NFC West: Michael Brockers

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
Aug 24
12:02
AM ET

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.
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
Aug 21
7:15
PM ET
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
Aug 20
10:30
PM ET
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
Aug 13
7:00
PM ET
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
Aug 2
5:00
PM ET
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
Apr 13
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.

Morning Ram-blings: A textbook tackle

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
8:00
AM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In Monday's Morning Ram-blings, we discussed the questionable (at best) roughing the passer penalty that went against St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers. We offered Brockers' thoughts on the call and pointed out the continued issues NFL officials have with delineating between what's legal and what's not.

Brockers
After the game, a few players privately questioned what, exactly, they can get away with when it comes to hitting the quarterback. And in Brockers' case, Chicago's Josh McCown actually still had the ball when Brockers drove through him for an apparent sack.

On Monday afternoon, Rams coach Jeff Fisher gave his perspective on the call after getting the chance to review it on the coaches' film. Like most everyone else who has seen the play, Fisher saw a fundamentally sound move taken straight from the football textbook.

“I think that’s an example of how to hit the quarterback with the ball in his hand, in my opinion," Fisher said. "It should not have been called. It was a great effort and it was unfortunate it took a sack away from ‘Brock.’ Head was off to the side, just probably looked like it was too hard of a hit."

Fisher, who has long been part of the league's competition committee, didn't project much anger when discussing the call though he clearly disagreed. In some sense, Fisher understood the nature of the call.

"And again, in defense of the officiating department, as we said yesterday, they’re going to officiate on the side of player safety," Fisher said. "They’re instructed to do so, with the respect to the quarterback in the pocket and out of the pocket and a defenseless receiver. It’s part of our game.”

Still, don't be surprised if Fisher and those tasked with such things take another, closer look at hits such as Brockers' in the offseason.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Rams' stories appearing on ESPN.com on Monday. … The day began with this week's edition of Upon Further Review, an examination of four hot issues coming out of the Rams' 42-21 win against the Bears. … Next came the Ram-blings with that look at Brockers' hit and Rams links from around the web. … After that, it was time for the rookie review with snap counts and production from the Rams' rookie class. … Next, we dived into the reasons why the Long brothers are happy to have their meeting out of the way after a strenuous week. … Finally, it was a quick injury update on the Rams' trio of concussed players.

Elsewhere:

At stltoday.com, columnist Bryan Burwell writes that the Rams are starting to click in all phases.

Jim Thomas details the Rams' victory against the Bears.

Thomas also offered some information on the eye injury of cornerback Cortland Finnegan.

Bernie Miklasz draws comparisons between the Rams and Fisher's 1999 Tennessee Titans in terms of current playing style.

The FOX broadcast team discusses the Rams' chances of making a playoff run.

KMOV.com recaps the Rams' win.

Turf Show Times revisits Tavon Austin's 65-yard touchdown run.

Looking back at the Rams and Blackmon

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
5:15
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Sometimes the best draft pick a team can make are the ones it doesn't. Friday's news that Jacksonville receiver Justin Blackmon has been suspended indefinitely for violation of the league's substance abuse policy would serve as a prime example of that old adage.

In the lead up to the 2012 NFL draft, it was no secret the Rams were searching for play makers, particularly a wide receiver who could give Sam Bradford the type of No. 1 target he hadn't had since he was drafted in 2010.

The Rams had already moved down in the draft from No. 2 to No. 6 after the big trade with the Washington Redskins, but still appeared poised to land a playmaker with that sixth pick. One way or another, the Rams were going to come out of the early rounds of the draft with a top receiver.

[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesBeing unable to select troubled WR Justin Blackmon in the 2012 NFL draft is now looking like a blessing for the Rams.
In the week leading up to the draft, the Rams even went so far as to go on a sort of wide receiver barnstorming tour, taking backup quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Tom Brandstater to visit top prospects such as Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, Baylor's Kendall Wright, Illinois' A.J. Jenkins, Appalachian State's Brian Quick and, of course, Blackmon.

Blackmon had held steady as the top receiver prospect in the months leading up to the draft with the only real red flags stemming from off the field issues. But Blackmon had done enough in pre-draft workouts and interviews to solidify his spot as the top receiver and, really, the only one worth taking with the sixth pick in the draft.

When the draft finally began, the Rams sat calmly as Indianapolis plucked quarterback Andrew Luck, Washington grabbed quarterback Robert Griffin III, Cleveland snatched running back Trent Richardson and Minnesota grabbed offensive tackle Matt Kalil.

With Tampa Bay on the clock, it seemed almost certain that the Rams would have their pick from the receiver group, Blackmon included. Then, the news flashed that Jacksonville and Tampa Bay had struck a deal. Operating with the knowledge that the Rams would likely have strong interest in Blackmon, the Jaguars moved up to secure his services, surrendering a fourth-round pick to do so.

