Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tranining camp report, 7/29

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.
-- Mike

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rams report, 7/27: getting started on training camp and the injury list

Catching up on some of the Rams' training camp news so far:

* Injury report. The first bit of good news is that Sam Bradford is full-go. He did not appear to play with any limitations Saturday. The Rams will give him a day off here and there, but otherwise it looks like he can be turned completely loose.

As expected, Jake Long is limited. He's participating in individual work but not in team drills. I didn't see any issues for him in Saturday's drills, and he was in the drill where the o-linemen pushed each other up the hill in the middle of the fans, which had to be a pretty stern test for his knee. The Rams will take it easy with him but more and more I'm willing to agree that he'll be ready for the regular season.

An injury I was not expecting at all: Scott Wells. He's sat out both of the first two days of camp and I can't believe it's veteran rest. I have no idea what the injury is. He missed the final 1/4th of last season due to a leg injury I never heard described more specifically. Maybe he's still recovering from that. Don't remember anyone telling us that would be the case, though.

Other players down: Sammy Brown, William Hayes, Kadeem Jones, Johnny Millard. Two more rookies are on the non-football injury list. Christian Bryant is still out with the ankle injury that ended his season last year at Ohio State. Ethan Westbrooks is also out, with an unspecified injury. Whatever it is, it's fairly new. Several of those guys are going to be hearing the phrase "can't make the club from the tub" a lot in coming days.

* Speaking of which. Jamaine Sherman, a wide receiver from East Texas Baptist who missed all of OTAs with hamstring problems and went down again in rookie camp after a collision, has been waived/injured. He is replaced by Kourtnei Brown, a Clemson defensive end (the Rams need more at THAT position?) last employed by the Lions. He was signed as a UDFA after the '12 draft, I believe by the 49ers. He has also been with the Redskins, Bills and most recently the Lions, all without playing an NFL down.

* My report on my trip to training camp yesterday is already up here on the blog. The website is such a mess right now, I'm not sure when I'm going to get the report up there. I have enough difficulty keeping this thing up to date without also dealing with that. It's due for a significant overhaul. I will be out of town for a couple of days and traveling light, so no updates till at least Tuesday.

* Rams alumni report:
- Will Abasi Salimu come back to haunt the Rams? Cut right before the start of training camp, the UDFA offensive lineman has been picked up by the Browns, who will be the Rams' third preseason opponent.
- When the Rams came to St. Louis in 1995, who'd have guessed the best coaching talent of the franchise would turn out to be - tight end Marv Cook? The head football coach at Regina High in Iowa City, Cook led the team last year to its fourth straight state title. The Regals have a record of 87-5 under coach Cook and come into the '14 season on a 56-game winning streak, the longest in America. Belated congratulations to Marv, and apologies if I just jinxed the crap out of your upcoming season.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Training camp report, 7/26

