A 31-17 win over Kansas City will give Jeff Fisher and the rest of the St. Louis Rams' brass plenty to think about when they drawing up the depth chart. There are still a number of position battles being waged, and Saturday night's results did little resolve those questions.
The battle between Barry Richardson and Jason Smith ended in limbo, in a draw. Both players turned in a fine effort against the Chiefs. RIchardson, working with the first team, combined with his linemates to keep Sam Bradford relatively unmolested. He was winning battles against Tamba Hali, who happens to be a pretty good player. Jason Smith kept on keeping on, showing progress from where he was last week. His technique is really improving; Will from Rams Herd even caught him practicing his technique on the sidelines during the game.
Verdict: Still very much a draw here. If the season were starting next week, I'd say Richardson would probably get the nod.
Quinn Ojinnaka has it sewn up at this point. He and backup center Robert Turner combined to hold down the middle of the line just fine against the Chiefs. Rookie Rokevious Watkins is going to get more chances to make his case for the job, Fisher's comments seem to make that pretty clear. Ojinnaka will be important to the group thanks to his ability as a swing man, able to play four spots on the line.
Verdict: I think Ojinnaka will be the starting left guard in Week 1, but with two more preseason games to go, Watkins will get plenty of looks.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar might as well get his business cards printed with "starting weakside linebacker" on them. Schematics aside, I really like his intensity on the playing field. This does not look like the same player with the Saints last year.
On the other side, Mario Haggan got the start last night. Rocky McIntosh should see plenty of playing time after his performance last night, highlighted by a third quarter sack/fumble on Rick Stanzi. He also recovered the ball, which gets back to that whole fundamentals thing we've been talking about.
Verdict: Dunbar is locked up on weakside. Haggan probably has an edge, with McIntosh as a 1b since he can play all three positions. This could change though.
The safety position is a relatively fluid one under Jeff Fisher and the hydra headed defensive coordinator. Craig Dahl worked with the starters again with Darian Stewart out for the second game. Those three should see plenty of reps with nickel and dime packages likely to be a regular occurrence. Stewart is the most free safety type of the bunch, but they seemed to have a fundamental grasp on the zone coverage against the Chiefs. That's one thing that will get MUCH tougher in the regular season; the Rams open against the Lions and Calvin Johnson who destroys almost all kinds of coverage.
Watch out for rookie Rodney McLeod. His special teams work is a real plus, and he had his second straight big game, big preseason game with the second and third teams. He had three tackles and recovered a fumble. UDFA Matt Daniels, out of Duke, has had a quiet preseason, after entering the offseason as one of the more naturally talented UDFAs on the roster.
Verdict: It sure looks like Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl have the top two spots, but that will likely change situationally and when Stewart gets back in the mix.
There is no question who the top two corners will be. I can't even begin to say how impressed I am with Janoris Jenkins. He looks like a guy who has been playing in the league for a long time. Guys that get the sacks usually win awards, but if Jenkins can get to the ball some this year, he will figure into the Defensive Rookie of the Year balloting. Even without the interceptions, he should be a big help in coverage.
Beyond those two, the Rams have several interesting candidates. Bradley Fletcher is the most likely third corner, but he has yet to play in either preseason game. Jerome Murphy and Josh Gordy both got some work in the nickel with the starters on Saturday. Trumaine Johnson had a nice game of his own. I'll be really interested to go back and watch the tape on these guys.
Verdict: Watch for Murphy or even Johnson to sneak into the third corner role if Fletcher keeps missing time, and don't count out Gordy who got plenty of trial by fire last year.
We'll get into the film and dig deep on players and positions this week, so stay tuned.