NFL Nation: Eugene Sims

Tre Mason predicted big day ... sort of

November, 30, 2014
11/30/14
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ST. LOUIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the St. Louis Rams' 52-0 win against the Oakland Raiders:

Mason
Mason's proclamations: Before Sunday's game, Rams running back Tre Mason apparently spent some time offering bold predictions and goals for him and his teammates. He told coach Jeff Fisher and other players that he was going to have a big day and the team would put up 50-plus points.

Mason had 164 yards on 17 touches to go with three touchdowns, and the team scored 52 points on its way to a win. But before you ask Mason for the Powerball numbers ...

"That’s not the first time he’s said it, so," Fisher said, laughing. "He’s very confident. He loves to play."

Playing through pain: Two Rams defensive ends played through some difficult personal situations Sunday against the Raiders. Fisher said ends Eugene Sims and William Hayes both lost loved ones during the week and mustered the energy to play through it. Sims did not practice all week to tend to the matter and Hayes' loss was Saturday night.

"Eugene Sims lost a loved one this week, and Will Hayes lost one last night," Fisher said. "You watch the tape and watch those two play ... really, really impressive. Our hearts go out to their families."

Saffold says he's fine: Left guard Rodger Saffold departed Sunday's game in the second half with an apparent shoulder injury. Mike Person replaced him, and Saffold did not return to the game. Saffold, who plans to have shoulder surgery after the season, said after the game he should be OK and be ready to go next week. He followed a similar pattern when he had a similar injury last month.

Packers who hurt themselves vs. Rams

August, 17, 2014
8/17/14
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Halfway through the preseason schedule, the Green Bay Packers' roster and depth chart is starting to take shape.

Here's a look at who hurt their chances during Saturday’s 21-7 victory at the St. Louis Rams:

1. Derek Sherrod: A week ago, the Packers were raving about the return of the former first-round draft pick, who saw his first extensive playing time since he broke his leg late in his rookie season of 2011. A week later, they have reason to be concerned about whether he can be the backup swing tackle they need without Don Barclay (who was lost for the season to knee injury early in camp). Sherrod had all kinds of trouble with a pair of Rams backups. On his very first snap at left tackle, Sherrod got smoked by defensive end Eugene Sims, who drilled quarterback Scott Tolzien just as he released the ball. Later on the same drive, Sims beat Sherrod again to pressure Tolzien into an incompletion. "I thought Scott had some tough situations," coach Mike McCarthy said, referring to the protection problems. Sherrod also got some time at right tackle late in the game, but he did not fare much better. He got beat by rookie Michael Sam, who then sacked Matt Flynn. Although Flynn held the ball for 3.5 seconds (one full second longer than McCarthy wants), the responsibility for the sack should sit with Sherrod.

2. Aaron Adams: See above. Sherrod's running mate at tackle with the No. 2 offensive line had troubles of his own. Playing right tackle on the first series with Tolzien, Adams allowed rookie defensive end Ethan Westbrooks to beat him and then hit Tolzien as he threw. On the next series, Adams gave up a sack to Westbrooks on third down. Adams spent all of last season on the practice squad and had impressed the coaches during the early part of the training camp.

3. Corey Linsley: If the Packers were to lose center JC Tretter during a game, they might be more likely to move one of their starting guards rather than go with rookie Corey Linsley in the middle. Although the fifth-round pick has worked as the No. 2 center throughout camp, his performance against the Rams likely gave the Packers reason to believe he's not ready for regular-season game action. Linsley committed a pair of penalties, including one that wiped out a Tolzien touchdown pass to Myles White. Perhaps it was just a bad day in his first NFL game in a dome because Linsley has been solid in practice.

4. DuJuan Harris: Last season, running back Eddie Lacy fumbled only once – it came in his regular-season debut – in 15 games. If Harris is going to take some of Lacy's snaps this season, he can't cough up the ball like he did in the third quarter. The Packers like Harris as a change-of-pace back but if ball security is an issue, they have other options. Undrafted rookie Rajion Neal was impressive in Week 1 before he sustained a knee injury. He could return this week. Michael Hill averaged 4.3 yards on four carries and had a 27-yard reception against the Rams.

5. Brandon Bostick: The tight end literally hurt himself in the first quarter, when he left the game because of a lower leg injury and did not return. Although Bostick did not start (rookie Richard Rodgers did), he has been making a push for the job and at the very least would be in line for significant playing time. Injuries have slowed Bostick in the past. He finished last season on injured reserve because of a broken foot.

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In nearly every possible way -- except one -- defensive end Michael Sam's fit in St. Louis should be easy and comfortable.

