NFC West: Michael Brockers

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- With two games to play in the 2014 NFL season, the St. Louis Rams defense is playing as well as any unit in the league.

After something of a sluggish start, the Rams defense has raised its level of play in the past eight games. But because of that slow start, the ranking don't necessarily reflect how far that group has come.

Before the season is finished, that's something they're hoping to rectify.

[+] EnlargeDrew Stanton, Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree, Eugene Sims
AP Photo/Tom GannamAfter recording just one sack in their first five games, the Rams defense has 36 sacks in their last nine.
"I think personally being in the top 10 or being in the top 5 for us would be great, especially with how young this defense is and the teams we’ve beat," defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. "It would be a great confidence booster for us going into next season."

In terms of overall defense, the Rams are tied for 11th in the league in yards allowed per game at 339.9. Reaching the top 10 is a reasonable goal considering that the No. 6-ranked Jets are giving up 329.8 yards per game and the others between the Rams and Jets are even closer to the Rams' number. Making the top 5 would take a more Herculean effort since No. 5 Buffalo is yielding just 313.4 yards per game. If the Rams can get there, it would be the the first time since 2001 they've finished in the top 10.

Of course, yards allowed per game isn't necessarily even the best measure of a defense. The Rams are also tied for 12th in the league in points allowed per game at 21.2. Were it not for the points allowed by offensive turnovers or special teams, they'd already rank near the top of the league. They still have a chance to break into the top 10 there, also, as No. 8 New England is just 1.2 points ahead of them.

Considering the fact that the Rams have not allowed a touchdown in 12 quarters, they would seem to have a realistic shot of reaching that top 10 also. Over the past eight games, the Rams have given up 15.1 points per game, second fewest in the league in that span.

"It would be a great thing to say that nobody scored a touchdown on us the rest of the season," safety T.J. McDonald said. "That would be great. The rest is just playing good ball, playing consistent ball, play physical like we know how and execute the plan for the week."

After posting the most combined sacks in the NFL over the past two seasons, the Rams would need record-setting performances to reach the top of the league this year after the slow start in which they had just one through the first five games. They now have 36 on the season, which is tied for 10th in the NFL. Detroit is fifth and has 39 so the Rams have a shot to shoot up that chart as well.

Even if they don't the Rams need to have two more sacks than Buffalo the rest of the way to have the most in the league in that category over the past three years combined.

While they'd much rather be making a move toward the postseason, the Rams defense at least has manufactured something to strive for in the final two weeks.

"That’s not a bad way to go," end Robert Quinn said. "The defense is playing great, even field goals are kind of unacceptable for us. That’s just how our defense wants to be, be stingy out there, give up no points and try to give our offense the most opportunities possible. We know throughout the year we shot ourselves in the foot and everybody had their turns but overall we stuck together as a team and trying to finish the year strong."

Rams-Cardinals: Matchup breakdown

December, 10, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A look at three individual matchups to keep an eye on when the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals meet at 8:25 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers vs. Cardinals left guard Ted Larsen/Jonathan Cooper

The Cardinals are banged up on the offensive line with Fanaika dealing with an ankle sprain since Week 13 and far from a certainty to play this week. If Fanaika is out, the normal left guard Ted Larsen will replace him on the right side forcing Cooper into the lineup. In fact, it's probably a better bet that Cooper will make his second consecutive start. Cooper was the highly-touted guard prospect from North Carolina in 2013 who missed the season with a knee injury and has still be working his way to the starting lineup. Against Kansas City last week, Arizona coach Bruce Arians said Cooper was 'OK' but mentioned that he'd been pushed backwards about 10 times.

In Brockers, Cooper (or Larsen) would be drawing the most favorable matchup of any of the Cardinals offensive linemen. That's not to say Brockers is a pushover so much as it's better than having to deal with the likes of Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald. But Brockers has played much better in recent weeks, particularly against the run and he's a big, powerful sort who could give the athletic but smaller Cooper some issues. The Cardinals are going to have their hands full upfront but their line has been much improved in 2014. Brockers versus Fanaika or Cooper isn't the draw of other matchups upfront but it could be an important one in determining the outcome.

Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines vs. Cardinals receiver John Brown

The Rams defense is playing so well right now that it seems the only way to really beat them is to get a big play. Well, few players in the league have a knack for the big play like Brown. The Rams found that out first hand in the first meeting between the teams when Brown made a spectacular diving catch for a 48-yard touchdown that was ultimately the game winner. Brown has made a habit of those big plays in his rookie season though his production has tailed off a bit since that big catch against St. Louis.

The Rams, meanwhile, are getting much better production out of their secondary lately in part because they're finally healthy. With Trumaine Johnson back, the Rams have been using Gaines as the starter at left cornerback but kicking him inside in the nickel. That's where Gaines could see plenty of Brown this time around. Brown beat safety Rodney McLeod for the touchdown in Arizona but Gaines is a reliable cover type who hasn't allowed many big plays this year.

It's unlikely the Rams can continue to pitch shutouts but if they want another one, they'll need Gaines to be on point against Brown.

