NFL Nation: Lamarcus Joyner

ST. LOUIS -- Armed with a healthy 53-man roster, the St. Louis Rams have seven pregame inactives who are in good shape and could play if needed. At this stage in the season, it's rare but for a team out of the playoff race, it also means making some tough decisions.

And, in the process, it requires the Rams to leave some young players who could use some experience on the side. On Sunday against the New York Giants, the Rams probably didn't make some observers happy by choosing to leave young offensive linemen Barrett Jones and Brandon Washington on the sidelines, but they did get rookie cornerback Lamarcus Joyner back in the mix.

Some, including yours truly, wouldn't mind seeing some of the young offensive linemen get a few reps here and there to get a better gauge on what they have as they head into the offseason. The Rams need help on the offensive line and with Joseph and right tackle Joe Barksdale set for free agency and Wells with one year left on his deal, now seems like a good time to get some reps.

Perhaps the Rams already have made up their minds on those players or feel they aren't ready, but clearly they aren't going to tweak anything even with the chances of anything meaningful this season already gone.


Giants: RB Rashad Jennings, CB Jayron Hosley, OL Adam Gettis, OL Eric Herman, TE Jerome Cunningham, LB James Davidson, DT Dominique Hamilton.

Rams: OL Brandon Washington, TE Alex Bayer, DL Ethan Westbrooks, DL Alex Carrington, CB Marcus Roberson, TE Justice Cunningham, OL Barrett Jones.
ST. LOUIS -- Not that there's ever a good week to be without your full complement of players at any position, but the St. Louis Rams will be short on cornerbacks Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

That's especially concerning given that the Broncos come to town with Peyton Manning at quarterback and an array of talented pass catchers who are hard to match anywhere in the league. On the team's pregame inactive list, the Rams are without nickel corner Lamarcus Joyner and cornerback Marcus Roberson. Joyner and Roberson missed practice all week with groin and ankle injuries, respectively.

If there's a silver lining to be found, it's that the Rams will have probably their three best corners available for this one, with Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and E.J. Gaines available. With Joyner out, it's safe to expect Gaines to move inside in the nickel, with Johnson and Jenkins on the outside.

When the Rams have to go to further sub packages, they'll likely turn to their three-safety package with Rodney McLeod, T.J. McDonald and Mark Barron on the field together.

Here's the complete list of inactives for Sunday's game:

Rams: DB Lamarcus Joyner, CB Marcus Roberson, LB Daren Bates, WR Damian Williams, OT Brandon Washington, TE Alex Bayer, DT Alex Carrington.

Broncos: WR Cody Latimer, RB Ronnie Hillman, CB Tony Carter, RB Kapri Bibbs, LB Todd Davis, OT Michael Schofield, TE Virgil Green.

James Laurinaitis probable for Sunday

November, 14, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams wrapped up their preparations for the Denver Broncos on Friday, and all signs point to linebacker James Laurinaitis being ready to go.

Laurinaitis missed practice Wednesday, but was back at full speed Friday and is listed as probable for this weekend. Joining him with that designation are linebacker Will Herring and defensive end William Hayes.

Defensive tackle Alex Carrington is questionable, and the Rams will have some questions on the back end with cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) listed as out and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (groin) as doubtful.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said defensive end Chris Long (ankle) will not be activated this week. He still has plenty of time left in his 21-day window for that to happen.

Here is the complete rundown of Friday's injury report:

Out: CB Roberson (ankle).

Doubtful: CB Joyner (groin), WR Damian Williams (hamstring), LB Daren Bates (groin).

Questionable: DT Carrington (quad).

Probable: LB Laurinaitis (foot), LB Herring (foot), DE Hayes (fibula).
PHILADELPHIA -- The thin line between winning and losing an NFL football game is hard to bloat, but the St. Louis Rams seem to have a knack for finding a way to decrease an already minuscule margin for error every week.

Sunday's 34-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles offered plenty of examples of what can happen when the Rams team up with their opponent to beat the Rams. Taking nothing away from the Eagles, who have found a way to win four of five tries this season, the Rams once again provided plenty of help.