But the exception is a big one, the one that matters most when it comes to Sam's long-term future in the NFL.

For any defensive end, whether added through free agency or in the 2014 NFL draft, cracking the Rams' two-deep depth chart at defensive end figures to be a difficult task. For Sam, a seventh-round pick who doesn't come with the "find him a place to play" pedigree of say South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, it's going to be even tougher.

Put aside Sam working to become the first openly gay player to make an NFL roster after the Rams used the 249th overall selection on him Saturday night, he's joining one of the league's most crowded defensive line rooms, particularly when it comes to his position on the edge.

“Well, it’s going to be very competitive for him, as it will be for some of the other guys, the later picks, because of the depth and the talent level at the position," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "He’s going to have to come in, and like the rest of his new teammates, these rookies, they’re not in shape. Not in the condition our veterans are in. He’s going to have to work to get in great shape and we'll blend him in the offseason program and we’ll go.”

Forget for a moment that Sam is a seventh-round pick in an 11-man draft class and there's no guarantee any of the team's four seventh-round selections will make the roster. Looking closer at the quartet sitting in front of him, Sam has his work cut out for him.

Here's what each of the four players in front of Sam brings to the table:
  • Robert Quinn is the reigning Pro Football Writer's NFL defensive player of the year, a first-team All Pro and coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. Quinn had 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 2013.
  • Chris Long is the most tenured veteran on the team, entering his seventh season in the league. Since his arrival in 2008, Long has 50.5 sacks, which is sixth among defensive ends in that period.
  • William Hayes is one of the most productive backup ends in the league and is paid as such, receiving a three-year deal for $10.5 million in the 2013 offseason. Hayes, who has often moved inside on passing downs, has averaged six sacks per season the past two years and is one of the better run defenders among ends in the league.
  • Eugene Sims might be the least acknowledged of the group, but like Hayes, possesses the versatility to play all over the line. He, too, was rewarded with a two-year contract extension last offseason.

But just because Sam is joining a crowded and talented group doesn't mean all hope is lost.

Of the 48 players drafted in the seventh round in 2013, 47 were on an active roster -- though not many seventh-rounders make the game-day active roster. Over the past five years, 240 players have been picked in the seventh round, 60 of them played in Week 1 as rookies.

Although the Rams have a solid quartet in front of Sam, there's also no guarantee they'll only keep four at the position. Fisher's affinity for defensive linemen, especially pass-rushers, has seen the Rams carry more than a simple two-deep.

In 2012, the Rams carried nine defensive linemen into the opening week of the season though they had an extra body at tackle, not end.

Last year, however, the Rams went heavy on defensive ends, carrying nine linemen with a fifth end for 14 games.

Undrafted rookie Gerald Rivers was that fifth end and on the roster for 13 games before injuries at other positions near the end of the season led to his release. Rivers was only active for two of those 13 games but made the roster as a result of his pass-rush abilities.

Sammy Brown, a pass-rushing type who the Rams stashed on the practice squad most of the year, was called up for the final game of the season but was inactive.

In keeping an extra end, the Rams have seemingly preferred noticeable upside as a pass rusher but as with all late-round picks, special teams value might be the golden ticket to the 53-man roster.

Contributions in that regard will be part of the plan for Sam.

"He will," Fisher said. "Everybody that we selected [Saturday], with the exception of the big guys, will make some kind of contribution to our special teams.”

Many have wondered if there will be additional pressure on the Rams or any team drafting Sam to keep him for fear of public backlash. Fisher quickly put that to rest when asked about it Saturday.

“I would say no because we picked him within the process and we’re going to reduce this roster within the process," Fisher said. "So, I don’t see that being an issue.”

Fisher and general manager Les Snead insist Sam was drafted for purely football reasons. Those same reasons will make it difficult for him to stay.
The free-agent market is scheduled to begin March 11 and teams may begin negotiations with those poised to hit the market beginning March 8. We'll countdown to that with a position-by-position look at what the Rams have in place, who is set to hit the market, what they might need and who might fit the bill.

In place: The Rams made two key moves in 2013 to ensure their depth on the edge continued moving forward when they signed talented backups William Hayes and Eugene Sims to contract extensions. Those contracts guaranteed that the Rams have Hays, Sims and starters Chris Long and Robert Quinn under team control through the 2015 season (so long as the Rams do as expected and exercise the option for Quinn's fifth year).

Defensive end is clearly one of the Rams strongest positions, if not the strongest. Quinn is coming off a dominant season and Long remains a talented counterpart opposite him. Hayes and Sims are versatile pieces who can move all over the line.

