EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Like the rest of their NFL brethren, the St. Louis Rams are closing in on the completion of organized team activities. Some have already finished but those that haven't will do so this week.
For the Rams, that means a busy week including four OTAs. But in a different approach than the rest of the league, the Rams will not cap the week with a mandatory minicamp. They also didn't do a rookie minicamp, per se.
That's because coach Jeff Fisher has a slightly different philosophy when it comes to the offseason program. In years past, Fisher has mentioned that he likes to find a balance between doing enough to get the requisite work in while also not pushing his players too far in the spring. Beyond that, the Rams get mostly perfect attendance for all of the "voluntary" portions of the program. That allows them to get most of what needs to be done accomplished in the 10 OTAs they are allotted.
Now in the third year under Fisher, the Rams also have some sense of stability which also makes skipping the minicamp a little easier to understand. The fact is that OTAs are the football practice equivalent of the NFL scouting combine. Players aren't wearing pads and contact is almost completely forbidden. The important part of the OTAs is installing schemes on both sides of the ball.
It's important for the rookies and newcomers to get a chance to translate what they see in meeting rooms on the field but the majority of the roster already has a working knowledge of the scheme. When training camp arrives, the Rams will do it all again but get to do it with pads on in a more realistic facsimile of actual football.
There are, however, still a few things that will be worked out this week. Here's some of what we'll be watching entering the final four (two open to media) practices.
1. The biggest tweak in terms of the installation and understanding of the schemes is the addition of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The base defense is similar as Williams and Fisher share similar ideals when it comes to defense, but Williams is undoubtedly adding some wrinkles to the mix. While the Rams won't get into specifics of what those wrinkles are, some have popped up repeatedly during the OTA practices with occasional confusion apparent.
Williams' early imprint on the defense is obvious for most of the practices whether it's old school ball pursuit drills or his own unique style of "encouragement."
"There’s no doubt," Fisher said. "He’s the main voice in the room. He can coach every single position. You can see the change. You can see the energy. I’ve had to back him down just a little bit.”
2. For the most part, Williams has had his primary defensive pieces in place for the OTAs, but the Rams have been a little thin at one spot: safety. Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald are the projected starters and they've been steady in their spots but injuries to Matt Daniels, Christian Bryant and Maurice Alexander have left little in the way of depth. Cody Davis has gotten some valuable reps with the second-team defense and even rookie Lamarcus Joyner is getting work at safety while the others work their way back. Nobody is going to win a job or a roster spot at this time of year but those extra reps can be valuable in getting a little head start for training camp.
3. There's probably not much more that needs to be said on the recoveries of quarterback Sam Bradford and tackle Jake Long as they bounce back from knee surgeries. But that doesn't mean we won't monitor them as we go through the week. Bradford has been doing his share in practice and the Rams believe he'll be ready to start training camp. Long's workload is harder to judge but he's done some work on the side that appears encouraging, especially when it comes to lateral movements. Fisher has said Long's targeted return is midway through the preseason. We'll keep tabs on both players as we go through this final week.