Rams tight end Jared Cook vs. Cardinals safety Deone Bucannon

I wanted to avoid repeats from the first matchup here but I'm making an exception for this one considering Cook's success against the Cardinals in that meeting. Cook had two catches for 84 yards and a touchdown in that game and Arizona continues to struggle to cover tight ends consistently.

Even before that, Cook had a big game in the 2013 season opener when he torched Arizona to the tune of seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He would have had three scores if not for an amazing play by Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu to force a fumble just before Cook crossed the goal line. Regardless, Arizona was one of the worst teams in the league last year defending tight ends which led directly to the selection of Bucannon.

Bucannon has been used primarily in the nickel and dime for the Cardinals but has flashed the potential to help in a variety of ways. He had his first career fumble recovery in Week 8 against Philadelphia and has 39 tackles and two passes defended so far in his rookie season. With Mathieu out because of a thumb injury and cornerback Antonio Cromartie battling an ankle issue, the Cardinals figure to have some question marks in the secondary. That could mean any plans to help slow Cook might have to be altered to help elsewhere.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Although the St. Louis Rams have exhausted all of the additional draft choices they received from the Washington Redskins in the 2012 megatrade that landed Robert Griffin III in the nation's capital, they haven't yet received all of the dividends.

It hasn't yet been three years since the Rams and Redskins consummated the trade that sent the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft to Washington in exchange for the Redskins first- and second-round picks that year and Washington's first-round choice in 2013 and 2014. More time is probably needed to determine a winner but from the Rams' perspective, it certainly appears to be shaping up as a major decision in their favor even if it doesn't reach knockout status.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Ben LiebenbergEven if Robert Griffin III turns his career around, the Rams will be comfortable with their blockbuster trade with the Redskins.
“[We have] no regrets," coach Jeff Fisher said. "At the time it was a good deal for us and it was a good deal for Washington.”

At the time, it also appeared both teams were going to be set at quarterback as the Redskins got the chance to draft Griffin and the Rams backed Sam Bradford as their franchise signal-caller. What's interesting is that for all the players that ended up in St. Louis in the deal and even after Griffin's rookie-year success, quarterback is now a major question mark for both teams.

While quarterback has again become a need for both sides, the Rams are the team to come out of the deal with five current starters and eight players total after using those picks to make subsequent trades. Those starters include defensive tackle Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, linebacker Alec Ogletree, receiver Stedman Bailey and left tackle Greg Robinson.

"It’s interesting," Fisher said. "We drafted eight players, seven of which are on our roster. But, I think you have to look past that. We’ve got defensive starters. More importantly than that because of those that we drafted through the trade with Washington, we were able to do some other things. For example, Zac Stacy was one of those players that we acquired through one of those picks. Without Zac here, it’s probably unlikely that we go and draft Tre Mason. We have depth there and we can afford to do that now. So, we’re able to shape our roster way beyond just the actual picks that we got from them.”

None of those players have yet developed into stars though Ogletree, Jenkins, Brockers and Robinson have showed varying signs of potential at different points in their young careers. Bailey has become a valuable piece of the offense in recent weeks and also looks to be a key contributor moving forward.

“How’s 'Tree' doing and [WR Stedman Bailey] 'Sted' doing and how's Zac doing? I think, Greg’s going to be our future left tackle for a long time," Fisher said. "I can’t say enough about it. Brock’s recent performance last week, we gave him a game ball. He had eight tackles and was a big factor in the ball game. Very pleased with how they’ve come along.”


Pead and Rokevious Watkins haven't contributed much and that combination remains the sore thumb of the group considering the Rams traded down in the second round to take Pead and recoup the pick they eventually used on Watkins. In doing so, they forfeited a chance to draft linebacker Bobby Wagner, who is now a star for division rival Seattle. Pead is on injured reserve but hasn't performed to his draft position when he's played. Watkins is no longer with the team.

Griffin, meanwhile, has not been the star that many presumed he would be for the Redskins. He did lead Washington to the playoffs as a rookie but injuries have slowed him and he's been benched for Colt McCoy in recent weeks. For what it's worth, Fisher believes Griffin could still get his career back on track.

“Any quarterback that’s going to go through significant injuries like he did and two offensive philosophy changes, scheme changes, I think that’s hard," Fisher said. "I don’t believe you’ve seen the last of him. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good quarterback.”

But even if Griffin does reach that level, Fisher, general manager Les Snead and the Rams will never look back at the trade as one they shouldn't have made.




“If you recall, it was our first draft," Fisher said. "I personally looked at the roster prior to accepting this job and then immediately following after we hired Les we sat down and did an extensive review of the personnel and felt that we needed as many picks as we could possibly get to rebuild this roster.”

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When news broke that Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne had been demoted from the starting lineup and subsequently departed the team's facility in a huff, it didn't make much of a ripple around the St. Louis Rams.

Brockers
Claiborne
But there's actually a deeper history involving Claiborne and the Rams than many realize. While the Rams' 2012 draft trade with the Washington Redskins centered on the No. 2 overall pick and Robert Griffin III, it's easy to forget about the second first-round trade the Rams made that year.