The Rams did lose promising undrafted rookie Gerald Rivers to waivers late in the year but they do still have Sammy Brown, who has spent most of his first two years on the practice squad. The Rams think enough of Brown to have put two years into his development, though, so they at least see some potential in him.

Pending free agents: None

What’s needed: There's really little reason for the Rams to add to this position, at least through free agency. Clearly, the discussion about the possibility of adding South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney in the NFL draft will persist through May but that's solely a function of Clowney's talent as opposed to the team's need at the position.

Possible fits: Just because it's worth throwing out an option here, former Saints defensive end Will Smith is familiar with new coordinator Gregg Williams from their time together in New Orleans. Smith is a 10-year veteran who probably still has something left in the tank and he knows the defense.

Verdict: Simply put, the Rams are loaded at this position. I don't expect them to add a defensive end in free agency.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Rams defensive end Robert Quinn impressed just about everyone with his three-sack, two forced fumble performance against the Arizona Cardinals in week 1. Everyone, that is, except defensive line coach Mike Waufle.

Waufle leads the Rams’ band of quarterback-chasing brothers by always keeping his eye on the next play, the next practice or the next game. When his linemen reach a goal, he sets the bar higher.

[+] EnlargeRobert Quinn
AP Photo/Tom GannamRams defensive end Robert Quinn showed his considerable upside in Week 1 against Arizona.
When a player like Quinn dominates a game and wins NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, Waufle is proud but far from satisfied.

“It was a good day at the office, a good start,” Waufle concedes.

Perhaps in part because he knows better than anyone what Quinn’s true upside is as the end enters his third season, Waufle wants to do everything possible to push Quinn to reach it.

When the Rams drafted Quinn with the 14th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, they knew they were getting a fast-twitch player who would instantly be one of the best pound-for-pound athletes on the team. They also knew they were getting a player who hadn’t played college football in 2010 and was going to be a bit of a project.

Quinn did just fine in his first two seasons, posting 15.5 sacks, but his pure speed and athleticism were enough to hit those marks.

So, with the help of Waufle and his fellow linemen, Quinn has set about looking to find ways to add more moves to his repertoire.

“I have been trying to incorporate more of an inside move, working on chops, stuff like that and just diversifying to be a better pass-rusher,” Quinn said. “That way offensive linemen don’t just have to focus on one thing. You have to be a master of all, which is tough to do, but that’s our job to do so we work at our craft, try to get better each week.”

Even in Quinn’s award-winning performance against Arizona and left tackle Levi Brown, Quinn showed glimpses of a more diverse skill set, but still won each of his three sacks by using his speed to bend the edge.

On the first sack, the Rams rushed four and Quinn used his hands to quickly knock away Brown’s attempts to engage. Quinn then quickly gets around the edge and chops down on Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer's arm to come up with a sack and a forced fumble.

On sacks two and three, fellow defensive ends William Hayes and Eugene Sims lined up in the middle and bookend Chris Long was in his usual spot opposite Quinn. A pure speed rush around the edge allowed Quinn to blow past Brown, who barely touched him on his way to the quarterback.

Out of those three sacks, the best sign for the Rams moving forward could actually be the two forced fumbles. The Rams had 10 forced fumbles in 2012, tied for 24th in the league and recovered four, which was second to last.

Quinn said he has made it a point to work on his version of the tomahawk chop. He said the coaching staff preaches to go for the arm instead of the ball because it offers a greater surface area to target and can have the same effect.

“The most important thing is coach Fisher wants us to get turnovers,” Waufle said. “He wants us to get that ball out and we were able to accomplish that. We have got to be better at what we do, and the consistency factor has to be great to help our team.”

Beyond the sacks and fumbles, the best sign of progress for Quinn might have come in the third quarter when Brown shaded him to the outside and Quinn used his left arm to knock Brown away as he rushed to the inside. The play didn’t result in a sack, but it did draw a holding penalty on Brown and showed Quinn’s developing understanding of how to take advantage of what one move can do to set up another.

“I’m one of the smaller [defensive] ends in the league, so I am not going to try to lift up a 300 pound tackle all the time,” Quinn said. “You have got to mix it up, incorporate different things, think outside the box and keep your opponent off balance. That way he can’t focus on one thing. Once you get him off balance, you are the aggressor now on what you decide to do and have him reacting to you. You have got to set the tone early, but definitely you can’t do one thing over and over again, because people will adjust to it.”

