Nick Wagoner’s Rams Chat Highlights: June 20

Wagoner Chat Highlights

—I’m not going to make any sweeping proclamations about any position based on OTAs when guys are running around in jerseys and shorts with no pads. This time of year is best to see how young guys or new guys are transitioning to the team and catch up with those coming back from injury to see where they are in rehab. The receiver group had some really nice moments in camp, from guys like Britt and Givens on down to someone like Emory Blake. But in the grand scheme, it doesn’t mean a whole lot.

—The going rate for an average quarterback is still pretty high and you have to factor what Bradford has been paid in the past. I’d think he’d be in the $15 million range on an annual basis depending on how well he plays. Jay Cutler’s contract would be a likely baseline, I’d think. Again, that’s based on him playing well enough for the Rams to want to do an extension.

—Brian Schottenheimer said Quick was the most improved player in camp. He definitely had some good moments. But that’s nothing new, either. Quick has always showed great promise in practice. It’s about doing it in games. Let’s see where he’s at when the real stuff begins.

—For the Rams to win the division, they’ll need the defense to deliver on all of its promise, an offense that can be as balanced as it wants to be, a lot of injury luck and a lot of young players to take big steps forward. Especially that last part.

—Jenkins vs Tru Johnson: I think Jenkins has accomplished more but he’s also more of a risk taker. You could argue that Johnson’s ceiling is as high based on raw talent. I’d still tend to lean to Jenkins because of the play making ability but he needs to become more consistent and not allow the big plays that cancel out the ones he makes.

—Joyner? He’s doing well. Working with the second team in the nickel mostly though he’s also gotten some work in that role with the 1s and some work at safety with the backups (mostly because of injuries to other safeties). I still expect him to be the nickel back when the season starts but we’ll see how he does in camp in overtaking McGee.

—Which 7th Rounders Make It? It’s going to be tough for all of them, honestly. Bryant is the one that plays the position that would seem to have the most open competition but hard to project him as having a good chance since he’s been hurt and hasn’t played at all since he arrived in STL. If not him, then Michael Sam would be next best guess but I’d venture that the odds are against all four.

—OTAs have their purpose and there’s things that can be gleaned from watching them but there’s nothing roster or season altering that takes place with limited contact and no pads. Don’t get me wrong, you can see if an injured player is making progress or if someone is in better shape or earning more reps with the first team but it’s really hard to take too much from them.

—There were a lot of things that contributed to Givens not taking the step forward that was expected, some out of his control and some that were in it. It’s not just the absence of an accurate deep ball thrower or another wideout to take the pressure off. He battled injury issues for much of the season and he struggled to improve his route running. And, at times, he didn’t put forth the effort he needed to on contested balls. In talking to him, he sounds like someone who knows what needs to be done to succeed. We’ll see if he can do those things.

—As of now, they don’t seem to be in a hurry to do anything else in terms of vets and they will need some cap space to get through the season with injuries and such. If they do, I think the two positions you name would make the most sense, especially a veteran linebacker…… I don’t know if it’s a surprise but I thought Ray Ray Armstrong looked much more comfortable and confident in the defense during the OTAs. That’s before he missed the last couple practices of course. But I think he’s someone to keep an eye on as we head to camp and into the regular season.

—Hall of Fame? Well, Faulk is already in so you can mark that one off. I think Warner and Pace will definitely get in, even if it’s not right away. Bruce and Holt are tougher cases just because of the potential glut of receivers that’s only going to increase the next few years. I think both should get in and they probably will eventually but I’d feel more confident in Warner and Pace before the two wideouts. If I had a vote, I’d vote yes for all four (not in the same year necessarily but within a reasonable amount of time).

—3rd QB? It could go either way depending on how preseason goes. If neither Davis nor Gilbert shows much, I could see the Rams keeping two and then putting Gilbert on the practice squad. If Gilbert plays well in the preseason, I think they keep all three. But I do think Davis would have to really surprise to make it.

—Well, it’s especially difficult to judge linemen in OTAs without pads but Barrett Jones definitely has done the work to change his body and looks much more prepared to contribute at this level. He also got some work with the first team so the Rams clearly have some faith in his future.

— I expect Austin to be used more like he was toward the end of the year, moving around and lining up inside and out similar to how Philadelphia used DeSean Jackson. Wouldn’t be shocked to see him out of the backfield more, too.