After moving down to No. 6, the Rams cut another deal as Claiborne, that draft's consensus top corner, fell to their spot. Although the Rams had brought Claiborne to St. Louis for a visit and showed interest in him, they weren't sold enough to make him their pick. Dallas, however, had no such qualms.

The Cowboys traded the No. 14 overall pick along with their second-round pick, No. 45 overall, to the Rams for No. 6. Dallas coveted Claiborne and the Rams decided to gamble that the object of their affection, defensive tackle Michael Brockers, would slip to them.

As it turned out, both teams got what they wanted. The Rams later traded the No. 45 overall pick to the Chicago Bears for the No. 50 pick and a fifth-round choice that they turned into running back Isaiah Pead and guard Rokevious Watkins. Neither of those choices has paid dividends for the Rams but the Bears took receiver Alshon Jeffery with the pick acquired from St. Louis.

Clearly, the move up for Claiborne hasn't been a good decision for the Cowboys, especially considering reports they would have taken Brockers at 14 and linebacker Bobby Wagner with that second-round pick. Wagner has thus far been better than both players in his first two-plus seasons.

Brockers, meanwhile, has been a solid if unspectacular pick so far for the Rams. If nothing else, he's a dependable starter who still boasts some upside, something that might be hard for Claiborne to claim moving forward.

Drawing the tie even closer, it's worth noting that Claiborne's blowup Wednesday came on the heels of a rough outing against the Rams on Sunday. He did make the game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter but that came after the Rams repeatedly targeted him for big plays. He allowed five catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns and was flagged for defensive holding in the Cowboys' victory.

In retrospect, the Rams could have done much better with the second-round pick acquired from Dallas but the Brockers selection alone makes them clear winners in the deal.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Lost in the rubble of St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford season ending ACL injury Sunday evening was the relatively good news the team got on four other injured starters.

Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, defensive tackles Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers and offensive lineman Rodger Saffold all left Saturday night's preseason game against the Cleveland Browns with injuries and uncertain statuses moving forward when they did not return. But Rams coach Jeff Fisher was at least able to offer a positive outlook on that quartet before confirming Bradford's injury.

Johnson
Of the four, Johnson's knee injury looked the worst when it happened. After taking a helmet to the knee, Johnson had to be taken off on a cart. Of all the injuries suffered in that half, Bradford's included, Johnson seemed the most likely candidate to miss extended time. But where further tests revealed Bradford's was worse than first feared, the additional exams worked in Johnson's favor.

"We got good news considering the mechanism of what happened to Trumaine Johnson," Fisher said. "We’ll miss Trumaine anywhere from four to six weeks with an MCL sprain."

The news was even better in the case of Saffold, Langford and Brockers. All three left with ankle injuries though Saffold's looked the worst after a player rolled up on his leg. But Fisher said the damage was minimal and the trio might even be ready to go this week.

"I can report on three of them who we got good results back," Fisher said. "Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford and Rodger Saffold could potentially play this Thursday night in the fourth preseason game at Miami."

The Rams may take a cautious approach with those three considering, but all three have missed time in camp and might need the reps before the regular season starts.

As for Johnson, the Rams have a few options to take his place, but none of them has proven much of anything in the NFL. Fisher listed rookies E.J. Gaines and Lamarcus Joyner as options as well as second-year corner Brandon McGee. Obviously, McGee has the most experience of the three though most of that is limited to special teams and one rough outing against Chicago in week 12 last season.

McGee has also been dealing with an ankle injury during the preseason and the Rams would probably prefer to keep Joyner in the slot as the primary nickelback. That could leave the door open for Gaines, who has impressed in camp and the preseason with his tenacity and physical approach.

Fisher wouldn't tip his hand Sunday but will have to offer at least a glimpse of the plans in the preseason finale Thursday night.

"E.J. has come on," Fisher said. "And Brandon McGee from last year missed this game with an ankle, he should be back. We’ll be OK there until Tru comes back. Lamarcus is making plays, he played there last night and inside. We’ve got a good, solid group there."

Observation Deck: St. Louis Rams

August, 24, 2014
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CLEVELAND -- If possible, the score of the St. Louis Rams' preseason meeting with the Cleveland Browns has even less meaning than an average exhibition contest.

The Rams (1-2 in preseason) dominated in a 33-14 win, but the victory is about as hollow as possible considering what occurred in the first half. The first 30 minutes turned the team's starters into something resembling a MASH unit.

Quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a left knee injury with a little more than eight minutes to go in the first quarter and did not return. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that initial tests did not reveal any further damage to Bradford's surgically repaired ACL, but Bradford will have more tests in the next 24 hours. Rams coach Jeff Fisher indicated after the game that it could be a hyperextended knee.

Had it stopped there, it would have been bad enough, but four other starters left the game with injuries and did not return. Defensive tackle Kendall Langford (ankle), cornerback Trumaine Johnson (knee), defensive tackle Michael Brockers (ankle) and guard Rodger Saffold (ankle) also departed early. Early indications on those injuries are that Saffold and Langford were taken out more as a precaution. Johnson's looked to be the worst after he took a helmet to the left knee and a cart took him to the locker room.

