped to take the reins as the primary voice of the offense until this season. Not only was Jackson the more established veteran but Bradford continued to find himself in a position where he never had the chance to learn all the ins and outs of the offense.

Changing offensive coordinators three times in his first three years left Bradford trying to play catch up. It’s made it difficult for him to offer advice to his receivers and backs because he’s been working to learn it himself.

Now in his second year in coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s offense, Bradford seems more at ease with his role. The timing of that couldn’t be better given how young his wideouts and backs are.

Projecting a receiver and running back corps with an average age of 23 might be fun in terms of the locker room but it also means the Rams and Bradford have high expectations for young players at a position where youth doesn’t always quickly translate to success.

Rookie and young running backs have a long history of producing right away. Just last year, two of the league’s top five rushers (Washington’s Alfred Morris and Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin) were rookies. That could bode well for second-year back Daryl Richardson and his young cohorts.

The receiver spot is a bit more difficult to make an early impact save for a select few. Among the top 20 in receiving yards in 2012, only three were in their second year but none were rookies.

Austin Pettis is the elder statesman of the receiver group entering his third season in the league. Chris Givens and Brian Quick are heading into Year 2 and Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are rookies.

Tight end Jared Cook should ease some of the pressure on those young receivers a bit, but it still might be asking a lot for such a young group to contribute in a major way so early in their careers at a position where that’s generally been difficult.

Bradford is aware of that, but he’s also made it clear he doesn’t plan to wait around for them to develop.

“I think there’s obviously a certain level of patience that you have to have,” Bradford said. “Obviously, we’re going to go through growing pains, but at the same time those guys have to understand what they’re expected to come in and do -- and that’s play at a high level. I think that we’ve tried to make that clear to a lot of the rookies, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They might be rookies, but they have to grow up fast because we are depending on them for our offense to be successful. So, we can’t afford them to have a season of learning. They’ve got to be able to come in and help us immediately.”
NFC West teams recently cast aside three relatively high draft choices aged between 23 and 26. The moves showed a willingness to disregard draft status when making decisions.

Whether recent NFC West castoffs O'Brien Schofield, John Moffitt and A.J. Jenkins become key contributors with their new teams is critically important to the players involved. It's less of a consideration for their original teams for a few reasons that come to mind:



  • Schofield: The Arizona Cardinals released Schofield, a 2010 fourth-round choice, after signing pass-rusher John Abraham. They had a new coaching staff. They had to know Schofield might leave in free agency after the 2013 season anyway. They had to consider whether his $1.3 million salary fit into their plans under the circumstances. Schofield is looking good in Seattle Seahawks camp and figures to earn a spot on their 53-man roster. His willingness to accept a new contract offering injury protections to the team provided affirmed the value judgment Arizona made.
  • Moffitt: The Seahawks' offensive line was in bad shape when the team used early choices for Moffitt and James Carpenter in the 2011 draft. Depth on the line and throughout the roster has improved significantly since then. Moffitt, a third-round pick, hadn't won a starting job and did not necessarily project among the nine linemen likely to earn spots on the 53-man roster. Other teams with less depth on their lines had interest in giving Moffit a shot. Cleveland was one of them. Denver was another. Moffitt wound up with the Broncos after the Browns failed Moffitt on a physical examination.
  • Jenkins: The San Francisco 49ers traded Jenkins, their 2012 first-round pick, to Kansas City for Jon Baldwin, the Chiefs' 2011 first-rounder. Players chosen in first rounds usually get more time to develop than the 49ers gave Jenkins. The fact that Baldwin was available following a coaching and front-office change in Kansas City gave the 49ers a chance at getting something in return. Baldwin is much bigger than Jenkins, giving him a better shot at matching up against the physically imposing corners San Francisco will face in the NFC West especially.

Note that the St. Louis Rams have not made such a move to this point in the preseason. They appear willing to allow additional time for 2012 second-round receiver Brian Quick to develop. Running back Isaiah Pead, another second-round pick from that draft class, will be another player to watch. He hasn't made much impact to this point.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When San Francisco traded 2012 first-round receiver A.J. Jenkins to Kansas City after one season Monday afternoon, the Niners sent a clear signal that they don’t have much time to wait for future stocks to cash in at a position of immediate need.

With primary receiver Michael Crabtree out because of an Achilles injury, the Niners need production and they need it now. Patience can be a virtue in the NFL but not if you’re a team on the cusp of winning the Super Bowl.

