St. Louis Rams: Jared Cook

Rams-Cardinals: Matchup breakdown

December, 10, 2014
12/10/14
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A look at three individual matchups to keep an eye on when the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals meet at 8:25 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers vs. Cardinals left guard Ted Larsen/Jonathan Cooper

The Cardinals are banged up on the offensive line with Fanaika dealing with an ankle sprain since Week 13 and far from a certainty to play this week. If Fanaika is out, the normal left guard Ted Larsen will replace him on the right side forcing Cooper into the lineup. In fact, it's probably a better bet that Cooper will make his second consecutive start. Cooper was the highly-touted guard prospect from North Carolina in 2013 who missed the season with a knee injury and has still be working his way to the starting lineup. Against Kansas City last week, Arizona coach Bruce Arians said Cooper was 'OK' but mentioned that he'd been pushed backwards about 10 times.

In Brockers, Cooper (or Larsen) would be drawing the most favorable matchup of any of the Cardinals offensive linemen. That's not to say Brockers is a pushover so much as it's better than having to deal with the likes of Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald. But Brockers has played much better in recent weeks, particularly against the run and he's a big, powerful sort who could give the athletic but smaller Cooper some issues. The Cardinals are going to have their hands full upfront but their line has been much improved in 2014. Brockers versus Fanaika or Cooper isn't the draw of other matchups upfront but it could be an important one in determining the outcome.

Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines vs. Cardinals receiver John Brown

The Rams defense is playing so well right now that it seems the only way to really beat them is to get a big play. Well, few players in the league have a knack for the big play like Brown. The Rams found that out first hand in the first meeting between the teams when Brown made a spectacular diving catch for a 48-yard touchdown that was ultimately the game winner. Brown has made a habit of those big plays in his rookie season though his production has tailed off a bit since that big catch against St. Louis.

The Rams, meanwhile, are getting much better production out of their secondary lately in part because they're finally healthy. With Trumaine Johnson back, the Rams have been using Gaines as the starter at left cornerback but kicking him inside in the nickel. That's where Gaines could see plenty of Brown this time around. Brown beat safety Rodney McLeod for the touchdown in Arizona but Gaines is a reliable cover type who hasn't allowed many big plays this year.

It's unlikely the Rams can continue to pitch shutouts but if they want another one, they'll need Gaines to be on point against Brown.

Rams tight end Jared Cook vs. Cardinals safety Deone Bucannon

I wanted to avoid repeats from the first matchup here but I'm making an exception for this one considering Cook's success against the Cardinals in that meeting. Cook had two catches for 84 yards and a touchdown in that game and Arizona continues to struggle to cover tight ends consistently.

Even before that, Cook had a big game in the 2013 season opener when he torched Arizona to the tune of seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He would have had three scores if not for an amazing play by Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu to force a fumble just before Cook crossed the goal line. Regardless, Arizona was one of the worst teams in the league last year defending tight ends which led directly to the selection of Bucannon.

Bucannon has been used primarily in the nickel and dime for the Cardinals but has flashed the potential to help in a variety of ways. He had his first career fumble recovery in Week 8 against Philadelphia and has 39 tackles and two passes defended so far in his rookie season. With Mathieu out because of a thumb injury and cornerback Antonio Cromartie battling an ankle issue, the Cardinals figure to have some question marks in the secondary. That could mean any plans to help slow Cook might have to be altered to help elsewhere.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A look back at the turning point play in the St. Louis Rams' 24-0 win against the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon:

The situation: After a scoreless first quarter in which both teams botched scoring opportunities either by turnovers or penalties, the Rams found themselves with a prime opportunity to score first early in the second quarter. After a 7-yard completion from quarterback Shaun Hill to Tavon Austin was wiped out by a holding penalty on center Scott Wells, it looked like the Rams might again trip themselves up before reaching the end zone. That set the Rams back to the Washington 35-yard line with a second-and-15 with 12:27 to go in the first half of a scoreless game.

On the previous drive, Rams tight end Jared Cook took a big hit from Washington safety Ryan Clark but returned to the game after being cleared following the concussion protocol.

Cook
The play: There wasn't much complicated about what either side did on this play so much as it was a testament to one team executing and the other not. Before the snap, Hill lined up in the shotgun with receivers Austin and Kenny Britt split left. Cook was attached to the line of scrimmage on the left side and Stedman Bailey lined up wide to the right side. Running back Benny Cunningham aligned set up to Hill's right in the shotgun. Washington came out in a basic nickel package with four defenders on the line of scrimmage (one standing up). Both outside corners came out in off coverage with the nickel corner closer to the line of scrimmage but still off a bit.

At the snap, Hill faked an inside handoff to Cunningham. Washington linebacker Perry Riley quickly bit on the fake and ran hard at the line, shirking his responsibilities in what appeared to be a basic Cover 2 look. That allowed Cook to run free down the seam. Hill fired a pass right on the money that nearly got away because of some stadium shadows, but Cook pulled it in around the 15 and sprinted toward the end zone as Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland and safety Phillip Thomas converged to try to make the tackle. Cook absorbed the contact and rolled over the top of Thomas into the end zone.

