The first practice of the Rams' training camp is a week away. It's tough to get from the final days of April, which host the draft, to the end of July which awakens the football fans who have slept through the summer.
But now we're here, close enough to start looking at some of the storylines we should be following as Rams fans, storylines that hint at whatever destiny awaits us over the next 5 months of this NFL season.
Position breakdowns after the fold.
The only solid look at the Rams training camp I've seen so far comes from ESPN fantasy's Tristan Cockcroft (here).
Sure, he talks about some of the most obvious themes we've already hit on:
- Al Saunders + Randy McMichael = good things
- Al Saunders + Steven Jackson = even better things
In any case, there are some interesting positions I thought we could look at and it just seems natural to start with the superstar positions.
QB: How is the battle between Green and Gradkowski going to play out? Trent turns 38 on the 9th while "The Graduate" (he needs a nickname) is just 25. Of course Green and Al Saunders have a notable history together, so we would have to assume he comes in as the #2, but is that just as a place holder? Is he really the #2 QB or just a mentor for Bulger and Grad-Cow (I'm gonna throw a couple out before the season starts) to help them with Big Al's system? If he's really just around to teach the system, how does that filter down to the receiving corps, specifically Avery & Burton?
(Starter: Bulger, Depth: Green, Gradkowski, Fighting for a spot: Brock Berlin)
RB: Skip SJ. We'll get there in more depth than we need to now. More interesting to me is the Antonio Pittman/Brian Leonard issue. What kind of role is Leonard going to have? Is he going to be a full-time FB? If so, why do we seem to be so concerned with his carries? As our first-line (and right now, only line) FB, don't we need to let him focus on blocking and forget carrying the ball? Last year he carried the ball 86 times, 73 of those coming in just 5 weeks including the tough loss against Arizona in week 5 when he scampered for 102 yards over 18 carries. If he's a backup RB, let him run and put a FB in front of Steven. Either way, I'm still confused about his role and how this plays out in camp.
(Starter: Steven Jackson, Depth: Pittman, Leonard, Minor, Fighting for a spot: Lance Ball)
WR: Torry, Drew, Reche, Donnie, & Keenan. What an interesting crew. If Drew holds the #2 spot through the summer, how do the 3-5 spots play out? Which rookie will have the better camp & preseason, Donnie Avery or Kennan Burton? Said otherwise, who will impress Saunders and Linehan enough to move into the #3 spot? If I had to guess, I would go out on a limb and guess it would be Avery. With Torry's consistency, and Bennett's route running, Avery's speed seems to be the better complement. Will Keenan's maturity as a WR help him to the #3 slot? Is Reche Caldwell's supply of veteran knowledge enough to get him field time early on in the season as Avery and Burton adapt to the NFL game? Seeing Burton and Avery on the field will make preseason games fun to watch, but for training camp, I'm not sure what to expect.
(Starters: Holt, Bennett, Depth: Avery, Burton, Caldwell, Dane Looker, Dante Hall, Marques Hagans, Fighting for a spot: Eric Fowler, Shaine Smith, Derek Stanley, Brandon Williams, Matt Caddell)
TE: Ok, Randy McMichael has as much pressure to perform this year as he's had since the 2005 preseason after a 2004 campaign in which he hauled in 73 receptions for 791 yards, still career highs. But I for one won't be scouring the internet to see how he's living (or not living) up to the hype of the McMichael-Saunders express. Instead, I want to know how the depth at TE plays out. We brought in Anthony Becht, the beefy blocker who has 2 inches and 25 pounds on the athletic McMichael, to help lead the way on the line. Of couse Joe Klopfenstein still looms behind; maybe this year the pressure to stay relevant gets him to perform on a level we haven't seen. Don't hold your breath.
(Starters: McMichael, Becht, Depth: Klopfenstein, Fighting for a spot: Richard Owens/FB, Dedrick Harrington, Nick Cleaver)
OL: How do we break this down? Better question: do we need to watch battles or just make sure nobody gets hurt? VanRam hinted at this here when he was looking at some O-line shuffling. Let's look at the outside. Orlando's coming off a tough injury, but let's assume he's fine and reminds everyone of his HOF capability. Let's look at who else we have at T on the depth chart: Alex Barron, Adam Goldberg, John Greco (R), Rob Petitti, Mark LeVoir and Brandon Gorin. That's 7 tackles listed on the roster. At least you can't say we don't have depth. Is Alex Barron going to step up? I'm also eager to see how Greco and our other OL rookie, Roy Schuening, look. Schuening, offseason pickup Jacob Bell, and Mark Setterstrom hold down the guard spots. In the middle, Richie Incognito (great last name for an offensive lineman) seems to have grabbed the starting nod, but we've got tons of names here too, like Dustin Fry, Brett Romberg, Donovan Raiola and Nick Leckey. Good god, that's a lot of fat men. I won't even try to suggest where they all sit in terms of relative safety, but I will offer the disclaimer that in between when I wrote this and when you read it, somebody will have shifted from RG to RT or from LG to RG or any combination that ignores Orlando grip on his LT spot.
Next week I'll come back with the defensive look. Discuss.