In St. Louis, the Rams have a young receiver -- drafted just three spots after the Niners took Jenkins with the 30th pick -- who has yet to reach his potential in Brian Quick.

But don’t expect the Rams to have the same quick trigger that San Francisco had with Jenkins just because he hasn’t turned potential into production at this early stage in his career.

Given Quick’s raw ability, his recent improvement on the practice field, the addition of other weapons around him and the stage of development of the young team as a whole, the Rams have the luxury of being able to wait for Quick to develop.

[+] EnlargeBrian Quick
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonThe Rams' Brian Quick said it's all about consistency for him to become a productive NFL receiver.
“It’s very easy to have patience because we knew when we drafted him it was going to take some time for him to grasp it, but now he has really put the time in and he’s grasping it very well,” receivers coach Ray Sherman said. “I am very pleased with what he’s doing. He’s a guy that before I might have to tell him a couple times to do something but now you can tell him one time and he gets it and understands what he needs to do. I am really impressed with the way he’s coming around.”

Before the 2012 NFL draft, Jenkins was one of a handful of wide receivers the Rams had targeted as a potential early selection. Top decision makers such as coach Jeff Fisher, general manager Les Snead, Sherman and others went on a mini tour of the country looking at the likes of Jenkins, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright.

The visit to see Quick ended up sealing the deal as he put on a show in a private workout. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds with 4.53 speed in the 40-yard dash, Quick brought a size and speed combination previously lacking in the Rams receiver corps.

What Quick didn’t bring was much in the way of polish. Coming from tiny Appalachian State, Quick was widely regarded as a work in progress and didn’t get much in the way of opportunity in his rookie season.

As a rookie, Quick at least showed small glimpses of what could be, something Jenkins didn’t do in just 35 regular-season snaps spread out over three games. Quick finished with 11 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

Quick often tantalized on the practice field but never put it together on a consistent basis, something that has plagued him in this year’s training camp as well, though there has been an uptick in that department in the past couple of weeks.

“I feel like I am eliminating my mistakes and my route running is getting way better,” Quick said. “Now it’s just being consistent. It’s going to take consistency and doing it all the time.”

Entering this season, more is expected of Quick but the Rams don’t have the pressing urgency of a team like San Francisco for him to be a regular contributor right away.

The additions of Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, combined with the development of Chris Givens, provide a bit of a cushion for Quick to continue to develop.

“No question, it helps,” Sherman said. “Also, those guys spent time together this offseason and trained together, so I think that camaraderie and bond they put together is also a plus. He listens and he watches and he has a chance to see it and he only can get better.”

Aside from learning to be a better route runner and having a better grasp on the playbook, two things Sherman has noticed in him so far, a big part of Quick taking the next step is building confidence.

By his own admission, Quick has not always stepped on the field knowing that he can get the job done. That manifested itself anytime he’s had a drop or a miscue which would lead to another and another. Thus the inconsistent tag that’s followed him to this point.

Recently, Quick has pieced together a string of solid practices and appears to be finding ways to move on from mistakes faster.

“You have to have things go your way in order to have that confidence,” Quick said. “It was always there but certain things have to happen. I feel like this year, right now, my confidence is building.”

Quick is well aware of the desire amongst fans for him to be an impact player. Considering his lofty draft status, it’s understandable that fans want a quick return on the investment.

After seeing what San Francisco did on Monday, though, perhaps the alternative of having a little patience and waiting for a young wideout to develop suddenly seems like a better alternative than giving up on a top pick so quickly.

“I just have to come in every day and be patient,” Quick said. “I have all these teammates and they back me up. I am blessed to be here and this coaching staff is patient with me. I just have to make sure I know my plays and I do the right things to prepare for the games and practice the right way. I feel like that’s the best part about it. There’s no pressure on me. I put pressure on myself but I feel like you have to. You have to and that’s what is going to make you a better player. You have to push yourself and make yourself work to get better and make those strides.”

For now, Quick is working with the second-team offense, though he spent Monday’s practice getting repetitions with the first team because of the excused absence of Austin.

The Rams will likely keep five or six receivers and Quick will almost certainly be one of them. In an ideal world, he’d probably win the starting job opposite Givens and allow the Rams to have a big-bodied option to complement Givens and Austin.