"I don’t know if somebody busted coverage, but I think they just went plain old Cover 2 and the middle parted like the Red Sea," Cook said. "And Shaun hit me with a good ball and I just had to find my way in."

After a short review to see if Cook indeed broke the plane of the end zone before landing, the ruling was confirmed and the Rams had a 6-0 lead.

The fallout: The touchdown was Cook's second of the season and the first of two on the day for him. With the Rams defense firing on all cylinders and owners of two consecutive shutouts, it didn't figure St. Louis would need many points to get the win. That makes picking out a turning point that much more difficult, but in this one, Cook's touchdown stood up as the only points the Rams truly needed. It was also a breakthrough for an offense that had frustrated in the first quarter with costly penalties. The Rams would go on to score 18 more unanswered points.

Jared Cook discusses 'hands up' gesture

December, 4, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook spoke at length Wednesday about the decision of he and four teammates to do the "hands up, don't shoot" gesture during pregame introductions before the Rams played the Oakland Raiders.

In the news story I wrote (which can be found here), I was unable to include all of what Cook had to say. With that in mind, here's the transcript of what didn't make that story:

If you could do it over again, would you?

Cook: Absolutely. I think our message got mixed up a little bit. It’s bigger than what’s being portrayed. In our postgame comments we did say the groups that we were directing our statements towards, our actions towards, is for the peaceful protestors. It’s for the young men and young women that are out there cleaning up their community. It’s people that are walking down West Florissant that are painting buildings, making the community look nice again. It’s churches that are opening their doors to feed families on Thanksgiving. It’s bigger than the negative comments that people have perceived it by.

Could you see how the police would perceive the gesture as a slight?

Cook: Not really because in our postgame comments, we said who we based our actions towards. Why would we come at the police in a disrespectful way when we work with the police in the community all the time. The police are up here every day. There were four police cars up here this morning when I pulled into work. The police have picnics in the summer in our parking lot where they bring their kids to meet and greet and have fun with us. Why would I disrespect a group of men that we have complete respect for in the community that help us every day?

Do you still plan on going to Ferguson to help?

Cook: We are putting together events now to help the people of Ferguson. We as an extension of the community need to do things like this. There’s no time clock on when you can turn it on and turn it off on when to help people. They need our help. They need our guidance. There’s young men and young women that need to know how to handle situations like this and that can handle situations way better. You don’t need to burn down your community. You don’t need to harm others as a way to get your message across. There’s better ways to show people how you feel than to act out of line.

How do you feel about the negative feedback on social media?

Cook: That’s how people choose to operate their lives. I feel like as men, just like me and you are communicating right now and talking right now, we should be able to sit down and talk about our problems. There’s no reason to send threats or to hype up the situation that’s already intensified. We can sit down and talk about our problems. If we can’t then let’s just agree to disagree. There’s no wrong in that. People have different opinions. People have different views. We’re grown.

Were you surprised by the reaction it got?

Cook: I was surprised because it was hard for me to understand how could men of the community and men that have such stature in your community and your city come together to make something harmful and negative for others. The Rams, the NFL, the NFL players have never condoned violence or anything negative in the community so why start now? Why would we want to bring that bad image to something that is so good and so beautiful that could have been used to help young men and young women learn how to talk about their problems and become bigger than the problem.

What does it mean to have such an impact without saying a word?

Cook: I think that’s the most beautiful thing about it. It wasn’t an out of line protest. It was a perfect example of a peaceful protest. If anything should have been said about it by anybody it should have been an example of a way to peacefully protest and peacefully get your point across without tearing up the neighborhood.

Have you heard from other players or teams about this?

Cook: There’s actually some other teams that have already done it. I think the Redskins and Saints did it earlier this year. Everybody has kind of been giving us mutual respect. Everybody has a lot of respect for us and raising awareness for something that’s greater than us. I think that’s what it’s about. Just because you put on a uniform every day and just because you put on a helmet doesn’t mean you are lost to the world. There’s still people out there that need your help and need your guidance. With us going out into communities every Monday, every Tuesday, every Friday, sometimes Saturday and sometimes Sundays, there’s no time clock and no limit to the people we can help. Everybody needs our help, everybody needs our guidance and that’s what we’re here for.

Do you think it would've helped to have this sort of explanation beforehand?

Cook: An explanation? Why do I need an explanation? I think everybody knew what it was for. Everybody knew why and what it was for. We even elaborated that on our postgame. Even the guy on ESPN George Atallah, he said we elaborated on it after the game to let people know there wasn’t any harm involved. So why would you turn something so beautiful and something that is so positive into a negative? I don’t get it. But that’s just how things are. So I’m here to clean it up now for anybody whose message was ever lost in translation.

Rams-Chargers: Matchup breakdown

November, 22, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A look at three individual matchups to keep an eye on when the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers meet at 4:04 p.m. ET Sunday.

Rams defensive end Robert Quinn vs. Chargers left tackle King Dunlap

Quinn got a week off from appearing here last week because there were more pressing matchups and because I promised to put him in this space every week. But Quinn's presence here is certainly relevant this time around. Dunlap is probably the best of a questionable lot on San Diego's offensive line but with so many other spots along the line struggling, it could force San Diego into leaving Quinn and Dunlap matched up one-on-one on the outside.

