This is it. The St. Louis Rams wrap up training camp this week. Open practices end Wednesday with one final session for fans at 3:30 p.m. at the ContinuityX Training Center, aka Rams Park. Two more preseason games remain along with a pair of roster cuts. As a way to mark the end of training camp, TST is proud to present our first ever training camp power rankings!
Let's get to the big board.
1. Welcome Fans!
It wasn't all that long ago, that the Rams locked the public out of their camp practices. This year, they went all out for visiting fans trickling in to get a first look at the start of the Jeff Fisher era. An opening day fan appreciation practice, a fan fest at the scrimmage and an exclusive meetup for a handful of TST readers with COO Kevin Demoff of GM Les Snead. It was easily the biggest win of the offseason for the team.
Last year at this time injuries were already piling up for the Rams. This year, the team is relatively healthy. A few players are sitting out with soft tissue injuries, and the only long-running struggles of note are Danario Alexander and Trevor Laws. Keep your fingers crossed, but at some point even statistical probability favors the Rams for a healthy season.
3. Sam Bradford
No player's return to action this year has been anticipated more than Bradford's. So far, he looks to have taken a natural step forward from his Rookie of the Year campaign, with a disastrous 2011 season now chalked up to experience.
4. Rapid Rookies
The Rams were counting on this year's group of draft picks to contribute anyway, given the level of roster turnover. Their work has gone well beyond what many anticipated. Second-round pick Janoris Jenkins has turned heads throughout the NFL for his work. Kicker Greg Zuerlein might be tapped by NASA to send the next Mars probe into space. Michael Brockers is already getting held by offensive linemen.
5. The Fisher Complex
Confidence envelopes you the closer you get to the fence around the practice field. Fisher's team is progressing nicely through the playbooks, but, more importantly, the determination to win and be resilient trumps the Xs and Os. The dust-up between Jenkins and Danny Amendola on Tuesday says plenty about the intensity of the team.
Solid work from the Rams wide receivers is nothing new in training camp. While most are excited about the results so far from that position group, it's a cautious optimism. Danny Amendola looks to be above and beyond his old self, and could end up being the biggest little surprise once the season opens.
7. Coordinator By Committee
There will be no defensive coordinator this season for the Rams following the suspension of Gregg Williams. The defense looked a little bumpy in the preseason opener, but was much better against the Chiefs last week. Fisher and assistant head coach Dave McGinnis insist that their guidance and a more hands-on approach from Blake Williams and Chuck Cecil can suffice.
8. Safety First
Outside linebacker was supposed to be the big area of concern on the defense, but the safety position has supplanted that through camp. Opposite Quintin Mikell, the Rams are leaning on a platoon of Darian Stewart and Craig Dahl. Stewart will play in his first preseason game this week. In the first game of the season, the safeties struggled with the cover-2 work. Can they shore that up before facing a pass-happy Lions team in Week 1?
9. Scott Wells
This week was the first time since early spring OTAs that the free agent addition practiced with the team. Wells is a smart, talented veteran, so time off should only account for so many struggles, but is fair to wonder if it won't slow the transition with the quarterback and the other four linemen.
10. Right Tackle
Jason Smith was bumped down to the second team, replaced by free agent addition Barry Richardson. The Rams coaches believe they can get more production out of both players than in the past. Smith's struggles are well-documented here. Richardson was a real problem for the Chiefs last year. Until they can prove otherwise, there's reason to be concerned.