Even if that doesn’t come to fruition before the season or even during it, the Rams seem committed to seeing this project through before making any type of judgment.

“I’ve seen that growth in him,” Sherman said. “He’s more consistent now. As a puppy, he wasn’t sure, last year he wasn’t sure on certain things and he was still growing. He’s now starting to step up. I don’t have to say as much to him now because he has an understanding of what we want and what we are trying to do but he’s getting better and better. I am really pleased with where he is right now.”

NFL teams have drafted three wide receivers with the 25th through 35th picks over the past three years.

All three of the receivers have NFC West ties. All three are facing important and possibly pivotal 2013 seasons:

  • Jon Baldwin: The Kansas City Chiefs drafted him 26th overall from Pittsburgh in 2011. Baldwin owns 10 starts in 26 regular-season games. He had 41 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns over that span before the Chiefs traded him to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday. New coach Andy Reid seemed to be losing patience with Baldwin recently.
  • A.J. Jenkins: The 49ers drafted Jenkins 30th overall from Illinois in 2012. They traded him to the Chiefs on Monday after Jenkins had run 35 regular-season plays (16 pass routes) over three games without making a reception. Jenkins joins former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith seeking a fresh start in Kansas City. Getting something in return for Jenkins made more sense than releasing him outright simply because the 49ers need talent at the position.
  • Brian Quick: The St. Louis Rams drafted Quick 33rd overall from Appalachian State in 2012. Quick caught 11 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie. Questions remain about his ability to contribute in the short term. The assumption has been that Quick would have time to develop. As the Jenkins trade shows, assumptions about early draft choices getting a couple seasons aren't always safe. I'd still expect Quick to stick around on the initial 53-man roster. How he performs over the final preseason games could give us additional clues regarding his trajectory.

The chart shows 2012 receiving yardage leaders for rookie wideouts. Chris Givens, drafted by the Rams in the fourth round, led rookie receivers from the NFC West. Arizona's Michael Floyd wasn't far behind. Givens and Floyd project among the more promising young players in the division heading into 2013.

What to watch: Packers-Rams

August, 17, 2013
8/17/13
12:17
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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.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As the Rams near the halfway point of the preseason, one of the camp competitions that was supposed to be hotly contested all the way through the exhibition slate seems to be ending as fast as the man who’s winning it runs the 40-yard dash.

As the team’s leading returning rusher, it stood to reason that speedy Daryl Richardson would be the odds-on favorite to win what many figured would be a close battle to claim the starting running back job.

Since camp has begun, Richardson has done nothing to endanger that status and, in fact, has probably put a bit of distance between himself and competitors such as Isaiah Pead, Terrance Ganaway and rookies Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham.

A week after Richardson looked sharp in the preseason opener against Cleveland with 24 yards on four carries, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer confirmed that Richardson is ahead, but also noted that there’s still time for one of the others to make a push.

“I think Daryl played really, really well last week,” Schottenheimer said. “I think Isaiah’s definitely got to play some catch-up. But again, we’re not just looking at one game. He’s got a whole preseason to look at. We were very pleased with the way Daryl played last week. They’ve both done really well in practice. Would I say Daryl has the lead? Sure, but there’s a ways to go, and we expect good things from Isaiah this weekend.”

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Pead
AP Photo/David RichardThe Rams have big plans for Isaiah Pead, but need to see more consistency from the running back.
Pead continues to get opportunities with the first team offense in practice, and will likely get more Saturday night when the Rams play Green Bay in the second of four preseason contests.

For Pead to play the type of catch-up Schottenheimer referred to, he’s going to have to prove that he can bounce back from a disappointing start to the preseason. After having ball-security issues in limited opportunities in 2012 -- Pead played just 42 offensive snaps with 10 carries -- he fumbled on his first carry against the Browns to kill a promising opening drive.

To Pead’s credit, he did break an 11-yard run on a trap play in which he made a quick read and slid off the side of the point of attack for the team’s second longest run of the night. He finished with 16 yards on three carries.

Despite the fumble, Schottenheimer said Pead has performed well in practice.

“I think Isaiah’s done some amazing things in training camp,” Schottenheimer said. “Obviously he was disappointed last week in the fumble. We talked about that with him. We said, ‘Hey, don’t let one play take away all the great things you’ve done.’ He’s made play after play, so again, try to get him some more reps. Obviously he’s still a young player. You’ve got to teach him. But build on the great things he’s doing out here on the practice field and carry that over to the field.”