Quinn didn't have any sacks last week, ending a small surge he had in the weeks before it. He still might have been as disruptive as he's been all year against Denver. The Broncos decided to let Ryan Clady take on Quinn on an island and Quinn beat him repeatedly. Only a number of penalties that weren't called allowed Clady to keep Peyton Manning upright. Dunlap isn't a bad player but he's not in Clady's class and if the Chargers can't provide help for him, it could be a long day for a hurting Philip Rivers.

Rams safety T.J. McDonald vs. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates

The Rams have used McDonald in coverage much more over the past three weeks and he's been better than expected as he continues to grow in his second season. Yes, McDonald is still at his best attacking near the line of scrimmage but in the past three games, he's been targeted 12 times and allowed eight completions for just 38 yards with two passes defended. McDonald might give up a completion here or there but he's often right there to deliver a hit soon after the catch is made.

McDonald won't cover Gates exclusively as the Rams can also turn to linebacker Alec Ogletree and various other looks to help keep Gates in check but he'll get his chances. Having covered Vernon Davis and Julius Thomas in recent weeks, though, McDonald is more prepared now to handle another difficult challenge than he might have been before. Make no mistake, Gates is still productive and a dynamic red zone threat with nine touchdowns catches on the season. With Rivers struggling, it's likely he'll lean on his most reliable target to get the offense going.

Rams tight end Jared Cook vs. Chargers safety Eric Weddle

Weddle is one of the best safeties in football and probably one of its most underrated players regardless of position. The Chargers use him in a variety of ways but teams generally avoid throwing his way. According to Pro Football Focus, teams have targeted Weddle just 23 times in 10 games. The results include 15 completions for 124 yards with no touchdowns, an interception and three pass breakups. That calculates to a passer rating of 60.8.

Cook battled a back injury in practice during the week but he's a valuable cog in what the Rams want to do. After Kenny Britt's big week last week, don't be surprised to see him get more attention from San Diego. That should theoretically open up opportunities for others, including Cook. But the Chargers will likely lean on Weddle to keep the middle of the field quiet.

Rams will be without four Sunday

November, 21, 2014
11/21/14
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams wrapped up their preparations for the San Diego Chargers on Friday and will now head to the West Coast on Friday night.

When it comes time to reveal pregame inactives, the Rams won't have much room for suspense. Four players have already been ruled out. Defensive tackle Alex Carrington (knee), cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (groin), receiver Damian Williams (hamstring) and cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) have already been ruled out.

As for defensive end Chris Long, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said it's possible but unlikely that Long will be activated for Sunday's game. More likely, Long will have to wait until next week's game against Oakland.

Here's the full rundown of Friday's injury report:

Out: DT Alex Carrington (knee), CB Lamarcus Joyner (groin), WR Damian Williams (hamstring), CB Marcus Roberson (ankle).

Questionable: TE Cory Harkey (quad), LS Jake McQuaide (back) and TE Jared Cook (back).

Probable: LB James Laurinaitis (foot), LB Daren Bates (groin), OL Davin Joseph (not injury related), LB Will Herring (foot).
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A look back at the turning point play in the St. Louis Rams' 31-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon:

The situation: With 4:13 to go in the third quarter and the Rams leading 14-10, the Rams began a drive at Arizona's 45 on the heels of linebacker Alec Ogletree's interception and 43-yard return. Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer saved a touchdown by running Ogletree out of bounds, but the Rams still firmly had momentum in their corner and a golden opportunity to take a two-score lead.

Kendricks
The play: On first-and-10, the Rams sent tight end Jared Cook over the middle where quarterback Austin Davis hit him in stride near Arizona's 25-yard line. Cook looked like he would be tackled on the spot but he shed safety Rashad Johnson's tackle attempt and turned toward the right sideline where he had more room to run. As Cook darted to the right, Arizona safety Tony Jefferson took off in pursuit. As Jefferson turned toward the sideline to chase Cook, Rams tight end Lance Kendricks stepped up and immediately dropped Jefferson with a crushing block.

"I tried to legally hit him," Kendricks said. "The guy is kind of short so I tried to really get down and hit him with my shoulder. Whether I made helmet contact or not, I’m not really sure, it happened kind of fast but I was just playing fast at that point. I wasn’t trying to take him out or anything like that. I was just trying to play fast and the refs happened to call a penalty."

Indeed, a flag came out with a call on Kendricks for an illegal blindside block. It had nothing to do with helmet-to-helmet contact and everything to do with rules intended to protect defenders. But, as Rams coach Jeff Fisher explained, the rule is supposed to be enforced only when the defender is moving north and south and the blocker has his back to a goal line. In this case, Kendricks was coming from a sideline angle which shouldn't prompt a flag.

Even impartial outside observer Mike Pereira, the former NFL vice president of officiating, said the call was incorrect.

