The St. Louis Rams have been in camp since July 25, with rookies reporting a few days prior to the veterans, and have 13 plus-practices under their belt as they prepare for that annual ritual: the scrimmage at the Edward Jones Dome. This year’s festivities will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Sat., Aug. 3, are open to the public and will feature a select group of player signing autographs after they bump heads on the field.
This will be an important day not only for the Rams’ fan base to get an enhanced look at the team away from Earth City, but also the organization. It is all about creating a comfort zone with the players, to get a dry run of a game-type situation. Head coach Jeff Fisher and staff will take advantage of going to the dome, allow the players to get dressed and get a practice session on the playing surface in the dome, which is different than the natural grass surface at Rams Park. The scrimmage at the dome eliminates the eyes-wide-open, deer-in-the-headlights effect for all the rookies and new players; they get to know their surroundings and feel comfortable about the little things like locker room placement and the location of the training room and showers. Simple questions will also be answered on where the offense and defense meet at halftime
The Rams will complete a dry rehearsal of a game-time situation. Players will enter the field by positional groupings and engage in pregame warm-ups. Individual drill work, 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 situation follows, as well as breakdowns into offensive and defensive team periods. Then, finally, game-time situational football segments arrive, such as the most important down in football for both the offense and defense: third down (short, medium and long); red zone; two-minute drill; 1:30 remaining on the clock with no timeouts; and, of course, the kneel-down to end a game with a winning feeling in your gut.
With the Rams’ defense finishing in the top 15 in 2012, they look to take that next step into the top-10 rankings in 2013. Drafting safety T.J. McDonald and linebacker Alec Ogletree added size, speed and explosiveness to an already talented unit.
The Rams are suddenly getting a lot of national media attention, too, and most of it happens to be focused on the offense. How will Sam Bradford look with his new weapons in wide receiver Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey? Will No. 8 enjoy continued improvement in terms of anticipation and timing with second-year pro Chris Givens? And, perhaps of equal importance, has Brian Quick taken that next step in the maturation process of developing into a Blue player (playmaker and difference-maker) in 2013?
“I think it’s just the year,” Fisher said about Quick. “It’s the offseason, the offseason program. Last year when he came in, he was learning something totally new. This year he came in and there was a lot more recall. He’s a lot more comfortable. He’s not necessarily thinking as much. The huddle is called and you go back to the play in the playbook, and then you’re at the line of scrimmage. Now you just pick it up.”
Other questions revolve around which of the Rams’ various running backs will emerge from the pack. Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and rookies Zac Stacy and possibly Benny Cunningham all seem to be strong candidates, but keep an eye on the 242-pound Terrance Ganaway. Who will be the most productive running, receiving, pass protecting and contributing on special teams?
There are, of course, even more areas to watch. Can Jared Cook be the dominating force in the middle to stretch the defense and create mismatches throughout the secondary? When will Lance Kendrick return from his knee injury, after missing a good portion of OTAs and training camp thus far? As a consequence, will the Rams carry three or four tight ends on the roster? With Scott Wells healthy and directing traffic at the center position, and Jake Long anchoring Bradford’s blindside, and Rodger Saffold now at right tackle teaming up with Harvey Dahl, will Shelley Smith or Chris Williams emerge at left guard?
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s installation is almost complete, and he will be in charge of a potentially potent offensive attack and putting all the pieces in position to make the big plays on the field.
We will have a much better idea on what the 2013 Rams will look like when they face the Cleveland Browns Thursday, August 8, on the road, but the next step in the process for the NFL’s youngest team is Saturday’s scrimmage at the Ed.
** The second annual RamsFanFest, presented by Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University Physicians, coincides with Saturday’s scrimmage. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. for season ticket holders and 11:30 a.m. for the general public. The team will practice beginning at 12:30 p.m. until approximately 2:30 p.m. Following practice, the players will spread out around the entire field and sign autographs. The event is free to attend.