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