RamObstructedView, July 29, 2014
Report from Rams Park
So, did anybody manage to go to Rams Park and actually see anything today? The Rams took the View away from RamView by doing everything interesting on the far field, leaving me no good angle to see what was going on very well, and leaving a frustratingly-short report for this training camp's first practice in pads...
All observations are very much subject to error. I'm saying that here so I don't have to say “I think it was” in every sentence. I spent way too much of the day trying to look over players' shoulders to see the field.
* Passing: Sam Bradford led the first-string offense to a TD in the two-minute drill, spearing Jared Cook with a pass at the goal line from a few yards out. Whistled it between a couple of defenders. Shaun Hill also scored a 2:00 TD, with a 25-30 yard pass into the left corner of the end zone I understand was caught by Kenny Britt. Bradford got the defense again with the hard count. Hill and Garrett Gilbert made some convincing play-fakes. Cory Harkey was one of the stars of the 2:00 drills, with three catches, including one long catch-and-run I'm assuming was against a busted defense. Brian Quick's train continues to gain steam; he may have been the star of the day, with two big plays in 11-on-11, beating Rodney McLeod deep 11-on-11 and beating Brandon McGee pretty badly and making an excellent overhead pluck on a deep corner route. Britt, the last guy I would have picked coming in to be a worthwhile mentor, got fired up with Quick after both of those big plays. Tavon Austin and Justin Veltung made difficult catches in the corner of the end zone in 7-on-7 red zone drills. Big Mason Brodine finished things off with a short TD catch-and-run of his own with the threes, to the enthusiasm of everyone on the field. Jordan Harris got his first action at WR. Nice size. I saw very little at RB other than more quickness from Trey Watts and Isaiah Pead sitting the day out. If HE makes the club from the tub, I am writing someone a very stern e-mail. Watts is a much more instinctive runner than Chase Reynolds, so Chase better make sure he makes his mark on special teams. Lamarcus Joyner had ANOTHER interception; Rodney McLeod blew one off a deflection off one of the Rams' small WRs. T.J. McDonald had another pass breakup, and I believe Ray Ray Armstrong batted one down at the line. I don't doubt that Ray Ray has the athleticism to give Jo-Lonn Dunbar a challenge as the starter, but I still need a decent look at him in team drills. I'm pretty sure I heard Maurice Alexander calling out audibles. If I'm right, a very good sign that he's catching on.
* Line play: Barrett Jones worked with the ones at center, Tim Barnes with the twos, as Scott Wells remains out for reasons I have never heard. The hill drill appears to be a daily fixture, though today, it was one lineman getting pushed up the hill by two other linemen. Auburn and Alabama went at it again for the last rep, and this time it was War Eagle, with Greg Robinson pushing his man up the hill a bit faster than Jones. Jones got powered into the backfield on one rep by a blitzing Alec Ogletree. Robinson worked at left guard, with Rodger Saffold at left tackle. There wasn't a lot of one-on-one work; when the two lines got together, it was to let the o-line practice switching off against crossing d-linemen. There was some interesting one-on-one work very late in practice. Off on the side, Jake Long and William Hayes worked against each other. It wasn't all-out by any means, but Hayes looked like he's about full-go in his first action in camp. Long passed him off to Joseph Barksdale, so, though he didn't look impeded by his knee to me, they're still on a cautious schedule with him. The main one-on-one work was for the bottom of the depth chart players. Demetrius Rhaney still has a lot of work to do. Michael Sam also did not thrive today. He did not have anything approaching the success he had Saturday, though it looked to me like he was lined up as a traditional 4-3 DE, when on Saturday he had done more out of a wide-9. It was easy for his blocker, I think R.J. Dill, (the roster handout hasn't been updated since the day before camp) to get his hands on him and completely control him. That's not a good situation for Sam, who also looked like the least powerful of the d-linemen hitting the sleds. They're getting a lot of reps for Aaron Donald, who's all-but toying with the backup o-line, especially with his instant get-off. A blocker has a chance when they get their hands on him, but Donald also showed more than enough strength at times to take care of that. In 11-on-11 I believe I even saw Donald taking reps at end. Alex Carrington might be getting overlooked in all the d-line excitement. He has got some nice quickness and pass-rushing moves himself. He looked very difficult to block on switches. Deantre “The Bacone-ater” Harlan even flashed in the third-string 1-on-1s. He hit one spin move so well, he stopped with a clear path to the QB, like he didn't expect the move to work THAT well, and then made a late charge. Who ya gonna double-team?
* Special teams: Work today was on punt coverage, with live punting and Veltung doing all of the catching. My guess is Veltung will be the one keeping Stedman Bailey's roster spot warm in September. There's no actual competition, obviously, but the difference between Johnny Hekker's punts and Bobby Cowan's isn't even funny. It's a cannon vs. that rubber-band slingshot Fredbird uses to hurl t-shirts into the crowd at Cardinal games. Since I haven't mentioned Aaron Donald in about 15 seconds, could I propose that he play on the punt coverage unit? Aaron Donald vs. your typical special teams blocker: what's the league record for blocked punts in a season?
* Strategery: Gregg Williams and Mike Waufle bantered with the crowd a bit while waiting for the d-linemen to come over and hit the sleds. Williams said he's been trying his whole career to get on Waufle's team. I expect that pairing to work together very well. A little more blitzing today, I think, and a lot of it looked like it would have been successful. About the only offensive wrinkle (I could see) was a 90-flip to Austin that got blown up badly. I think they tried to run it at Ogletree.
* Cheers: Why even have an open practice when almost nothing is going to be done on the near field? I'm guessing around 1,200 fans in attendance – great crowd for a Tuesday, but I'm also guessing very few of us saw much of anything. Especially the half that stayed on the hill the whole time hoping the Rams would come back into view. At least we had a beautiful day for it, I guess.
* What's next?: I shouldn't have any problem seeing the next, and likely last, practice I attend this summer, the open session at the Dome on Saturday.