[Note by VanRam, 07/31/11 8:25 AM EDT ] Big thanks to RamBuck for his training camp report. He was on the scene for practice yesterday, and shared his observations. If you're heading out to Rams Park this week, be sure to share you thoughts with us too.
Hello fellow Rams fans! I haven't written in a while, and it's mainly because Van, 3k, Tevin, Brick Top, etc. have been doing such a smashing job at covering all angles of Rams football. But, as an observer of the Rams' first practice of 2011, I feel that the community would enjoy hearing about today's proceeds (even if my writing needs some polishing). I will also attempt to cover several other training camps this week, and the following weeks (time/schedule/boss permitting). If there is a particular player/group you would like me to watch, let me know (on Twitter, @lannyosu). More after the jump.
Initially, it appeared that the weather was going to be a problem. The forecast called for scattered thunderstorms, and hit around 11 am. However, things cleared up and practice was allowed to proceed. My wife (@lancasbg) and I got there early so that we could gain access to the VIP tent, which was pretty cool but a bit frustrating as our vantage point did not permit us to have the best views of player groups. We later moved and caught up with TST friends @RamsHerd, @ThePigskinArch and @BlazinBox on the hill).
However, I was able to make the following observations/musings regarding our 2011 Rams squad (take each with a grain of salt, and a stein of beer):
Everyone appears to be in very good shape, and other than a few cramps no one was worse for the wear after the first practice. Rodger Saffold looked a bit slimmer than last year, and carried himself very well during one on one drills. Jason Smith looked more bulked up, but perhaps that is the "everyone looks bigger in person" effect you get with O-linemen. He came ready to work, and hustled hard. Fendi Onobun looked a bit more jacked up, as did George Selvie (both players reported recently by Twitter that they were over 260 lbs). This is very good news, as the knock on Fendi was that he was a catch first TE (and inexperienced in that), not large enough to handle the blocking game. He used the offseason very well. For Selvie, the extra bulk means that in addition to his admirable pass rushing skillset, he now may have the strength to be more effective in the running game. When paired with recently signed Robert Quinn, we could have a great rotation. We shall see.
The rookies looked like they belonged. Large bodies at WR in Austin Pettis and Greg Salas. Pettis does have terrific hands, and Salas has great body adjustment. Lance Kendricks also looks larger than 243 lbs, and moves very well out there.
WR's everywhere! By my count, we had 11 bodies out there, with Mike Sims-Walker joining us as well. News surfaced that Coach Spags declared that Mark Clayton was not yet %100 percent, hence the delay in the signing (per Twitter @STLouisRams). The Rams will stay in contact with him, and when healthy I expect them to re-unite Sam with one of his favorite targets. Danny Amendola was on the sideline, as he signed his exclusive rights tender yesterday and cannot practice until August 4th. Donnie Avery was dancing around, happy to be out there and looked like his health has returned. Donnie ran fluidly, and cut hard on in/out routes and curls, showing no signs of hesitation that some guys get with repaired ACL's. As @RamsHerd mentioned in his article (www.ramsherd.com), Brandon Gibson make some excellent downfield "hands" catches and Mardy Gilyard beat double coverage to come down with a 40+ yard TD pass from Sam Bradford. If Mardy could find some consistency, stay healthy and get some of that UC confidence/swagger back, he could really be a plus. Again, big if's. It is certainly going to be a knock out brawl at that position, with (likely) 6 WR's on the 53. With Clayton still rehabbing, one variable is removed from the equation (for now). I defer to RamsHerd for additional information on WR's, as I did not get a great view of many of the drills or 11 on 11's.
I enjoyed watching the linebackers the most today. James Laurinaitis is the kingpin, and the clear leader, of that group. He was on fire, so excited! The linebackers coach, Paul Ferraro, would point to James when he wanted to show another linebacker how to run a drill. Since there were a lot of inexperienced guys there, there was lots of pointing. But, some help is on the way in the form of Zac Diles, and perhaps another FA. Na'il Diggs looks to be getting back in shape after tearing a pectoral muscle last year vs. Arizona. Wasn't really ginger at all, but went maybe a 3/4 speed. Jabara Williams, the 7th round pick, looked good. Up around 230 lbs, he seems to be a solid athlete with quickness in space. I hear he's a good tackler and could make the squad for special teams.
Al Harris and Quintin Mikell were already on the sideline, but were in street clothes due NFL rule prohibiting newly signed veterans from practicing until (you guess it) August 4th. Lots of UDFA signings in the secondary, so not sure how many will be around in a few weeks. Fletcher and Dahl looked pretty good, with Dahl seeking contact in the form of bumping Danario Alexander a bit (I heard the crunch of the shells from 200 feet away). Fun note: Al Harris interacted quite a bit with the secondary during drills, providing some coaching for players like Jerome Murphy and Mikhail Baker in a hands-on way. He appears to be a great pickup, as he is a super-savvy veteran who knows how to get things done, and done the right way.
I did not see Harvey Dahl on the sidelines yet, but we expect him to be there tomorrow or Monday. It is a very good thing we signed him as potentially will be short-handed at OG. OT Ryan McKee and C Drew Miller stood in as OG's for most of practice, as OG Jacob Bell's status was up in the air as well. We later learned that he was open to re-structuring his contract, and joined James Butler as technically players who cannot practice until August 4th. Breaking: OG John Greco has been traded to the Browns (details to come), so we went from strong at guard, to super weak at guard, to acceptable at guard in one day.
I will additionally post random bits on twitter (@lannyosu) as I recall them. Thanks for reading!