NFC West: Christian Bryant

Rams tweak roster before camp

July, 23, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams don't officially begin training camp until Friday, but they took care of a little housekeeping before the veterans join the rookies and they get down to business.

In a flurry of moves Tuesday evening into Wednesday, the Rams released four players, signed four more and put two players on the non-football injury list. All the moves dealt with players at the bottom of the roster.

The Rams released wide receiver Diontae Spencer, linebacker Tavarius Wilson, linebacker Caleb McSurdy and offensive lineman Abasi Salimu. All four were rookie free agents signed after the draft in May. They had all spent organized team activities and the offseason program in St. Louis.

To fill the vacated roster spots, the Rams signed offensive tackles R.J. Dill and D.J. Morrell and linebackers Pat Schiller and Lawrence Wilson. That quartet also doesn't come with any noteworthy NFL experience, as none have played in a regular-season NFL game.

Schiller, who played his college football at Northern Illinois, actually comes with a bit of an interesting story. His journey to the NFL was chronicled by the New York Times in 2012.

Elsewhere, the Rams added rookie defensive tackle Ethan Westbrooks and safety Christian Bryant to the non-football injury list. Bryant has continued rehab from a foot/ankle injury since the Rams drafted him. Coach Jeff Fisher said at the end of the offseason program there was a good chance Bryant would not be available to open camp. Westbrooks' injury is unknown.

Bryant and Westbrooks still count toward the 90-man roster, and the Rams can activate them at any time once they've been medically cleared by a doctor.

The non-football injury list functions similarly to the physically unable to perform list but designates players differently. The NFI list is for players who either suffered an injury away from football or, for rookies, players who suffered injuries playing football in college or a league other than the NFL.
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 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.

Rounding up Rams' Day 3 picks

May, 11, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- What was shaping up to be a relatively uneventful Day 3 of the NFL draft quickly reversed course Saturday night when the St. Louis Rams made history by choosing Missouri defensive end Michael Sam with the 249th overall pick.

For obvious reasons, the team's choice of the first openly gay player to enter the league didn't allow for much time to recap what else the Rams did on the draft's final day. We'll have plenty of time to dive further into the Rams' picks from Rounds 4 through 7 throughout the next month or so, but for now let's take a quick look at each of the picks and how they might fit in St. Louis.

S Maurice Alexander, Utah State, 4th round -- Were it not for the addition of Sam, Alexander might have been the story of the day. The former Edward Jones Dome janitor will now make his living in a far more glamorous job in the same building. Known as a physical, aggressive type, Alexander should contribute on special teams right away with long-term starter potential. The question for him will be how he works in tandem with T.J. McDonald, a safety with a similar profile.

CB E.J. Gaines, Missouri, 6th round -- Known for his feisty, physical approach, Gaines had five interceptions in 2013. He has the versatility to play in the slot as well as outside on either side and might even have some upside as a potential safety. Will have to make his mark on special teams first and foremost but could have a chance to provide valuable depth at all three corner positions as the season and his career goes on.

QB Garrett Gilbert, SMU, 6th round -- The Rams took their time adding a quarterback but got one they believe has the upside to develop into a potential contributor. Gilbert was once one of the nation's top recruits coming out of high school, but after a failed stint at Texas he transferred to SMU. In his final two seasons there, Gilbert pieced together a pair of strong seasons. He'll compete for the No. 3 job behind starter Sam Bradford and backup Shaun Hill.

OT Mitchell Van Dyk, Portland State, 7th round -- There's not a lot of information available on Van Dyk, but this much we know: he's got great size. Van Dyk said he's 6-foot-8, 315 pounds and Rams coach Jeff Fisher indicated his eventual upside could be as a legitimate NFL left tackle. The Rams should be pretty well set at tackle on the active roster with starters Jake Long and Joe Barksdale and projected starting guards Greg Robinson and Rodger Saffold more than capable of stepping in there. Will be tough for Van Dyk to crack the roster but will get the chance to compete with players like Mike Person and Sean Hooey for a possible job.

S Christian Bryant, Ohio State, 7th round -- An ankle injury limited Bryant to five games in 2013, but he believes he would've been picked much higher had it not been for the missed time. A team captain for the Buckeyes, Bryant will join a crowded secondary that saw the Rams add four defensive backs in this draft alone. If he can help on special teams, he'll have a shot to win a roster spot.

DE Michael Sam, Missouri, 7th round -- The Rams are loaded at defensive end with the likes of Chris Long, Robert Quinn, William Hayes and Eugene Sims but it's not out of the question they could carry a fifth end. The team hasn't hesitated to carry more than the standard number of defensive linemen and actually had a fifth end on the roster for a large chunk of the 2013 season. Sam has pass-rush ability, but like most seventh-round picks he'll have to earn his way onto the roster using avenues beyond that, including special teams.

C Demetrius Rhaney, Tennessee State, 7th round -- Armed with the type of versatility the Rams covet in offensive linemen, Rhaney played all over the line in his college career. But he settled in at center in 2013 and projects to compete there in St. Louis. While the Rams have Scott Wells as the likely starter, Barrett Jones and Tim Barnes are still mostly unproven as depth at the position. The competition will be tough but Rhaney should have an opportunity to battle Jones and Barnes for a role behind Wells.