RamView, July 26, 2014
Training Camp Report from Rams Park
What should be a pretty eventful football season in St. Louis is off to a rousing start, especially if you are a Rams defensive lineman...
* QB: Good news for openers is that Sam Bradford looks fine. His throws look good, his timing with his receivers looks spot on, he's hanging tough in the pocket making plays. He's putting the full in full-go. Bradford made some long completions in 7-on-7 drills and should have had a long TD to Tavon Austin in 11-on-11, but threw more of a back-shoulder throw instead of letting it rip. Bradford also hard-counted the d-line offsides 3 or 4 times, which may be the only way to keep those guys honest this year. Shaun Hill still seems to be getting dialed in on his out routes; he threw some in 7-on-7 that did not look good at all. Kellen Clemens-esque. This isn't a big surprise given his arm strength reputation, and he looks accurate otherwise. Garrett Gilbert looked very accurate himself, but when he's behind center, you can see the game is still very fast for him right now. He'll be running for his life a lot in preseason games if he can't speed up his field-reading. He's a rookie in his second day of full training camp, so of course that's natural. I'm eager to watch his development because I like his arm. Austin Davis seemed to throw behind receivers a lot. I don't see him breaking through.
* RB: This practice was essentially no contact, which doesn't give me a lot to base running game observations on. The RBs were thrown to a lot, and I didn't detect any pass-catching issues for anybody. I'm thinking the Rams intend to throw to the RBs more this season, which is a good idea, making this a good trend. I found it eye-opening that Bennie Cunningham got a lot of reps. Tre Mason was tres rapide, and doesn't need a lot of daylight to break through the line, but we're not going to hear a lot from him in games until he gets a LOT better on blitz pickup. He completely missed two blitz assignments in 11-on-11 that would have gotten Gilbert flattened. I don't know where Isaiah Pead is on the depth chart because I just don't remember him getting many reps. RB4 at best. Trey Watts showed nice quickness breaking off a long run with the threes.
* Wide receivers: Befitting the talent they have on hand, the Rams look a real mishmash at WR. Right now I don't think there's a true WR1, WR2, etc. Guys were moving in and out a lot. Nobody appears to be breaking through the established first six of Austin, Britt, Bailey, Quick, Givens and Pettis just yet. Emory Blake flashed on a couple of plays, and Austin Franklin had good position for a block that would have sprung one play for a big gain, and he heard about it from everybody. Good job getting yourself noticed. It's a crying shame Bailey is going to miss the first four weeks. He is a live wire right now. Turned Brandon McGee absolutely inside out for a deep catch in 1-on-1 drills and beat Janoris Jenkins for another. Austin would have burned a blown coverage for a long TD in 11-on-11 had Bradford led him. Britt and Bradford crossed wires for what should have been a long TD 11-on-11. Britt broke in deep; Bradford threw out. Britt later made a tough catch over Marcus Roberson and hooted about it like he'd just caught it over Everson Walls to win the NFC Championship or something. Interestingly, Jeff Fisher had a friendly word with him immediately afterward. Britt's physicality is going to be his bread-and-butter. There was a play where Janoris Jenkins had him blanketed, but as the throw came, Britt was able to ward Jenkins off for enough separation to make the catch. With the number of DBs out there who can't out-bench Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Britt's strength is going to come in handy. Can't say I'm thrilled to see him in Torry Holt's #81, but it looks like he can still play. Brian Quick was used on a lot of quick slants and screens. Looked like he handled it all right; nothing exciting.
* Tight ends: If Alex Bayer is one of the horses you're backing in this year's UDFA derby, nice pick. He's a better receiver than I was led to expect. He caught everything well and made a nice 20ish-yard sideline grab in one of the team drills. It should be a tight battle between Justice Cunningham and him for the 4th TE spot. Cunningham did drop a low ball he ought to have caught in 11-on-11. I'd suppose this roster battle will be decided a lot more on blocking skills, but Bayer's done a good job to establish he's not a one-note player.
* O-line: O-line always seems to be behind the rest of the team at the start of camp, so I'm not going to sweat over them too much yet. But they did not look good today, particularly in pass pro. Second pick overall Greg Robinson looked pretty helpless against Robert Quinn. Chris Long beat Joseph Barksdale so badly at times it wasn't funny. Granted, you have to take the level of competition into account. But it's fair to be concerned with how well/soon the line can come together. Jake Long participated in individual drills, but not team drills, as expected, but Scott Wells is apparently and suddenly out again, not practicing either of the first two days. Robinson is supposed to be at guard but is being stuck out at LT for now. I'd think it wiser to cement him at guard and keep his head from spinning a lot right away. Two starters down, a rookie out of position: Paul Boudreau's had to start playing the shell game early this year. The o-line looks much better when they get to run-block. Probably natural for this point of camp, and a good sign even if it's not. Barrett Jones and Tim Barnes appear to have a timeshare at starting center with Wells mysteriously down. Jones was the starter today and looked better 1-on-1. With Robinson kicked out to tackle, Rodger Saffold took LG and Davin Joseph RG. Joseph had the most impressive 1-on-1 reps of the day by an o-lineman, pancaking Kendall Langford once and being pretty much an immovable tree stump on the second. The Rams may have stumbled into something good here. Travis “Treetop” Bond also did some nice work 1-on-1. Hey, in most sports, if you're strong up the middle, you're going to be good. I nearly forgot the coolest drill the Rams ran today. Suddenly the o-lineman all start coming over our way. I thought, that's weird, they're going to sign autographs in the middle of practice? No, better, they actually cross the rail and run a drill in the middle of the crowd where they push each other up the hill. The highlight was the last rep, which the coaches set up as Barrett Jones vs. Greg Robinson, Alabama vs. Auburn. Jones pushed his man up the hill faster, so, Roll Tide it is.