The fallout: The penalty cost the Rams 15 yards from the spot of the foul, which was the 20-yard line. But there was more yardage lost than just those 15. Cook's run actually ended inside Arizona's 10 (the exact spot was hard to tell because it was unclear where he stepped out), which means it actually cost the Rams something closer to 25 yards of field position. Instead of first-and-goal, it was first-and-10 at Arizona's 35. The next three plays netted minus-12 yards and left the Rams to punt instead of getting at least a field goal. A chance to take a seven- to 10-point lead became a punt and with momentum switching sides, the Cardinals surged to 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

"We score there things might change," Fisher said. "But if we got the first down, I remember the ball was 9, 10, 14 yards down, somewhere around there. We have a chance to score points. The game could considerably change at that point, but it didn’t."

Technically, it did. Just not in the Rams' favor.

Rams-Cardinals: Matchup breakdown

November, 8, 2014
11/08/14
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A look at three individual matchups to keep an eye on when the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals meet at 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Cook
Bucannon
Rams tight end Jared Cook vs. Cardinals safety Deone Bucannon

One of the reasons the Cardinals prioritized safety in May's NFL draft was the performance of tight ends against them in 2013. Cook set the tone for that in the 2013 season opener when he torched Arizona to the tune of seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He would have had three scores if not for an amazing play by Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu to force a fumble just before Cook crossed the goal line. Regardless, Arizona was one of the worst teams in the league last year defending tight ends which led directly to the selection of Bucannon.

Bucannon has been used primarily in the nickel and dime for the Cardinals but has flashed the potential to help in a variety of ways. He had his first career fumble recovery in Week 8 against Philadelphia and has 39 tackles and two passes defended so far in his rookie season.

Quinn
Ayodele
Veldheer
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn vs. Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer

I know, I know, using Quinn here gets old and repetitive. I did my best to take some time off but with Quinn now rolling (he's posted five sacks in the past three weeks) and Veldheer on the other side, this one has to be mentioned. Much like with Bucannon and tight ends, the Cardinals needed to plug some leaky holes on their offensive line, particularly out on the edge. Quinn made some big plays that essentially stole a win for the Rams in the season opener last year and the Cardinals needed a solution to help against not only Quinn but the rest of the top pass rushers in the NFC West.

Arizona's offensive line has improved in pass protection with the addition of Veldheer and left guard Ted Larsen, giving up just 13 sacks so far this season. That's tied for the sixth fewest sacks allowed in the NFL. Veldheer has only allowed one sack, three quarterback hits and 11 quarterback hurries but Quinn figures to be his toughest test yet.

Wells
Williams
Rams center Scott Wells vs. Cardinals nose tackle Dan Williams

There's nothing that will jump off the page when looking at this matchup but Williams has quietly been the driving force in the middle of Arizona's dominant defense. Now in his fifth year in the league, Williams has emerged as the run-stuffer in the middle of the line that Arizona hoped it had when it used a first-round pick on him in 2010.

Williams has just 12 tackles and one sack this year but his value can't really be quantified in numbers. He was the central figure in finally breaking Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray's string of 100-yard games and rates as one of Pro Football Focus' best run-stoppers at defensive tackle.

Wells hasn't had the same type of success and has struggled for most of the season, particularly in run blocking situations. He didn't play in the Rams' blowout loss to Arizona last year but he'll need to be on top of his game if the Rams are to get anything going in the run game.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Here's a look back at the turning point play from the St. Louis Rams' 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night:

The situation: With two minutes and 53 seconds to go in the first half, the Rams faced a third-and-9 from the Niners' 46. At the time, they were still in control of things with a 14-3 lead and had an opportunity to extend the lead going into the locker room. The Rams were mostly rolling in the first half and another score, even just a field goal, would have put even more pressure on the Niners in the second half.

The play: At the snap, tight end Jared Cook ran an intermediate crossing route from his spot just off the right side of the line of scrimmage. As Cook crossed into the middle of the field, Niners defensive back Perrish Cox engaged him about 6 yards into the route. Cox and Cook appear to grab each other but nothing much beyond that. As Cook disengaged from Cox, he created enough space to continue his route toward the left sideline. Quarterback Austin Davis, meanwhile, was able to evade pressure enough to get the ball out to Cook. Cook made an excellent contested catch with Cox near but managed to fight him off and run for an apparent gain of 21 yards to San Francisco's 25. Alas, a flag came out, one that most presumed at the time would be for illegal contact against Cox. But it wasn't. The officials flagged Cook for offensive pass interference and turned first-and-10 at the Niners' 25 into third-and-19 at the Rams' 44.

The fallout: Cook and the Rams were left incredulous after the call and, after looking at the play a few times, you can't blame them. The contact is very minimal and looked like a prime example of a play that should go uncalled in either direction. The Rams settled for a handoff to Benny Cunningham on the next play and then punted it away. Of course, as the dominoes continued to fall, the penalty would spin into Niners receiver Brandon Lloyd's 80-yard touchdown catch just before halftime. That was really the biggest play of the game but we already detailed that last night. It's reasonable to deduce that the 80-yard touchdown probably never would have happened had Cook's catch stood and the Rams' drive continued. It would have put the Rams in field goal range and they likely would have entered the locker room at no worse than a 17-3 lead. Instead, they went in ahead 14-10 as the Niners surged to the win.

