NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - INSIDE SLANT
Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer knows he is in a unique situation. His starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, is 25, and entering his fourth NFL season.
Of the top five wide receivers, Austin Pettis is the "dean" of the group at 25 and entering his third season. Rookies Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey join second-year players Chris Givens and Brian Quick.
Tight end Jared Cook has played four seasons and Lance Kendricks two. At running back, Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and Terrance Ganaway ate all in the second year, while Zac Stacy is a rookie.
Scary? Not according to Schottenheimer. While acknowledging he's probably never been around a group so young, he said, "It's kind of exciting. If they weren't working so hard, if they were struggling a little bit mentally - which I'm sure they'll have their days - I'd probably be a little bit nervous, but they're doing really well.
"Coach (Jeff Fisher) helps us by setting up the structure where we can get a chance to visit with these guys and do the installs a couple different times, which certainly helps them. A young group, but a very fast, explosive group, so there's a tradeoff there.
"I understand why Sam has a smile on his face for a lot of reasons, obviously the weapons and obviously not having to learn a new system. It's been a really great offseason. Guys are working hard. It's been fun to watch them work."
Said Bradford, "It's definitely come a long way since we first started with those rookies. I've been really impressed by some of the young guys that we've had - Tavon, Stedman - thought they've done a great job. We're asking them to play a lot of different positions right now. Of course there's still mistakes, but for the most part they've been extremely sharp. The chemistry, I think, is really coming along. Obviously the more reps we've gotten together on the field in practice, things have really started to click."
While Bradford doesn't buy into the notion that the Rams will be "pass-happy," he did say, "It's definitely going to be a different offense. I think if you look at the speed we have now compared to the speed we've had in past years, we have significantly more speed this year. Obviously with Steven (Jackson) gone, we don't have a big, physical running back. The running backs we have now are a little smaller, but they're quicker in space. I don't know if it means if we're going to throw the ball more. I'd be fine with that. I would definitely think we'd probably move more to the one-back world, spread people out. I think that's probably the direction we're going."
Bradford is enthused with the addition of Cook, and his ability to get down the field.
"It's going to be hard for people to match up with him," Bradford said. "If they want to put a MIKE linebacker on him, then we'll take that matchup all day. It's just going to give us the ability to open the playbook and kind of stretch the middle of the field and put stress on the defense."
Finally, Bradford figures the offense will now be able to dictate to the defense, rather than the other way around.
He told espn.com, "It just seems like when we played teams in the past, they were pretty much saying, 'This is what we play, you can't beat us and we're going to play it.' I don't think teams are going to be able to do that anymore. They will have to design coverages to stop some of the players that we have."
NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - NOTES, QUOTES
--The San Francisco 49ers were 11-4-1 last season, but they weren't able to beat the Rams. Both games went into overtime, with one ending in a tie, and the Rams winning the other.
Now, 49ers safety Craig Dahl, who was signed away from the Rams in the offseason, said the Rams had success against San Francisco last season because the 49ers were tipping offensive plays.
"We had a few tips off of film that we were able to differentiate between run and pass early," Dahl said. "So that kind of gave us an added benefit on defense. It was a few different things. Some different personnel and alignment stuff really were the big keys, as far as our giveaways."
Naturally, Dahl told the team what he knew after signing on March 17. He said, "It's stuff that's been corrected. It's just them discussing what kind of things we prepared for when I was in St. Louis last year, as far as scouting and different things we saw game-planning against the 49ers' offense. Kind of working with the offensive coaches on that aspect, and also kind of giving them tips and tendencies on their offense.
"It's been addressed and corrected. They knew most of it before I even got here, and it's re-confirming. It's just ongoing, self-studying and self-scouting stuff. Got that cleared up, too."
Meanwhile, sweetening even more rivalry between the Rams and 49ers, Rams cornerback Corland Finnegan responded to Dahl's claim on Twitter by writing, "Craig Dahl is lame and weak for that glad he with another squad we know how he play thanks for the tips we know who 2 go at."
In a later tweet, Finnegan said, "Craig Dahl we know how you play thanks for the tips we know who to attack early and often."
