Jeff Fisher will probably be giving his starters a few more reps this week when the St. Louis Rams take on the Kansas City Chiefs. A little extra playing time will help Sam Bradford and the others get tuned up as the regular season approaches. Further down the depth chart, players are getting another shot to make their case to move up the depth chart or even stay on the final 53-man roster.
Here are five players to keep your eye on Saturday night, five players vying for a bigger role with the team.
1. Isaiah Pead, RB
Pead's roster spot is safe, but he had a rough outing last week, miffing a handoff and fumbling on another attempt. He gave fans a little taste of what made him such an attractive pick in the second round, but he mostly looked like a ball of nerves. Pead needs to show more patience for the game this week. Holding onto the football is an obvious one, but he also needs to slow things down in his head and find his running lanes. He tried to bounce a few runs outside as though he were playing college ball again.
Here's what Fisher said about Pead following Wednesday's practice:
"He did a good job today - before he came out, because he put his contacts in. Yesterday, he forgot to put his contacts in and dropped three balls in 7-on-7. Today, he caught the ball well, go figure. No, he's done good. He's explosive and he's catching on. His deal to me is the offensive stuff is moving forward, he's progressing, he's doing fine. We just have to give him more opportunities. He learned from a couple mistakes in the ball game - put the ball on the ground, responsible also for the exchanged fumble on the draw. Preseason is important to him because he'll learn from those mistakes and he won't let them happen again."
2. Jason Smith, RT
This one kind of goes without saying, huh? In my humble opinion, Smith was the better blocker last week, doing a much better job than Barry Richardson. Past biases aside, the Rams really need one of their right tackles to step up, and Smith has so far been the better tackle.
That said, he has plenty of work left to do. A missed offsides call should have killed a third down play that resulted in a sack on Kellen Clemens from the right side, Smith's side, but he still has to be able to improvise even when the angles and whistles do not go in his favor.
3. Matt Conrath, DT
6-foot-8 is big for a defensive tackle, and Conrath showed the expected struggles with leverage in last week's game again Indianapolis' backups. Remember, this is a guy the Rams were really high on, targeting him as a UDFA coming out of Virginia this year. They will not be giving up on him so easily, but with another defensive tackle added to the roster and holdovers Jermelle Cudjo and Darrell Scott competing for roster spots, Conrath needs to show more this week.
Here's fisher last week on Conrath:
"We're seeing some potential there. He has a chance to be a pretty good football player. The process is evaluating them in the games. That's where you get a better sense. Based on what we've seen so far, he's very strong, he's got a lot of growth potential physically, but he's a very smart young football player."
Remember, good practices need to translate to good work on the playing field.
4. Rodney McLeod, S
Another Virginia product claimed by the Rams as a UDFA. He had a nice outing last week with the second and third team, and is making a strong case to be the team's fourth safety. Special teams is his ticket.
Here's what Fisher had to say about McLeod on Thursday:
"Rodney's doing fine. Playing special teams and doing some good things. Actually, in the second half he was involved in some plays last week."
5. Brian Quick, WR
The rookie had some problems with the press and in man coverage last week, not unexpected. Quick drew rave reviews for his work in practice this week, so this would be a good time to translate that into success on the playing field.
Sam Bradford praised his receiver after practice on Thursday:
"It looked like the light bulb came on today for him. He had a great practice, made a lot of tough catches in traffic and if he can do that, he's definitely going to help this football team. The grabs he made today weren't easy. He's got the ability. Hopefully it's something he uses today and builds on and keeps getting better."
If Quick does get some work against the Chiefs' first team, and I suspect he will, he has a tough test with Brandon Flowers and Stanford Routt.
Who else would you put on this list?