Aaron Donald: literally a blur

* Defensive line: So much to talk about here it should probably be its own post. The obvious first: Robert Quinn and Chris Long are good. They killed Robinson and Barksdale 1-on-1 and Bradford would not have survived 11-on-11 had it been full contact. Quinn and Long were pretty much getting to the end of Bradford's drop before he was. Add Aaron Donald, who was mostly on the second unit, to those two and the Rams should have about a million sacks this year. Aaron Donald is so fast he can do the Kessel Run in 11 parsecs. 1-on-1, he's practically past the Rams' 2nd-string o-linemen before they're out of their stances. He consistently beat people and forced the practice QB to step up. Sometime in his career I believe Donald will actually beat the ball to the QB on a shotgun snap. This works in run defense, too; in one of the late 11-on-11 reps, he blipped into the backfield and nearly beat Mason to the handoff. Still created a big loss. The only o-lineman Donald faced and didn't smoke 1-on-1 was Saffold. He had the early step on him, but Rodger, one of the league's quicker guards, had just enough make-up speed to reset and keep himself in front. But it felt like any time I turned around – poof! - there's Aaron Donald beating somebody. I cannot think of a defensive tackle I have seen who is faster off the ball. He's like the Flash. With Donald, the Rams' defensive line has potential to be the Next-Greatest Show on Earth. Instead of “Who ya gonna cover?”, the question is going to be “Who ya gonna double-team?”, and the answer now is the same answer it was back then. Nobody. Another eye-opener today: Michael “The Distraction” Sam. That's intended as a good nickname for him, to mock the media's distraction obsession. The real distraction may end up being to the OCs around the NFL who have to figure out how to keep Sam blocked. 1-on-1, Sam showed quickness off the ball I frankly was not expecting. He consistently got his shoulder past his blocker and beat him around the edge. Many times he would have hit the QB or made him step up. Admittedly, he's going against backups, who occasionally had the foot quickness to push him past the pocket, and Sam was very neutralized if a lineman got his hands on him. But in the right role, as a spot pass-rusher out of a wide-nine set, that won't happen much. He blew up a run 11-on-11 anyway that strung Mason out for a loss. Playing LDE with the twos with William Hayes still out, Sam was very credible. He's quick, he showed pretty good bend and does a good job staying low. I'm going a lot off his 1-on-1 work, but Michael Sam looked almost nothing like the scouting reports said about him. He looked nothing like the guy who struggled at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine. It's like he had something really big on his mind then or something. If had performed in February like he's performing now, Sam would have gone much earlier than pick #249. Remind me of that the next time I put a ton of stock on how a player performs in the offseason without taking everything into account. The rookie had a lot of good reps today. Players do run out of steam in camp. Offensive linemen do catch up. But Gerald Rivers made the final roster last year as a ninth d-lineman; I don't see why Sam can't do that this year.