It's a trait found in each of the team's three losses this season and one that goes back for the better part of a decade. Against the Eagles, they consistently loaded up on silly penalties (10 for 82 yards), dropped passes (six by unofficial count), busted coverages (Jeremy Maclin's 24-yard touchdown catch was every bit as open as the 68-yard strike to Dez Bryant two weeks ago), struggled in protection (Trent Cole's sack and forced fumble resulted in a defensive touchdown) and even offered up a special teams miscue that had nothing to do with a yellow penalty flag (which is usually the norm).

"Overall, when you have penalties, you turn the ball over, you have a punt blocked for a touchdown, numerous drops, it's not winning football," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.

For a team coming off a bye, the blame should be shared by all for the repeated mistakes. And it won't get much better as the Rams are only scratching the surface on a brutal schedule that includes nothing but 2013 playoff teams and the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals over the next seven weeks.

Although the Rams offered a praiseworthy second-half comeback, they set their own ominous tone on the game's first drive. Loading up in three tight end formations, the offense looked like a group poised to run the ball right at Philadelphia. Instead, they began with three head-scratching pass plays, each falling incomplete as the Eagles had Rams quarterback Austin Davis under siege.

Just 16 seconds into the game, the Rams sent punter Johnny Hekker onto the field. In most cases, Rams' special teams errors come in the form of a penalty, but they made an error much bigger this time.

Before every punt, the punt team is supposed to count defenders from the outside in. Depending on how many defenders are on the side, each blocker knows who his man is at the snap. According to the Rams' Chase Reynolds, somebody miscounted which left a gaping hole in the "A" gap for the Eagles' James Casey to run through untouched.

On the replay, each Rams blocker on the left side of the line turns to the left and the opening comes between linebacker Ray Ray Armstrong and tight end Cory Harkey. Reynolds had to choose between Casey and tight end Trey Burton, who was also his assignment on the play. Reynolds picked up Burton and Casey blocked the punt. Safety Chris Maragos scooped it up for the touchdown and a quick and easy 7-0 lead the Eagles would not surrender.

"The guy (on the outside) was really wide so sometimes for the guards and tackles to see the wide guys out there, it’s kind of difficult," Reynolds said. "But like I said, they did a fantastic job. Just one little error like that can cost you."

It wouldn't have cost the Rams so much had it been the only such error on the day. The penalty problems should be expected at this point and though they had dissipated some in the first three weeks, dropped passes have also been a hallmark of recent Rams teams. But while those result in lost downs or yards, the miscommunication continues to result in big plays.

Such was the case on Maclin's touchdown catch as cornerback Lamarcus Joyner was supposed to stay with Maclin but thought safety Rodney McLeod was supposed to take over the coverage. Instead, neither covered Maclin and he was wide open for the touchdown that made it 34-7.

"It was a miscommunication," McLeod said. "It was a formation we saw earlier and made the right call earlier but that time it was just a mistake but that was one thing we have got to preach on. That could be the difference in a ball game."

For the Rams, those types of plays couldn't be the difference in a ball game. They are.

Shaun Hill misses practice again

September, 11, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For the second consecutive day, St. Louis Rams quarterback Shaun Hill did not participate in practice.

Hill sat out Thursday's practice with a quad/thigh injury, allowing Austin Davis to take the majority of the repetitions with the first-team offense once again. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer indicated Hill might not have to practice this week in order to be able to play Sunday in Tampa Bay because of his experience and knowledge of the offense.

Defensive end Chris Long is not on Thursday's injury report because he was officially moved to the injured reserve list with the designation to return. In his place, the Rams moved defensive tackle Matt Conrath from the practice squad to the active roster. Defensive end Kourtnei Brown was signed to the practice squad to take Conrath's place. Brown spent training camp with the Rams.

Elsewhere on the report, the only move of note from the Rams' perspective involved cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner was downgraded from limited participation to did not participate.

Here's the rundown:

Did not practice: CB Trumaine Johnson (knee), OL Barrett Jones (back), DB Lamarcus Joyner (back), QB Shaun Hill (thigh).