—Mason overtake Stacy? A possibility? Sure. But I still am not fully buying this competition for starting RB discussion quite yet. Mason looks good in practice but from conversations I’ve had, the Rams want to see a lot more from him in terms of understanding of pass blocking and blitz pickup. I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s involved in the offense quite a bit. And Cunningham and Pead could factor as well. It’s also worth remembering that Stacy struggled with nagging injuries last year. If he does so again, someone could take his carries and never look back.

—Which DB’s Make the 53? That’s going to be a really tough projection. I think McGee is probably in good shape. Add him to Jenkins, Johnson and Joyner and the team probably keeps one or two more corners. Safety is really anybody’s guess though I think Davis is probably in pretty good shape.

—Brown Grass at Rams Park? It’s kind of common procedure at this time of year. Part of the problem is we got hit with summer temperatures a little earlier than expected this year. But usually after OTAs, they pretty much start from scratch and grown new stuff for training camp. The wear and tear in OTAs is why it looked how it looked but it won’t look that way in training camp.

—I’m not sure there really is a prototype strong side linebacker anymore. Teams want more athleticism at all LB spots these days because TEs are more athletic. I’m not sure Armstrong will push for a starting spot this year but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him find his way on to the field on defense more this year.

—Well, San Francisco’s O-line is pretty darn good when healthy too. But to answer your question, if the Rams OL can stay healthy (a big if at this point) and Robinson and Barksdale can continue to develop then yes, it can be one of the better groups around.

—Greg Reid? Still think it’ll be an uphill climb for him to make the roster though it’s not impossible. Practice squad might be more realistic.

—Long and Laurinaitis have been good, productive players. And both of them have cap numbers that reduce in the next two years (especially in the case of Laurinaitis). Bradford’s contract is really nobody’s fault, it was the going rate for a No. 1 overall pick at the time. Have the Rams got the return on that investment? No. But as you point out, the Rams have the ability to move on from him soon without paying much dead money soon enough if he doesn’t take the next step or stay healthy in 2014.

—Brockers? Was told it’s an ankle sprain but don’t think it’s anything too serious. He hasn’t been in a walking boot or anything. I expect him to be fine to start camp.

—It’s a shame Alexander/Bryant missed that time and it could keep Alexander from contributing to the defense for a while and possibly make it harder for Bryant to make the roster. Fisher said yesterday he thinks all the injured guys except J. Long and possibly Bryant will be ready to go in camp. If, for some reason, Alexander also misses early time, it’s going to be tough for him to help out early on, too.

—I was impressed with how Bailey finished the year and he’s had some impressive grabs in OTAs as well. His suspension is a real blow because I thought he’d done enough to earn a shot at a starting job in 2014. He’ll have to play catch up a bit when he returns. But in terms of hands and route running, he has a nice upside.

—One thing I did notice about Aaron Donald was that he seemed constantly engaged in what was going on out on the field. Even when he wasn’t in on a play, he seemed locked in and willing to ask questions. I heard a lot about his work ethic leading up to draft and it seems all of it was true.

—I could see Donald getting seven or eight sacks as a rookie. I think he’ll work on sub package stuff a lot early on, coming in on passing downs. He should be able to do some damage there right away given his polish.

—The expectations for Williams’ defense are high. And rightfully so. He has a lot of good pieces in place. I do think he’ll help that group reach top 10ish status. If he gets them further up that list, it means the Rams are probably really contending.

—You should be happy that Britt is running well enough and appears healthy enough to make some of the plays that he’s made. In terms of extrapolating that to what he could do in real games, I’d say proceed with caution. Also, don’t judge the DBs based on that either. They don’t have pads on and can’t really put their hands on receivers in OTAs.

—From talking to them, they sound like they’re coming along fine. If you saw what I wrote on Greg Robinson yesterday, he was very forthcoming that his adjustment is coming along slowly and is a work in progress. That’s probably true for all of them but some have more to learn than others, too.

—Some undrafted rookies I’ll keep an eye on — and for the next few weeks, I’ll have little bios on the undrafted rookies on the blog for you to peruse — include DT Ethan Westbrooks, LB Tavarius Wilson, CB Marcus Roberson and TE Alex Bayer.

—Well, that’s going to do it for today. Thanks to all of you for participating. The chat will be taking a summer hiatus for the next few weeks but return in time for the start of training camp. Talk to you all then.

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