In his young career, Quinn now has two three-sack games, both against Arizona with tackle D'Anthony Batiste and Brown as the primary victims. Waufle is quick to point out that even though Quinn had six sacks in those games, that also implies they blocked Quinn on a large number of plays, also.

The next step for Quinn is to continue to improve against the run and use his developing moves to consistently beat some of the league’s elite tackles. He’ll see plenty this season with two dates against San Francisco’s Joe Staley and Seattle’s Russell Okung, and another game against Houston’s Duane Brown, among others.

Waufle mentions words like precision and timing as areas Quinn can still improve, but he says it’s important not to rush Quinn into trying to do too much too soon.

“He’s a young player so he’s developing a number of things, but you only take one thing at a time,” Waufle said. “You don’t want to try to give him a whole handful and be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. He’s working on specifics and getting better. He still has a lot of work to do.”
Even before his defensive line became the focal point of a defense that tied for the league lead in sacks in 2012, Rams general manager Les Snead pinpointed that unit as the strength of his team.

At the time, it was obvious why: the starting quartet had three first-round picks (Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers) and a high-priced free agent (Kendall Langford) leading the charge. But Snead knew something that nobody else really did; the Rams were flush with more depth at the position than they'd had in a long time.

[+] EnlargeEugene Sims
AP Photo/Paul JasienskiEugene Sims played 411 snaps in 2012, highest among the Rams' backup defensive linemen.
On Monday afternoon, the Rams re-inforced those beliefs by doing a little work on Labor Day, signing backup lineman Eugene Sims on a two-year contract extension. Sims' contract will carry him through the 2015 season, and allows the Rams to keep their collection of young defensive linemen together for at least that period of time.

Sims is the first pending free agent in next year's potential class to get an extension this summer. That's not a coincidence given the value the Rams clearly put on having a strong defensive line.

Only defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo, who signed a two-year extension of his own in the offseason, is not under contract beyond 2014. The Rams also signed end William Hayes to a three-year contract in the offseason.

Since the arrival of coach Jeff Fisher and defensive line coach Mike Waufle, the Rams have built a defense that is largely predicated on getting pressure from the front four. While Long and Quinn are the primary ends, Sims and Hayes get plenty of work.

Sims played 411 snaps in 2012, which was highest among the team's backup linemen and 12th on the defense as a whole. Along the way, he posted 20 tackles, the first three sacks of his career and an interception. He also provides the line with a good bit of versatility. Known primarily for his run-stopping ability, Sims has been a developmental pass-rusher since he entered the league as a sixth-round pick out of tiny West Texas A&M in 2010.

Considering that, Sims spends a lot of his time at end on running downs, but kicks inside when the Rams want to ratchet up the pass rush. At times last season, Sims and Hayes would play inside on obvious passing downs with Long and Quinn as the bookends.

Those looks are nothing new around the league, but only teams with ends they believe in can change so easily on the fly. Judging by Monday's extension, the Rams clearly believe in Sims.

Fisher angered by Kosar's criticism

August, 10, 2013
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Working as the color analyst for Cleveland’s preseason television broadcast, former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar did not hold back with his observations and opinions during Thursday night’s game against the St. Louis Rams.

Through the course of the broadcast, Kosar was regularly critical of the Rams, focusing much of his ire on the team’s wide receivers and backup quarterback Kellen Clemens.

[+] EnlargeJeff Fisher
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceJeff Fisher said he isn't fretting over the high amount of penalties that his Rams committed during the preseason.
Asked about it on Saturday, Rams coach Jeff Fisher first noted that he believes the Browns to be a “first-class organization” before making it clear he was none too pleased with Kosar’s idea of color commentary.

“I guess I’m a little disappointed,” Fisher said. “I feel bad for them that they had someone doing the broadcast who would feel the need to speak that way about players, specifically on our team, and coaches for that matter. I’m just surprised that Bernie has such a lack of respect for players and for this game. So I lost a lot of respect for him."

Kosar didn’t waste much time in trashing the Rams, and did so repeatedly throughout the evening.

After an incomplete pass intended for Tavon Austin: “I really think that he didn’t overthrow him and that Austin has to make that catch in the NFL. I see why Sam [Bradford] has been struggling watching how bad these receivers have been for him.”

After Nick Johnson dropped a pass: “This is actually not a bad throw. These St. Louis receivers are horrible. That’s a drop there.”

When play-by-play man Jim Donovan asked Kosar what he’d think if he knew that some of the Rams receivers' parents were watching, Kosar said he “would be embarrassed.”

Kosar then turned his attention from to receivers coach Ray Sherman.

“I’m checking through the itinerary here of guys and coaches to see who the receivers coach is to make sure I don’t know who this guy is because he’s not doing very good either,” Kosar said.