* Linebackers: Sorry, LB is still one of my blind spots and I didn't pick up a lot here. Looked like Phillip Steward got the call at OLB with the twos, along with Ray Ray Armstrong and Darren Bates. UDFA Aaron Hill looked good in coverage during some of the tight end 7-on-7s.
* Secondary: RamView likes me some Lamarcus Joyner. The rookie is very sticky in coverage, very competitive, and he pick-sixed Bradford in 11-on-11. That was the only pick I recall; Cody Davis dropped one. T.J. McDonald and Janoris Jenkins had pass breakups I can remember. Jenkins did get beat deep by Austin (or Bailey) in 1-on-1's, but I wouldn't say he had a bad practice. Brandon McGee, though, got beat awfully by Bailey 1-on-1 for a TD. Darren Woodard got beat by Austin for a long ball 11-on-11. There was definitely a blown assignment there, so that may have been on the safety. UDFA Marcus Roberson also got beaten pretty regularly. He seems just a hair late on things, so that may just be a learning curve deal. Starting DBs were as expected. Maurice Alexander was used a lot in nickel packages. He struggled big-time in drills; his head is really spinning right now, as you might expect from a rookie who didn't get to participate in OTAs. He broke the wrong way on one kickoff coverage rep (and heard about it from about 1,500 people) and had trouble getting zone coverage assignments right. Coaches sounded pretty frustrated with him, but it didn't keep him from getting a lot of nickel action with the ones, and he did all right there.
* Special teams: No real shakeups I could determine, at least on the kickoff units. Ones included Chase Reynolds, Ray Ray, Rodney McLeod, Daren Bates, Corey Harkey, Trumaine Johnson, Cody Davis, Brandon McGee and Isaiah Pead. If either of those last two are as challenged as I think/hope they are to make the roster, special teams is where it's going to show, and it hasn't to this point. Credit to Jeff Fisher for all the work the Rams do on special teams in practice. They worked on kickoff coverage for probably an hour combined. There's a reason they've gotten so good on special teams.
* Strategery: A couple of years ago I lamented that Rams offensive practices consisted of a blizzard of dumpoffs. And that was their passing game in 2012. Then I got excited last year when they started camp with an attitude that they were going to air the ball out a lot more. We see how that worked out in 2013: a 1-3 September that helped keep the Rams out of the playoffs. In 2014, it's dumpoff time again. Sigh. It's who we are. They did throw to RBs a noticeable amount, and that hasn't been much of a weapon in the Ram offense for a couple of years. I think it's a good idea to do more of that. No fun wrinkles otherwise, other than Tavon Austin getting one handoff. They're usually not shy of blitzing early in camp, but I didn't see as much blitzing as I expected, especially with Gregg Williams at DC. I'm sure he's got no shortage of blitzes drawn up.
* Cheers: Muggy weather today but not oppressive thanks to cloud cover. It's supposed to get even muggier, though, so take precautions if you head over. Practice seemed long, 2 ½ hours, and it started on time. Crowd looked like it was in the 1,500 range. Further proof St. Louis is a baseball town: I was able to walk clear across the facility and get a spot right on the rail for the linemen's 1-on-1 drills. However, earlier, as I came in to Rams Park, I cannot believe I passed up the opportunity to dunk a Rams cheerleader wearing a Russell Wilson jersey at the dunking booth. Got to get my priorities right. If you want to be at the spot where the o-line did the hill drill, it was marked off on the hill with bright orange lines, and there's a gap in the railing set up with a cordon, kind of like the way people get into a club. Also, it looks like fans can access much more of the back fields than we could in the past. Railing goes all the way around the far practice field. I didn't test that today but may try it my next trip.
* What's next?: I will try to stick to my original plan of covering Tuesday's practice, and then hit the open scrimmage at the Dome on Satruday 8/2. The Rams have several rookies off to pretty nice starts; we'll look to see who maintains their momentum and for the o-line to get healthier and catch up with the rest of the team.
-- Mike

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rookie free agent profile: Aaron Hill, OLB, Minnesota

Aaron Hill 6'0.5” 231
OLB, Minnesota

NFLDraftScout: 55th-ranked outside linebacker, #663 player overall, free agent grade.
Nawrocki: 33rd-ranked OLB. Grade: 4.85, late draftable or priority free agent capable of battling for a roster spot. Graded for NFL.com, was not ranked in the NFL Draft 2014 Preview.
Scouts Inc: 49th-ranked OLB. Grade: 30, borderline draft prospect.

2013: Honorable mention all-Big “Ten”. Unconfirmed but likely he played in and started all 13 games. 72 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions (returned one for TD), two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries (returned one for TD) and a pass breakup.
2012: Played in all 13 games, starting 11. 74 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions (returned one for TD) and 3 forced fumbles.
2011: Played in 9 games, starting two. 32 tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, one pass breakup.
2010: Played in all 12 games, starting two. 14 tackles and a fumble recovered.
2009: Redshirted as a walk-on.

Academics: Majored in applied kinesiology. Academic all-Big “Ten” in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

2011: Missed three games due to unspecified injury.

Pro day results: (not invited to NFL Combine)

4.73 40 (4.71 was the average for OLBs at the Combine)
32” vertical jump (35.5”)
9'5” broad jump (9'11”)
7.06 3-cone drill (7.02)
4.30 20-yard shuttle (4.23)
21 bench press (22)

Scouting report:
Positives: Three-year starter and a team captain. Physically aggressive but disciplined. Good range. Gets to the edge quickly. Has good straight-line speed and can stay with his assignments. Flashes nice pop as a tackler. Special teams experience and mentality. Tough, smart, plays hard and with confidence. Rams LB coach Frank Bush said he picked things up quickly in OTAs and has adjusted well to the speed of the pro game.

Negatives: Too small for the strong side, too stiff and tight for the weak side. Plays too upright. Limited flexibility and explosiveness. Easily blocked at the point of attack. Bites on play-action. Runs around blockers instead of taking them on and runs himself out of plays. Gets lost in traffic. Tight dropping in coverage, not a natural cover man. Will miss tackles in space. Needs to improve tackling technique. Doesn't really have the mobility to be effective on special teams.

