Thursday, June 19, 2014
Observations from Rams' final OTA
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams wrapped up organized team activities with their ninth and final practice Thursday. For those keeping score at home, yes, that's a day earlier than expected; coach Jeff Fisher canceled Friday's previously planned practice.
As always, it should be noted that much of what happens in these OTAs 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.
Back to back for Bradford: Quarterback Sam Bradford spent the bulk of OTAs on a strict plan for his involvement. Usually, that meant a couple of periods of seven-on-seven drills and a period of hurry-up in team drills. But Bradford did a little more than usual Thursday and did extensive work in back-to-back practices for the first time in the offseason. Bradford had gone two in a row earlier but was more limited in one of those practices.
Bradford was also at his sharpest, at least relative to the other sessions open to the media. Now, for the first time since he suffered his knee injury in October, Bradford will get to spend quality time back home in Oklahoma. Bradford said he feels good and all signs point to him being ready to go when training camp opens.
"I was really happy with everything that went on during the OTAs," Bradford said. "A big part of it for me was obviously physically getting back out on to the field, seeing how my knee reacted. It's been fantastic. We were actually able to do a little more than we anticipated so that's very positive.
"Out there today, it felt probably the best its felt all OTAs and [I'm] just really looking to build on that."
Line dancing: Working without the services of left tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells, the Rams tweaked things on the offensive line a bit. Rodger Saffold kicked out to left tackle with Davin Joseph sliding in at right guard and Barrett Jones got work at center with the first team. Long did some work in individual drills.
It doesn't mean much at this point since the Rams are anticipating Long and Wells returning to the fold soon enough, but it was a departure from the previous alignments in which Sean Hooey or Mike Person had rotated at left tackle. Tim Barnes has also taken reps at center in the days where Wells has been absent.
Sitting it out: The Rams got some players back to practice but still had their share of missing pieces. Receiver Jamaine Sherman, safety Christian Bryant, safety Maurice Alexander, running back Chase Reynolds, linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, Wells, Long, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and defensive end William Hayes did not participate.
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson, defensive tackle Kendall Langford and safety Matt Daniels returned to work after not practicing Tuesday. Daniels had missed most of the workouts but was able to finish Thursday and had a couple of pass breakups in team drills.
Receiver Kenny Britt and cornerback Darren Woodard, both of whom left Tuesday's practice early, were back and participated.
Closing competition: Per custom, Fisher put his offensive and defensive lineman through a punt-catching drill to wrap up the final OTA. The drill asks the linemen to stand about 80 yards removed from the JUGS machine and catch a punt. The side that catches more doesn't have to run a final round of wind sprints.
In an impressive showing, the defense came up with five grabs to win and force the offense to run.
Final impressions: Receiver Stedman Bailey made a strong closing argument before training camp, coming up with a few impressive grabs, including a diving catch for a touchdown from Bradford during seven-on-seven.
In what was one of the more impressive and humorous plays of the day, undrafted rookie defensive tackle Ethan Westbrooks broke up a pass by batting it into the air then showed concentration by snatching it for an interception. The enthusiastic cheers coming from his defensive teammates quickly turned to laughter as Harlin got turned around and began running the wrong way before course correcting.
Looking ahead: With OTAs and the offseason now complete, the Rams will disappear for a little while. The rookies must stay through Friday but after that, it will be quiet around Rams Park until rookies report July 21. The veterans will join them July 24 with the first open practice set for July 25.
Fisher has already given the team the annual talk about making good decisions in the offseason and noted Thursday that there weren't any issues last year. He hopes for a repeat of that this time around.
When the Rams do return to St. Louis, Fisher said he expects most of the players who did not participate during OTAs to be ready to go. In addition to Long, Fisher said Bryant is the only other player who might not be fully ready to go at the start of camp.