[+] EnlargeBernie Kosar
AP Photo/Mark DuncanA former quarterback, Bernie Kosar said particularly harsh things about Rams QB Kellen Clemens.
Kosar did offer praise to Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, but he didn’t feel the same way about Clemens. In fact, many of Kosar’s comments came off as though he held a personal vendetta of some sort against Clemens. When Donovan told Kosar, who had been asking for the use of a telestrator throughout the evening, that he might get one if he were on his best behavior, Kosar responded with a seemingly out-of-nowhere shot at Clemens.

“I must not be because the next quarterback in, me and him haven’t done too well with each other, too,” Kosar said.

Clemens wasn’t in the game at the time.

Later, when Clemens entered the game, Donovan relayed a story about Clemens giving an autograph to Pope Benedict XVI. Kosar said he didn’t think he’d ever want it, and then took another shot at Clemens.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Kosar said. “I have to watch him the whole fourth quarter.”

On Saturday, Fisher said he didn’t believe Kosar had studied the Rams well enough to be making such sweeping generalizations.

“I didn’t think they were justified,” Fisher said.

Some notes from practice:

  • As expected, Joe Barksdale got the bulk of the reps with the first team at right tackle in place of Rodger Saffold. Barksdale held up well against defensive end Chris Long in one-on-one pass-rush drills and again during the team period. Saffold watched practice from the sideline but was out of the sling he was wearing at the end of Thursday’s game.
  • With Sean Hooey not practicing because of an ankle injury, rookie Barrett Jones moved over to right tackle after spending the first couple of weeks working exclusively on the interior. Jones handled reps at right tackle in one-on-ones as well as team drills. Chris Williams, who has spent most of his time at left guard, also took some reps at right tackle during one-on-ones.
  • Running backs Zac Stacy and Terrance Ganaway, defensive end Eugene Sims and safety Matt Giordano did not practice. Receiver Andrew Helmick was back in uniform but didn’t do much of anything.
  • Fisher said defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo (foot) is out of his boot and closer to a return.

Rapid Reaction: Packers 30, Rams 20

October, 21, 2012
10/21/12
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Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 30-20 defeat to the Green Bay Packers at the Edward Jones Dome in Week 7:

What it means: The Rams fell to 3-4 with their second consecutive defeat. The tough stretch could continue thanks to the schedule. St. Louis faces New England in London, then San Francisco on the road following a bye. Three of the Rams' four remaining division games are on the road. No one said Jeff Fisher's first season would be easy.

What I liked: The Rams' defense set the tone early by stuffing a Packers run and sacking Aaron Rodgers while forcing a three-and-out on Green Bay's first possession. Rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers collected the first sack of his career.

The offense established a ground game right away, helping St. Louis win time of possession by a wide margin in the first half. The pass protection for Sam Bradford was better than anticipated for a team with third-stringers at left tackle and left guard.

The Rams put together a six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, sparked by rookie Chris Givens' 56-yard catch-and-run. Steven Jackson played a key role on the drive, converting on third-and-1 before scoring on a 6-yarder up the middle.

What I didn't like: Green Bay seized the underdog's initiative away from St. Louis by succeeding with an onside kick following a first-quarter touchdown. That was the type of play St. Louis has sought to execute as a means toward manufacturing points. Watching the Packers accomplish that feat had to make the Rams' coaches grimace.

The Rams continued to squander chances for scoring touchdowns. They failed on fourth-and-2 from the Packers' 14-yard line. Bradford couldn't handle a shotgun snap on a third-and-8 play from the Green Bay 25, leading Bradford to scramble for no gain.

It's easy to read too much into the situation based on what we know about the state of the Rams' offensive line. However, I thought there were times when Bradford appeared to rush throws as if he did not trust his protection, even when he wasn't about to get hit. That seemed to be a possibility on the interception Bradford threw on a deep pass up the left sideline from near the Rams' goal line.

Gutsy call: The Rams failed to convert a fourth-and-2 from the Green Bay 15 while trailing 10-3. The move was understandable given that the Rams had to figure field goals weren't going to be enough. But getting a first down in that situation wouldn't have guaranteed a touchdown later on the drive. The Rams' defense was playing well overall and the game was still young. Before this game, the Rams had converted twice on eight drop backs when needing 2 yards for a first down on third/fourth downs.

Givens' explosiveness: Givens has a reception of 50-plus yards in four consecutive games. Willie Gault had been the last player to do that in three consecutive games. He did it during the 1983 season. The Rams were checking to see which player, if any, had done it four games in a row. Givens is the Rams' most explosive player.

