Jim Thomas Rams Chat Highlights: June 6

JT’s Chat Highlights

—Why No WR in the Draft? Well, we’ve gone over this ground many times. And the party line at Rams Park is that the team invested a lot in the group over the previous two drafts _ four picks _ one in each of the first four rounds. They traded up in the first round for Austin, who was widely regarded as the best play maker in the 2013 draft. They spent a potential $35 million on TE Jared Cook. So they want to be patient with the current group and watch them develop. That’s the thinking anyway. We’ll see if it’s right.

—Don’t think Scott Wells is in any trouble. Remember the Rams lost two guards to free agency in Chris Williams and Shelley Smith.

—Quick? Physically he’s gifted, there’s no doubt. But does he use his size to his advantage? Does he fight for the football like it’s a prime steak and he hasn’t eaten in a week? He has improved; but enough to justify being the first player taken in the second round? Doesn’t look like it at this point. I think Year 3 is definitely huge for him.

—Player they Can Least Afford to Lose (other than Bradford)? That’s a good question. Not that Janoris Jenkins was a world-beater last year, but the Rams are thin at corner, and have next to no experience behind the starters.

—I really like the late-round pick of E.J. Gaines. There are several UDFAs who I’m anxious to see, including some that have been mentioned earlier today _ Westbrooks, Wilson. Curious to see the WR Franklin and the TE Bayer as well.

—I think there will be some interesting decisions at safety behind McDonald, McLeod, and Alexander. Cody Davis? Matt Daniels? Also the interior on the offensive line. The Rams can’t keep all of them, between backups Davin Joseph, Brandon Washington, Barrett Jones, Tim Barnes.

—The thing that scared me the most about watching Jason Smith is how he would miss terribly on some pass blocks _ both in practice and in games. They were the kind of misses that get quarterbacks killed. Now as to when exactly I noticed this, I can’t tell you for sure.

—Even in this day and age, most teams primarily have one safety who plays more in the box on run support. And one safety who plays more in coverage. I didn’t realize Fisher had this philosophy, because last year, McDonald played more in the box, and McLeod more in coverage (when he wasn’t playing the slot).

—Chances for Sam To Make It? Fisher likes collecting ends. And he has kept five in the past. Trouble is, Chris Long, Robert Quinn, William Hayes, and Eugene Sims are all but locks. And you’ve got to keep an eye on Ethan Westbrooks, who could play end at this level. Long story short, it’s not a slam dunk for Sam by any means.

—Rams have kept nine DB’s in the past. We’ll see what happens.

—Usually ACLs, barring any complications can heal in eight or nine months. Long obviously won’t be ready for OTAs, and probably will miss much of camp.

—Hard Knocks is entertaining, there’s no doubt. But Fisher seemed pretty convinced a couple of weeks ago that the team would not be on Hard Knocks. They’ve already got one potential distraction in Michael Sam. They don’t need two.

—How Will they Handle Bailey? I’m trying to think back to how the Rams handled Pettis. I believe Pettis got just as many reps, but not all were with the first unit. And when the preseason hit, I don’t think any of the reps were with the 1s.

—Why Pass on Watkins? Two of what I would say are the top 3 or 4 teams in the league _ Seattle and San Francisco _ got by without strong passing games. That’s the model Fisher is trying to emulate. That being said, you still need guys that can get open with some degree of consistency in the passing game, and the Rams are banking on their current crop of pass-catchers. It’s a gamble, to be sure. I’m not saying Robinson is the next Orlando Pace. Pace, for one, was a pretty good pass blocker when he entered the league. Robinson is not. But I don’t think Robinson is the next Jason Smith either.

—Tavarius Wilson Makes it at LB? I think he’s got a decent chance. The Rams aren’t very deep at the position.

—If Long’s not ready for opening day in the regular season, signing Davin Joseph makes sense at guard because then you’d have to slide Robinson (or Saffold) out to tackle.

—A lot of things in the passing game gave the Rams problems, particularly the deep ball and busted plays. I think to a large degree, those two things will be minimized under Williams. Williams also has a reputation for being good on third down. He has been a blitz-happy coordinator in the past; that may be minimized to a degree because of the Rams’ strong front four.

—Did the Rams do enough at free safety? (Especially with Lamarcus Joyner being slated for nickel back duty.) How much can Mo Alexander _ after just one year of college safety _ be expected to contribute as a rookie? Alexander was taken in the fourth round, by the way, a little better than “janitor” status.

—Why Pick Donald over another need position? With Donald, the Rams have a chance to elevate their d-line status from pretty good to great. The coaches estimate the team lost 10 sacks last season on plays when Quinn and/or Long got around the edge, and opposing QBs either scrambled up the middle to run for a first down or complete a pass. That will be harder to do with Donald on the roster. Even if he’s the third man in the d-line rotation, he will play a lot, particularly in passing situations.

—How many RB’s? Fisher seems to like collecting RBs as much as DEs, so I’d be surprised if it wasn’t four when all was said and done.

—Odds Pead Makes Team? I’d say not bad, now that Richardson has been cut.

—Yeah, I was surprised it was Richardson and not Pead. Fisher told me a couple of weeks ago that Richardson was released now to give him a better chance _ i.e., more time _ to catch on with another team. (It didn’t take long because he was claimed on waivers by the Jets.) Fisher also mentioned to me that Richardson was inconsistent during the offseason program.

—There’s no doubt some of the inexperience and shortcomings of the receivers contributed to the overall performance of the offense and the passing game. It’s a mistake to blame it all on Schotty. Too often the answer to such questions isn’t black and white, no matter how much some in the media and some fans try to make it so. When it comes to catching a football, there’s only so much you can teach a player as a coach. You can lead a player to the JUGs machine, but sometimes bad hands are simply bad hands. Similarly, a coach can’t study the playbook for the player. But sure, I think Austin could’ve been used better. I would’ve liked to have seen Austin line up more often in the backfield for example. But another year in the system should help both the players and Schotty. As for interchangeable safeties, maybe it’s what Williams is planning _ especially since it doesn’t look like the Rams have a true free safety.

—O-Line Depth? It’s hard to really know on any of these guys until they play in regular season games. Washington got some time from scrimmage in the season finale at Seattle, but not much. Hooey was hurt throughout camp last year, so anxious to see what he can do both on the practice field and in games. Again, if you take the five starters, plus Joseph, Barnes, Jones, that doesn’t leave much in the way of available roster spots.

—When you’re changing head coaches every two or three years as has been the Rams’ m.o. it’s hard to get that continuity. So far, I think the Rams are doing a pretty good job of getting Fisher’s type of players.

—Greg Reid? Let’s see if he can stay healthy and stay out of trouble. There’s no doubt the guy has some skill.

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