"That’s a points swing," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We’re in field goal range, we have a pretty good kicker, might even be seven (points). And then we come back and give up the long touchdown pass, so it’s a big swing there. But it started with the OPI call."

Fisher said he didn't get much of an explanation on the call.

"I saw it on the tape and a receiver has the right to run his route, disappointed in that," Fisher said. “If anything it was a defensive foul, if anything."

Jared Cook blames himself for loss

September, 21, 2014
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ST. LOUIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the St. Louis Rams' 34-31 loss to Dallas:
  • Cook
    Rams tight end Jared Cook had what should have been an easy 10-yard touchdown slip through his hands early in the fourth quarter, leaving the Rams to settle for a field goal. Instead of a 28-20 lead, the Rams took a 24-20 advantage. Cook's frustration with himself boiled over on the sideline when he shoved quarterback Austin Davis, who had come over to help him settle down after the drop. Defensive end William Hayes stepped in and yelled at Cook in an attempt to defuse the situation.

    After the game, a despondent Cook said he cleared the air with Davis and took the blame for the drop and the shove.

    "I was heated, like anybody else," Cook said. "I feel like I let this game slip through my hands, and that’s my fault as a man."
  • Davis had another big outing, going 30-of-42 for 327 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 98.0. Apparently that performance, combined with what he did last week, is not enough to earn him the job moving forward. Rams coach Jeff Fisher reiterated that Shaun Hill will be his starter when he returns from a calf injury.

    "No, I have said it and stood behind that decision," Fisher said.
  • Fisher declined comment on a couple of controversial calls that went against the Rams, including a defensive holding against end Eugene Sims in the game's closing moments. He said he would look at the film before offering his thoughts, presumably in his Monday news conference.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The day after the 2013 season ended, St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook marched up to tight ends coach Rob Boras' office for their annual exit meeting with a clear message on his mind.

Cook, who was the team's prized free-agent addition the previous March, had set franchise records for tight end production but couldn't shake the feeling that something had been missing. He felt like he hadn't done all he could to take the individual talent that's tantalized since he entered the league and turn it into consistent production. He had a similar feeling about the 7-9 finish that once again left the Rams short of the postseason.

"It was a cool year to start off with but I think it could have been a lot better," Cook said. "I think offensively we could have had more production. It’s just the little things, the little things that we missed out on out there last year that will separate us from being a playoff team or just another team."

[+] EnlargeJared Cook
G. Newman Lowrance/AP PhotoTight end Jared Cook is looking forward to having Sam Bradford back at the helm.
So Cook entered Boras' office with a message that he wanted to relay to the coach and keep as a reminder. It was a simple message, two words in length but with much deeper meaning for the six-year veteran.

"When he came in, he talked about 'no regrets,'" Boras said. "I wrote it on my board that day and I’ve looked at it the whole offseason. He understands what he’s capable of doing and he didn’t feel that he lived up to it all the time. You see a different look of determination in his eye and it’s just that consistency he can bring every day. It can’t be a roller coaster ride for him. He understands that."

Through his first five seasons, four in Tennessee and one in St. Louis, Cook has seemingly been riding that roller coaster without taking a break. At 6-foot-5, 254 pounds with speed that would make some receivers envious, there never has been any question about Cook's talent. He's blessed with the physical ability to be one of the league's best pass-catching tight ends.

And Cook even spent time showing why that belief exists. In his first game as a Ram, Cook dominated Arizona to the tune of seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. It was the type of performance expected of him after the Rams signed him to a five-year, $35 million deal on March 13, 2013.

But as has been custom throughout his career, Cook struggled to replicate or even approximate that performance the rest of the season. After the eye-opening performance against the Cardinals, Cook became the focal point of opposing defenses with additional and more physical coverage thrown his way on a regular basis.

Cook didn't exceed 45 receiving yards in any of the next nine games and didn't score another touchdown until Week 9 against his former team. He finished with 51 catches for 671 yards and five touchdowns. But much of that production came in two games and Cook also struggled with drops, finishing with six for the season.

Put simply, Cook was unable to produce consistently. It's something Cook and Boras are working to remedy.

"It’s my job to remind him of it," Boras said. "It’s that whole mentality of one play at a time. I know it’s cliché but he just has to truly understand that. If you have one bad play, it can’t turn into four bad plays. You have to be able to let the plays go and have a short memory. That’s what we always have to remind him of. If one bad thing happens, we’ve got to let that one go."

It also didn't help Cook's cause when the Rams lost quarterback Sam Bradford for the season in week 7. Bradford and Cook had developed an easy rapport in training camp and though Kellen Clemens exceeded expectations in general, the Rams didn't throw the ball much. Having Bradford back should help Cook's efforts to find more consistency.

"Everything kind of slows down because you’ve got a different quarterback," Cook said. "But now that Sam is back, and as long as he stays healthy, this offense will go miles and miles."

Never known much for his blocking, Cook didn't offer much in that regard, either. He has spent time in the offseason and during camp working on staying lower and developing better leverage.