Some more thoughts and observations from Saturday's game:
  • It was a rough go for left tackle Jake Long in his first game back. He picked up a penalty for hands to the face and struggled on two plays that led to Bradford getting hit. Obviously, he's got some rust to knock off but it was a potentially damaging sequence.
  • Wideout Brian Quick has put together the best training camp of his young career and has now carried that momentum into two consecutive preseason games. He finished with four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown and was clearly Bradford's favorite target. Time will tell if he can do it when the games count, but the Rams have to be encouraged by his consistency in camp and preseason.
  • Hard to fathom why, after the injuries to Bradford, Saffold and Langford, the Rams still had the starting defense on the field when Johnson and Brockers were hurt.
  • Receiver Chris Givens has been awfully quiet in this preseason to the point that he's not playing at all with the starters. But Givens offered a reminder of why he's a piece worth keeping around with an impressive 75-yard catch and run for a touchdown. He added a nice catch on a crossing route for a gain of 19 earlier on the drive.
  • Defensive end Michael Sam came up with his second sack in as many games, dropping Johnny Manziel with a little more than 10 minutes to go. Best I can tell, Twitter is still functional. Barely.
  • Rookie offensive lineman Greg Robinson did not start against the Browns after doing so in each of the first two games. Moving back and forth between left guard and left tackle has left him struggling to settle in. Rodger Saffold started at left guard with Davin Joseph at right guard, but that doesn't mean that's how it will be when the season starts. With the rest of the line healthy and in place, expect the Rams to try to get Robinson settled in at left guard moving forward.
  • Linebacker James Laurinaitis (ankle) did some work in practice this week but the Rams clearly didn't want to push him and he sat this one out. Fellow linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar also didn't play.

Rams starters set for extended time

August, 22, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For most NFL teams, the third preseason game is the closest thing the exhibition season offers to a dress rehearsal.

For the St. Louis Rams, that isn't necessarily the case. But they do have bigger plans for Saturday night's game against the Cleveland Browns than in either of their first two preseason games.

Those plans include the team's starters playing the bulk of the first half, including a handful of players who are returning this week from injury.

"Really, our hope is to play the first half," coach Jeff Fisher said. "Some guys may come out just a little sooner, but that’ll be our guidelines, to try and get the starters to play at least a half.”

Jenkins
Saffold
Long
Brockers
Among the starters expected to return for their first preseason game action are defensive tackle Michael Brockers, left tackle Jake Long, guard Rodger Saffold and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

Long is scheduled to play in a game for the first time since suffering a torn ACL and MCL at the end of the 2013 season. He's been practicing for most of the past couple of weeks and is right on the schedule the Rams initially set for his return.

Saffold has been working his way back from a stinger injury suffered in early August. He has been getting full reps in team drills this week and is also expected to return.

Assuming Long and Saffold come back, the Rams will have their first-team offensive line together for the first time in this preseason.

The same can be said of the secondary, where Jenkins is returning from a hamstring injury.

"I’m kind of excited about getting the secondary together for the first time this year," Fisher said. "That’s going to be a good thing. [Cornerback] Lamarcus [Joyner] will line up and play in the slot for us, then of course it’s good to get Jake and Rodger back for the first time.”

That leaves linebacker James Laurinaitis as the only projected starter with an uncertain status as the team heads to Cleveland. Laurinaitis is bouncing back from an ankle injury, but has been getting more work in practice each day this week. His status is likely to be a game-time decision, but if he doesn't play against the Browns, he almost certainly will play against Miami in the preseason finale.

Beyond the work of the starters, Fisher and his staff have plenty to evaluate with the backups as they begin to make roster decisions. Rosters must be trimmed from 90 to 75 by Tuesday.

After that, don't be surprised if the Rams starters get even more work against the Dolphins as part of Fisher's preferred method of gradually building snaps throughout the preseason.

"We probably will play more in the fourth game because we like to build reps," Fisher said. "But again, if you go to the back end of the roster, we’re looking for guys that are competing for spots. We’re looking for improvement out of the younger group of players on special teams. We've got to minimalize our special-teams penalties."