Rams rookie review: Week 1

September, 8, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A look at playing time and production of each of the St. Louis Rams' drafted rookies and a quick glimpse at the undrafted rookie class in Sunday's 34-6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

OL Greg Robinson, first round, No. 2 overall: As expected, Robinson did not start on the offensive line with Davin Joseph and Rodger Saffold handling right and left guard duties, respectively. Also as expected, Robinson found his way into the game when Saffold departed with a neck injury late in the game. Robinson played nine snaps on offense and three as a blocker on special teams. Watching how the offensive line fared without him, it's hard to imagine Robinson couldn't have turned in a similar pass-blocking performance at worst and represented an upgrade in the run game at best.

DT Aaron Donald, first round, No. 13 overall: Donald delivered on some of the promise he showed in the early stages of camp with four tackles, including two for a loss against Minnesota's vaunted run game. Most of his 29 defensive snaps came on clear passing downs as Donald entered on third downs inside with Eugene Sims joining him at tackle and Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the ends. There weren't a lot of bright spots among the members of this class, but Donald had his moments.

DB Lamarcus Joyner, second round, No. 41 overall: The Vikings' run-heavy approach didn't allow for the Rams to be in the nickel much, leaving Joyner with just 23 defensive snaps and a dozen more on special teams. He finished with two tackles on defense and another on special teams in a mostly nondescript debut.

RB Tre Mason, third round, No. 75 overall: Mason struggled in the preseason and doesn't provide help on special teams which rendered him inactive for his first NFL game. Of the team's five running backs, Mason was the only one inactive against the Vikings.

S Maurice Alexander, fourth round, No. 110 overall: In a mild surprise, Alexander was also inactive Sunday. It's not a surprise in the sense that Alexander wasn't expected to help on defense right away, but he figured to help on special teams. Rookie cornerback Marcus Roberson was active instead.

CB E.J. Gaines, sixth round, No. 188 overall: The only rookie to start, Gaines got the call in place of the injured Trumaine Johnson. Gaines played 56 defensive snaps (97 percent of the total) and six more on special teams. In the process, he had three tackles and two pass breakups, nearly coming up with an interception early in the game.

C Demetrius Rhaney, seventh round, No. 250 overall: Rhaney is on injured reserve for the season with a knee injury.

Undrafted rookie roundup: Roberson played 11 snaps on special teams and running back Trey Watts played nine there also, neither registered a tackle in the unofficial statistics. ... Tight end Alex Bayer and defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks were pregame inactives.

Rams Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
ST. LOUIS -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp:
  • Now THAT was a football practice. There's no doubt the Rams want to be an aggressive, physical team unafraid to hit opponents in the mouth. At Monday's workout, they weren't afraid to hit one another in the mouth, either. In what was the most physical practice of this training camp, the Rams got after it all afternoon with shoulder pads on and run game drills aplenty. The defining moment came when receiver Austin Pettis felt like cornerback Lamarcus Joyner was a little too over the top in his pursuit of the ball after a play and threw it at Joyner. Joyner wasn't pleased with that response and went after Pettis. Before they were separated, both players threw punches and most of the team intervened to pull them apart. It wasn't the only moment of the day where the feisty Joyner got under someone's skin. A handful of plays before the skirmish, Joyner got tangled with receiver Kenny Britt and ended up with Britt's helmet in his hands. Britt later repaid the favor with a crushing downfield block. Joyner might be small but it's quite clear he doesn't back down.
  • As for the run-game work, the Rams emphasized that in today's practice. They did a period of run-blocking only drills early in the practice and made it a point to do even more during the team portion. They didn't tackle but there was plenty of "thud" tempo. That might not do it justice but think of these thuds as the kind that used to show up on the old Batman TV show where the word is in all caps with 18 exclamation points behind it. Starting running back Zac Stacy brought the hammer repeatedly, dropping his shoulder into safety Rodney McLeod multiple times and doing the same to linebacker Ray Ray Armstrong. Tight end Cory Harkey did the same after a couple of catches, including one that drew some not-fit-for-print words from Armstrong.
  • A couple of others who showed up when the contact increased: tight end Justice Cunningham and safety Maurice Alexander. After Alexander came up with a run stuff in one period, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams could be heard yelling "Look who finally showed up." Cunningham came with some big blocks during run plays in team as well, drawing praise from his offensive teammates and coaches.
  • The walking wounded list is still extensive but none of the injuries appear serious. Among the key names not practicing were linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford, wide receiver Brian Quick, cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Brandon McGee and offensive lineman Barrett Jones. Laurinaitis, Brockers and McGee are battling ankle issues and Saffold has a stinger. One player who did practice was safety Christian Bryant. He's been stuck on the non-football injury list since his arrival and Monday's workout was his first with the Rams.
  • The Rams return to practice Tuesday with the workout scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET. That practice is the only one left this week open to the public at Rams Park.

