The St. Louis Rams get back to work on Tuesday, sort of. Rookies are scheduled to report to Rams Park. They go through a pair of practices on Thursday and Friday before the veterans are due to report on Saturday, July 28, and the first full squad practice is the day after that.
Among the rookies, three are already the odds on favorites for starting jobs. Two more being counted on as a key contributor. It is no small burden for players making the jump to the NFL. I felt like it was worth looking at those four players and the transition with the rookies descending on Earth City.
Michael Brockers, DT
The hulking defensive tackle from LSU is without a doubt one of the biggest players I have ever seen. His height and weight are similar to other defensive tackles in the draft this year, but standing next to them in April, I was blown away at how big Brockers is. That should work to his favor as the Rams are counting on the first-round pick to rejuvenate the interior defensive line.
Playing in the SEC makes the jump to the pros that much easier, and he should have few problems against the run and occupying lesser interior offensive linemen as a rookie. What may take more time to develop is Brockers the pocket crasher, as the coaches work to refine a raw quiver of moves. Remember, he was a one-year wonder, leaving LSU for after his redshirt sophomore season.
Janoris Jenkins, CB
At this point it would be a big disappointment if Jenkins is not starting next to Cortland Finnegan in the base defense. His character concerns and prolific procreation have been overstated, in my opinion, but it was enough for the Rams to snatch a first-round talent in the middle of the second round.
His man coverage skills are probably the best of any corner in the draft this year. His hips are a well-oiled swivel that allow him to track the plays and his receiver. He can also make plays on the ball, though will have to learn not to gamble as much for the interception at this level. He might be the most flawless talent of any rookie on the team.
Brian Quick, WR
Unlike so many of the receivers to come through Rams Park in the last three years, Quick has a promising combo of size, athleticism and hands. Playing in a fairly simple system at Appalachian State, he used those skills to dominate the FCS competition. He also learned to block well there, though that's far less important to what the Rams need compared to how much it impresses draft pundits.
The Rams are leaning heavily on Quick already to be their top receiver. While he certainly has the skills to become that player, he is making a pretty big leap from Appalachian State to the NFL. He has to learn the route tree. Also gone are the soft zone coverages of the FCS; playing with a big corner pressed against him could take some adjustment.
Isaiah Pead, RB
Pead is the long-awaited answer to finding legitimate complement, backup for Steven Jackson. He should do most his damage on runs to the outside. Shifty with a good burst, Pead can make some plays for the Rams. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer loves to use his running backs in the passing game, and Pead should see plenty of targets.
Chris Givens, WR
The last time the Rams had a speedster on the outside was Donnie Avery. Givens gives the rotation at wide receiver someone that can get behind a defense with his speed. Though he may not technically be a starter, the team is expected to use him frequently on go routes and keeping safeties back in a run-heavy offense.
The worry with Givens are two surgically repaired ACLs. Avery's career in St. Louis was done in by injuries; hopefully, Givens does not suffer the same fate. Man coverage could be a bit of a challenge for him too, but most opponents are unlikely to put a corner on him until he can burn some defenses early in the season.