Beyond that, Cook says he'd like to have more catches and more yards than last year and earn a trip to the Pro Bowl beyond the usual team goals. With the Rams likely to center their offense around the run game, they don't need Cook to rack up 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns or any really gaudy numbers. They'd certainly welcome that, but all they really want is the same thing he does.

Most of all, Cook wants to live up two promises: the kind he made to Boras and the kind that often has been used to describe him since he was drafted.

"I made a promise to my coach last year to come into this season with a motto of ‘No regrets,’" Cook said. "So no matter what, how hard you play and how hard you go, you do whatever you can to help this team win."

Rams Camp Report: Day 8

August, 2, 2014
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ST. LOUIS -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp:
  • The Rams held their annual scrimmage Saturday, coming out in full pads for the first time. While none of the principals competed in any live drills, the first-team offense and defense did match up for some extended team drills. They spent those drills working at "thud" tempo with the defense making contact with the shoulder pads but with no live tackling. The first-team offense continued to show signs of life in the early live drills, with quarterback Sam Bradford and receiver Stedman Bailey hooking up for big gains twice in as many snaps. Bailey had a big day in general, catching about 10 passes during live drills and seven on seven. Bradford later connected with Kenny Britt for a long touchdown on a perfectly thrown deep ball. But when the drill moved closer to the goal line, the defense stood tall and kept the offense out of the end zone on consecutive handoffs from the 2.
  • At the end of the practice, the Rams did some live scrimmaging using primarily backups and rookies vying for roster spots. There were a few notable exceptions, though. Greg Robinson (left tackle), Aaron Donald (defensive tackle) and running back Tre Mason took some reps during the live portion.
  • One area worth watching in this camp is the development of the tight ends and running backs in blitz pickup. The running backs, in particular, don't have much experience in blitz pickup. When those groups took on the linebackers in the one-on-one drills, the decided advantage went to the linebackers again. Presumptive starter Zac Stacy is coming along in that regard, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The tight ends had a little more success, with Cook actually getting a couple of good reps in. And another player to keep an eye on is undrafted free agent Alex Bayer. Bayer seems to be technically sound as a blocker and could emerge as a strong candidate to win a potential fourth tight end spot on the roster. The flip side, of course, is the linebackers' success. Alec Ogletree was especially impressive in those drills. Gregg Williams should be able to have some fun with Ogletree behind this defensive line.
  • We haven't had any full-blown fights in this camp, but a mini-scuffle broke out during the aforementioned linebacker-running back drills. Running back Benny Cunningham and linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong exchanged shoves and words before being separated.
  • The Rams took some precautions with their many banged-up players but at least so far it doesn't seem they have any serious issues. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers left practice a bit early Friday after tweaking an ankle and returned Saturday only to depart when shaken up again. The Rams might just have to be cautious with him moving forward to ensure he doesn't make it worse, but it doesn't sound serious. Linebacker James Laurinaitis came out with a walking boot on his left foot after getting stepped on earlier in the week. The injury isn't believed to be more than a mild ankle sprain, though. Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold also left Friday's practice with an apparent hand/wrist injury. He did not practice Saturday and watched from the sidelines with no cast or wrap on his hand. Like Brockers, Saffold's injury isn't believed serious. Other notables not practicing: Cornerbacks Lamarcus Joyner and Janoris Jenkins, offensive lineman Barrett Jones, defensive lineman William Hayes and receiver Brian Quick.
  • Funniest moment of the day: Backup quarterback Shaun Hill took a snap and as he dropped to hand it off, tripped over his own foot into a head first somersault, with jeers and laughs from his teammates.
  • The Rams are off Sunday and will return to practice Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET at Rams Park.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Where names like Jerry Rice, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt once dotted the landscape of the NFC West, the role of the wide receiver in the rough-and-tumble division has changed dramatically.

The smash-mouth offensive approach of the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers has set a physical tone that has left the St. Louis Rams looking to duplicate the recipe.

As other teams around the league go in search of gun-slinging quarterbacks and big-play wide receivers, teams like the Seahawks, 49ers and Rams are loading up on physical offensive linemen and powerful running back committees.

[+] EnlargeJared Cook
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJared Cook led the team with 671 receiving yards last season.
The Rams did their part in May's draft when they used the No. 2 overall pick on massive offensive lineman Greg Robinson and a third-round choice on talented back Tre Mason.

"When you lay your foundation for your skyscraper, it's probably the least exciting thing that you do but that's the thing that holds that skyscraper up for a lot of years," general manager Les Snead said. "It was definitely a strategy that we're going to get our foundation stronger and I think that's going to help us."

It's an approach that's understandable considering the neighborhood the Rams occupy. If you can't win the line of scrimmage or at least manage a stalemate against the likes of Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco, chances are you're going to get left behind.

But just because the days of the Greatest Show on Turf are long gone doesn't mean that a successful passing game isn't part of the blueprint.

On the surface, it's easy to look at a team like Seattle and say it won a Super Bowl by running the ball and playing good defense. In reality, that assertion is too simplistic and a disservice to what the Seahawks' passing game did in 2013.