Respecting Rodgers: When the Rams allowed Rodgers to connect on his second scoring pass, they had allowed four TD throws in 6.5 quarters after allowing two of them in the first 20.5 quarters of the season. Rodgers was phenomenal in this game. He completed 20 of his first 22 passes for 232 yards and two scores. His third scoring pass was memorable. Rodgers rolled left and threw across his body to Randall Cobb for a 39-yard score.

Running stats: The Rams carried 16 times for 93 yards in the first half. They carried six times for 15 yards in the second half. The disparity arose because the Packers controlled the ball after halftime. Green Bay had scoring drives spanning 6:56, 4:25 and 5:44 in the second half.

Infirmary report: The Rams lost defensive end Eugene Sims to a knee injury in the first half. Sims was part of the nickel defensive line and overall defensive line rotation. Cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Trumaine Johnson were shaken up. Bradley did not miss any playing time. Receiver Brian Quick landed hard on his left hip while falling out of bounds on a pass near the end zone late in the game.

What's next: The Rams face the New England Patriots in London.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams were deep into practice Tuesday when Jeff Fisher gathered players around him.

Reporters not yet familiar with Fisher's ways figured the team's new coach was calling an end to the session, a move that would have seemed merciful given the 103-degree heat and direct sunlight blasting down upon everyone in attendance.

But practice wasn't finished. Fisher, drawing upon research collected over the years, had called for a stretching session. Practice then resumed, with Steven Jackson breaking a long run in work featuring the starting units.

"We've come to realize that the third day (of camp) there's a an increased pull history," Fisher explained, "so we intended on just taking a moment and getting stretched out so we didn't have any fatigue issues and fatigue pulls in the weather."

NFL teams have become more proactive, particularly since Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer died from the heat at training camp on Aug. 1, 2001.

The Rams weigh players before and after practices to ensure they've done enough to replace spent fluids. Times have changed.

"We're an air-conditioned society now," Fisher said. "In the old days, we spent summertime outside. I remember when you got in trouble, Mom said, 'Go to your room.' You say that now and they go, 'Yeah, cool, we got all kinds of stuff to do in the room.' Moms need to say, 'Go outside' now. ... We're very much aware of it."

[+] EnlargeSt. Louis' Janoris Jenkins
Jeff Curry/US PRESSWIRESecond-round pick Janoris Jenkins has impressed so far at Rams' training camp.
A few more notes from the Rams' latest practice:

  • Breakout player: Second-round cornerback Janoris Jenkins has fit right in with the starters. Asked to project a potential breakout player from the Rams' defense this season, veteran safety Quintin Mikell named Jenkins. Mikell: "He is a young guy who is coming in with a lot of confidence. He has come in and made a lot of plays already. I can see it coming. He's going to have a good year. They're going to test him and he might have a little bit of struggles here or there, but he has a lot of confidence and is a guy who can make plays."
  • Work in progress: Another rookie second-round choice, receiver Brian Quick, is adjusting. He beat cornerback Cortland Finnegan with a beautiful inside release, breaking into the clear in the end zone. Sam Bradford delivered the ball a little high, but the 6-foot-3 Quick got both hands on it. The pass bounced off his hands. Quick could easily make that catch, but rookies sometimes are thinking so hard while they learn an offense, they forget to finish. Later, Quick made a catch away from his body when Bradford went his way in the end zone. At first I thought Bradford was throwing away the ball. Quick put his reach to use in snatching the ball cleanly.
  • DB shortage: The Rams practiced without cornerbacks Josh Gordy and Kendric Burney. Tight hamstrings sidelined them. That left the secondary shorthanded under extreme weather conditions. The receivers fared well and wondered if the depth issues in the secondary contributed in some way. Steve Smith got behind Jenkins to make a hands catch (as opposed to body catch) of a ball Bradford threw with velocity. Austin Pettis might have made the catch of the day, rising high above Quinton Pointer and falling into the end zone with the ball. Rookie Chris Givens also showed up with a couple strong catches, although assistant head coach Dave McGinnis ruled him out of bounds on one (offensive players protested).
  • Alexander running: Receiver Danario Alexander was running under a trainer's supervision during practice. He's rehabbing a hamstring injury.
  • Sims scare: Defensive end Eugene Sims, a player the Rams expect to play extensively this season, left practice with what appeared to be an injury to his right arm or shoulder. He was walking slowly with his right elbow pointing to the side and his hand pointing forward, limiting movement. I'm checking with the Rams to find out more.
  • Kendricks update: Tight end Lance Kendricks was one of the Rams' most impressive players during camp a year ago. He had some problems with drops in this practice.
  • Good from 60: Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein continues to impress with his strong leg. One attempt from 60 yards cleared the crossbar with several yards to spare. Another from 64 yards had the distance and barely missed to the right.

