Training camp is officially a week old, and the first preseason game is less than a week away. How are the new crop of Rams rookies fitting in and contributing? Let’s take a look, round by round.
DE Robert Quinn: flashes of potential
Quinn missed the first team practice to be at the hospital for the birth of his first son. His second practice was interrupted as well, though not by anything quite so happy. Soreness in his knee, which was apparently tweaked in an offseason workout, cut his work short after just a handful of reps.
Since then, he has slowly worked himself back into the rotation, from sitting to jogging on the sideline to participating in individual drills to limited participation in Sunday’s scrimmage. Quinn’s traumatic injury history is a two-edged sword: he has also shown the willpower to work his way back from the very worst of diagnoses, so a little joint soreness seems minor by comparison.
Once on the field, he is beginning to impress:
Rams rookie and first round pick DE Robert Quinn picked his moments. Flashed ability to put pressure on the pocket, but needs work defending the run at the point of attack. He is extremely athletic but is behind and is feeling his way while grasping the defense.
Quinn’s natural pass-rush ability is already on display, as he gave Rodger Saffold fits in individual drills on Friday and terrorized the second-team offensive line at Lindenwood. It may be some time before he’s a “complete” defensive end, but on his current path he’ll be a nice contributor on passing downs.
Lance Kendricks: making a name for himself.
The Rams have struck gold in the second round, acquiring Pro-Bowl-caliber talent in 2009 and 2010′s drafts in James Laurinaitis and Rodger Saffold. They may have done it again with Lance Kendricks.
Prior to the draft, “Tight End” was somewhere down near “kicker” and “new equipment manager” in our pre-draft position rankings, so it was a huge (and not necessarily pleasant) surprise when Kendricks’ name was called by the Rams. Add to that confusion that the initial announcements called him a “fullback”…
Now though, his positional versatility is becoming the talk of camp. Kendricks has lined up and carried the ball as an upback, blocked for the running game as both an H-back and a true tight end, lined up in the slot and split wide with equal verve. And his ability to shed blocks and get vertical in a hurry, combined with his soft hands, is drawing a lot of attention from camp attendees.
Fantasy tip: Take Rams rookie Lance Kendricks. He will catch a lot of TD passes.
Kendricks caught one on a beautiful play-action pass from Sam Bradford in the second half of the Lindenwood scrimmage, one of the highlights of the day and Bradford’s fourth touchdown to four different receivers.
Most importantly for the Rams with their recent luck with tight ends, Kendricks has been on the field for nearly every snap with the first team. Meanwhile, Michael Hoomanawanui has missed time with a concussion, Fendi Onobun can’t get himself off the third team, and Billy Bajema has quietly been playing himself into a roster spot.
Austin Pettis: just needs to put it all together.
Pettis has been durable and handsy enough to earn first-team reps alongside Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola, which is both a pleasant surprise and potentially bad news for guys like Donnie Avery and Danario Alexander, who have been watching from the sideline more often than not.
Unfortunately, Pettis did not have a particularly good scrimmage at Lindenwood, reminiscent of Dominic Curry’s performance a year ago. He played hard, got a number of reps including on special teams, but made a lot of rookie mistakes along the way. While Pettis’ hands are naturally better than Curry’s, he didn’t show it on Sunday.
More than anyone else so far, Pettis needs to take the positive work from practice and show it on the game field. He will be a player to watch closely in preseason action.
Greg Salas: get him healthy and let him go nuts
In early impressions, no one on the Rams’ roster was getting open more consistently than the rangy receiver from Hawaii. Salas displayed outstanding body control and hands while playing at each of the three receiver positions, and might be the biggest competitor for Danny Amendola’s lock on playing time in the slot.
However, Salas has been held out for the last three practices “as a precautionary measure” with a tender hamstring, affording him little head-to-head competition with Amendola and other new signees, who only began practice on Thursday.
Coach Spagnuolo has already praised both Pettis and Salas’ ability to pick up Josh McDaniels’ complex playbook. Now they just need to execute when given the opportunity.