St. Louis Rams 2013 roster battles: An early look at the safeties

USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Fisher talked about the safeties on Friday.

Two days into training camp, and the position battles are already heating up. On defense, things are fairly settled for the St. Louis Rams. Except for the safety spots.

Third-round pick T.J. McDonald and fourth-year veteran Darian Stewart have the starting spots nailed down for now. Fisher shared his thoughts on the two players after a Friday practice dominated by the defense.

"Right now, T.J and ‘Stew' are working together with the first team," Fisher said.

"I'm especially pleased right now with T.J.'s progress," Fisher continued. "He's really doing some good things out there. There's more and more familiarity with what we're doing. He's making more plays each day. He's just an excellent athlete and a good football player."

It would be an upset if McDonald didn't open the season atop the depth chart. Nevertheless, Fisher made it clear that the competition was wide open.

"[Rodney McLeod] had a great offseason and is doing a great job at both positions," the coach noted. "Fortunately, we got [Matt Giordano] in here with the experience and we'll see how the young guys do."

Stewart has a leg up for one of the spots, thanks to his experience. But that experience is mostly limited to 13 starts in a disastrous 2011 campaign. He'll have to play better than he did that season, when he led the league with 20 missed tackles.

Safety play was arguably the defense's biggest weakness last season. Defensive backs coach Chuck Cecil pried above average seasons out of Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell, but the pair still struggled in coverage and got burned on more than a few misdirection plays.

The inexperience at the safety spot is a concern heading into the season. There were calls for the Rams to bring in a veteran, and the team chased oft-injured Louis Delmas, who re-signed with the Lions. Nevertheless, the Rams have plenty of time left in camp and the preseason to iron out the safety roles. A veteran addition could still happen. Then again, maybe it's better to start from scratch sometimes too.

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