St. Louis Rams practice report

August, 21, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- With the "official" end of training camp coming and going Wednesday, the Rams practiced without any eyes other than media watching Thursday afternoon. Along with that, the rules change a bit in terms of what can and can't be discussed. But Rams coach Jeff Fisher did offer some updates on some things that were noticeable on the field.
  • First, Fisher said Thursday's practice was used largely to get his team familiar with Cleveland. It's the first time in the preseason the Rams have done anything resembling some game planning. Some of that even included having a couple of players put on the red jersey to emulate different Browns players.
  • Linebacker James Laurinaitis (ankle) did a little more than on Wednesday, including a bit of work in team drills. Fisher said the decision on whether Laurinaitis will play against the Browns has not yet been made but it's clear Laurinaitis could probably play if he had to. Clearly, he doesn't have to but the option is realistic.
  • Fisher did indicate that left tackle Jake Long (knee), defensive tackle Michael Brockers (ankle) and guard Rodger Saffold (stinger) would all be available and are expected to play. That would allow the Rams to have their projected offensive and defensive lines together for the first time in the preseason.
  • Speaking of groups working together in a game for the first time this preseason, Fisher said he's looking forward to seeing the secondary get some work together. That means Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson at cornerback and Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald at safety. Fisher even went so far as to acknowledge that rookie Lamarcus Joyner would work with the top offense as the nickelback.
  • As for playing time for the starters, Fisher indicated that group will play the bulk of the first half. He also again mentioned the gradual build he prefers means that group could play even more in Miami in the preseason finale. That's how they've done it in his first two seasons in St. Louis and it doesn't sound like it's going to change.
  • Amongst projected starters, linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar is the only one not to practice at all this week. So even if the Rams get Laurinaitis back, they likely won't be at full strength defensively.
  • The Rams again hosted the Ferguson-area high school teams at their facility Thursday as McCluer, McCluer North and McCluer South-Berkeley held practice on the team's indoor field.
  • Running back Isaiah Pead officially cleared waivers and now reverts to the team's injured reserve list. Pead does not count against the team's 90-man roster.
  • The Rams will wrap up their preparation week with a walk-through Friday before traveling to Cleveland for Saturday night's game against the Browns.

Rams Camp Report: Day 17

August, 20, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp:
  • The Rams wrapped up the training camp portion of their preseason with a spirited practice in front of some special guests Wednesday afternoon. The football teams from Ferguson, Missouri-area high schools McCluer and McCluer North attended the practice before and after having their own practices in the indoor Rams Park facility. What they saw was a long, hot workout, but they also provided a little jolt of energy that certainly helped the Rams through the workout.
  • On the field, the Rams continue to make strides toward getting four key starters back on the field. Left tackle Jake Long continues on his trajectory to play against the Browns on Saturday as he took the bulk of the reps at his usual spot. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers again took most of the reps with the first-team defense at his spot and said he's expecting to play against Cleveland. Guard Rodger Saffold went beyond the individual work he did Tuesday and participated in some team drills by taking snaps at both guard spots. And linebacker James Laurinaitis, who has been out with an ankle injury, even got back in some seven-on-seven drills, though he has yet to play in 11-on-11. Laurinaitis spoke after practice and confirmed that the injury is to the same ankle he had offseason surgery on, but that the issues are unrelated. He says he's feeling good and if there had been a regular-season game anytime recently, he'd have played. The Rams have taken a cautious approach with all four players.
  • The Rams receivers had a bit of a rough go during one-on-one drills as wideouts Kenny Britt and Austin Pettis dropped what should have been easy completions. Tight end Jared Cook had no such issues and came up with a nice grab on a deep, back-shoulder throw from quarterback Sam Bradford in team drills. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson made a nice play on a deep pass on the next snap but was not pleased with himself when he didn't come up with the interception. Otherwise, the day was pretty nondescript as the Rams slogged through another long, hot practice.
  • As is custom, the Rams closed training camp with their usual "dizzy bat" races for all of the rookies and team interns. All participants pick up a ball and run 10 yards, drop it off, run another 10 yards and then do 10 spins with a wiffle ball bat. The catch is that the veterans can distract all participants by any means necessary, including dumping water and Gatorade on those spinning. It's a lighthearted and fun way to call it a camp.
  • Aside from the high school teams taking in practice, the Rams had another special guest Wednesday: newly minted Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Aeneas Williams.
  • Wednesday's practice was the final day of training camp open to the fans, but the Rams will be back at it Thursday afternoon for their final practice before traveling to Cleveland on Friday.

Rams Camp Report: Day 14

August, 13, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp:
  • The Rams went through a quick, special-teams only workout Wednesday afternoon that lasted all of about an hour. The players participating started out in pads before shedding them in the middle of the practice. Special-teams coach John Fassel put his team through the usual paces with lots of work for his coverage units. Alas, the fun of the initial special-teams practice with the physical, one-on-one drills, seems to be gone.
  • Perhaps the most noteworthy thing from Wednesday's practice came not from a player participating but what was happening on the side. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who is working his way back from an ankle injury, did some running on the side under the supervision of head athletic trainer Reggie Scott. Brockers has been out for nearly two weeks with the ankle sprain but appears to be moving well. He did some light jogging earlier this week and looks like he could be headed toward a return sooner than later.
  • For what it's worth, fullback Kadeem Jones, who has missed most of camp with an injury, was in pads Wednesday but didn't do much of anything. A target for his return remains unknown.
  • One player worth watching over the next few weeks is receiver T.J. Moe. Moe is still getting used to playing on special teams, something he hasn't done much of in his career to this point. But he's well aware that if he wants a shot at the roster, that could help his cause. I asked Moe if he had to adjust his mindset at all to play special teams since most special-teams players are a little bit crazy and he said that slot receivers have to have a similar mentality. Moe isn't getting a ton of reps in this camp so any work he can get, he's going to have to make the most of. I'll have more on Moe and pursuit of a roster spot later this week.
  • After practice was over, Rams coach Jeff Fisher joined the efforts of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in which he had a bucket of cold water and ice dumped on his head to help raise awareness and money for ALS. Seattle coach Pete Carroll took the challenge Tuesday and promptly challenged Fisher when it was done. Fisher answered the challenge Wednesday. In turn, Fisher issued the challenge to St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and country music group Rascal Flatts. Defensive end Chris Long, punter Johnny Hekker and linebackers Jo-Lonn Dunbar and James Laurinaitis have also participated so far.
  • The Rams are back on the practice field Thursday afternoon for a 3:30 p.m. CT workout. It's open to the public.