Then Yahoo! NFL reporter Mike Silver was in the Rams' draft room and reported that Rams coach Jeff Fisher "slammed his eyeglasses onto the table and uttered a one-syllable expletive."

With Blackmon and Richardson, the other player the Rams coveted in the top six, off the board, the Rams moved out of the draft slot, cutting a deal with Dallas to move down to No. 14 and pick up an extra second-round pick. The Rams turned that deal into LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, running back Isaiah Pead and offensive lineman Rokevious Watkins (acquired in another trade down with Dallas' second rounder).

There's no definitive proof that the Rams would have selected Blackmon had he fallen to them. They did covet Brockers but there is no doubt that if they were going to take a receiver at six, he was the only one they deemed worthy of that spot.

A season and a half later, there's ample evidence that Jacksonville leap frogging the Rams and taking away the option was a huge break for St. Louis. Brockers is an emerging force in the middle of the defensive line and considered one of the foundations of the team's defense. At receiver, the Rams ended up taking Quick with the first pick of the second round and Chris Givens in the fourth. Givens has been a solid contributor and though Quick is still developing, he's flashed potential to be a solid NFL receiver.

Pead and Watkins haven't worked out nearly as well but just having Brockers is clearly preferable to having a player who is suspended and dealing with issues beyond the football field.

Blackmon's suspension comes on the heels of a four-game suspension he served at the beginning of the season for a similar violation. He actually returned to face the Rams and posted five catches for 136 yards on Oct. 6.

On that day, it would have been understandable for the Rams and their fans to dream about what could have been had Blackmon dropped to them in the 2012 draft. On Friday, those dreams would have become a nightmare.

Rams-49ers: Matchup Breakdown

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
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EARTH CITY, Mo. – Thursday’s game between the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers has plenty of intriguing matchups. Here are three to keep an eye on when the teams kick it off at 8:25 p.m. ET at the Edward Jones Dome.

Rams front seven vs. 49ers running back Frank Gore

Gore was none too pleased at getting just 11 carries last week against Indianapolis despite his 7.5-yards-per-attempt average. He let San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh know about it, too.

[+] EnlargeFrank Gore
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezFrank Gore is sure to be focused against a Rams defense that was soft against the run in Week 3.
The fact the 49ers lost and didn’t use Gore as much as normal would likely be enough to get him heavily involved this week, but if San Francisco needed any more motivation to go to Gore, the Rams provided it last week.

Dallas running back DeMarco Murray gashed St. Louis for 175 yards on 26 carries in the Cowboys’ 31-7 victory.

Add all of those factors up, and the Rams expect to see Gore early and often.

“After the show we put on Sunday, I’d run the ball too,” Rams end Chris Long said. “We have to fix those things. If you have a subpar performance, there’s nothing you can ask more than to have a great running team like San Francisco to see where we’re at. They’re going to come in and try to run the football, they always do, that’s how they’re built and it’s up to us to be up to the task.”

Gore had long been a thorn in the Rams' side, but they have slowed him down over the teams’ four meetings the past two seasons. Last year, the Rams limited Gore to 3.5 yards per carry on his 44 attempts.

Those struggles have been applicable to the 49ers as a whole this season as their usual potent running game has dipped from 5.1 yards per rush last year to 4.0 in the first three games of 2013.

Rams left tackle Jake Long vs. 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith

It was tough sledding last week for Long against Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware, and it won’t get any easier this week against Smith.

In one sense, Long and the Rams offensive line catch a break by missing out on Aldon Smith, but Justin Smith (no relation) is the guy who has made a habit of wrecking defensive game plans.

“He’s definitely the one that runs that defense, especially up front,” Long said. “He’s a guy that never stops until the whistle has blown. He’s running guys down, he’s pushing guys back, he’s making all the tackles and really is the heart and soul of that defensive line. We’ve got to slow him down.”

Justin Smith won’t be the exclusive responsibility of Long, who will also have to deal with the players replacing Aldon Smith, such as rookie Corey Lemonier. Still, Long will have to do his part along with left guard Chris Williams to keep Justin Smith from blowing things up, especially if the Rams are to get their running game up to speed.

Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers vs. 49ers guard Mike Iupati

It wasn’t until the first meeting between the teams last season that then-rookie Brockers felt like he was at full strength coming off a high-ankle sprain. He made up for lost time with eight tackles in two meetings against San Francisco and was instrumental in helping slow Gore and the 49ers run game.

Iupati is considered on the toughest guards in the league, and in a game full of physical matchups, this one might be the most brutal. Iupati has been battling a shoulder injury and has struggled in the first three games of the season.

