Saturday, August 1, 2009

8/1/2009 training camp report - afternoon practice

RamView Training Camp Report
August 1, 2009 (p.m.)

The rain gave way just in time to let me make good on my goal, to complete a two-a-day. The offense appeared to bounce back a little bit in this afternoon's session, plus, I think the defense took some of the heat off they were laying on this morning. I watched it all from a particularly weird angle, and this is me talking about training camp anyway, so don't take this with just a grain of salt, take it with a salt lick, but here's what I think I saw:

* QB/RB: I was happier with the afternoon QBing than I was with this morning's. They were under less pressure and were getting the ball out quickly better. Marc Bulger looked fine. He dropped a deep pass over a leaping Ron Bartell to Daniel Fells rumbling down the sideline for one of the afternoon's big plays. I can only remember one INT, and that came off a receiver muff. Definitely still learning, Keith Null tried to force one to Joe Klopfenstein between three defenders that was probably lucky not to be an INT. The practice seemed more pass-oriented to me and I didn't get a feel for any impactful RB play. The running game continued not to do a whole heck of a lot but wasn't called on as much, either.

* WR: The star of the afternoon practice was probably Laurent Robinson. He made a couple of nice athletic catches over the middle, but those came after he turned a 2-yard smoke pass into a long TD with a simple juke that still faked OJ Atogwe completely out of his jock. Nate Jones was having a great day until he muffed a pass to Justin King for an INT. Definitely not the QB's fault (I think it was Boller). Jones has still looked pretty darn good, though, and he's definitely in the mix for one of the roster spots at WR. Everybody has shown good hands so far, including Keenan Burton, who has survived two practices without an injury. They ran what I'm calling the "wrong shoulder" drill, which I think they run on the field before games as well. You go downfield looking over your left shoulder, but the coach throws the pass over your right shoulder and you have to adjust to it. Tim Carter did not look good at this. TE Eric Butler did a nice job catching passes in both practices.

* OL/DL: Thanks to the Rams giving us decent proximity to the far field, we were able to see one-on-one lineman drills this afternoon. And I come away from it thinking a lot of the matchups were pretty much 50/50. Leonard Little had a little edge on Adam Goldberg, but it looked about even for Chris Long vs. Alex Barron, Adam Carriker vs. Richie Incognito and Cliff Ryan vs. Jason Brown. Roy Schuening looked good on the second string, proof of my contention that you can never go wrong with a farm boy on your o-line. He looked strong against 2nd stringers and even against Carriker, who I'm thinking was getting Hollis Thomas' reps. John Greco's the other 2nd string guard but Gary Gibson, a 4th-year vet who has to share #71 with the third-string center, put him on his butt in one-on-one and also would have had a sack in 11-on-11. Keep an eye on Gibson, just in case. Looked like Victor Adeyanju would have gotten good pressure against Jason Smith in a live environment. He was getting leverage on him and would have had him in trouble. The other 2nd-string tackle is Phil Trautwein; to his credit, he looks a lot lighter afoot than he did in the Florida-Miami replay I saw a few weeks ago. I don't think he'd be making a pro roster based on that tape. And Mark Setterstrom's not looking bad in the middle. Rookie free agent guard Roger Allen didn't look very good. I think it was Antwon Burton who didn't have a lot of trouble beating him. From 11-on-11s, I can only relay my general impression that the QBs were getting the time this afternoon that they weren't this morning. Pass protection looked all right. LB-wise, I like David Vobora out there. He's playing with a lot of confidence and even some attitude.

* DB: A second not-particularly-good practice for Ron Bartell as I saw it. He jumped one route for Donnie Avery nicely but let the ball go through his hands. That was probably him pressing to make up for a bad big play earlier: he went for an INT on the sideline but Bulger's throw was well over his leaping effort and into Daniel Fells' hands. Fells was behind the coverage and gone for a big play. Justin King did come up with an INT off a deflection/muff. With live hitting dialed way down, the receivers looked a lot more slippery than they did this morning. Not as slippery as Atogwe made Robinson look when he bit on a fairly simple fake harder than anything you'll see on Shark Week, but still. I don't doubt the subtraction of hitting helped the receivers.

* Strategery/special teams/etc.: This was not a full-pads practice; everybody was in shorts. A lot of practice was 11-on-11; much more than this morning. Unfortunately, my vantage point also made it a lot harder to analyze. Defensive strategy appeared to be a lot less aggressive than it was this morning. I didn't pick up a lot of blitzing, anyway. The offensive plays I saw were heavily tilted toward the pass, and yes, the shovel pass is in the playbook. Hoo boy. The special teams lineup and performance didn't change much from the morning. It looked like there was some punt coverage work, including a drill along the sideline for prospective gunners. Could easily be just me, but Bradley Fletcher didn't look real interested in that drill.

* Cheers: Thanks to rain in between practices, all of the afternoon practice was held on the far field (the new AstroTurf field). But so few of us showed up - maybe 100 by my estimate - the Rams opened up the area I think of as the VIP patio out back of the building to give us all a better view of the action than from the far-off hillside. Thanks to dummy here getting there late, though, good portions of practice were obscured by the backs of other fans' heads or by Rams players on the practice field. Perseverance, though, eventually got me a railside spot to watch about the last 1/3 of practice unobstructed. Importantly, I also found the restrooms - they're behind one of the tents right where you enter the grounds coming off of the Rams' parking lot. So that's OK then. I saw all three local TV stations had reporters present for the afternoon practice after spying none this morning. Didn't stay to see who autographed. And to correct from this morning, it looks like fans have access to about 2/3 of the sideline of the back grass field. There's no access to the AstroTurf field though the Rams used to let us back there. Observation only, not a complaint.

Though I guess I should also apologize for not typifying this morning's practice like some kind of brutal slugfest like a Ravens-Steelers game, which is the vibe I got listening to the radio report en route to the second practice. Yes, they were in full pads. Yes, there was some tackling. I pretty much missed all the far field action due to remoteness and the first part of 11-on-11 trying to figure out how to see over the autograph tent, so I could have missed a hit or two. But I saw nothing out of the ordinary myself. No slobber was knocked. The morning practice was quite a ways from the Bataan Death March, ok? Let's not get out of hand here.

* What's next?: That's about enough football practice for me this weekend. Sadly, though, my absence might cut tomorrow's fan attendance by half. Prove me wrong, St. Louis, huh? My next quest will be the team scrimmage, scheduled for Lindenwood University Friday night.

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