Therein lies the real rub with Pead. At times, he flashes the type of game-breaking ability that made him a second-round pick, and his skill set would seem to fit what the Rams are hoping to become offensively this season.

The positive reinforcement from the likes of Schottenheimer is no coincidence, as the test for Pead will be to move past the mental blocks he puts on himself any time he makes a mistake.

Most signs still point to the Rams using a running back by committee approach this season, but how that plays out will be determined by what happens in the next few weeks. Against Cleveland, Richardson and Cunningham played 10 snaps, Pead played seven and Stacy played 21.

Coach Jeff Fisher insists he’d like to get some of his backs other than Richardson and Pead a chance to play with the first team offense before the preseason games are through.

“Our hope is to try to get them some carries behind the starting offensive line over the next couple of weeks to fairly evaluate them,” Fisher said.

Since the offense is likely to be on the field a bit more this week, it’s possible players like Stacy or Cunningham could get a couple looks with the top unit as the Rams continue to sort through their options.

Morning Notes

A few quick hits left over from Thursday’s practice, when linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s suspension was the news of the day:

  • Marty Schottenheimer, father of Brian, attended the practice with cameras from NFL Films in tow. Rumor has it, there’s a documentary in the works about the Schottenheimer family’s football legacy.
  • Torry Holt also returned to camp as he’s in town again in advance of working as color analyst for Saturday night’s preseason broadcast. Holt will fly solo in that role alongside play-by-play man Andrew Siciliano as fellow analyst Marshall Faulk will not be in the booth. Faulk is missing the broadcast so he can take his son, Marshall Jr., to college at Central Washington.
  • Holt again was not hesitant to provide guidance for the team’s young receivers. Although Brian Quick had a mostly strong practice, Holt was quick to get on him for not turning it up and going full speed deep down the field against a certain coverage. Holt’s advice: “As soon as you see that coverage, you’ve got to be out of there.”
  • Speaking of receivers with strong practices, Chris Givens continues to impress. He caught everything thrown his way, and continues to show that he’s much more than a one-trick pony. After one back-shoulder catch in tight coverage during red zone work, Brian Schottenheimer nearly jumped out of his shoes in excitement.
  • Rookie cornerback Brandon McGee worked in a bit with the first-team defense in nickel packages. Presumed nickel cornerback Trumaine Johnson has had some good moments in camp, but has been a bit inconsistent. McGee has impressed with his physical skills in press coverage and overall feisty demeanor.
Chris GivensRon Schwane/USA TODAY SportsChris Givens had three receptions for 82 yards against Cleveland in limited playing time.
Listening in on a conversation with Nick Wagoner, our St. Louis Rams reporter, regarding the team's situation at wide receiver following criticisms from former NFL quarterback Bernie Kosar:

Mike Sando: The preseason is here, which means we've finally gotten a chance to analyze the local color commentators. The Rams' Marshall Faulk has always been known as the opinionated type. Turns out he has nothing on the Browns' Bernie Kosar. What did you think was behind the strong response from Rams coach Jeff Fisher?

Nick Wagoner: The one thing we definitely know about Fisher is that he is fiercely loyal to his players and coaches and they are every bit as loyal to him in return. You see that in everything he does, starting with how he built his staff when he first arrived in St. Louis. Guys like assistant head coach Dave McGinnis and secondary coach Chuck Cecil have been with him for a long time and would pass other opportunities to stay with Fisher.

Sando: Fisher also brought in Cortland Finnegan and Jared Cook, his former players with Tennessee, and paid them handsomely. But his loyalty has extended to new players as well, notably Sam Bradford. Fisher has never wavered in his strong support for Bradford even amid some of the familiar doubts.

Wagoner: Fisher seems like the type of guy who would rather be ripped personally than have one of his players or coaches get shredded. Kosar's issues with the receivers were interesting but I got the impression Fisher really didn't like the personal nature of the shots at Kellen Clemens. I know you were picking up on Kosar's comments as you watched it. What were your initial reactions? Did you think it would turn into a story like it has?