While receiver production is easily quantified in catches, yards and touchdowns, teams like the Seahawks and Niners aren't as worried about the quantity so much as the quality of those relatively infrequent pass attempts.

For the Rams to keep pace with the NFC West front-runners, that's something they'll have to improve in 2014.

"It's very important," Rams receiver Tavon Austin said. "Like they say, football is a game of inches so when it does come your way, you have definitely got to be ready to make a play to help your team win."

Which brings up the question of what, exactly, the Rams need from their receivers to win in 2014?

Beyond the emphasis the group is putting on run blocking, there must be improvement made when it comes to taking advantage of any chances the passing game yields.

Last year, the Rams finished 29th in dropbacks but 24th in yards per attempt (6.64), yards per completion (10.38) and yards per dropback (5.79). For what it's worth, Sam Bradford ranked 36th in the league in yards per attempt among qualifying quarterbacks with Kellen Clemens checking in at No. 25.

Those numbers are due in large part to an apparent aversion to throwing deep. The Rams were 28th in the league in yards per air attempt -- which measures how far the ball travels on the pass without factoring run after catch -- at 7.56. Adding to that the fact the Rams struggled with hanging on to the ball, finishing second to last in the league with a drop rate of 5.9 percent.

"You have got to be balanced and in order to be balanced, you've got to make big plays in the run and pass game," receiver Chris Givens said. "We have to take advantage of every opportunity. We feel like last year we left too many things on the field."

That's something that didn't happen often in Seattle and San Francisco.

The Seahawks and 49ers ranked second and third, respectively, in rushing attempts in 2013. The commitment to the ground game was evident but also buoyed by the fact that both were capable of making big plays in the pass game when needed.

Seattle ranked 31st in the league in dropbacks but second in yards per attempt (8.35), third in yards per completion (12.12) and fifth in yards per dropback (7.15). San Francisco was last in the league in dropbacks but seventh in yards per attempt (7.70), second in yards per completion (12.21) and ninth in yards per dropback (6.73).

Beyond that, when the Seahawks and Niners did look to pass, they rarely looked to dink and dunk. Seattle ranked seventh and San Francisco third in air yards per attempt in 2013.

Among the receivers on all three teams only San Francisco's Anquan Boldin broke 1,000 receiving yards with 1,179. But Seattle and San Francisco each had at least two receivers with 778 or more yards.

With a young, mostly unproven receiver corps, the Rams are expected to be a run-focused offense with play action passes spinning off any success on the ground. Of course, half the onus also falls on Bradford but they don't necessarily need any of their wideouts to bust loose for a 1,200-yard season or even a 1,000-yard season.

That's probably a good thing since nobody on the team has ever exceeded new addition Kenny Britt's 775 yards in 2010. Tight end Jared Cook led last year's team with 671 receiving yards and Givens was first among receivers with 569.

The Rams are betting on improvement from that group in 2014 but if the passing game can complement the rushing attack and defense like it does in Seattle and San Francisco, it might not be as big of a gamble as it might seem.

Rams roster better than No. 31

June, 5, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- There was a time in the not so distant past where, if you ranked NFL rosters from No. 1 to 32, placing the St. Louis Rams at No. 31 would have been considered a compliment.

As the Rams trudged through one and two-win seasons, the lack of talent was so glaring that not coming in last on such a list would be cause for celebration. But those times are gone. Or they should be, anyway.

The folks from Pro Football Focus released their own roster rankings Insider on ESPN Insider on Thursday and much to my surprise and, perhaps, that of many others, the Rams checked in at No. 31. That is not a typo, the Rams finished ahead of Jacksonville, narrowly avoiding a last-place finish.

[+] EnlargeJames Laurinaitis
AP Photo/Tom GannamMiddle linebacker James Laurinaitis is rated as a below average starter in an analysis of NFL rosters by Pro Football Focus.
Four or five years ago, anyone watching the Rams would have been hard-pressed to disagree. As we sit here in 2014, most would do so vehemently.

To put some context behind the ranking, Pro Football Focus has its own methods of measuring each player's production. They use film study and have developed their own grading system which is then used to assign each player a color designation. Those colors correlate to a label for each player of "elite," "high quality," "good starter," "average starter," "below average starter," "poor starter," "not enough information" and "rookie."

Obviously, the more players ranked as a "good starter" or above, the better the roster will be. For example, the No. 1 ranked Seattle Seahawks have three elite starters, seven high-quality starters and eight good starters. According to PFF's metrics, the Seahawks have just two below average starters and zero poor starters.

When it comes to the Rams, the only elite player according to PFF is defensive end Robert Quinn. That is an assessment that is hard to disagree with both in the sense that he is absolutely an elite player, but also in the roster being void of others who would qualify for that label.

However, it's in the middle part of those rankings where I would disagree with PFF's ranks. Of the team's 22 starters, PFF has the Rams down for seven below average starters, eight average starters and two poor starters. That means 17 of the 22 players on the roster are average of worse, according to PFF.

Included in the group of below average starters are middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, outside linebacker Alec Ogletree and tight end Jared Cook. Running back Zac Stacy and defensive tackle Michael Brockers are two of the starters deemed average, and safeties T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod are the two listed as poor starters.

