Mike Sando, ESPN's NFC West blogger extraordinaire, was in Earth City recently, chronicling the first camp under new head coach Jeff Fisher.
Having covered the conference beat for five years running now, Sando's much more familiar with the Rams than your average scribe. You shouldn't be surprised that his take on the team is grounded and fair.
So it was a bit surprising to go through his Camp Confidential longread on the Rams and pick up on a very positive tone. It's one thing to soak up some optimism from Rams blogs, but coming from Sando lends the upward trajectory of the franchise a bit more legitimacy.
After the break, some reactions, thoughts and other stuff.
There's far too much good stuff in the article to just regurgitate, so I'll limit this reaction piece to some of the things that stood out to me.
Obviously, any piece on the Rams at this point has to start with Bradford. Is he shell shocked? Is his ankle close enough to 100%? Will the new system hamper him? Does he have the tools to succeed? Sando touched on all of those, but this paragraph was the most telling:
I wondered coming into camp whether last season inflicted irreparable damage to Bradford. That was not the case. There hasn't been a more impressive player on the practice field to this point. It's stunning, in retrospect, that team with such a talented quarterback could suffer through a 2-14 season.
I think that's part of the difficulty in being a Rams fan. We've had such misplaced optimism, whether due to talent or injury-forced roster attrition, that it's hard to make sense of things. How does a team go 7-9 and sit on the verge of the playoffs going into the final week of the season only to go 2-14 a year later?
Yes, the injuries came in waves; as Sando notes, attributing this one to Football Outsiders, the Rams dealt with more players lost to injury than every team but one since 2002. But even in spite of the injuries, the team never seemed capable of grabbing a hold of the moment even when they were in games late (see: both Cardinals games from last season. Actually, it's better if you don't go back and watch those.).
There's plenty more in there, especially the Observation Deck section where he compiles some random notes that are well worth your time.
Give it a read, and drop your reaction here.