--Training camp will feature a battle for the starting job at left guard. With Rob Turner having signed with Tennessee as a free agent, Chris Williams and Shelley Smith have been alternating during OTAs. Rokevious Watkins has been working behind Harvey Dahl at right guard, but he could also be in the mix. Williams and Smith played right guard at the end of last season when Dahl missed the final two games because of a biceps injury.
Said offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, "Chris and Shelley are rotating. Obviously Rokevious is a guy that we're going to swing around a little as well. Again, we've got two guys that played for us last year. We went by series if you guys remember the last two games, Tampa Bay and Seattle, and didn't give up a sack against two pretty good front fours.
"It's been fun to watch them compete. They're both (in their) second year in the system, but both of them actually missed training camp last year because we got them both late. Again, you see they're leaps and bounds ahead of where they were last year, so that's making the competition even more fun to watch."
As for Watkins, it will be important that he report for training camp in good condition, something he didn't do as a rookie last year. He will also miss the first game of the season because of a league suspension.
Said Fisher, "Rok needs to continue to focus on his conditioning, continue to focus on his weight and focus on his football. This will be a big challenge for him. Last year when he left, he came back; let me just say, he did not meet his weight requirement when he reported to camp. This year, he needs to do that when he comes back. Make sure he's down."
Watkins said he plans to stay in St. Louis under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson between the time OTAs ended and the start of training camp at the end of July.
"I'll be here all summer working with (Gullickson)," Watkins told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Twice a day. I'm not going nowhere. I'll be right here at One Rams Way."
--Kellen Clemens and Austin Davis are competing for the backup job behind quarterback Sam Bradford. Coach Jeff Fisher said earlier in the offseason, Davis has a good chance of being No. 2. He was a rookie free agent last year, while Clemens is entering his eighth NFL season.
Schottenheimer said of Austin, "He's doing good. The thing Austin did last year, he didn't always know what he was doing, but he did move the team in the preseason and ultimately that's what you're trying to get done as a quarterback - to move the team. This year you see him being much faster with his decisions, maybe a little bit more accurate with his throws. He's got a better feel for what we're teaching footwork-wise. Again, another guy having a good spring."
--With one OTA remaining in the St. Louis Rams' offseason program, the team went from having no draft picks signed to getting them all done June 13. The Rams were the 10th NFL team to have their draft choices signed at that point.
That includes two No. 1 picks, wide receiver Tavon Austin and linebacker Alec Ogletree. Those two bring to eight the number of first-round choices signed in the NFL.
The other picks signing were safety T.J. McDonald (third round), wide receiver Stedman Bailey (third), center Barrett Jones (fourth), cornerback Brandon McGee (fifth) and running back Zac Stacy (fifth).
The Rams had been the only team in the NFL without any signed draft picks, but that was by design. The team believes there's no rush to get signing bonus money into players' hands while they are participating in offseason work.
With OTAs having ended Friday, the rookies will be around for another week for mostly conditioning and community activities.
Prior to the signings, coach Jeff Fisher said, "They've got a roof over their head and three meals, and they're doing fine right now. We just feel like they'll be better suited if we can take them through step A and B of Financial Planning 101 before we give 'em the money. It's just that simple."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That will be the biggest question because obviously 'Jack' (Steven Jackson) gave us that. Our defense gives us some really tough looks, which has been good. We ask a lot of our backs, and again, so far, so good, but there will be some things that come up that we'll just coach them up and show them video. That's how these guys are going to learn. They're going to learn by making mistakes and the more that they see now will help them when we get to the season opener." - Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer on the team's young running backs becoming proficient in pass protection.
Bradley says Jags "not there yet"
NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With numerous roster spots to fill after the draft to reach the offseason limit of 90 players, the Rams got very busy signing undrafted free agents.
Of the 30 undrafted players signed, the Rams spent $75,600 in signing bonuses, with $60,000 of that going to five players. Tackle Braden Brown and safety Cody Davis each received $15,000 bonuses, while running back Benny Cunningham, and linebackers Phillip Steward and Jonathan Stewart each were paid $10,000.