Rams Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp.
  • The Rams were finally able to put the pads on Monday morning and did so for a special teams workout before the full squad puts them on this week. Coach Jeff Fisher prefers to get his players acclimated to wearing pads in a special teams workout before throwing them into the mix of a real practice. It has been common practice in the previous two seasons as well.
  • Believe it or not, special teams practices are pretty entertaining, at least near the end. In what has become a rite of passage for young players trying to make the roster, there are two full-contact drills that really promote competition. In a fairly basic punt cover drill, a gunner lines up on either side of the line with two players in front of him. When the ball is punted or shot out of the JUGS machine, the gunner's task is to beat the double team and get down the field as fast as possible. It is no surprise that linebackers Ray-Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates took the first rep in contact drills Monday. Special teams coach John Fassel wants that duo to take on more of a leadership role this season, and they helped set the tone by jumping into the first rep. The other notable moment from that work was defensive back Lamarcus Joyner taking on Miami natives Stedman Bailey and Brandon McGee. Joyner referred to Bailey and McGee as the Miami Heat, but acquitted himself well by battling tooth and nail. That was enough to draw Fassel's praise. Fassel has been impressed with Joyner so far and said the rookie embodies what he is looking for in a special teams player.
  • The other notable drill, the main event so to speak, is the one-on-ones that close the practice. The premise is simple: there is a blue tackling dummy set up and two players line up side by side. At the whistle, one player is responsible for getting to the bag and knocking it over while the other's job is to block the pursuer. It's the drill where Bates made his name in 2013 and opened eyes to the prospect of his making the roster. This time, Bates didn't participate, perhaps as a way of dialing him back a bit, but Armstrong was easy to find. Armstrong became tangled with linebacker Lawrence Wilson which set off a short exchange of shoves and words.
  • Michael Sam also drew praise from Fassel for his work, particularly as a blocker on kick and punt return. Fassel said Sam's weight loss has made a noticeable difference, and he is a bit faster when running down kicks. For now, Fassel envisions Sam contributing in the blocking role while he works on developing the long speed necessary to run down kicks.
  • Center Scott Wells isn't a part of the special teams, but he did do some work on the side with offensive line coaches Paul Boudreau and Andy Dickerson.

Rams Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
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.
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. -- As Lamarcus Joyner waited for his name to be called through the NFL draft's first night and midway into the second round, he never let it bother him.

“It didn’t matter where I went," Joyner said. "To me, I just wanted to play football. I just needed the opportunity. A lot of people were asking me, ‘How do you feel about your size? Why do you feel you’re not rated as a high first-round guy?’ That stuff doesn’t get to me. I tell people all the time, ‘If I go first round, if I go seventh round, all I need is the opportunity.’ I know what I’m made from, so all that stuff really doesn’t matter.”

As the Buffalo Bills came on the clock with the 41st overall pick on the draft's second night, the St. Louis Rams decided that they, too, knew what Joyner was made from and that he had been waiting long enough. The Rams traded their second-round pick, No. 44 overall, and a fifth-round choice to move up three spots. Joyner was the target they had established after they were through with the first round, and they didn't believe they could wait any longer.

[+] EnlargeLamarcus Joyner
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesVersatile defensive back Lamarcus Joyner brings a team-first attitude to the Rams' secondary.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher had some intel that indicated the Tennessee Titans, picking No. 42 overall, had eyes for Joyner as well. Whether that's the case is unconfirmed, but there is some evidence that it's true considering the Titans traded out of their pick right after the Rams selected Joyner.

