“Comfortability” with Schottenheimer
Eleven days in December. That’s all newly signed quarterback Kellen Clemens had to bite off and digest an abridged yet complex Josh McDaniels playbook before getting his first NFL start in two years.
Clemens played a good game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15 considering the circumstances. He threw for 25 completions on 36 attempts for 229 yards and led the Rams on a late-game charge by throwing a 25-yard touchdown to wide receiver Danario Alexander.
But alas, the Rams came up just a bit short and lost the game 20-13. Clemens finished out the season as the Rams starter while Sam Bradford nursed his high ankle sprain and A.J. Feeley sat with a broken thumb.
Now fast forward to OTAs in June of 2012. McDaniels is now back in New England at his old post as Bill Belichick’s right-hand man and the Rams reunite Clemens with his former offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, from his days with the Jets. Clemens spent five seasons (2006-2010) with Schottenheimer in New York backing up Chad Pennington, Brett Favre and Mark Sanchez.
So how much of those experiences translate into the 2012 offensive playbook that the Rams are installing right now? I would have thought it was more similar than different but it’s not that simple. Schottenheimer has different pieces to work with here, unlike those in New York.
“I think there’s certainly some carry over offensively,” Clemens said. “Schotty has done a very good job of adapting what he does to what Sam (Bradford) does well and what’s here. He’s always done a very good job of putting the playmakers that he has in the best situation possible to make plays. He’s doing that. There are some tweaks and some different wrinkles that we’ve got going on here.”
Clemens also feels a familiarity and “comfortability” with Schottenheimer on a personal level. Especially when it comes to what he expects from Clemens at the quarterback position, which includes preparation and the intangibles that Schottenheimer places extra value on.
Don’t call him the M-word
He is not quick to use the M-word though. In fact, according to Clemens, Schottenheimer hasn’t asked him to be Bradford’s mentor.
“No, nothing officially has been said because I do know what’s going on offensively and I do have a relationship with him. I’ve tried to give some little things that I’ve learned along the way,” he said. “There are some little intricacies to this offense that aren’t written on paper. But once you’ve done it a few times there are some tweaks and some different things that you can modify. So I’ve tried to help Sam out a little bit. Obviously, he’s very talented. But he’s smart. He is a smart, smart quarterback.”
With all the enormous egos that crowd the NFL it was nice to hear that Bradford wasn’t one of them. Clemens and Bradford seem to have a healthy relationship where he can approach Bradford and vice versa.
“It goes both ways. There are guys that are prideful that they won’t ask. Sam certainly is not that type. He’s out here to get better and is focused on that. But there are some little things I’ll see and I don’t make a big deal out of it. I just try and say here’s a suggestion. If you like it, great. If you don’t, do your thing. The kid is very talented so he doesn’t need a lot of help.”
This led me to ask the inevitable question about Bradford and Clemens’ former teammate Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Clemens didn’t bite though, much to my disappointment. Out of respect to both players he pretty much side stepped my question.
“They are different quarterbacks. I kind of figured since Mark was a top five pick and Sam was obviously the first overall (pick). There are some similarities in their situations that they came into as far as the draft of pressure wise but beyond that I don’t get into too much compare and contrast with those guys.”
It will be fine
Newly signed free agent center Scott Wells has missed the last five out of six OTAs open to the media. When I asked head coach Jeff Fisher about the Rams’ absent center he merely replied, “He had the day off.” Hmmm, that’s a lot of days off.
Rams fans have to be a bit anxious about Wells not getting on-field work with Bradford. I like to think that in front of every great quarterback is an equally great yet larger bodied center hiking him the ball and directing defensive traffic for him. So yeah, I am starting to worry a bit.
Clemens did his best “stay calm and carry on” for me though when I asked him if he’s concerned about Wells not being at OTAs.
“No. And he’s around. There is some carry over to what Scott is accustomed to and what we’re doing here. He’s another guy who’s very intelligent and very cerebral at his position. He’s in meetings and he’s fully aware. We’d love to have him out here but he’s just not able to get out here,” he said. “It will be fine. We’ll be fine. We’ll have plenty of training camp for them to get their mesh on the same page and it shouldn’t be a problem.”