Seventeen players signed did not receive a signing bonus. Following is the bonus allocation for each player.
T Braden Brown, $15,000; S Cody Davis, $15,000, RB Benny Cunningham, $10,000; LB Phillip Steward, $10,000;, LB Jonathan Stewart, $10,000; FB Eric Stevens, $5,000; WR C.J. Akins, $2,000; DE Gerald Rivers, $2,000; CB Darren Woodard, $2,000; TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, $3,100; S Cannon Smith, $1,000; CB Robert Steeples, $500.
Brown, Davis, Cunningham and Steward also had $5,000 of their base salary for 2013 guaranteed, while Stewart received a guarantee of $2.500.
Players that did not receive a bonus were LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, K Brett Baer, LB Daren Bates, WR Emory Blake, WR Andrew Helmick, T Sean Hooey, LS Jorgen Hus, QB Tim Jenkins, LB Joseph LeBeau, G Kenny Saia, DT Garrett Goebel, DT Al Lapuaho, CB Andre Martin, WR Scott Pillar, CB Drew Thomas, S Don Unamba, DE R.J. Washington.
Pillar was waived Wednesday, and the Rams signed guard Ryan Lee, was entered the NFL last year and was waived by the Saints May 13.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYERS: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--LB Justin Cole (not tendered as RFA).
--LB Mario Haggan (not tendered as UFA).
--DT Trevor Laws (not tendered as UFA).
--LB Rocky McIntosh (not tendered as UFA).
--T Barry Richardson (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--WR Tavon Austin (1/8): $12,751,002/4 yrs, all guaranteed; $6,653,456 SB.
--LB Alec Ogletree (1/30): $7,030,024/4 yrs, $3,492,748 SB/$5,666,386 guaranteed/$688,638 roster/report bonus 2016.
--S T.J. McDonald (3/71): $2,926,278/4 yrs, $648,000 SB.
--WR Stedman Bailey (3/92): $2,736,102/4 yrs, $527, 400 SB.
--C Barrett Jones (4/113): $2,605,200/4 yrs, $445, 200 SB.
--CB Brandon McGee (5/149): $2,351,160/4 yrs, $191,160 SB.
--RB Zac Stacy (5/160): $2,336,500/4 yrs, $176,500 SB.
--C Tim Barnes: ERFA; $480,000/1 yr.
--QB Kellen Clemens: UFA; $870,000/1 yr, $30,000 SB.
--DT Jermelle Cudjo: Potential RFA; $1.805M/2 yrs, $350,000 SB.
--DE William Hayes: UFA; $10.25M/3 yrs, $3.75M SB/$5.75M guaranteed.
--TE Mike McNeill: ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
--S Darian Stewart: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; $1.323M/1 yr.
--G/T Chris Williams: UFA; terms unknown.
--TE Jared Cook: UFA Titans; $35.1M/5 yrs, $5M SB/$19M guaranteed.
--S Matt Giordano: Not tendered as UFA by Raiders; terms unknown.
--T Jake Long: UFA Dolphins; $34M/4 yrs, $5M SB/$20M potentially guaranteed/$12M fully guaranteed).
--TE Zach Potter: Not tendered as RFA by Jaguars; $630,000/1 yr.
--WR Danny Amendola: UFA Patriots; $31M/5 yrs, $6M SB/$10M SB.
--S Craig Dahl: UFA 49ers; $5.25M/3 yrs, $700,000 SB.
--CB Bradley Fletcher: UFA Eagles; $5.25M/2 yrs, $1.6M SB/$2.35M guaranteed.
--WR Brandon Gibson: UFA Dolphins; $9.78M/3 yrs, $3M SB/$3.75M guaranteed.
--T Wayne Hunter (released).
--RB Steven Jackson: UFA Falcons; $12M/3 yrs, $3.5M SB/$4M guaranteed.
--S Quintin Mikell (released).
--TE Matthew Mulligan (released).
--WR Steve Smith: UFA Buccaneers; $715,000/1 yr.
--G/C Robert Turner: UFA Titans; $1.5M/1 yr, $250,000 SB/$250,000 RB.