Joyner sat surrounded by friends and family in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He pondered how the Rams, in a talent-rich draft, not only called his name, but gave up an extra pick to secure his services.

It's a move Joyner doesn't intend to forget.

“I felt as though they made a sacrifice for me, and I’m good with returning favors," Joyner said. "I think that I owe them the same. I’m going to give all my heart, all my soul to this organization, because that meant a lot for them to be able to do that, especially with all the great talent that’s out here. Trying to get into the National Football League and for these men to make that sacrifice for me, then I owe them the same thing in return.”

For a Rams secondary in need of more talent and an influx of leadership after parting ways with veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan in the offseason, Joyner represents an ideal fit.

Sacrificing a fifth-round pick probably cost the Rams a shot at one of their preferred quarterback targets, but it's a sacrifice Fisher and general manager Les Snead made happily, because the net gain was Joyner.

Joyner will play a variety of roles for the Rams.

"We didn’t want to lose him, he’s just an outstanding player," Fisher said. "He plays all over their defense. He plays outside, he plays in the slot, he plays high, he blitzes, so he’s a plug-in Day 1 nickel back. He’s very, very aggressive, tackles well."

Of those many roles, Joyner said he doesn't have a preference of where he plays.

“All I know right now is I’m a second-round draft pick for the St. Louis Rams, and whatever Coach wants me to do, I’m going to do it," Joyner said. "If I have to pack on 100 pounds and move to offensive guard, I’m going to do it. I’m going to do whatever I need to do to help the organization.”

That is not going to be necessary. As it stands, Joyner's first opportunity will come as the team's primary slot corner. When he visited the Rams during the pre-draft process, he had a conversation with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in which Williams asked him his preferred NFL position. Joyner responded with an answer similar to the one above.

Make no mistake, Williams has plenty of ideas for how to deploy Joyner. At 5-foot-8, 182 pounds, Joyner doesn't cut an imposing figure but plays bigger than his listed size. His ball skills could use some work, but the Rams expect him to do well in coverage right away.

Where Williams can really have some fun using Joyner is as part of his many exotic blitz schemes. Joyner's blitz skills belie his size, as he posted 5.5 sacks, second most among FBS defensive backs in 2013.

“Wherever we are weak in the secondary, I’m going to make the team better, because I’m going to give my all and make that position better," Joyner said. "I’m a team person, so I’m going to do whatever Coach wants me to do in the secondary.”

And repay a debt in the process.

St. Louis Rams draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A wrap-up of the St. Louis Rams' draft.

Best move: Putting football aside, the Rams made a historic move in using the 249th overall pick on Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. Sam became the first openly gay player drafted to the NFL. There will be plenty of time to discuss how he fits the defense, his chances of making the roster and everything else a draft pick entails. But for now, the Rams should be applauded for taking an important step that will have a lasting impact well beyond the confines of a football field.

[+] EnlargeGreg Robinson
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe Rams strengthened both lines with their two first-round picks, starting with offensive tackle Greg Robinson at No. 2 overall.
Best move, II: Using their two first-round picks to bulk up on the lines. The Rams could have gone many ways with the Nos. 2 and 13 picks in the first round, and there were other avenues that would have been fine, but they showed a lot of self-awareness by staying at those spots and grabbing Auburn offensive lineman Greg Robinson and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The NFC West is the toughest, most physical division in football. Most games in this league are won up front, but all games in the NFC West are. It's not going to be easy to outmuscle the likes of the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, but the Rams proved capable of it two seasons ago before taking a step back last season. The first two picks are a sign they don't intend to have their lunch money stolen as often in 2014.

Riskiest move: Waiting until the sixth round to take a quarterback. There, the Rams selected Southern Methodist's Garrett Gilbert. In the run up to the draft, the Rams insisted that not only did they want to get a quarterback, they wanted to land someone capable of pushing starter Sam Bradford. Apparently, they didn't feel too strongly about that. The Rams should be set at the backup spot with free-agent addition Shaun Hill on the roster, but the future of the position remains up in the air. Bradford has two years remaining on his contract but needs to prove his durability and produce at a higher level for a full season before the team commits to him for the long haul. It's not impossible for Gilbert to develop into a solid backup, but counting on him to provide a possible long-term solution or push Bradford for the job is folly.