Rams Camp Report: Day 8

August, 2, 2014
8/02/14
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ST. LOUIS -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp:
  • The Rams held their annual scrimmage Saturday, coming out in full pads for the first time. While none of the principals competed in any live drills, the first-team offense and defense did match up for some extended team drills. They spent those drills working at "thud" tempo with the defense making contact with the shoulder pads but with no live tackling. The first-team offense continued to show signs of life in the early live drills, with quarterback Sam Bradford and receiver Stedman Bailey hooking up for big gains twice in as many snaps. Bailey had a big day in general, catching about 10 passes during live drills and seven on seven. Bradford later connected with Kenny Britt for a long touchdown on a perfectly thrown deep ball. But when the drill moved closer to the goal line, the defense stood tall and kept the offense out of the end zone on consecutive handoffs from the 2.
  • At the end of the practice, the Rams did some live scrimmaging using primarily backups and rookies vying for roster spots. There were a few notable exceptions, though. Greg Robinson (left tackle), Aaron Donald (defensive tackle) and running back Tre Mason took some reps during the live portion.
  • One area worth watching in this camp is the development of the tight ends and running backs in blitz pickup. The running backs, in particular, don't have much experience in blitz pickup. When those groups took on the linebackers in the one-on-one drills, the decided advantage went to the linebackers again. Presumptive starter Zac Stacy is coming along in that regard, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The tight ends had a little more success, with Cook actually getting a couple of good reps in. And another player to keep an eye on is undrafted free agent Alex Bayer. Bayer seems to be technically sound as a blocker and could emerge as a strong candidate to win a potential fourth tight end spot on the roster. The flip side, of course, is the linebackers' success. Alec Ogletree was especially impressive in those drills. Gregg Williams should be able to have some fun with Ogletree behind this defensive line.
  • We haven't had any full-blown fights in this camp, but a mini-scuffle broke out during the aforementioned linebacker-running back drills. Running back Benny Cunningham and linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong exchanged shoves and words before being separated.
  • The Rams took some precautions with their many banged-up players but at least so far it doesn't seem they have any serious issues. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers left practice a bit early Friday after tweaking an ankle and returned Saturday only to depart when shaken up again. The Rams might just have to be cautious with him moving forward to ensure he doesn't make it worse, but it doesn't sound serious. Linebacker James Laurinaitis came out with a walking boot on his left foot after getting stepped on earlier in the week. The injury isn't believed to be more than a mild ankle sprain, though. Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold also left Friday's practice with an apparent hand/wrist injury. He did not practice Saturday and watched from the sidelines with no cast or wrap on his hand. Like Brockers, Saffold's injury isn't believed serious. Other notables not practicing: Cornerbacks Lamarcus Joyner and Janoris Jenkins, offensive lineman Barrett Jones, defensive lineman William Hayes and receiver Brian Quick.
  • Funniest moment of the day: Backup quarterback Shaun Hill took a snap and as he dropped to hand it off, tripped over his own foot into a head first somersault, with jeers and laughs from his teammates.
  • The Rams are off Sunday and will return to practice Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET at Rams Park.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams got back to work Thursday with their fourth organized team activity open to the media.

As always, it should be noted that much of what happens in these organized team activities 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.

Williams fired up: New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams isn't hard to find on the practice field. If you can't see him, take a moment and listen and you'll be able to spot him soon after. Williams regularly yells "Come onnnnnn" at the snap to get his defenders going and then offers an array of "encouragement" throughout the practice.

At one point during Thursday's practice after the offense hit a nice completion, Williams yelled "If you're afraid to compete, go home." That's one of the more print-friendly comments he offered but you get the idea.

[+] EnlargeLamarcus Joyner
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonLamarcus Joyner has been taking reps at slot corner and safety during OTAs.
So far, it seems the players are embracing Williams, too. Rookie defensive back Lamarcus Joyner offered praise for his new coordinator after the workout and he's not alone in that praise, either.

Speaking of Joyner: Rams coach Jeff Fisher has repeatedly indicated that Joyner's primary function would be as a slot corner this year. While Joyner is getting plenty of work there, he's also taking reps at safety. Of course, the Rams are a little thin on numbers at safety for the time being so it's possible those reps will evaporate when some of the walking wounded return.