Sando: Yeah, I was picking up on Kosar's comments enough to email you 50 minutes into the broadcast. At that point, Kosar had said the Rams' receivers were horrible. He blamed them for Bradford's struggles in the past. Of course, none of the Rams' current receivers was on the roster before 2012. And, within minutes of that comment, Chris Givens made a 59-yard reception. Not long after that, I turned off the audio to the Browns' broadcast so I could listen to the beginning of the San Francisco game. I never heard what Kosar said about Clemens, so I had no idea this was going to become a bigger story. I do think Fisher pounced on the opportunity to have his players' backs, and that other coaches would have responded similarly if given the opportunity.

Wagoner: In some sense, I could see why Kosar would have his early assumptions about the receiver corps (though not to the extent that he went). Just given the overall lack of production there in recent seasons, he seemed to be making sweeping generalizations without knowledge of what's taken place in the offseason. Obviously, the Rams receivers still have to go out and prove themselves, but anyone who has seen them in camp and even back in the spring knows this isn't the same group it's been.

Sando: Fourteen wide receivers have caught passes for the Rams since Bradford's arrival in 2010. Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Brian Quick are the only ones still on the team.

Wagoner: I'm sure Kosar isn't the only one who might be in for a bit of a wakeup call if that potential is realized. Between the apparent ascension of Givens and the additions of Cook and Tavon Austin, the Rams do have much better pass-catching options than they've had in quite a while. It's really just a matter of getting all of that talent to turn into meaningful production on the field.

Sando: Seeing Givens pick up where he left off last season is huge for the Rams. He is the closest thing to a "known" quantity at the position.

Wagoner: In many ways, Givens is better than he was last year. I sensed in the spring that he had matured quite a bit in the offseason, and based on some of his recent comments about separating himself from people who might not have been the best influences, it seems that's the case.

Sando: Quick is the player I'm wondering about most. How should we read what we've been hearing about him? It really doesn't sound all that encouraging for Week 1.

Wagoner: Quick continues to do what he did last year in practice, which is flash that immense potential one minute and then look lost the next. I thought he had two of his best practice days in this camp last week before the Cleveland game, then he went and had some nice catches in that game (one of which was called back).

Sando: They knew Quick was going to be raw coming out of Appalachian State. He's not going to be a finished product this season. He caught 11 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie. Can the Rams trust him?

Wagoner: Quick needs to find a way to bring that consistency every day. In my opinion, the Rams' ideal scenario would have Quick win that job opposite Givens. It would give them so much variety with their top four pass catchers. Imagine going from left to right with the speed of Givens outside, the size (and speed) of Cook in the slot next to him, the speed of Austin in the other slot and the size of Quick outside of Austin. Then you still can have Pettis as a jack of all trades.

Sando: I feel like it's a guessing game as to which players are going to produce from week to week. That is a good thing because it means the Rams have several weapons with talent. The glass is half full right now. There is really no way to accurately handicap how the pieces are going to come together right away. We should just bet on Cook, Givens and Austin being the primary guys as time passes based on what Givens has shown and what the Rams have invested in the other two. Quick strikes me as the big "X" factor and someone not yet consistent enough to bank on just yet.

Wagoner: That seems to be the book on Quick at this point in his career. The overall pure talent level at the position is enhanced but it's still a question as to which players will actually produce. It might be asking an awful lot of a group so young to meet some of the burgeoning expectations that these guys are creating.

Sando: The Rams are not banking on Quick necessarily. They've loaded up with young talent at the receiver and tight end. They've got options. If Quick hits his stride, all the better. I think this group is going places with or without him.
A look at how the St. Louis Rams fared in five areas worth watching in Thursday night’s 27-19 loss at the Cleveland Browns in the preseason opener.

Running back breakdown

As expected, Daryl Richardson got the start and did nothing to jeopardize his chances to get the next one. He carried four times for 24 yards, helping set up the only touchdown scored by the first-team offense before calling it a night.

[+] EnlargeDaryl Richardson
Rick Osentoski/USA Today SportsDaryl Richardson is expected to get the bulk of carries this season for St. Louis.
Isaiah Pead also got work with the first team but got off to a rough start when he coughed up a fumble to kill the offense’s first drive. Ball security was an issue for Pead in limited opportunities in 2012 when he fumbled twice at San Francisco, losing one. He showed some resiliency by posting 16 yards on his next two carries to finish with 18 yards on three chances.

Rookie Zac Stacy, who didn’t practice on Monday or Tuesday, did play and had an up-and-down start before getting it going in the second half. His first three snaps consisted of a catch for 6 yards, a drop and a stout blitz pickup.