Most surprising move: Spending a third-round pick on running back Tre Mason. This isn't to say the Rams didn't need help at the position. Starter Zac Stacy has had issues with minor injuries costing him a series here or a quarter there. Benny Cunningham has flashed potential, but the sample size is small. This isn't anything against Mason, who is a good back with outstanding college production. It's just more of a surprise that the team went with a back with more pressing needs to be filled. The Rams insist Mason was too much value to resist, but it's fair to wonder whether they could have waited to get a back capable of contributing. After all, they landed Stacy in the fifth round a year ago.

File it away: Keep an eye on Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines, the team's first sixth-round pick, taken at No. 188 overall. The Rams drafted Lamarcus Joyner to handle the nickel duties, and he'll step in right away at that spot, but Gaines played outside on both sides and showed the flexibility to play inside for the Tigers. That versatility should give Gaines a chance to contribute right away and potentially become the primary backup at all three spots. Gaines started 37 games in his career, including a strong performance against Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans in a 2013 matchup. Evans had just four catches for 8 yards in that game. Although A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel wasn't at full strength, Gaines earned rave reviews for that performance from scouts in the pre-draft process. Gaines was a sixth-round pick, so expectations won't be too high, but that also puts him in position to exceed the ones that exist.

Rams sit still to add quality

May, 10, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For the past two years under coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead, the St. Louis Rams have undergone a complete reconstruction of a roster that was one of the worst in the league.

On Friday night, the Rams offered two more indications that they are saying goodbye to frantically moving down in the draft to accumulate picks and hello to a brave new world in which the chronically trade-happy decision makers can sit still and simply select the best player available.

"It's been, I don't want to say easy, but it's been good," Fisher said. "The board is good, the value is there and we feel good about where we are and we also feel good about finishing strong tomorrow."

The Rams threw their first curveball of this year's draft Friday night when they opted to pass on more obvious needs and choose a running back in the third round.

Not that the Rams couldn't use another back, but the selection of Auburn running back Tre Mason with the 75th overall pick was a prime example of the prism through which the team now views itself. Almost since arrival, Fisher, Snead and most others associated with the Rams quietly held to the idea that 2014 would be the team's breakthrough season.

That vow moved closer to a promise this offseason as the previously silent notion became an open discussion. A mostly inactive free-agent period offered one clue that the Rams believe the current roster is close to taking the next step.

The first three rounds of this draft has offered more evidence.

With other positions of more clear need available to them with the 75th pick, the Rams selected Mason to add to a backfield in which Zac Stacy, the team's leading rusher a year ago, already resides.

When asked why the Rams opted for Mason with the third-round choice, Fisher offered a telling response in making it clear that Mason was too much value to turn down.

"That was the nature of the pick," Fisher said. "That's where we are right now is we just couldn't pass him up."

In the Rams' first two drafts under Snead and Fisher, the team made six draft-day trades, moving down four times and up twice. Aside from a late-round deal in 2013 to land Stacy, all of those deals have been in the early rounds of the draft.

The idea was simple: accumulate as many picks as possible even if it meant sacrificing possible quality in favor of quantity. If the success of a draft pick is a veritable coin flip, the Rams wanted to flip as many coins as possible.

The progress on the field has been evident as a team that won 15 games over the previous five seasons won 14 the past two years but it still has been far from enough. A lack of true difference makers the caliber of star defensive end Robert Quinn has kept the Rams from reaching the next level.

Nobody knows for sure whether players like Mason, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald or defensive back Lamarcus Joyner will turn into that type of player, but the stay-at-home attitude the Rams have adopted for most of this draft would indicate they believe roster spots are hard to come by and game changers were there to be had in their original spots.

Perhaps in fear of developing a nervous tick by having to wait so long to make some sort of deal, Fisher and Snead did make one deal on Friday night, trading up three spots to nab Joyner at No. 44 overall before Tennessee could pick him. Even that move indicates the Rams are placing a premium on the player rather than a pile of picks.

It's a trend that will continue Saturday when the Rams make their remaining seven choices.