Receiver tally: There were some highlight-reel moments for the receivers during Thursday's practice. During a 7-on-7 period, Tavon Austin ran a seam route from the slot that turned the corner outside and then came in front of safety Cody Davis for a leaping 17-yard touchdown catch. Later on, Emory Blake made a diving catch on a slant route that drew some loud cheers from his fellow wideouts. Brian Quick had a drop early in practice during 1-on-1s but bounced back with a couple of contested catches after. Consistency is still the word of the day for him.

He's not a receiver but undrafted rookie tight end Alex Bayer had a good day catching the ball. And Kenny Britt continues to make plays, even getting it done after getting his left leg wrapped during practice.

Sitting it out: Tight end Jared Cook returned to practice Thursday but the rest of the names not practicing matched up with Tuesday's group. WR Jamaine Sherman, S Christian Bryant, S Maurice Alexander, RB Chase Reynolds, S Matt Daniels, DE Sammy Brown, LT Jake Long, DT Michael Brockers and DE William Hayes did not practice.

Brockers was also missing Tuesday and he watched Thursday's practice with his right ankle wrapped.

Bradford's day: Thursday was one of quarterback Sam Bradford's designated practice days and he did a similar amount of work to what he did in front of the media last week. Bradford participated in a pair of 7-on-7 sessions and again did work in the hurry-up team drills. He had some good moments, including the aforementioned touchdown to Austin and another scoring pass to wideout Austin Pettis. He also threw an interception to cornerback Janoris Jenkins during the 11-on-11 drills as pressure surrounded him.

Sam makes a play: As practice came to a close, defensive end Michael Sam made a nice play for the second-team defense. He read a pass, jumped to the outside and knocked it down, narrowly missing an interception. He continues to get reps with the second-team defense as Hayes sits out.

Up next: The Rams have now completed six OTAs with four remaining. All four of those will come next week with two more sessions open to the media on Tuesday and Thursday. There is no mandatory minicamp to complete the offseason.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams have made a habit the past two years of continuing to perpetuate the blockbuster trade they made with the Washington Redskins by making additional deals.

In fact, in the first two years with Les Snead as general manager and Jeff Fisher as coach, the Rams had made at least one trade with each of their three first-round picks, not to mention other deals made in later rounds.

But the Rams managed to sit still, not fidget and make some picks in Thursday night's first round. In selecting Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson with the second overall pick, the Rams added the final piece of the puzzle from the trade with the Redskins.

While we won't be able to fully assess the deal for some time, the Rams certainly came away with quite a haul when you factor in all the pieces they have added. Of course, if quarterback Robert Griffin III goes on to a big career, the Redskins won't mind the cost. All of that is to be determined.

In the meantime, here's a breakdown of what the two sides received in the trade:

Washington received: QB Robert Griffin III

St. Louis received: DT Michael Brockers, CB Janoris Jenkins, RB Isaiah Pead, G Rokevious Watkins, LB Alec Ogletree, WR Stedman Bailey, RB Zac Stacy, OT Greg Robinson

As we sit here today, that means the Redskins got a starting quarterback. The Rams, meanwhile, got starters at defensive tackle, cornerback, linebacker, running back and offensive line with a receiver who could likely grab that role this year.

Rams draft rewind: 2012

April, 13, 2014
4/13/14
12:00
PM ET
The NFL draft is still about a month away, leaving us with plenty of time to look ahead to what might happen. But it also gives us plenty of time to take a look back.

In the interest of keeping Rams fans from re-living the nightmares of drafts gone by, we'll limit our look back to drafts where at least one player remains on the roster.

With that, we turn our attention to the 2012 class.

Brockers
The picks: DT Michael Brockers (No. 14 overall), WR Brian Quick (No. 33), CB Janoris Jenkins (No. 39), RB Isaiah Pead (No. 50), CB Trumaine Johnson (No. 65), WR Chris Givens (No. 96), OL Rokevious Watkins (No. 150), K Greg Zuerlein (No. 171), LB Aaron Brown (No. 209), RB Daryl Richardson (No. 252).

What's left: The first draft class of the Jeff Fisher/Les Snead era, this is the group that, for better or worse, is the foundation of what this regime is hoping to build. So far, the results have been mixed but the Rams have found some pieces that they believe will be long term starters and contributors. From the original group, only Watkins and Brown are no longer on the roster.

Brockers, Jenkins and Johnson remain as projected starters and the Rams seem to have plenty of confidence in their ability to get the job done. Zuerlein looks poised to hold down kicking duties for the long haul.

After a promising rookie season, Givens took a step back in 2013 but still offers potential as a deep threat. Richardson looked ready to become Steven Jackson's replacement as the starting back but injuries prevented that from happening and he tumbled down the depth chart. The jury remains out on Quick and Pead entering their third year but so far they've been disappointments.

Best pick: The Rams rolled the dice a bit when they traded back twice before taking Brockers at No. 14 but so far the pick looks like a good one. An ankle injury slowed Brockers in his first season but he played all 16 games and was instrumental in the team's improved run defense in the final half of the 2013 season. Although he still has work to do as a pass rusher, he posted five and a half sacks despite regular double teams. When the Rams drafted Brockers, they knew they were getting an unfinished product but he looks headed toward reaching that potential.

