***Editor's Note: Once again, Deven Pfister gives us a look at a few of the rookies on the Rams roster. I hope you enjoy HIS take on these potential St. Louis Rams.***
Oh it’s so close... The season, is so close... Is it wrong for it to be more exciting than a kid before Christmas? I think not! Dreams of roster cuts and preseason games leave me restless at night. In spare time though, why not have more rookie reviews? Here’s your next fix of rookie reviews.
Janoris Jenkins - Cornerback, University of Northern Alabama
What can be said for a player with all the talent in the world, but no sense of control in his personal life? Jenkins was by far the most questionable player coming into the 2012 draft. Every team knew he could be a rock star, but very few teams wished to deal with his baggage. As the first round dwindled away, it became quite the game for draft analysts, trying to decide who would take a chance on the troubled corner.
In round two, a lone man rose to the occasion - Jeff Fisher. When the Rams called Jenkins’s name with the 39th pick, not only was the NFL surprised, but so were some of the strongest willed Rams fans. What about the four pillars?! Surely Jenkins could have taken down at least three and a half pillars single handed. Fisher and Snead didn’t see it that way. They saw talent, skill, and a love for the game. With guidance, they saw a player who could immediately start on the outside...
...Rams fans know the story of Janoris Jenkins by now. He played three stellar years as a Florida Gator, and then was kicked off the team after multiple run-ins with the law, as well as the Florida coaching staff. As a Gator he was a shutdown corner. Jenkins became only the second true freshman to start from day one at corner for the Gators. Even more impressive is his resume of wide-receivers he covered. Guys like AJ Green, Julio Jones and Alshon Jeffery. That’s two young NFL stars and a 2nd round pick. Not many other corners in the NFL can say they held AJ Green to 4 yards receiving on seven targets, and completely shutting out Julio Jones on four targets. Sure, draft experts can pick on Jenkins for being under-sized but he’s just as explosive as any other corner. In his three years at Florida, Jenkins hauled in 8 INT’s and 121 tackles. His dominance continued at Northern Alabama with 2 INT’s and 53 tackles. He also became quite a threat in the return game for UNA, with three punt returns for touchdowns.
Jenkins possesses rare talent in his ability to read and react to plays, allowing him to always be around the ball and in front of a receiver. He shows elite speed for a corner and has no problem staying with his receiver. He shows great ability to turn on a dime and breaks right onto the ball as soon as it’s released from the quarterback. While he may be small at 5’10" 193lbs, he plays much bigger, jamming and forcing receivers off their routes, as well as being stout in run support. He does a great job at shedding blocks and can get very physical with receivers much bigger than him. Jenkins has had issues with his aggressiveness, sometimes leaving him vulnerable to quick receivers. He also may try for too many highlight reel tackles, sometimes dropping a shoulder and missing easy ones, but this is something that can be corrected in time.
While Jenkins could have easily made the jump to the NFL his junior season through the supplemental draft, he chose instead to move himself to Northern Alabama University. There, he would refine his game and try to remove himself from his troubled past. This I think is the greatest showing by Jenkins. Not only could he have instantly made more money by entering the NFL, but he could have been on his own, away from school authority. But by changing his image over the past year, he allowed himself the opportunity to finish out his collegiate career on high note. This is a man who obviously wants to leave the past to the past, and prove his skills as a true NFL athlete. There is no doubt in my mind that he starts from day one. Let us just hope Fisher and Snead did their research.
Sammy Brown - Outside Linebacker, University of Houston
Now I’m not much for statistics, but 13.5 sacks and 30 tackles for a loss sure means something. Sammy Brown is one heck of a pass rusher. Some believed the 6’2" 243lbs linebacker was worthy of Heisman consideration, even though he played in C-USA. His consolation prize was a selection as a first team AP All-American, which is nothing shy of impressive. While Brown probably should have been drafted, a few flaws in his game caused his draft stock to crash. Many teams considered him, but what position would he play? He was labeled as too small to be a 3-4 outside linebacker and not good enough in coverage to be a 4-3 outside linebacker. So with the lack of off-season additions at possibly one of the Rams’ most glaring needs, Brown was scooped up quickly as an undrafted free-agent. As an UDFA, there would be less demand for him to start immediately, and more of a chance for him to hone his skills through practice.
Brown absolutely dominated offensive linemen throughout his senior season, utilizing an impressive swim move that sheds lineman quickly. Being so agile made it very difficult for linemen to keep up with him, especially during the course of a whole game. Everyone knows that once fatigue sets in for a lineman, holds start becoming a common occurrence. He also shows an unbelievable motor once it becomes obvious it’s a pass play (key phrase here). He shows good technique when tackling, trying to bringing down the ball carrier before they can gain positive yardage. There is one weakness in his game however. He was only asked to rush the passer as a 3-4 backer during his time at Houston. Brown hardly ever dropped into coverage. When he did drop into coverage, it was a disaster. He looked confused and out of place.
Even more disturbing is his lack of effort once plays get past the line of scrimmage. Throughout games, if a running back broke past the line, Brown would ease up to early; hoping for another teammate to make the tackle. It makes it seem like Brown only cared about getting sacks and tackles for a loss. The best example of this was a game against UCLA, where the running back makes a cut back and Brown bites so hard, he takes himself out of the play. Right before the play ends with a touchdown, Sammy flat out just gives up on a tackle that could have prevented it. He shows times where he is overly aggressive, and then times where he’s not aggressive at all. In order to make it in the NFL, he has to find a happy medium between the two.
It should be easy for Brown to make the 53-man roster, seeing how thin the Rams are at the linebacker position. His rare ability to get into the backfield and into quarterbacks faces is something that the Rams are in dire need of right now. The road ahead of him will be tough. He has to learn a whole new style of play to make it at the NFL level. When he does learn how to cover - and give 100% every play - he should become quite a dynamic weapon for the Rams. While I don’t see him unseating any of the veterans for a starting position, Brown will be a great role player coming in on passing downs to rush the passer.
Training Camp Star:
Travis Tripucka - Long-Snapper, University of Massachusetts
Yes I did choose a long-snapper. What? You say that’s cheating? While this guy’s stache could rival Jeff Fisher’s, he may be the odd man out when it comes to the long-snapper show down. He will be facing Jake McQuaide, the 2 year veteran out of Ohio State. The matchup may be interesting, because while McQuaide has the experience, Tripucka may have superior athletic abilities and speed. Tripucka started all 11 games for the UMass Minutemen for all kicks and punt units. He helped Armando Cuko break the UMass record of 19 field goals in a season and to convert all 33 PATs. While a snapper may not be the most exciting position, the guy is pretty interesting.
His father, Kelly Tripucka, was an NBA All-Star and a first round pick by the Detroit Pistons in 1981. Travis also played on the UMass lacrosse team which was nationally ranked. Long-snappers have never been known for their impressive athleticism, but lacrosse players always seem to be in peak physical condition due to the constant intensity of the sport. No doubt Tripucka gets some looks during training camp, and maybe he makes the practice squad as a backup.
Don’t agree? Have a request for what rookies should come next? Post it in the comments!