While Laurinaitis, Ogletree and Cook certainly have their faults, I wouldn't consider any of them below average based on how they produce compared to others at their positions. That is not to say any of them should be considered elite, but Laurinaitis and Ogletree were two of the most productive linebackers in the league last season, and Laurinaitis has a track record of producing far better than below average or average. Ogletree has plenty of improvement to do, but improved throughout the season and provided plenty of flash plays. Cook didn't put up numbers commensurate with his contract in the first season, but still finished 10th in the league among tight ends in receiving yards, fifth in yards per catch and tied for 11th in touchdowns. If nothing else, those numbers would put him right at average.

By no means am I saying the Rams should be a top 10 or even necessarily a top 20 roster, but it's hard to understand how some teams on the list, such as Minnesota and Oakland, could be ahead of St. Louis.

The Rams certainly have more than their share of question marks heading into 2014. They have been the youngest team in the league two years running and look poised to be once again next season. It's also worth considering that a roster that young still has managed to finish with seven wins in each of the past two seasons. If the roster was older and treading water, I could understand the argument for it being one of the league's worst.

But it isn't. It's folly to think all of the Rams' young players will develop into top starters in the league. There is plenty of work to be done before the Rams roster can be considered one of the league's best. But they've done enough that they should no longer be deemed one of the worst.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- With the NFL draft and free agency complete, the St. Louis Rams' 53-man roster will likely come mostly from the players already on the team.

With organized team activities (OTAs) less than a week away, we take a look at where each position stands heading into next week. The next in the series continues today by examining the tight ends.

Who returns: Jared Cook, Lance Kendricks, Cory Harkey, Justice Cunningham

Who is new: Alex Bayer, Mason Brodine

Who is gone: Mike McNeill

Projected starters: Cook, Harkey (when team uses two-back sets)

Pending competition: The Rams found roles for their top three tight ends in 2013 with Cook carrying the water as the primary pass-catching option, Harkey acting as a primary blocker who also lined up as a de facto fullback and Kendricks doing a little bit of both. All three should remain in those roles again this year with expectations increased across the board upon the return of starting quarterback Sam Bradford. The most likely competition to develop will for a fourth spot on the roster. The Rams have high hopes for Cunningham, whom they coveted before landing him late in the season from Indianapolis. Brodine is attempting to transition from defensive end and would be a prime candidate to handle blocking duties because of his size but will need to prove capable of making the switch first.

Outlook: The Rams will look to Cook as one of Bradford's primary receivers in hopes that another year together can allow Cook to deliver on the expectations that came with his 2013 free-agent contract. Cook still set franchise records for production from a tight end but he'll seek more consistency in Year 2. Harkey was a pleasant surprise last year as he emerged as a solid blocker inline but also out of the backfield. He even contributed as a pass-catcher on occasion. Kendricks got lost in the mix with the other two playing so much but still offers versatility and was productive in the red zone, scoring four touchdowns. Cunningham could be a surprise as a replacement for McNeill and does bring some skills in the passing game. Overall, this is a steady if unspectacular group with plenty of variety.

Rams draft preview: Tight end

April, 29, 2014
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The NFL draft is set to begin May 8 and the St. Louis Rams hold 12 picks in this year's selection process. For the next week and a half, we'll take a look at a different position every day with what the Rams have in place at a position, what they need, when they might address it and some possible fits.

We continue the countdown with a look at tight ends.

In place: Jared Cook, Lance Kendricks, Cory Harkey, Justice Cunningham

What's needed: The Rams invested heavily in the position in 2013 free agency when they handed a lucrative contract to Cook. He didn't meet the lofty preseason expectations he created but was still the most productive tight end in franchise history. He should be even better with a full season of Sam Bradford throwing him the ball.

Harkey is the de facto fullback and designated blocker while Kendricks does a little bit of everything. Cunningham was a late-season pickup but one the Rams eyed all year and could well make the roster.

With that quartet in place, tight end is one of the few positions on the team where there's no obvious move to make in terms of adding a piece. The Rams lost Mike McNeill to Carolina in free agency but have high hopes for Cunningham. Perhaps they'd take a look at a tight end in the late rounds with one of their compensatory picks as a possible eventual Kendricks replacement. Kendricks is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after 2014.

Possible fits: North Carolina's Eric Ebron is the top prospect in the draft but probably a bit too repetitive with Cook for the Rams to consider early in the first round where he is expected to go. It's a solid tight end class later in the first and into the second round with players like Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, among others. Some late-round options that could be appealing include Tennessee State's A.C. Leonard, Missouri Western's Reggie Jordan, Massachusetts' Rob Blanchflower and USC's Xavier Grimble.

Verdict: Unless the Rams see a great value with a tight end in the late rounds, the guess here is that this position won't be addressed in the draft. The Rams do need to add a few bodies at tight end to get through training camp and the preseason but they could probably do that without having to use a draft pick. They do have 12 picks and if they keep all of those choices or add more through trade, maybe the odds of drafting a tight end increase. Either way, any significant additions here would come as a bit of a surprise.

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