Compares to: Justin Cole

Fun Facts: Aaron is a St. Louisan who was all-state in football and track at Lutheran North in St. Charles. He majored in applied kinesiology with an eye toward becoming a strength and conditioning coach.

RamView: As training camp opened, the Rams made some moves I'm not sure bode well for Hill. They brought in a couple of slightly more-experienced LBs and cut fellow RFA Tavarius Wilson, who I considered very similar to Hill athletically. Hill's not out of the running by any means, though; the good impression he made in OTAs will give him a chance to make a lasting impression in training camp, more than likely on special teams.

Chance of making team: 25%

Sources: NFL.com, ESPN.com, NFLDraftScout.com, DraftInsider.net, University of Minnesota athletics, Minnesota Daily

Photo: St. Paul Pioneer Press

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rams report, 7/23: Rams replace four players

The Rams opened the rookie phase of training camp Tuesday with four new players:

* D.J. Morrell, a 6'5", 325 rookie free agent right guard out of Old Dominion cut last week by the Lions;

* R.J. Dill, a 6'6", 310 offensive tackle signed as a UDFA last year by the Jagwires. He was let go in the final cuts there last summer. He spent time on New England's practice squad and was signed by the Chiefs after the season. The NFL's brilliant system of reporting transactions never shows the Chiefs cutting him, but he's here in St. Louis now. The Rams actually had Dill in for a tryout last September, after Rodger Saffold got hurt, for a job eventually won by veteran Max Starks;

* Lawrence Wilson, a 6'1", 229 linebacker drafted by Carolina in 2011 (6th round) who has spent time on Carolina's and Chicago's practice squads. Carolina cut him in 2011 after he got arrested for marijuana possession and speeding during their bye week (your locker's next to Jo-Lonn's!);

* and Pat Schiller, a 6'2" 235 linebacker signed as a UDFA by the Falcons last year who was cut at the end of training camp.

Off the top of my head, it looks like the Rams mainly picked up camp bodies with these moves, though they've shown past interest in Dill, so he might have a shot at sticking.

Linebacker Caleb McSurdy and three UDFAs signed earlier this year were cut to make room for the four new players (at least, they're no longer on the team website):  WR/KR Diontae Spencer, LB Tavarius Wilson and OL Abasi Salimu. Naturally, I already posted profiles for two of those guys.

* The first rookie practice was held indoors Tuesday. Practices aren't open to the public until Friday; vets report Thursday. Rookie safety Maurice Alexander is full-go after missing all of OTAs due to having his knee scoped. Not sure at this point about 7th-round pick Christian Bryant or UDFA Jamaine Sherman.

* I'm going to go ahead and call Jo-Lonn Dunbar the winner of the fight he got in down in Miami this weekend. (He was charged with "breach of peace", not battery per original reports.) Apparently the altercation started between Dunbar and NBA player Donte Greene's brother, then Greene jumped Dunbar from behind. There is apparently long-standing bad blood between Dunbar and Greene. Dunbar contends he was only defending himself. I'm declaring him the winner of the fight because he wasn't the one who got tased. Yes, police had to taser Donte Greene to get him to stop attacking Dunbar. Dunbar should be on the field when the Rams have their first full practice on Friday.

* Rams 2013 highlight show on NFL Network Wednesday night at 7 Central.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Rookie free agent profile: Trey Watts, RB, Tulsa

Trey Watts 5'9.5” 195
RB, Tulsa

NFLDraftScout: 45th-ranked running back, #651 player overall, 7th round-free agent grade.
Nawrocki: 53rd and last RB ranked. Grade: 4.50, solid free agent capable of being invited to an NFL training camp.
Scouts Inc: 50th-ranked RB. Grade: 30, borderline draft prospect.
DraftCountdown.com: 42nd-ranked RB, late round-free agent grade.

