Can you smell that? It's football, and it's right around the corner. The St. Louis Rams released their training camp preview on Tuesday, a handy guide to all the great things happening in Earth City starting on Sunday. It also included a look at the starters and key contributors as the team heads into camp.
Most of the starters you know already. But there figure to be a handful of highly contested roster battles to make things interesting.
Daryl Richardson, RB
He's listed as the starter, for now. Considering he was the No. 2 behind the now departed Steven Jackson, it makes perfect sense to see his name penciled in there. Of course, "starter" maybe a loose term for the Rams running backs. It's going to be a committee approach with Isaiah Pead and rookie Zac Stacy the most likely to split the workload out of the backfield ... oh, and Tavon Austin.
The battle here comes down to Stacy and Richardson for the majority of carries, or at least a plurality. Richardson made some believers with his work last season. There are others, including the 2013 Football Outsiders Almanac, who believe Stacy has a much higher ceiling. I guess we're about to find out.
Chris Williams, LG
You forget about Williams, the Bears former first-round pick that the Rams grabbed off waivers last year. You probably shouldn't forget about Williams. Injuries and the Bears overshadowed flashes of production he had in Chicago. He's played tackle too, but looks best on the inside.
Vying with Williams for that spot is second-year holdover Rok Watkins, who the brass has been high on since day one, rookie Barrett Jones and Shelley Smith. I like Jones, but his future might be as Scott Wells' eventual replacement in the middle. Smith played 343 snaps last season, starting six games between the left and right guard spots.
Alec Ogletree, LLB
It's not a surprise that Ogletree would be considered one of the Rams starting trio of linebackers. What is a surprise is that he's already on the list as a starter. The Rams usually start the rookies with the second teamers, not always, but typically. From there, the first-year players work their way up the depth chart.
Meh. Ogletree was getting work on the strong side in OTAs. The coaches have to like his ability in coverage, especially against tight ends. With a thumper like James Laurinaitis in the middle and another speedy linebacker on the right side , Jo-Lonn Dunbar, the Rams linebacker could really be a force this year.
Rodney McLeod, FS
This is a surprise because T.J. McDonald is expected to be one of the starting safeties. McDonald, a third-round pick, is the only safety on the roster that was actually drafted. McLeod saw almost all of his playing time on special teams last year. See above about rookies opening camp as starters. McDonald will be there once the season starts.
Darian Stewart, SS
We expect Stewart to be the starter, by default. But the safety spots are particularly weak for the Rams. Right now, the lack of experience makes this group look like more a weakness than last year's group with Dahl and Mikell. I'd personally like to see a veteran added to the mix, at least when roster cut downs start happening. Of course, maybe Mikell is still in the plans ... maybe?