The old saying is “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Head coach Jeff Fisher hopes his young Rams can benefit from such ignorance Sunday in Detroit. Fisher said this year’s team is his youngest ever, and it’s “not close.” But with such inexperience comes a level of exuberance as well.
“It’s exciting,” Fisher said. “These guys are anxious and eager, they’ve got confidence. I’d much rather coach a young team than an old team.”
With 17 first-year players on the 53-man roster, nearly one-third of Fisher’s team will be playing in their first regular season game on Sunday. Even with first-round pick Michael Brockers out due to an ankle sprain, rookies Janoris Jenkins, Brian Quick, Chris Givens and Rokevious Watkins should all play large roles right off the bat. Quarterback Sam Bradford said the way the team’s rookies have handled that level of responsibility makes him confident heading into Sunday.
“I think we’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of rookies in this locker room who are going to help us,” Bradford said. “We’ve had a lot of rookies step in, handle everything that’s been thrown at them. I know the guys on offense have done a great job as far as picking up and retaining information. When they’re in the huddle they’re just like anyone else, and I think that’s a good sign.”
Defensive end Chris Long – a graybeard in the locker room at 27 – said the energy and the enthusiasm the young players bring to the team is infectious.
“One thing about being young is you’re not afraid of anything,” Long said. “You’re not afraid of losing. They haven’t been through the downs. It keeps people with a hopeful frame of mind. We’re going to go into this thing headfirst and fearlessly in week one.”
As far as getting such a young team mentally prepared for such a big moment, Fisher said he doesn’t plan to do much different than past years.
“Nothing changes,” Fisher said. “You take the same approach, preparation-wise. You just have to maybe spend a little extra time with some of the younger guys to let them know what the regular season is all about.”
Jenkins, one of those rookies making his regular-season debut Sunday, may at times find himself lined up across from one of the league’s elite receivers in Calvin Johnson. Covering such a dynamic receiver is a tall order for even the most seasoned defender, but Jenkins said he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“He’s a great receiver,” Jenkins said. “He’s physical, he’s fast. They don’t call him Megatron for nothing. It’s always exciting. You get to make plays, they get to make plays. Hopefully, I make the most plays.”
It’s that sort of blissfully ignorant, devil-may-care attitude that makes Long think these young Rams will learn to swim before they sink.
“They’re rookies, so they’re going to screw up some,” Long said. “We say, ‘if you’re going to make a mistake, make it 100 miles an hour.’ So as long as these rookies are playing fast – as long as we’re playing fast – I think we’ll be just fine.”