Stacy looked more comfortable in the second half though he wasn’t at full speed and finished with 23 yards on seven carries.

Benjamin Cunningham and Chase Reynolds came in for mop-up duty late. Cunningham showed some juice with a late 6-yard run that drew praise from Rams analyst Marshall Faulk and later tacked on a 36-yard kick return to set up the Rams’ final touchdown.

Terrance Ganaway, who appeared to tweak his leg near the end of Tuesday’s practice, was a pregame scratch.

Backing up Bradford

After spending the first couple weeks of camp rotating with Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis got the first opportunity behind starter Sam Bradford.

Davis struggled to gain traction before connecting with receiver Brian Quick for a 16-yard gain to set up a field goal. He was up and down the rest of the way behind spotty protection, finishing 9-of-16 for 96 yards.

Clemens entered with around seven minutes to go and the Rams backed up to their 1-yard line. After he completed his first attempt for a first down, Browns defensive lineman Justin Staples intercepted Clemens to set up the Browns’ final points.

Clemens got those points right back with a 53-yard touchdown pass to receiver Raymond Radway after escaping the pocket and dropping it off to Radway. He finished 6-of-13 for 116 yards with the touchdown and two interceptions.

All told, Clemens looked sharper than Davis as he nearly engineered a rally from down two scores to give the Rams a chance to tie. This battle is far from over, though.

First look at Austin

Rookie receiver Tavon Austin was probably the player everyone was most excited to see debut in the opener. The wait will have to last longer for those hoping to see him with the ball in his hands.

Bradford targeted Austin once and the rookie wideout couldn’t corral a seemingly catchable ball to convert on third down. It was the only time Austin had the ball thrown his way on the evening.

Austin also dropped back to return a punt but the kick came up well short of him and he didn’t get the chance to catch it.

Left guard looks

Chris Williams got the start at left guard over Shelley Smith, though both got their opportunities. Williams was on the field for the first-team offense’s touchdown drive and helped open holes for Richardson to gain 18 yards on two carries to set up the score.

Smith played the majority of the snaps in the second half.

Rookie defenders

The Rams' first-team defense struggled to get off the field, allowing the Browns to convert three third downs on their opening drive and once more for a touchdown on their second.

At the heart of those struggles were the Rams’ two rookie starters. Linebacker Alec Ogletree scuffled in coverage as Browns tight end Jordan Cameron and running back Dion Lewis beat him for big plays. He finished with two tackles in unofficial statistics.

Safety T.J. McDonald got off to a difficult start when he whiffed on a tackle to allow Cleveland’s first drive to continue. He did bounce back to post five tackles, according to unofficial statistics.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Ask nearly any Rams coach or player about second-year wideout Brian Quick and you’re bound to hear plenty of different thoughts, but one buzzword will keep coming up: consistency.

Blessed with a size, speed and strength package that no other Rams wideout possesses, Quick teases with what he could become should his potential ever convert to production.

Depending on the day, Quick can tantalize with that ability but can also disappear for long stretches of time. After perhaps his best practice of this training camp Tuesday afternoon, Quick has put together a pair of strong workouts in a row.

Quick’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Rams great Isaac Bruce noted Monday that Quick has all the ability in the world but just needs to find some consistency.

“Man, he has it all,” Bruce said. “He has speed, he has the physique, he has huge hands. The guy can run and get down the field and he can get out of his break. That’s the biggest thing in this league is being able to transition.”

Torry Holt, Bruce’s former running mate and Rams legend in his own right, arrived in town Monday afternoon and has witnessed practiced both days.

Quick followed a solid performance on Monday with a performance Tuesday in which he hauled in about a half-dozen catches during team drills, including a deep out in which he beat cornerback Janoris Jenkins, a deep ball down the sideline and a handful of intermediate dig routes.

At one point, Quick caught two in a row and Holt implored him from the sideline to “keep going.”

“Quick had an outstanding day,” Holt said. “I think these last two days have been really good for him.”

From Holt’s perspective, Quick needs to take advantage of his greatest asset: his size. At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, Quick brings a different look from smaller, quicker teammates such as Tavon Austin and Chris Givens.

Having Quick provide a different look on the outside would give the Rams a unique variety of possibilities with the wideouts, but first he must consistently use that size to an advantage.