2013: First-team all-Conference USA at RB. Led conference in rushing. Led conference in all-purpose yards and was in the top ten in the nation. Played in, and I assume started, all 12 games. 268 rushes for 1,329 yards (5.0 ypc) and 11 TDs. 46 receptions for 395 yards (8.6 ypc) and a TD. Led team in rushing and receiving. Finished season with 5 straight 100-yard rushing games for a total of 8. Averaged 20.7 yards on 9 kickoff returns and 6.7 yards on 22 punt returns (long of 77).
2012: Second team all-Conference USA as a kick returner, honorable mention as a RB. Played in 13 games, starting 6. 186 rushes for 1,108 yards (6.0 ypc) and 3 TDs. 34 receptions for 343 yards (10.1 ypc). Averaged 27.9 yards on 21 kick returns with a TD and 7.0 yards on 22 punt returns with a TD. MVP of conference championship game and Liberty Bowl win over Iowa State.
2011: Honorable mention all-Conference USA. Played in all 13 games, starting 12. 157 rushes for 881 yards (5.6 ypc) and 3 TDs. 31 receptions for 242 yards (7.8 ypc) and 3 TDs. Averaged 24.1 yards on 20 kick returns with a TD.
2010: Played in 11 games, starting 4. 62 rushes for 197 yards (3.2 ypc) and a TD. 20 receptions for 172 yards (8.6 ypc) and 2 TDs.
2009: Redshirted.

Academics: Majored in organizational studies.
Family: Father J.C. played quarterback at Oklahoma from 1979-1981 and played in the CFL for six seasons.
Twitter handle: @trey_the_truth

2013: Played through ankle injury without missing action.
2012: Missed one game due to unspecified injury.
2010: Missed two games due to ankle injury (probable but unconfirmed).

Pro Day Stats: (not invited to NFL Combine)

4.78 40 (4.60)
26.5” vertical jump (RBs at the Combine averaged 34.5”. Watts' jump was 2” worse than the worst jump)
9'2” broad jump (9'11”)
6.94 3-cone drill (7.08)
4.37 20-yard shuttle (4.28)
8 bench press (19 was average at the Combine. Watts would have tied De'Anthony Thomas for last. Players who can't outbench Rams owner Stan Kroenke should probably consider skipping this drill)

Scouting report:
Positives: Versatile runner and receiver with great feet and quickness. Quick to the hole with excellent vision. Has high football IQ, allows his blocks to develop and follows his blockers well. Elusive runner who can put together multiple moves. Effective receiver with good hands, catches well outside of his frame. Good burst and all-around quickness. Plays bigger than his size. Smart, hard worker, an underrated runner with a complete game.

Negatives: Lacks size and speed and his pro day numbers were pretty woeful. Doesn't run with authority. Doesn't break many tackles or gain much yardage after contact.

Compares to: Stepfan Taylor.

Fun Facts: Potential character red flag: Trey's Tulsa football bio lists his favorite NFL team as the Cowboys. His favorite food is pizza, his favorite TV show The Wire and his favorite pro athlete Kevin Durant.

RamView: Have the Rams gotten serious about finding a kickoff returner? Watts is at least the third rookie they've picked up this year with bonafide ability there. Oddly, though, considering they're a running team, the Rams don't tend to keep a lot of RBs around. Watts is really athletically inferior to Benny Cunningham and probably needs Benny to catch a bad case of fumblitis in camp while also either beating out some much quicker people as a kick returner or outplaying Chase Reynolds on coverage units. There's a path to the roster for him, but it's not an especially easy one to follow.

Chance of making team: 15%

Sources: NFL Draft 2014 Preview (Nolan Nawrocki), Draftcountdown.com, DraftInsider.net, Wikipedia, University of Tulsa athletics, ESPN.com, NFLDraftScout.com, CollegeInjuryReport.com, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal-Gazette

Photo: Tulsa World

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jo-Lonn Dunbar arrested

Well, we made it all the way to the last week before training camp is to start, and it looked like the Rams' offseason off-field troubles were going to be limited to Stedman Bailey's failed drug test...

But think again. Jo-Lonn Dunbar was arrested outside a Miami nightclub Sunday morning after getting into a fight with a former NBA player of little note, Donte Greene. (I mean, come on. At least get in a fight with an a NBA player good enough not to have to ride the bench at Sacramento. I hope Dunbar at least won the fight.) Both were charged with battery and disorderly conduct.

Counting his failed drug test last year that got him suspended for four games, this is the second straight offseason Dunbar has failed to stay out of trouble, and with Jeff Fisher's stern attitude toward player behavior, I'm sure Dunbar is in line for a suspension... a heavy fine... a stern tongue-lashing... oh, never mind, go spot for Kenny Britt in the weight room.