"We're going to look at our roster, who fills a role and whatever role that is, if it helps us become a more successful team, that's kind of what you try to do," Snead said. "You'll have fun with the last picks."

For the first time in awhile, the Rams' insistence that they're close is backed by their actions. Only time will tell if they're right.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams went heavy on the beef on Day 1 of the NFL draft, adding Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

As we head toward Friday night's second and third rounds, the Rams have some pressing needs to address. Namely, they need help in the secondary with a nickel cornerback and a potential rangy safety type topping the list. The team could also look for their quarterback tonight, perhaps as early as their second-round choice at No. 44.

And we can't forget that the Rams showed interest in trading back up for Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin on Thursday night, meaning they considered doubling down on big men up front. They could well be tempted again if someone they like is available tonight.

Here's a quick rundown of some options at those positions:

Defensive back: There was a big run on cornerbacks and safeties in Round 1, but there is plenty of depth to be had at cornerback. At safety, not so much. However, there are some intriguing options. Florida State's dynamic duo of Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks provide a couple of strong options, with Joyner providing corner/safety versatility and Brooks fitting the role as a rangy free safety. Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir are intriguing prospects with size, but neither necessarily fits the bill to help in the nickel unless the Rams feel good about using Janoris Jenkins there or continuing to plug Rodney McLeod in there. In Mel Kiper Jr.'s Round 2 mock draft Insider, he has only Joyner, Brooks and Jean-Baptiste going in Round 2 amongst defensive backs.

Quarterback: The Rams want a quarterback who can push starter Sam Bradford, hence the interest in Johnny Manziel. Though they didn't feel comfortable enough with any of the prospects to draft them above other players at other positions they clearly liked better, they still want to get a quarterback who has starter potential even if it's not for 2014. There are still some intriguing names on the board like Fresno State's Derek Carr and Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo. I think the Rams have some interest in both, especially Garoppolo, but it seems unlikely either will fall to No. 44 with some quarterback-needy teams ahead of them. That leaves some other options, including Alabama's AJ McCarron, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Pittsburgh's Tom Savage. The Rams have shown interest in all of them, and all figure to go in the second or early third round. If the Rams want a quarterback from that group, they might have to pull the trigger in the second round, because they might not be there in Round 3.

Offensive line: The idea of spending another premium pick on an offensive lineman is probably not appealing to fans who weren't impressed by the meat and potatoes approach of the team on Thursday night. But there are some names that could be intriguing should the Rams look to go this route Friday night. Nevada's Joel Bitonio and UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo are two names the Rams have expressed interest in and would be good fits. The Rams have more pressing needs in the secondary, but the value of Bitonio or Su'a-Filo could be hard to resist. In Round 3, someone like North Dakota State's Billy Turner or Furman's Dakota Dozier could draw interest.

Elsewhere: By no means are the Rams committed to taking a player from one of these positions. There are some good receiver prospects still available, and the Rams could go that way though I believe the Rams will pass on wideouts until later believing that none of the players left there are true No. 1 types. In other words, the players left might be projects similar to what they already have, so they might as well see it through with their current crop. Linebacker is a possibility also as the Rams showed interest in a player like Alabama's C.J. Mosley in Round 1. It would be a surprise to see the Rams go with a tight end, running back or defensive lineman Friday night.

Prediction: I believe the Rams will sit with their two picks and make their choices from the secondary, quarterback and the offensive line. My hunch is that it will be a defensive back and a quarterback, though projecting the rounds for each is more difficult. I'm going to press my luck and offer these choices for the Rams tonight:

Second round, No. 44 overall -- Florida State DB Lamarcus Joyner
Third round, No. 75 overall -- Georgia QB Aaron Murray

Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Vikings 

April, 10, 2014
ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay's latest mock draft spans two rounds, and like Mel Kiper Jr. did last week in his Grade A mock draft, McShay has the Vikings addressing perhaps their biggest need on each side of the ball with their first two picks.

The Vikings will have a number of different directions they could pursue at quarterback and cornerback with the eighth and 40th overall picks, and it's conceivable they could draft a quarterback and cornerback in either order in the first two rounds. If the draft falls the way McShay predicts it will, however, the Vikings will have an interesting choice on their hands at N0. 8.