The St. Louis Rams held their third annual scrimmage at Lindenwood University in front of nearly 7,000 fans yesterday. The brutally hot weather again beat down on the Rams and their fans like a sledgehammer, with temperatures reaching 98 degrees with high humidity.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo integrated a short version of a practice session, beginning with stretching, drill work and a 14-18-play scrimmage, and finishing with a live simulation of situational plays consisting of down and distance and red-zone situations. The scrimmage lasted slightly over an hour.
As a formal personnel man, I don’t care much about statistics in an intrasquad scrimmage. I’m looking for ascending production, each play, on both sides of the ball. I’m identifying which players have multiple mental busts. The goal is to evaluate each player’s movement skills live, then break down the film the following day.
On offense, I’m looking for continuity, for running backs meshing with the blocking assignments up front and receivers displaying the ability to elude defenders in bump and press while creating separation in routes that demand acceleration farther down the field.
While quarterback Sam Bradford sputtered early and often with his accuracy deep and outside the numbers, he found his comfort zone underneath, building confidence along with anticipation and timing within the offense on crossing routes. He connected with his safety valve, Danny Amendola, on several passes. Bradford has great attributes as a quarterback; he is intelligent, accurate and stands tall in the pocket with good field vision. Not only does he feel pressure, he can slide and escape with run skills and his natural ability to handle pressure situations, working himself into a positive rhythm that only the great ones possess.
Spagnuolosaid of Bradford’s red-zone performance: “The red zone is important for us. We try to do as much of that as we can. We have a lot of that next week. But I thought he was 4-for-4 or 4-for-5. We had the one penalty, right? So that was encouraging.”
Amendola’s production also impressed the man at the helm of the Rams.
“Yes, it’s nice to see him back out there isn’t it,” Spagnuolo said of Amendola. “He is great. Danny’s what he is. He is a reliable guy, and I think Sam appreciates that and has a lot of confidence in him.”
Newly added receiver Mike Sims-Walker, who flashed playmaking ability yesterday and is gaining more confidence every day, was asked about grasping the playbook.
“It takes a while,” the ex-Jacksonville wideout said. “I was a rookie back then so it’s kind of different. I’m pretty sure it will take at least a couple weeks to get comfortable. To be able to go out there and be confident in what you’re doing, route running precision, timing – everything. It takes a lot. Football is a team sport so it takes all 11 guys to go out there and be on the same page.”
Sims-Walker was also asked about developing a rhythm with Bradford.
“That’s coming too,” he said. “I’ve been running with 1s and 2s on and off. I haven’t got that many reps with Sam. You know, it’s coming. I’m not trying to rush anything. I’m just doing what the coaches ask me to do and try to do it to the best of my abilities.”
Defensively, I want to see all 11 players attack the ball with good reads and reaction quickness. They should be assignment-sound with good gap responsibility. The goal in training camp for the defense: running to the ball, low pad level, collision tackling and limiting mental mistakes at all three levels (defensive line, linebackers, secondary). While the defense seemed ahead of the offense in this type of setting, making several big plays, coordinator Ken Flajole’s units also gave up several, both in the scrimmage segment and red-zone situational play.
“I tell you what,” Spagnuolo said, “I thought from what you have to understand is, there were probably a couple, at least two or three instances out there where we would have sacked the quarterback, because we are staying off them. And Chris Long really wanted to get mad at me one time, but the reason I didn’t call them was because I wanted to put pressure on the guys in blue and see how they responded. I think the first group did a pretty good job. I’m sure we have some things to iron out but so far, so good.
We need to get better on the goal line on defense. And some of that red zone needs to be ironed out, but we’re getting there.”
Rams players with significant injuries this past week:
*Wide receiver Dominique Curry had surgery on his hand Saturday and is expected to be out for several weeks.
*Cornerback Jerome Murphy fractured his right ankle on Friday, will have surgery early this week and will miss a good portion of the season, if not all of it.
*Defensive back Chris Smith went down with a knee issue yesterday afternoon. He was the lone Ram to incur an injury during the course of the scrimmage.
*These players didn’t participate in yesterday’s scrimmage: tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and linebacker David Vobora (concussions), cornerback Ron Bartell (thigh), defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo (lower back), tight end Fendi Onobun (groin) and wide receivers Danario Alexander (swelling and fluid on knee), Greg Salas (knee) and Donnie Avery (hamstring).
In the overall picture, there is a lot of work to be done on both sides of the ball before the Rams host the Indianapolis Colts this Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Edward Jones Dome.