That's it for now. I've got a long list of interviews to process before putting together our annual "Camp Confidential" file for later in the week. Those wondering about Bradford's performance to this point in camp should know he continues to perform at a high level, impressive coaches and teammates alike.

Thoughts on why Rams' Quinn not active

September, 11, 2011
9/11/11
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The St. Louis Rams will be without tight end Michael Hoomanawanui for Week 1, no surprise given concerns over aggravating his calf injury.

It's an upset, at least to me, that 2011 first-round draft pick Robert Quinn is also not active for the Rams against Philadelphia. The Rams drafted Quinn knowing they would not need him to start right away. But there was never any indication Quinn would be relegated to inactive status.

Two other NFC West first-rounders, James Carpenter of Seattle and Patrick Peterson of Arizona, are starting Sunday. Another, Aldon Smith of San Francisco, is expected to open his career in a reserve role.

Quinn might need longer to develop given that he did not play during his final season at North Carolina. If he is healthy, the Rams' decision to name him inactive reflects strong confidence in their depth along the line. Also, in leaving defensive lineman Eugene Sims active instead, the Rams could have an eye toward special teams. Sims has more overall value in that area.

The Rams' Greg Salas was active over fellow rookie receiver Austin Pettis, likely for similar reasons.
NFC West teams have drafted 22 defensive ends since 2002, a number smaller than I would have anticipated.

An even smaller number -- two! -- start for the teams that drafted them.

One, Antonio Smith, starts for another team.

A few notes relating to this latest item in a series examining various positions:
  • Kentwan Balmer appears as a defensive end because the San Francisco 49ers drafted him to play that position. Balmer played defensive tackle in college.
  • Darnell Dockett does not appear as a defensive end because the Arizona Cardinals drafted him to play defensive tackle. Yes, Dockett plays defensive end in the Cardinals' current scheme, but the NFL lists him as a tackle for Pro Bowl voting and he is not a typical defensive end even by 3-4 standards.
  • Of the 22, only Chris Long and Calais Campbell are starting for their original teams. Smith is starting for the Houston Texans.
  • Six of the eight most highly drafted ends since 2002 came from teams most recently affiliated with the ACC.
  • Long was the only player on the list drafted before the 28th overall choice.
  • Will Davis and Parys Haralson were listed as defensive ends coming out of college, but both projected as outside linebackers. That is why they do not appear below. Cody Brown also projects at linebacker.
  • I've used the term "not active" loosely in the charts to describe players who weren't on active rosters during the regular season recently.

Now, on to the charts. I've broken them up with italicized comments representing what NFL teams might have been thinking at corresponding stages of these drafts.

Playing it safe and hoping those NFL bloodlines pay off ...


Defensive linemen are at a premium, and we might find out why ...


The pure pass-rushers are gone by now ...


If these guys don't pan out, it'll be a while before we take another third-round end ...


It's an upset if we find a starter at this point ...


Time to fill out the practice squad, but you never know ...

Making sense of major Week 10 injury news

November, 14, 2010
11/14/10
3:14
PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers announced their list of inactive players for Week 10 without making waves.

The situation was much different in Arizona, where the Cardinals named defensive lineman Darnell Dockett (shoulder) and running back Beanie Wells (knee) inactive against Seattle. The Seahawks named left tackle Russell Okung inactive, no surprise but a significant development nonetheless.

A look at NFC West inactives:

Arizona Cardinals: Wells, Dockett, receiver Max Komar, cornerback A.J. Jefferson, safety Hamza Abdullah, linebacker Cyril Obiozor and center Ben Claxton. John Skelton is the third quarterback. Paris Lenon is starting at linebacker despite an ankle injury. Alan Branch starts for Dockett. Branch has played well this season; he had two sacks against the Seahawks earlier this season in a breakout game for him.

Seattle Seahawks: Okung, receiver Brandon Stokley, fullback Michael Robinson, guard Mike Gibson, receiver Golden Tate, nose tackle Colin Cole and defensive lineman E.J. Wilson. Gibson provided quality depth on the offensive line. Ruvell Martin is active at receiver while Stokley and Tate recover from injuries.

