National Football League

Austin, Others Offer First Impressions at Rams OTAs

There are always some interesting things to take out of an NFL team’s organized team activities and minicamps. There is no hitting, so it’s hard to really get a gauge for a player you haven’t seen before, but there are some things that become clear.

For the Rams, Thursday was the first day the media got a chance to see some of the new guys and how they interact with the veterans. The most noticeable of the new guys is an undrafted free agent by the name of Thomas Brown, who played at Ole Miss (played is being generous – he played in two games as he transitioned from defensive to offensive line).

Brown was listed by Mississippi and is on the Rams roster at 6-10, 385 pounds. But as coach Jeff Fisher said, “Actually, we weighed him in at 403 (pounds).We had him in for the tryout and he had some issues that we had to clear up from a physical standpoint. He got them put behind him. We worked him out on both sides of the ball – defensive line, offensive line – and we felt like his best position would be right tackle. (Offensive line coach) Paul Boudreau said he’d love to have him. He’s gone this far. He got through practice. He’s a defensive lineman that we’ve converted over to offensive line … he might be able to block some kicks.”

Brown doesn’t look like the most athletic guy, but at that size, he’s absolutely worth a look, and will intrigue fans at training camp.

Clearly first-round draft choice Tavon Austin has some quicks. He battled through some press coverage and ran away from defenders. Quarterback Sam Bradford noticed the difference between last year and this.

“We’re much faster now,” Bradford said. “There’s a lot more speed on the field. I think we’re all hoping that’s going to lead to more explosive plays. I think if you look at our offense in the past, we’ve really had to grind out touchdown drives because we haven’t been able to create those explosive plays. You take some of the guys that we have on the field now and they can turn a five-yard hitch route into an 80-yard touchdown. I think that’s extremely exciting. It’s going to allow us to open up the playbook probably a little bit more, just with their speed we can get creative, figure out how we’re going to use them.”

That includes Austin. “He’s fast,” Bradford said. “He’s quick. He’s smart. He gets open. He’s done a great job so far. We’ve thrown a lot at him. The first two installs, these two OTAs, it’s amazing how much quicker you can go the second year in the system. Everyone’s not seeing something for the first time and these rookies are being asked to keep up with the veterans. I’ve been really impressed with the young guys and the way they’ve been able to handle things mentally. I think that’s something that’s extremely important, because it doesn’t matter how talented you are physically if you can’t handle it mentally. I think the young guys that we have in here have done a great job and I expect them to continue to get better.”

Other noticeable guys on Thursday included Jabara Williams, whom the Rams drafted and cut in 2011, but brought back last year. The Rams have lots of opportunities for linebackers, and Williams could steal one of those spots.

After practice, as Bradford worked on his timing with Austin and third-round pick Stedman Bailey, Janoris Jenkins and running back Chase Reynolds practiced catching punts from the JUGS machine.

Bradford noted that the receiver with whom he’s had the chance to work most is new tight end Jared Cook. They’ve been working together for six weeks. T.J. McDonald certainly looks the part at safety, and fifth-rounder Zac Stacy is the bowling ball we expect to see.

There’s really nothing to take out of this for the layman. Fisher and his staff will install their entire playbooks during OTAs and minicamp, to they’ll be farther ahead than last season. At least the season is upon us, and players are back on the field. The opener against Arizona is just over 100 days away.