As you can see Clemens is the seasoned veteran knowing all the right things to say. I just wish he had thrown me even a small bone.
Root hog get it done
One of my favorite memories from last season was from that very same Week 15 game against the Bengals. Running back Cadillac Williams just ran down the field for 12 yards but referee Jerome Boger called the play back. Boger penalized the Rams for a holding, naming offensive tackle Harvey Dahl as the offender.
Dahl had a few choice words for Mr. Boger. But what we all didn’t realize until it was too late was the fact that the referee’s microphone was still live. “That’s not f***ing holding!” rang loud and clear throughout the Dome and on television sets throughout the nation.
Normally I frown upon such verbiage but in this case I made an exception. Boger’s officiating crew had been getting on my nerves throughout that game. They had missed at least two blatant helmet-to-helmet hits on Clemens.
Don’t ask me how but Clemens didn’t hear it until he watched a taped version of the game at home with his wife and kids. “It’s unfortunate, like you said there are families watching it,” Clemens said. “And I know Harvey certainly regrets it. My kids were watching it. I don’t think it’s a moment he’ll live down any time soon.”
At this point I’m still laughing and loving what Dahl did but Clemens quickly came to Dahl’s defense. (He didn’t need to though, at least in my book.)
“He’s a good guy. We’re very fortunate to have him on the offensive line. He’s got, there’s a mentality that you look for in an offensive lineman, especially has a quarterback. And he’s got it. He’s got that protective mentality,” said Clemens. “He’s just going to root hog, get it done and it doesn’t matter how, it doesn’t matter if he’s going up against a guy that’s bigger than him, faster than him, whatever. He’s going to get the job done. He cares about the guys behind him and you really appreciate that as a quarterback.”
This was especially good to hear since the offensive line was, well, kind of offensive last season.
If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.
(The unforgettable words of the six-fingered Count Rugen from the movie “The Princess Bride.”)
Clemens says he remembers the first day he stepped into the Rams huddle. “They said there was not one offensive lineman that was in his original starting spot. How crazy is that?” he commented. “It was difficult and guys did the best they could and got the most done.”
I lost count how many times McDaniels had to shuffle deck and plug in players in awkward positions just to get through a game. And the person that probably suffered the most was Bradford. Coach Fisher and Schottenheimer will have to do what we all know to be of the utmost importance this year: protect Sam Bradford.
Clemens said, “There are a lot of things that we’ve gone a long way to fix, rectify and the biggest thing is just getting guys healthy. Sam got beat up last year. There were a lot of guys in that training room by the end of the year. Big thing this year is just to stay healthy.”
Amen, Mr. Clemens. Let’s keep Rams head trainer, Reggie Scott, less busy this season.
Bits and pieces
- The good news: Wide receiver Danario Alexander and cornerback Josh Gordy participated in practices after sitting out during previous OTA’s. It’s great to see Alexander finally back and getting work on the field.
- More good news: Second-round pick rookie running back from Cincinnati, Isaiah Pead, was on the field practicing today. He had been held out of OTA’s due to NFL graduation rules until this week. Coach Fisher said he was taking it slowly on the field with Pead while giving him some extra work off the field with the playbook. Pead will be using the day off Thursday to catch up. He seemed excited and somewhat relieved to finally be able to join the team.
- The bad news: Tight end Mike Hoomanawanui and center Scott Wells did not participate. OT Jason Smith also watched from the sidelines.
- Wide receiver Danny Amendola continues to impress with his catches and level of intensity during practices.
- I saw a couple of INTs made by rookies: one caught by safety Rodney McLeod and the other by Alex Hoffman-Ellis.
- Coach Fisher is giving the team the day off Thursday. The Rams will finish up their last OTA on Friday before conducting their mandatory veteran mini-camp next week from June 12-June 14.
- Rams have signed six out of their ten draft picks. Only defensive tackle Michael Brockers, wide receiver Brian Quick, cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson remain unsigned.
As always, thanks for reading.