“Quick, you’re big, you are supposed to play big,” Holt said. “It doesn’t matter if you hurt people’s feelings. I’m not here to save your feelings. I’m big, I’m bigger than you, that’s how I’m going to play and the last couple days we saw that. It’s just a matter of Quick just continuing to be consistent, believe in what it is he can do.”

In other Rams news:
  • After an unseasonably cool run of weather, the Rams got a little heat for the first time in this training camp as temperatures rose to 89 degrees. Of course, that’s still pretty tame by August in St. Louis standards but it still provided a bit of a challenge given how cool it’s been recently. “Today was fine,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “Obviously they are in good shape and I thought they handled the heat pretty well. We’ll clearly back down tomorrow, kind of a walkthrough pace practice before we take off.”
  • For the second day in a row, rookie running back Zac Stacy didn’t do much of anything in practice. End Chris Long returned to team drills after sitting most of them Monday.
  • Aside from Quick’s exploits, the highlight of the day came when running back Daryl Richardson lowered his shoulder against safety T.J. McDonald in the open field and put McDonald on his back. Known for his speed, it was a rare burst of power for Richardson.
  • Running back Benny Cunningham got some work on kick returns Tuesday. As a player fighting for a potential fourth running back spot, any special teams ability he shows could help his cause.
  • There was a brief skirmish when linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and tackle Jake Long got tangled up during team drills. The two grabbed each other’s facemasks and shoved each other a bit before being separated.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Isaac Bruce holds nearly every meaningful receiver record in Rams franchise history and during his 16-year career earned a reputation as one of the game’s savviest wideouts.

When the Rams hired Jeff Fisher as coach in January of 2012, Fisher made it clear that alumni would be welcomed to Rams Park with open arms. Bruce was right at the top of the list.

[+] EnlargeIsaac Bruce
Douglas C. Pizac/US PresswireFormer Rams receiving great Isaac Bruce likes the team's young receivers. "I'm pretty impressed," Bruce said.
Considering the fact that the Rams don’t have a single wideout on the roster who has more than two full years of NFL game experience, any additional presence that can help receivers coach Ray Sherman is a welcome addition.

So Bruce has spent the better part of the past week observing, offering advice and generally serving as a resource for the young wideouts.

Bruce has been participating in many of the team activities since his arrival in St. Louis. He attends meetings, sits in on film sessions, works with players during practice and has even spent time getting in extra work with the young wideouts after those sessions are over.

“I think they wait on and listen to my opinion,” Bruce said. “I just tell the guys what I think and how I would run a route against this coverage or how I would attack the football versus that pass being thrown. They just sit on it and kind of wait for it. I sit in the back and I sneak up and then all eyes start looking at me.”

The Rams will keep five or six receivers on the final roster and Bruce offered me his thoughts on the five that are almost certain to make it.

“I’m pretty impressed,” Bruce said. “I think they’ve added some speed, some quickness, some separation, some guys who have a lot of room for growth but they are willing to make those steps to improve. I like the group as a whole.”

On Chris Givens: “To me, he’s not as herky jerky as he was last year,” Bruce said. “He’s made up his mind on who he wants to be as a football player. He’s a guy who can explode off the line of scrimmage. His transition from running the route to catching the football has gotten a whole lot better and his confidence is up.”

On Austin Pettis: “He is a starter right now,” Bruce said. “He’s not a guy who is just kind of glad to be here anymore. From what I see, I think he’s got the mentality of a No. 1 receiver and that’s big. If you are going to be a dominant guy in this league, I think that’s the right mentality to have.”

On Brian Quick: “That’s what we are working on right now is having him be more consistent,” Bruce said. “Like I said, for that guy we are just building an identity of just coming in every day and figuring out who he is and what type of football player he is and letting him know he can play at a high level and he belongs. I think that’s working out for him.”

On Tavon Austin: “The thing that blows me away is his willingness to learn,” Bruce said. “He’s pretty hungry as far as knowledge is concerned. From my background of playing this game, the more wisdom you have, I think the more success you’ll have, even over talent. Your talent starts to fade but the more you know, you can stay in this game a long time and have a lot of success.”

On Stedman Bailey: “The guy is from my hometown and he knows what it is to play competitively as far as football is concerned,” Bruce said. “I think the guy is going to make big plays. I keep telling him every day you are here for a reason. They drafted you for a reason so go ahead and tap into that potential and be all you can be.”

Bruce will attend one more practice Tuesday afternoon before departing Wednesday.

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