The St. Louis Rams wrapped up rookie minicamp on Sunday. It was just enough practice to get the newest players a few reps in shorts and helmets, but it was more than enough to get us thinking about a few things as the Rams gear up for the rest of their offseason work ahead of training camp.
1. What's the d-line rotation going to look like?
I use the term starters loosely when talking about the Rams defensive line because the personnel rotate in and out quite a bit. Obviously, Chris Long and Robert Quinn are the mainstays, but I'm more curious about how the rotation will look with Aaron Donald and Alex Carrington in the mix this year.
It stands to reason that Donald and Michael Brockers will get most of the reps inside, but if Donald's at all raw against the run (he doesn't look like he is), he could get eased in as a situational pass rusher. Carrington could be the free agent score of the offseason, if he can stay healthy. Kendall Langford's role could be cut back too. William Hayes has been kicking inside on passing downs, so how much will he continue to do that with Carrington and Donald in the mix as pocket-pushing interior linemen?
2. What's the secondary going to look like?
This much we know: Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson will start as the two outside corners. T.J. McDonald will be the strong safety. So what about the slot corner role and free safety? Second-round pick Lamarcus Joyner is sort of a jack-of-all-trades. I'd expect to see him working the slot and working the back of the field some. Rodney McLeod had been marked as a potential slot man after Cortland Finnegan's release, and he could still see playing time there if neither Joyner or sixth-round pick E.J. Gaines works into the mix.
One thing we've seen in the past is that the Rams aren't hesitant to use rookie defensive backs, partly out of necessity. They'll figure prominently into the mix again this season, and how well they do could go along way toward fixing the overall unit.
3. Greg Robinson an inside man?
It sounds like the Rams are leaning toward starting the second overall pick in the draft at the left guard spot. He looks ready to play there given his run blocking technique and tenacity. For now, the offensive line looks like this: LT Jake Long, LG Robinson, C Scott Wells, RG Rodger Saffold & RT Joe Barksdale.
However, if Jake Long isn't ready to play in Week 1, it'll necessitate some shuffling, most likely with Saffold moving to the left side. That means more shuffling elsewhere up front.
4. What about those receivers?
It should be fairly obvious by now that the Rams don't plan on passing the ball more than they have to this season. That's probably wise considering the great unknown at wide receiver. Stedman Bailey was being counted on to play a larger role this year, after catching just 17 passes last season. He's out for the first quarter of the season thanks to a PED suspension.
That means Tavon Austin and Chris Givens will need to play a bigger role, which looks dicey from here. Austin was at his best in a limited role as a gadget player and working some deep routes. Givens fell way off after a promising rookie year. If those two can't up their level of play, that leaves the Rams passing game dependent on underwhelming options Austin Pettis, Brian Quick and Kenny Britt.
Of course, there's also last year's high-priced free agent acquisition Jared Cook. But he looks limited to running seam routes.
5. Is it enough?
A quiet walk through free agency and a well-regarded draft that was heavy on defense ... that sums up the Rams' offseason this year. It means they're also expecting big steps forward from the players already on the roster. Will that be enough to contend in a tough NFC West and a brutal 2014 schedule? It's been 10 seasons since the Rams have had a winning record, nine since they've been to the playoffs. All the inspiring offseason stories and celebratory draft picks won't matter in the face of another season on the wrong side of .500, and it sure won't do anything to help bring a waning local fan base back to the Dome.