With Rams training camp officially opening on Friday, and the team’s first preseason game a couple weeks away, we break down the top five things you should pay close attention to as Rams camp opens up.
5) Michael Sam: Everyone has been wrapped up in the Michael Sam extravaganza at Rams OTAs and rookie training camp. Prepare for Michael “Samfest” 2.0 to ramp up. Sam has proven he is a dominant force in the SEC but now at the NFL level, he has to prove himself once again. He has lost 13lbs and has continuously been lifting with the team to become faster and stronger. The Rams already have a tough defensive front four for anyone to make it into the line-up, but add the competition with Aaron Donald and Sam has one tough fight. One thing is for sure, Sam will give it his all to impress his coaches, teammates and the St. Louis fans.
4) Gregg Williams’ Defense: New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will take an already scary defense and turn it into a scarier unit. Still question if Williams can get it done? With the New Orleans Saints last year, Williams took an injured defense and made them fourth in points scored per game and 2nd best in passing yards allowed per game. Now add Robert Quinn, Chris Long and James Laurinaitis to Williams’ playbook and you have quarterbacks worried for their health. What will be interesting is the talent pool Williams chooses from for the empty secondary positions. Rookies Lemarcus Joyner, Maurice Alexander and Greg Reid have already impressed plenty during OTAs.
3) Tre Mason & Zac Stacy: Zac Stacy was a dominant force last season for the Rams at tailback. Tre Mason was a dominant force for Auburn in the SEC. Now add those two together and you have one QUICK running game. The agility of Tre Mason and strength of Zac Stacy may make for one heck of a 1-2 punch for the Rams in the upcoming season. Pay close attention to the different ways Coach Fisher and Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer use Mason’s skills. He has lined up in the slot, at tailback and even spent some time on the special teams unit. The Rams may have found a diamond in the third round of the draft.
2) Offensive Line: Jake Long is healthy, Rodger Saffold is back and the Rams used the 2nd overall pick for Greg Robinson. A problem the Rams have struggled with in the past has been a strong and healthy offensive line to protect their quarterback. This may be the most excited Bradford has been with his offensive line in a while. You also have veterans Joe Barksdale and Scott Wells returning to the team to solidify a strong offensive line for the upcoming season. Biggest question mark will be how Robinson adapts to playing at the guard position since he spent his college career at tackle. Robinson has made it clear that it’s been a tough camp adapting to the position switch, but for as strong and athletic as Robinson is, he won’t have a problem fitting in anywhere
1) Passing Game: Yes, the question that has been on everyone’s minds going into the season. What about our offense? There’s no question that Jeff Fisher loves to use the running game. Sam Bradford is back and healthy, so we may need to keep an eye on the different uses of the 2014 offense. The upgrade at offensive line will give Bradford much more protection and time to make decisions down-field. Plus, with the addition of former Titans WR Kenny Britt and second year for Tavon Austin, Schottenheimer may have a lot of fun keeping the opponents’ defense on their toes during the game. Kenny Britt impressed with his skills at OTAs, so the connection between Sam Bradford and Kenny Britt may be an impressive one for the 2014 season.