With organized team activities (OTA’s) set to begin on Tuesday, the Rams coaching staff will get their first look at the Rams roster, as rookies join returning players and free agent signings. The official dates of the offseason workouts are: June 3, June 5-6, June 9-10, June 12, June 16-17 and June 19-20. The first two weeks of OTA’s are comprised mainly of strength and conditioning workouts, which are designed to get players back into football shape before training camps starts. Throughout this process, players are competing for roster spots while trying to move as far up the depth chart as they can. The 2014 draft class has yielded some instant starters, but there are several interesting positional battles that are sure to heat up as the team gets closer to their season opener on September 7.
Defensive tackle – Kendall Langford vs. Aaron Donald
The battle between Langford and Donald is one that is sure to go down to the wire. At 6-foot-6-inches and 313 lbs., Langford towers over Donald and he showed his ability to stuff the run alongside DT Michael Brockers last season. Donald is smaller, but he is just as strong and much faster. At the combine, Donald benched 35 reps, good for second best among all defensive lineman. By comparison, his Ram teammate OT Greg Robinson benched 32 reps and Texans DE Jadaveon Clowney logged 21 reps. Donald is sure to step in right away and rush the quarterback on passing downs, but his ability to hold up against NFL-caliber guards on running plays will dictate how much he plays in 2014.
Running back – Zac Stacy vs. Tre Mason
Much has been written on Rambin’ Fan recently about Stacy and Mason, and their battle for playing time should push both running backs to their limits. Stacy established himself as a legitimate number-one back last year, provided he can stay healthy for 16 games. He got banged up a bit due to his high volume of carries, but Mason’s arrival to St. Louis should help increase Stacy’s longevity. Using a two back system, the Rams could give Stacy 20-25 touches per game and Mason could get 8-12 touches.
Free safety – Rodney McLeod vs. Lamarcus Joyner
The strong safety spot is locked down by T.J. McDonald, but the free safety spot is still in question. Head coach Jeff Fisher said he plans to use Joyner as their nickel-corner against three-receiver sets, but what about formations without a slot receiver? Will Joyner slide up to play safety, or will McLeod maintain his role from last season playing center field? Joyner has the versatility to play both corner and safety spots, and his constant effort on and off the field could help him break into the free safety spot at times next season, in addition to his nickel duties.
Defensive end – William Hayes/Eugene Sims vs. Michael Sam
Hayes is in no danger of losing playing time due to his ability to be productive on the edge as well as on the inside. Eugene Sims isn’t the most consistent player, but he is quick off the edge and he has the ability to hurry quarterbacks. Sam’s non-stop motor could be his saving grace, as neither his speed nor his strength make him a pass rushing threat at the NFL level at this time. Defensive line coach Mike Waufle should coach him up well, and he will learn a lot from DE’s Robert Quinn and Chris Long, but his immediate impact on the defensive line may be minimal.