From my 101ESPN column this week. A look at Rams OTA’s.
Wednesday marked the second week of organized team activities (OTAs) at Rams Park. They had just wrapped up their fifth OTA under coach Jeff Fisher.
The media got its first glimpse of the much-anticipated facelift in the wide receiving corps. The two rookie wide receivers, second-round pick Brian Quick from Appalachian State and fourth-round pick Chris Givens from Wake Forest, were finally able to join the rest of the team after attending the mandatory NFLPA Rookie Premiere.
There were two things that immediately stood out: Givens’ “mid-4.3” 40-yard speed and Quick’s 6-foot-3 height and 220-pound frame. Both were easy to single out from the pack, which was kind of refreshing.
And I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
“Givens first of all is extremely fast,” Rams third-year quarterback Sam Bradford said. “I think he’s a guy that defenses are going to have to be extremely aware of. If they fall asleep on him for a half second at all, he’s going to be by them. I think that’s nice to have, just that added speed.”
He went on to say, “Then Quick, I was working with him a little bit after practice today and it’s just extremely impressive watching him move. As big as he is, as tall as he is, he gets in and out of breaks really well. He’s fast as well. It’s exciting to have those two guys here. We’ve just got to keep pushing them, try to get them ready to go.”
Fisher was asked whether the two rookies would be behind.
“They’re up to speed,” he said. “We have to watch their legs, but they both were in the book and coaches spoke with them at night, so they’re fine. By the end of the week, it will be almost as if they never left. But still when they’re gone, you miss them. You miss some valuable opportunity.”
The duo more than made up that missed time after practice, though. Bradford and the other quarterbacks stayed behind after most of the team had gone back into the facility to work with a handful of receivers on routes.
Another new mug (and I say it with the utmost affection) on the field was that of third-year tight end Brody Eldridge, who was acquired from waivers via Indianapolis May 19. The addition of Eldridge brings the total number of TEs on the roster to eight. Lance Kendricks (second year), Mike Hoomanawanui (third year), Matthew Mulligan (fourth year), Mike McNeil (second year), Deangelo Peterson (rookie), Cory Harkey (rookie) and Jamie Childers (rookie). (Ben Guidugli was magically/accidentally listed as a fullback on Wednesday’s roster sheet.)
The future of the Rams passing game seems bright folks. The added height and speed don’t hurt, either. I’m trying not to sip the new Fisher/Les Snead Kool-Aid at Rams Park, but it’s getting harder to resist.
Bits and Pieces
1. Speaking of the passing game: The third facet and quite possibly the foundation of the entire offense, the offensive line, was missing its center – literally and figuratively. For the second media-accessible practice in a row, newly signed former Packers center Scott Wells was not in attendance Wednesday. Last Friday, Wells was at least on the field, albeit in a baseball cap just watching. Wednesday, he was nowhere to be found. Coach Fisher simply said, “He was excused,” and left it at that.
2. On the theme of offensive lineman, I may have discovered a new secret weapon for the Rams – rookie free agent offensive guard T. Bob Hebert. Post-practice, in a sequence of events, I watched T. Bob display some soft hands (pulled in a nice catch) and kick the ball back in surprising fashion. Just sayin’…
3. Also missing in action in Wednesday’s full practice were wide receiver Danario Alexander,Hoomanawanui, defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Trevor Laws, cornerback Josh Gordyand safety Matt Daniels. Five rookies still out due to graduation rules are punter John Hekker, running backs Isaiah Pead and Nick Schweiger and Harkey. Steven Jackson mentioned in his press conference that Pead would be returning June 8. That will be their first meeting of the two RB minds.
4. The awards for the first off-season scrum go to linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and offensive guard Harvey Dahl. There was some pushing, shoving and a helmet (Dahl’s) that went flying during 11-on-11 drills. (No players were injured during this scrum.) And much to my surprise and disappointment, it didn’t involve safety Cortland Finnegan. I just lost a bet right there.
5. The award for first rookie mistake goes to … Quick. He said he was at the airport wearing his new Beats (by Dre) and didn’t catch the announcement about the gate change, missing his flight back. He took a red eye in Monday morning. Good thing he’s better at catching footballs.
6. To simulate crowd noise during practice, Fisher went the most cost-effective route by utilizing the natural resources readily available. “We had a fairly good rookie class, voice-wise,” said Fisher, laughing. “It’s easy. You can turn it on and off.” Trust me, they were loud. The Rams really got value for their rookie signings.
As always, thanks for reading.