The St. Louis Rams are about two weeks away from the onset of their organized team activities [OTA’s], which will begin on June 2. Following that date, the Rams will run drills/practice on June 4-5, June 8-9, June 11, June 15-16, and June 18-19. Story lines are bound to heat up as the offseason progresses...here are five things to look for as we inch toward training camp.
How The Offensive Line Rounds Out
Jake Long is gone. Scott Wells is gone. Joe Barksdale is...unsigned. And the Rams drafted four offensive lineman in the 2015 NFL Draft. Aside from Greg Robinson, who looks to be a lock at left tackle to start the season, and offensive guard Rodger Saffold, that leaves quite a bit of uncertainty about the offensive line as a whole.
Tim Barnes, who the Rams re-signed to a one year deal, appears to be the starter at center. Or will the world finally see Barrett Jones step in and contribute on a consistent basis? Maybe it’ll be the 7th round center from 2014, Demetrius Rhaney, whose healthy return moves him atop the depth chart.
As for the 2015 class, one might assume 2nd round selection Rob Havenstein could be the insurance the Rams need[ed] at right tackle, operating under the assumption the Rams and Barksdale aren’t able to strike a deal. In the 3rd round, the Rams drafted Louisville OT Jamon Brown. At 6’4" and 323 lbs. Jeff Fisher has already stated he projects Brown to play guard, which is another vacancy along the offensive front. The team also draft Iowa product Andrew Donnal in the 4th round. Shortly after being drafted, Donnal said [on a conference call] that he’s played every position on the offensive line, including center. Last, but certainly not least, they drafted Fresno State guard Cody Wichmann in the 6th. Wichmann is the only offensive lineman, of the four drafted, who strictly served as an offensive guard in his final collegiate year.
Who Earns A Starting Spot At Cornerback
Barring injury, Janoris Jenkins will be the CB1 for the Rams. And one would think the Rams would lean on Trumaine Johnson, who’s entering his fourth season in the league, starting opposite Jenkins.
But then there’s E.J. Gaines. The Rams’ 6th round selection from last year’s draft, many deem Gaines the steal of the 2014 draft class, as a result of his often exceptional on-field play.
And, for what it’s worth, he’s currently listed at CB2 on the Rams’ officially unofficial depth chart.
Which Wide Receiver Develops A Rapport With Nick Foles
For the first time since 2010, for a reason completely unrelated to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, there is a new starting quarterback in St. Louis. Nick Foles, whom the Rams traded for earlier this offseason, is looking forward to a new start, in a new city, with a new offensive coordinator. And he’ll have to familiarize himself with a new set of weapons.
The whole notion of a "true number one wide receiver" has escaped the Rams since the exodus of Torry Holt [too many] years ago. And every year since, the Rams have had a different wideout [or tight end] lead the team in receiving yards.
So who will create that offseason "buzz" as they build a solid rapport with the Rams’ new signal caller? Could it be Kenny Britt? With six seasons already under his belt, 26-year old receiver seems the most logical answer. He lead the team in receiving yards last season, and provides the biggest target aside from TE Jared Cook [who lead the team in yardage in 2013], on the roster.
Maybe it’s a Mountaineer. Tavon Austin has shown flashes of brilliance, but not necessarily on offense. Regardless of how the Rams’ [more so Brian Schottenheimer] utilized his skill sets in 2014, he possesses the ability to quickly change the complexion of a game. Your move, Frank Cignetti.
Many fans want to see more of Stedman Bailey. He’s an intelligent receiver who runs sound routes, displays sure hands, and is as reliable as they come. His snap counts are sure to increase in 2015, especially if Brian Quick isn’t healthy for Week 1.
Briefly aforementioned, Jared Cook is a big, speedy tight end who creates mismatches. He's a prime red zone target for Foles, and could be in for another big year in St. Louis.
Rotation On The Interior Defensive Line
Michael Brockers was drafted 14th overall in 2012. He’s been very sound for the Rams, but has yet to produce statistics that would wow the fan base. Aaron Donald was drafted 13th overall in 2014, and did exactly the opposite. Donald was consistently living in the offensive backfield, and finished second on the team in sacks in his rookie season [with 9.0]. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and was named the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
In a move that [may have] surprised many, the Rams signed Lions’ defensive tackle - and 13th overall pick from the 2011 NFL Draft - Nick Fairley in the offseason. Like Brockers, Fairley has been sound [though not as healthy], and has yet to tally numbers similar to Donald.
But one of them will be starting next to Donald, and one of them will have to earn the snaps. Both of them have good reason to perform. The Rams exercised their 5th year option on Brockers, so if it’s a payday he wants, it’s a payday he’ll have to earn. For Fairley, his earning power in 2015 is all on his shoulders...
#Rams signed DT Nick Fairley on a 1-year deal worth $5M base, source said. He can make up to $7.5M in incentives. A prove-it deal.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 13, 2015
The Shakeup At Running Back
In 2013, after rookie Zac Stacy nearly rushed for 1,000 yards in what was roughly 10 games, many fans were disappointed the Rams selected Auburn’s Tre Mason in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft. Early offseason discussions brought about debate as to whether Mason could take the starting job from Stacy. He did, and it wasn’t the "timeshare" many thought it might be.
Mason played well as the team’s starter, though only featured in 12 games. He rushed for 765 yards, at 4.3 ypc, and scored four times [+1 reception TD]. The starting job in 2015, for the Auburn Tiger, was never in question...until April 30th. Yikes.
The Rams, to the dismay/surprise/whathaveyou of many took Georgia’s Todd Gurley with the 10th overall pick in the most recent draft. Running back was waaaaaaay down their list of needs, but the regime is adamant they got the player at the top of their board.
For Mason, it doesn’t mean the imminent departure that Stacy got/requested. As a matter of fact, Mason may not even have competition at the start of the year...but that’s dependent upon the readiness/health of Gurley. As Jeff Fisher put it:
We’re not going to rush (the recovery). We may be a little on the conservative side. This is the running back of our future, and it makes no sense to put him in a bad situation sooner than we have to.
Don’t think Mason is just going to hand over the gig though...
Doubting me..? ☕️— Tre Mason (@TreMason) May 1, 2015