St. Louis Rams: cornerback Justin King, cornerback Quincy Butler, safety James Butler, tight end Fendi Onobun, linebacker David Vobora, guard John Greco, receiver Danario Alexander and defensive end Eugene Sims. The Rams are thin in the secondary, as usual, but the 49ers aren't likely to spread the field with wide receivers all afternoon, either.

San Francisco 49ers: receiver Kyle Williams, quarterback Alex Smith, cornerback Tramaine Brock, linebacker Keaton Kristick, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, tackle Barry Sims, tackle Alex Boone and receiver Jason Hill. The 49ers are keeping four wide receivers active, the minimum. They are healthier at tight end.

2010 NFL Draft: NFC West player updates

October, 8, 2010
10/08/10
12:29
PM ET
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is commanding most of the attention among NFC West rookies.

A quick look at Bradford and the division's other 2010 draft choices through Week 4:

Arizona Cardinals: First-round nose tackle Dan Williams was named inactive Sunday after failing to make weight requirements. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Williams got the message. Arizona has drafted its share of disappointing nose tackles. It's too early to know whether Williams will break the trend.


St. Louis Rams: The Rams' offensive line struggled in its only road game this season. Let's see whether rookie left tackle Rodger Saffold fares better at Detroit in Week 5. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui practiced some this week for the first time since suffering a high-ankle sprain. He could become a factor if the ankle allows.


San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers' top six picks are already making positive contributions. Coaches trusted Anthony Dixon on a third-and-1 carry against Atlanta in Week 4. Dixon picked up the first down. He scored a touchdown against New Orleans on his first carry this season.


Seattle Seahawks: Left tackle Russell Okung started but did not finish the St. Louis game. He's still working his way back from a high-ankle sprain. Walter Thurmond did not play even in a nickel or dime role when Marcus Trufant was cleared following an ankle injury, a bit of a surprise. Thurmond had worked as the starter in practice, so he might have faced a difficult adjustment to a more specialized role on game day.

Only four wide receivers active for Rams

September, 12, 2010
9/12/10
3:18
PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams named receivers Brandon Gibson and Dominique Curry inactive Sunday, leaving only four on their 45-man game-day roster.

Think they might want to run the ball with Steven Jackson?

Gibson was a potential starter following Donnie Avery's season-ending knee injury, but the Rams' move to acquire Mark Clayton from Baltimore altered plans. Gibson missed much of camp with a hamstring injury. He was not on the injury report this week, suggesting he has ground to make up before becoming part of the rotation -- particularly if the Rams are going to keep only four receivers active.

Curry's special-teams ability had given him a shot at the active roster, but the Rams probably weren't going to consider him much as a receiver at this stage.

Also inactive for the Rams: cornerback Jerome Murphy, tight end Fendi Onobun, offensive lineman John Greco, defensive end Eugene Sims and defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo. Thaddeus Lewis is the third quarterback. If a third quarterback plays, the first two quarterbacks cannot re-enter the game.

Onobun's chances for the game-day roster appeared strong early in camp, but fellow rookie Mike Hoomanawanui impressed during exhibition games.

Murphy will probably factor as a nickel corner this season, but Kevin Dockery or Justin King will fill that role Sunday. Dockery appears most likely to serve as the nickel, but I'm not certain at this point. Veteran safety James Butler, listed as probable with a knee injury, is active.

2010 NFL Draft: NFC West player updates

September, 11, 2010
9/11/10
2:54
PM ET
NFC West teams are relying on 2010 draft choices to varying degrees.

I'll update their statuses here before heading to the airport for a longer-than-usual travel day (no direct flights to St. Louis).

Will check back on the blog as time permits.

Enjoy your Saturday.

Let's start with the Cardinals. They've got one starter from their rookie class. Seventh-rounder Jim Dray earned a spot in part because he factors on special teams, making him a better value than Anthony Becht in the team's eyes, particularly with Stephen Spach contributing. Andre Roberts struggled, as rookie receivers often do, and it's unclear how much Arizona will get from him as a return specialist. Williams should play right away.


The Rams are counting on their first two 2010 picks to man the two most important positions on offense. No pressure, Sam Bradford or Rodger Saffold. I'm interested in seeing how much the rookie tight ends transform that position this season. The team needs life at tight end, no question.


The 49ers have moved both first-round offensive linemen into the starting lineup. Neither has disappointed. There will be growing pains, most likely, but the 49ers upgraded the talent level of their line from Week 1.


Losing Okung indefinitely to an ankle injury was a downer for Seattle, but the team will likely get him back early in the season. Okung was looking good and should stabilize the position. Thurmond outperformed expectations, making Josh Wilson expendable in the Seahawks' eyes. This rookie class should play more extensively than most.

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