Brockers played well in the opener against Arizona and was mostly fine against Atlanta before a rough Week 3 outing in Dallas. If indeed San Francisco looks to get back to the ground game with Gore, this matchup will go a long way in determining its success.

Rams-Falcons study session: Defense

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
7:45
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EARTH CITY, Mo. – A look back at the St. Louis Rams’ 31-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday after reviewing the coaches’ film.

The Big Play: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan hits wide receiver Julio Jones for an 81-yard touchdown.

Jones’ touchdown gave the Falcons a 14-0 lead early as he gets past cornerback Janoris Jenkins for the game’s biggest play.

The Rams had their four defensive end alignment up front with William Hayes and Eugene Sims on the inside and ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long standing up on the outside. Long and Hayes are bunched on the left side of the line over the right tackle. Linebackers Alec Ogletree and James Laurinaitis creep to the line of scrimmage pre-snap.

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsJulio Jones got away from Janoris Jenkins on this 81-yard touchdown catch.
On the back end, Jenkins is in the slot against Jones, playing about 7 yards off the line of scrimmage. The Falcons are in a four-receiver set with two to the left and two to the right with Ryan in the shotgun.

At the snap, the Rams blitz with Ogletree and Laurinaitis. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers picks up Laurinaitis and Ogletree seems to take a step in the wrong direction before getting going at the quarterback, preventing him from getting to Ryan.

Playing outside leverage with safety Rodney McLeod inside of him, Jenkins gets caught flat-footed as Jones runs an option route. As Jenkins sets his feet, Jones opts to go outside of him while McLeod sneaks toward the middle.

Ryan drops in a perfect throw, and with McLeod taking one misstep inside, he’s unable to help over the top. Jones takes it the rest of the way for the score.

Hidden Play: Ryan hits running back Jason Snelling for 22 yards on third-and-1 at Atlanta’s 29 with just under two minutes to go to seal the Falcons’ win.

The Rams have their normal front four in with their hands on the ground and Ogletree on the line to the left. Safety T.J. McDonald is also lined up to the left, just outside of Ogletree opposite tight end Tony Gonzalez.

The Falcons are in an offset I-formation with Snelling in the fullback role and Rodgers at tailback. Two receivers are aligned left with Jones in the slot before he motions back to the right side with Jenkins shadowing.

At the snap, Ogletree and McDonald blitz from the left side as Ryan fakes a handoff to Rodgers, who makes the play happen but diving into Ogletree, who subsequently runs into McDonald, nullifying two blitzers with one block.

Meanwhile, Laurinaitis reads the play and sees Snelling sneaking out into the flat but just isn’t quite able to get there. Snelling hauls it in and gains 22 to move the chains and effectively put the game away.

Other Observations:

  • The Rams were a bit more active with blitzes in this game, sending at least one extra rusher at Ryan on 40 percent of his drop backs by my count. The results weren’t so good, either, as Ryan completed 13-of-17 passes against the rush for 209 yards and the touchdown to Jones.
  • While Jenkins was partially responsible for Jones’ touchdown, he did a nice job earlier against him on a double move that Jenkins leveraged outside, forcing an incompletion.
  • Ryan was sacked only two times but there’s little doubt he was sore after this one. He took a beating for most of the day, especially in the second half after the Falcons became one-dimensional. Quinn led the charge with five quarterback hits and three hurries by my count to go along with a sack.
  • Long didn’t have a sack but he was active in the pass rush as well with three hurries and two hits.
  • Linebacker Alec Ogletree was strong against the run and quite active early but he had some issues in coverage. He was too quick to jump inside on an early pass that went to fullback Bradie Ewing for a gain of 14 and a bit slow to react on running back Steven Jackson’s 8-yard touchdown catch. He had some good moments in coverage, too, including a pass breakup against Jackson on the second offensive play, but he still seems to get caught guessing a bit occasionally in coverage.
  • Defensive tackle Michael Brockers wasn’t as dominant against the run this week as he was last week, but he still has moments where he simply shuts the run game down. Jackson’s first run of the game went nowhere, in no small part because of Brockers’ ability to push the pocket. He did get taken out of the play easily on Snelling’s touchdown run late in the game, though.
  • One area the Rams are getting better with is batted passes. They knocked down two more and I had them down for three last week. If teams are going to continue to get the ball out quick, getting arms up to knock down passes will be important moving forward.
  • Defensive end Eugene Sims only played 26 snaps but he made the most of them and not just because he registered a sack. Atlanta had trouble moving him in the run game and he sets the edge as well as any Rams end.
  • It was another rough day for cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who seemed to get caught out of position a couple times.
  • I won’t have a full breakdown for special teams but it’s worth noting how good punter Johnny Hekker has been for the Rams so far this year. He’s consistently getting hang time and combining it with direction to help the Rams’ coverage units, which have also been quite good the first two weeks.

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