ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Rookie cornerback E.J. Gaines had one of the first highlights of the Rams’ initial full-squad training camp practice when he snagged an interception of an errant Sam Bradford pass on Friday.
While one play during one training camp session isn’t going to help the sixth-round pick from the University of Missouri win a roster spot, especially when the players aren’t even wearing pads yet, it’s certainly a good start for a young player looking to make his mark.
“It felt good getting back out there with my teammates, making a couple plays,” Gaines said. “It felt good.”
And that interception?
“Interceptions always feel good,” Gaines said, smiling. “They always do. Just getting out there, getting back on the grass and getting back to competition.”
Gaines participated in the workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday with his rookie teammates and a few other more veteran players. But Friday was the official start to his rookie season, what he’s been working for.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder proved himself at the college level with the Tigers, earning all-conference accolades in both the Big 12 Conference and Southeastern Conference during his four years at Mizzou.
He expressed some initial disappointment in falling during the draft, before the Rams picked him with the 188th overall selection, but said Friday that no longer bothers him after arriving in St. Louis and seeing the family atmosphere with his new team.
“You don’t get treated any differently when you get here,” Gaines said. “They constantly say you have to make the team, whether you’re a first rounder or a free agent. I’m just ready to go out here and make plays and try to make this football team.”
That’s easier said than done, of course. But it’s feasible that Gaines landed in the best possible spot to begin his NFL career.
The Rams went into the 2014 draft looking to solidify their secondary and appear to have done just that after using four of their 11 selections to take defensive backs — corners Gaines and Lamarcus Joyner (second round) and safeties Maurice Alexander (fourth round) and Christian Bryant (seventh round).
Gaines adds to a secondary that has to rank among the youngest in the league, considering starting cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson and starting free safety Rodney McLeod are all beginning their third seasons and strong safety T.J. McDonald is going into his second.
“We don’t really have any true veterans, any real older guys,” Gaines said. “Everybody is young. I just try to come in here and follow in those footsteps, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and kind of look at what they are doing and try to do the same thing.”
The 22 year old will need to show that he’s a quick learner.
Gaines, who spent most of his time between OTAs and training camp working out in his hometown of Kansas City, said one of the things he’s been really working on is his press-man coverage, which he didn’t play much during his time in Columbia.
“We played mostly off-man at Mizzou,” he said, “so getting with Janoris and working on my footwork and my hands and things like that just to get ready for these quick, fast receivers.”
Yeah, more challenges await him in the very near future.
But Gaines, after the first day, showed he’s ready to make the most of whatever opportunities come his way.
Nate Latsch has been covering sports in St. Louis for more than a decade, working for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports, STLhighschoolsports.com, Scout.com and other newspapers and websites. You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch, email him at email@example.com and read more of his Rams coverage at GridironGateway.com.