This week began the four-week period during which NFL teams are allowed to begin conducting their official team activities. In fact, every team in the NFL began using their 10 allowable sessions this week...every team except the Rams.
Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher doesn't have the team coming in for the first OTA until next week, June 2. They'll use up all 10 sessions between then and June 19. They won't be using the mandatory minicamp during this period as per Fisher's history.
Back in 2009, Fisher explained to ESPN's Paul Kuharsky why he doesn't use the mandatory minicamp in this period:
My own personal feeling is if you have commitment to the offseason program then there is no need to take advantage of the mandatory minicamp....
...I don't know why you would take a professional athlete in the middle of the offseason and make him practice twice a day. I think it's a setback. I think what happens is, if you were to go ahead and have the mandatory minicamp, our attendance would drop off the weeks to follow and that's not our intention. What we want is a commitment to the program, four or five days a week. And we're getting that.
It's not an unfair argument. It just certainly looks strange when you're the only team clinging to that argument while 31 other teams do things differently.
In any case, here are the big storylines for next week.
Offensive Line Depth Chart
After the first-round selection of Todd Gurley, the Rams' 2015 NFL Draft class revolves largely around the collection of new offensive linemen they picked up weeks ago. As has been said before and will be oft repeated heading into week one of the 2015 season, the Rams are bringing just one week one starter from their 2014 offensive line back in Rodger Saffold. Greg Robinson will look to improve on a shaky rookie season that sporadically flashed justifications for his selection as the #2 player in the 2014 NFL Draft. Those other three spots though will be where the Rams rotate options to get comfortable with a starting five for August and into the regular season.
Healthy, Wealthy & Wise
Rodger Saffold and Brian Quick are both still rehabbing injured shoulders, though back in January Jim Thomas reported Saffold would likely be able to participate in non-contact drills. Isaiah Pead might be able to return after injuring his knee in the 2014 preseason. And of course, rookie RB Todd Gurley is still sidelined from his ACL injury in mid-November last year. The NFL world winced at initial video and word of an injury to Jacksonville rookie DE Dante Fowler. The news he tore his ACL was both shocking but worth remembering. Injuries are part of the football calendar, not just the regular season. The Rams would do well to get through camp and into the preseason as healthy as possible. That they enter OTAs as healthy as they are is a good start.
With Gurley sidelined, much of the attention will be on Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown and Andrew Donnal on the offensive line as top-120 picks. Sean Mannion will get plenty of scrutiny too. But don't forget the back end of the Rams' 2015 draft class as well as their UDFA haul. E.J. Gaines went from 6th round pick trying to make the team to perhaps the team's best cover corner. Johnny Hekker was an undrafted free agent in 2012. Now, he's the recipient of the contract containing the highest amount of guaranteed money in history for a punter or kicker.
The road to making the team begins here.
(That's completely not true, but it sounds better than the alternatives. Let's move on.)
It's been a decade since the Rams' offense was markedly a better unit than their defense. That likely doesn't change in 2015. And despite not adding a defensive draft pick until round 7, some big free agent signings in DT Nick Fairley and LB Akeem Ayers through some key rotation questions into the mix. Getting all the pieces in place and starting to figure out the first attempts to answer those rotation questions is going to be a key to the entire preseason, let alone OTAs.
So enjoy the week off, Rams fans. We're turning up a week late to the party.