Worst pick: While Quick hasn't made the strides many hoped he would in his first two seasons, it was at least clear early on that he would take some time. Which makes Pead the choice here. When the team drafted him in the second round, the expectation was that he would be the change of pace for Jackson and potentially his long-term replacement. He fell behind right away, missing the offseason program because of college rules and hasn't been able to get out of his own way since. Richardson claimed the change of pace role for Jackson and then the starting job when Jackson departed. Pead has meanwhile struggled with fumbling issues when he has played and hasn't earned many opportunities. Now, he's been relegated to a special teams role and will likely find himself battling for a roster spot come training camp.

What could have been: Many will point to the Rams passing on Alshon Jeffery in favor of Quick and based on results so far, that's a fair argument. But Jeffery was never really under consideration by the Rams so let's go to a scenario that was in play. Before the draft, the Rams showed interest in linebackers Bobby Wagner and Mychal Kendricks. Both were on the board for the Rams at No. 45 overall. But St. Louis wanted to recoup the fifth-round pick it traded for receiver Brandon Lloyd during the 2011 season. So the Rams made a deal with the Bears, moving down to No. 50 and getting their fifth-round choice in the process. Chicago took Jeffery with that No. 45 pick, Philadelphia selected Kendricks at No. 46 and Wagner went No. 47 to Seattle. Three picks later, the Rams took Pead and used the fifth-round choice on Watkins. Making matters worse, Tampa Bay's star linebacker LaVonte David was still on the board when the Rams picked Pead.

Rams-Niners study session: Defense

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
5:30
PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- A look back at the St. Louis Rams' 23-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers after reviewing the All-22 film.

Instead of breaking down a big play and a hidden play this week, we'll just dive right into observations and general thoughts from the game.
  • It was quite clear from the beginning that the Rams' top goal in this game was to stop Niners running back Frank Gore and San Francisco's ground game. They spent much of the day loading up with the intent to stop Gore. And that's exactly what they did. The Rams' run defense improved greatly from the first meeting and most of it was simply the ability of their front seven to get off blocks and make tackles.
  • Jones
    Kaepernick
  • All told, the Rams defense played pretty well in this game but there were two issues that kept them from keeping it a little closer: penalties and the ability of Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick to extend plays and get the ball down the field.
  • First, on the penalties, the Rams were unhappy with many of the calls that went against them but in watching it again most of the calls, especially against the defense, seemed legitimate. The exception was the call on linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar for hitting Kaepernick late. You could see why they called it but it was too far in terms of trying to protect him. On the call that went against cornerback Janoris Jenkins, he took a jarring blow from receiver Anquan Boldin and lost his feet. Jenkins grabbed Boldin to prevent a walk-in touchdown and try to keep up. It was the right call but clearly a tough matchup for Jenkins.
  • Aside from that, Jenkins played pretty well. He had a couple of nice pass breakups, two on back-shoulder throws which he was on top of all the way. He doesn't have the splash plays but Jenkins appears to be improving from week to week.
  • Tougher day on the other side for Trumaine Johnson, who struggled to keep up with Boldin. Worse, he let his struggles affect him as he picked up an unnecessary roughness penalty and was inconsistent tackling after giving up completions. Michael Crabtree turned him inside out on a double move for a 60-yard gain in the third quarter, also.
  • Safety T.J. McDonald was better in this one than his first game back from his leg injury, including textbook coverage for a pass breakup on Niners tight end Vernon Davis (not the play you're thinking about). The Rams still had their share of struggles covering Davis. It's not saying anything we didn't already know but the Rams simply need a playmaker on the back end of the defense. The safety play was actually decent in this game but that's been on the high end of what they've had most of this year.
  • It would probably be easy to look at the Niners' shuffling along the offensive line and think end Robert Quinn would have had yet another big day at the office. With Joe Staley out, Quinn faced covered guard Alex Boone most of the day. Quinn was shut out in the sack department but played better than that zero might indicate. The reason? Kaepernick. Quinn and bookend Chris Long got around the edge multiple times but Kaepernick often stepped up in the pocket to get away from that pressure. Sometimes that led to Kaepernick running or throwing for a positive gain and it also led to three sacks combined from defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford, both of whom pushed the pocket well for the most part.
  • As a group, this was one of the best games of the year for the Rams' linebackers in terms of defending the run. James Laurinaitis was solid all day once again and Jo-Lonn Dunbar consistently made the correct read and helped bring down Gore at or near the line of scrimmage. Alec Ogletree performed well against the run, even getting off blocks to make tackles a couple of times but actually struggled in coverage a bit. Ogletree slipped in coverage once but also had a play in which he was covering Boldin well, but when Kaepernick scrambled he got caught looking in the backfield and actually ran away from Boldin for an easy completion to set up a field goal.
  • Another good day for the Rams' special teams in coverage but not much there for the return game. The kick return team had a few opportunities to get something going but couldn't do it and gave the offense poor field position a few times. Punter Johnny Hekker was quite good again.

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