National Football League

Nine Rams of Note as Training Camp Opens

On the first day of training camp, there were several players I took a look at who haven’t played much, if at all, for the Rams or in the NFL, who should be people of interest as fans flock to Rams Park for Training Camp 2013:

No. 11, Tavon Austin – The first-round draft choice, at least on Day 1, was as electrifying as advertised. Austin flashed when catching the short pass that will allow him to pile up yards after the catch, and also impressed with his downfield speed in catching a bomb from Sam Bradford. He will be a fun player to watch.

No. 12, Stedman Bailey – Bailey impressed by, soon after Austin caught his long pass from Bradford, getting behind the defense and catching a long one of his own. This was a highly productive player in college who appears to have more polish than many receivers coming out of spread offenses in college.

No. 36, Robert Steeples – First of all, at 6-1 and 194 pounds, Steeples looks the part. But he showed aggressiveness in his first day, battling with receivers all the way down the field. With the lack of depth at cornerback (only three Rams corners have played meaningful downs in the NFL), Steeples is a guy who has a chance to impress in this camp and make his mark.

No. 46, Cory Harkey – Harkey joined the regular roster from the practice squad late last year, and by all accounts had a good offseason. With Lance Kendricks shelved by a knee injury, Harkey was running with the No. 1 unit in the first practice. He’s big (6-4, 260) and strong, profiling as an in-line, blocking tight end. Jared Cook isn’t that guy, and Harkey may have a chance because he does something that the Rams need, but don’t really have. With the departure of Matthew Mulligan as a free agent to Green Bay, Harkey could fill that vacated role in 2013.

No. 52, Alec Ogletree – Ogletree was on the field with the No. 1 unit for pretty much every snap, with the defense in nickel for a large percentage of practice. His history as a defensive back is definitely going to be utilized by the Rams’ coaching staff. It seems clear early on that the Rams view Ogletree as an every-down player, and he has been provided an opportunity to lose a pretty good job.

No. 70, Brandon Washington – The guard from Miami who was on the practice squad last year was working at both left and right guard with the second and third units. He’s an athletic big man with a perfect guard build. The Rams really liked him on the practice squad last year, and he’ll be given the chance to make the roster as a reserve interior lineman. With the release of Rokevious Watkins and the injury to Barrett Jones, Washington’s chances just increased. These first couple of weeks of camp are huge for him.

No. 83, Brian Quick – Quick has the physical attributes to be great. He’s big and fast, and in the first drills of camp, as receivers tracked the ball and made one-handed catches, Quick looked completely natural. The key for him his going to be the offensive scheme being natural. Watching him in practice, you can absolutely see why the Rams fell in love with him.

No. 84, Andrew Helmick – The slot receiver from Lindenwood can be a faster version of Danny Amendola. In addition to his mid-4.3 speed, Helmick also displays great quickness in small areas. It’s hard to make the jump from NAIA/NCAA Division II, but Helmick is a guy who seems like he could wind up on an NFL roster with some seasoning. Keep in mind, Jeff Fisher is a guy with a long history of giving players from small schools chances. Eugene Amano from SEMO, Cortland Finnegan from Samford, Cary Williams (who just won a Super Bowl with Baltimore) from Washburn, William Hayes from Winston-Salem State and Marc Mariani and Trumaine Johnson from Montana have all made big-time NFL impacts under Fisher. So, Helmick has a chance.

No. 96, Mason Brodine – Brodine was a waiver pickup from the Raiders last year, and was skinny as a rail. Now, he’s moved inside and is a massive 6-7, 270. With the coaching of defensive line coach Mike Waufle, Brodine looks like a guy who deserves a look in this camp.

The Rams are still really young and have a lot of room to grow, so it’ll be fun to watch them evolve and get coached up. Clearly, there are physical skills in camp that, if they can become football players, can make important contributions to the 2013 Rams.