Updating St. Louis Rams' Key Position Battles Early in Training Camp
The St. Louis Rams opened training camp on July 25, and the team practiced every day this weekend. If you missed it, here's a schedule of the team's upcoming practice dates that are open to the public.
The drama doesn't reach its full magnitude until the first couple of preseason games, when the rookies finally get a chance to make a name for themselves. Although, the first week of camp also gives us a decent glimpse into some of the key battles at various positions.
This article will highlight a few of the position battles that have developed early on in camp.
The Offensive Line
This is a bit misleading, as there's not necessarily a key one-on-one battle between any two players on the offensive line, but there's still a lot of confusion that needs to be overcome before the start of the season.
First-round selection Greg Robinson is taking reps at left tackle despite the common assumption that he'd begin his career at guard. Incumbent Jake Long suffered a terrible knee injury late in the 2013 season and is surely still feeling some lingering effects, so Robinson is stepping in as his replacement.
It's unclear if Robinson is just filling in for the time being, or if the Rams actually plan to start Robinson at left tackle for the beginning of the 2014 season, which would provide Long more time to nurse his wounded knee.
There's also some uncertainty at center. Veteran Scott Wells is out of action, leaving Tim Barnes—who started four games in 2013—as the starter. Barnes is also getting some competition from second-year pro Barrett Jones.
Whether Jones or Barnes wins the battle is somewhat irrelevant. The bigger question is, can either player prove to be a better option than Wells if and when he returns?
Rodger Saffold and Davin Joseph are holding down the guard positions, but one of them (most likely Joseph) will be replaced by Robinson after Long returns.
At this point, the only lock on the offensive line appears to be Joe Barksdale at right tackle. Other than Barksdale's, practically every other position seems to be up in the air.
With four preseason games coming up, there's little doubt that the Rams will find the perfect combination before Week 1.
Kenny Britt vs. Brian Quick
The Rams need someone to finally step up at wide receiver, and this could be the year for that to happen thanks to a healthy dose of camp competition.
Kenny Britt and Brian Quick are the two Rams receivers who most closely resemble a prototypical No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, and both are off to promising starts in camp.
Britt has been vocal on the sidelines early on, according to numerous tweets out of Rams camp, and he has been a leader at the position so far—something the unit has lacked for years now.
However, don't expect Britt to win the job unchallenged.
Quick was praised by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer as "the most improved player" during June OTAs, according to ESPN, so he'll surely fight Britt for reps.
Britt has more experience and more regular-season production than Quick, so he remains the favorite. But if Quick can have a big preseason, things could certainly change.
Aaron Donald vs. Kendall Langford
It was assumed that rookie first-round selection Aaron Donald would have to dethrone veteran Kendall Langford in training camp before being awarded the starting job, but that may not be as difficult as we initially anticipated.
Donald's name has consistently been popping up in training camp reports across the web, and ESPN's Adam Schefter even tweeted out a text he got from Rams camp, stating that "Aaron Donald is unreal."
Langford has been a solid addition since his first season with the Rams in 2012 and will have a role on defense regardless, but it's safe to say no one would use the word "unreal" to describe Langford's play.
Still, I think even Langford would admit Donald's early production is a blessing for this defense. If Donald can immediately become the player he was drafted to be, it'll be hard for anyone to argue that the Rams do not possess the best defensive line in football.
No. 2 Running Back
The running back depth is still very shaky. Zac Stacy is the unquestioned starter, but it's too early to say with any certainty which back will pick up most of the No. 2 reps.
Tre Mason is the early favorite thanks to his big name and lofty draft status, but incumbent Benny Cunningham has NFL experience, so Mason is not a lock for the No. 2 job by any means.
And as laughable as it may sound, colossal draft bust Isaiah Pead is getting plenty of praise at camp, so don't count him out either. I wouldn't hold your breath when it comes to Pead becoming a productive NFL player, but less talented players have certainly managed to salvage their careers in the past, so you never know.
It's too early to make any definitive statement regarding the No. 2 running back. But it's clear this is a battle that will heat up throughout camp.