ST. LOUIS — The Rams open training camp on Friday with an afternoon practice session at Rams Park and higher expectations than they’ve had in years following last season’s 7-9 campaign.
The new-look Rams, in year 3 of the Jeff Fisher era, look poised to break a pair of dubious streaks. They haven’t had a winning season since 2003 and haven’t earned a playoff berth since 2004. Yes, 10 seasons ago.
Here’s a quick look at what fans need to know going into training camp:
The Rams didn’t suffer any notable losses in the offseason.
Guards Chris Williams (Buffalo) and Shelley Smith (Miami), safety Darian Stewart (Baltimore), backup quarterback Kellen Clemens (San Diego) and reserve tight Mike McNeill (Carolina) signed free agent deals elsewhere. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan (now with Miami) and guard Harvey Dahl (unsigned) were both released in salary cap-saving moves.
On the flip side, however, the Rams didn’t sign any big-money impact free agents. Unless you want to count offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, who signed a deal with the Oakland Raiders that was nixed due of a failed physical and ended up returning to the Rams on a rich deal.
As far as true free agent additions, the Rams signed backup quarterback Shaun Hill, wide receiver Kenny Britt, defensive lineman Alex Carrington and offensive guard Davin Joseph. Looking for a fresh start after some tumultuous years in Tennessee, Britt has a chance to make an impact among the receiving corps but is far from a sure thing.
While they didn’t make a big splash in free agency, the Rams improved their roster through the draft with 11 selections, including two first-round picks.
Greg Robinson, the No. 2 overall pick out of Auburn, is the likely starter at left guard and gives St. Louis a big (6-feet-5, 332 pounds) and nasty run blocker up front. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the No. 13 overall pick, adds another playmaker to a defensive line that has several.
Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, running back Tre Mason and safety Maurice Alexander, a St. Louis native who played at Eureka High School, will be among the rookies to watch throughout training camp who could make an impact during the regular season.
Seventh-round pick Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, showed what he could do during his senior season at Missouri but will have to prove himself throughout training camp to earn a roster spot.
WILLIAMS IS BACK
The Rams’ most important addition of the offseason may be new/old defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Fisher’s original choice for the position when he was hired by the Rams, the team cut ties with Williams when his connection to the Saints’ bounty scandal broke and the NFL suspended him for a year.
Williams should bring some stability to the Rams’ defense as a veteran coach with considerable experience, something the D lacked the past two seasons. He’ll also bring a fiery attitude and an aggressive approach in attacking opposing offenses.
OPEN PRACTICE SCHEDULE
The Rams will have several practices open to the public throughout training camp at Rams Park, as well as a scrimmage at Edward Jones Dome. The team will also have groups of players signing autographs after the open practices.
Here’s a rundown of the open practices with position groups scheduled to sign autographs for 15 minutes after practice in parentheses. All are subject to change. For up-to-date practice schedules, call the training camp hotline at 314-982-7267.
Friday, July 25 – Practice 3:30 p.m. (offensive linemen)
Saturday, July 26 – Practice 3:30 p.m. (defensive linemen)
Sunday, July 27 – Practice 5:30 p.m. (running backs/wide receivers)
Tuesday, July 29 – Practice 3:30 p.m. (quarterbacks/tight ends)
Friday, August 1 – Practice 3:30 p.m. (defensive backs)
Saturday, August 2 – Scrimmage 12:30 p.m. at Edward Jones Dome
Monday, August 4 – Practice 3:30 p.m. (linebackers/special teams)
Tuesday, August 5 – Practice 5:30 p.m. (running backs/wide receivers)
Monday, August 11 – Practice 3:30 p.m. (quarterbacks/tight ends)
Tuesday, August 12 – Practice 5:30 p.m. (offensive linemen)
Thursday, August 14 – Practice 3:30 p.m. (defensive linemen)
Tuesday, August 19 – Practice 3:30 p.m. (defensive backs)
Wednesday, August 20 – Practice 3:30 p.m. (team)
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.