While it may lack the intensity of training camp or the focus of a game week practice, it’s practice nonetheless.
The biggest thing to look for? Personnel decisions at this point. This is the first time the Rams can line up their offense against their defense, so coaches have to have a sense of which string which players are on.
Here’s the three major decisions to look for.
1.) The offensive line
For the first time since 2009, the Rams are going through an offseason without Rodger Saffold III. With C John Sullivan also having departed, there are two spots on the starting line to be filled.
While the early assumption is that OL Joseph Noteboom and OL Brian Allen will take over those two spots, I wouldn’t lock anything in yet. Many have suggested that RG Austin Blythe is best suited to move back to center where he started his NFL career. Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator/Co-Offensive Coordinator Aaron Kromer has been public about how highly he values position flexibility from his linemen, so who knows what he might do. The Rams also have two draft picks from the 2019 NFL Draft to sort through as well in Bobby Evans and David Edwards.
Unsurprisingly, QB Jared Goff and the Rams offense as a whole played their worst football in 2018 when the line struggled.
Getting this decision right is the most important one of the year.
2.) How the new veterans rotate with the youth
The Rams signed two late-career veterans in LB Clay Matthews and S Eric Weddle who have both had fantastic NFL careers. Those careers are closer to the end than the beginning at this point.
So figuring how to rotate those experienced stars with the younger options at their position depth charts (and for Matthews figuring out which depth chart he’ll be assigned to be it inside linebacker or outside) will be a major decision that won’t really form until we get to regular season game action. The origins of that decision though will begin over these next few weeks.
3.) Rookie and second-year players
Noteboom. Allen. LB Micah Kiser. EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. RB John Kelly. OL Jamil Demby. DL Sebastian Joseph-Day. EDGE Trevon Young. LB/S Travin Howard. EDGE Justin Lawler.
Minus DL John Franklin-Myers, the Rams’ class from the 2018 NFL Draft totaled just 208 snaps on offense and defense. That number will be higher in 2019, but will it just be because of Noteboom and Allen? Could any of the rest of them including Franklin-Myers find their way into the starting rotation?
And what of the 2019 class? How will S Taylor Rapp and CB David Long work their way into rotation in a stacked secondary? While RB Darrell Henderson’s usage may be more of a headline when we get to the season, we likely won’t get much clarity on that front as RB Todd Gurley is likely not going to be involved in OTAs or the preseason. If anything, we’ll only get some insight during camp, but I’d table it until Week 1 TBH. And what about the Day 3 guys? The Rams sure made hay about ensuring they were able to land DT Greg Gaines. Does he have the inside track to a starting gig, or was it more about just securing him and letting him rotate on a limited basis to begin his career?