First impressions from Rams training camp

July, 29, 2012
7/29/12
10:48
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Thoughts and observations after watching the St. Louis Rams' first training camp practice under new coach Jeff Fisher on Sunday at team headquarters:
  • Backfield shines: Quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Steven Jackson stood out right away. Bradford appears so much healthier than he was last season. He threw with accuracy and authority. Jackson's size always impresses, but his quickness was also apparent Sunday (Jackson says he's at 5.1 percent body fat, by the way). Jackson legged out runs to the end zone, hustling on every play. He's setting an example for the team's younger players (the Rams have the NFL's youngest roster on average following an offseason overhaul).
  • Secondary watch: It's far too early to make roster determinations based on a few reps here or there on the first day. I did notice Craig Dahl working with the No. 1 defense. Darian Stewart was the starter last season. Rookie second-round choice Janoris Jenkins worked with the starting defense opposite Cortland Finnegan, with rookie Trumaine Johnson next onto the field among corners. Finnegan might project as the best option in the slot, at least for now.
  • Line shuffle: Quinn Ojinnaka got the first-team work at left guard. Robert Turner was at center while Scott Wells continues to rehab from knee surgery.
  • Early feel at receiver: The team ran through several combinations at wide receiver. Second-round pick Brian Quick wasn't working with the starters initially. Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson got first-team work, as did Steve Smith and Greg Salas. Gibson made a few impressive catches. He's fared well in camp and the preseason previously, but it hasn't translated well to the regular season. Amendola is the safest bet to earn consistent playing time. The other receivers have more to prove. Hamstring trouble will sideline Danario Alexander for the time being. Alexander has fought hard to overcome injuries stemming from chronic knee trouble. It might be a losing battle.
  • Amendola's elbow: Amendola appears full strength after recovering from a dislocated left elbow and torn triceps. On one play, he reached back with his left arm toward a pass and landed a bit awkwardly, with no ramifications. That seemed like a clear indication Amendola feels comfortable playing without restriction.
  • Don't do that: That was second-year linebacker Justin Cole making contact with Jackson around the knees.
  • Little-known player to watch: Defensive end Eugene Sims figures to get more playing time in a reconfigured rotation. I'll be interested in watching him once the Rams put on full pads Wednesday.
  • The Long precedent: The Rams' four-year extension with Chris Long marks one of the very few times the team has re-signed one of its draft choices in recent seasons. Ron Bartell got a new deal previously. Oshiomogho Atogwe signed one, but it was a stopgap deal, not a legitimate extension. Other than that, the Rams have waved goodbye to a long list of draft choices. The trend is changing. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, a second-round pick in 2009, figures to have a new deal in the near future. Fisher and staff say they place high value on middle linebackers. They love Laurinaitis.

These were a few first impressions. I'll be at Rams camp much of the week. There was enough left over from Sunday to produce additional items beginning Monday. Interviews with Chris Long, Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, Jeff Fisher and others are helping provide a better feel for the team.

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