Organized team activities (OTA’s) gave us our first look at a Ram’s team that enjoyed a highly touted NFL Draft, and added the talented yet underachieving WR Kenny Britt. Draft picks Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald looked strong and athletic, and Britt flashed his talent (and his mouth) as he made several big plays down the field. However, everything seen during OTA’s must be taken with a grain of salt, as players don’t wear pads and tackle until the second week of training camp. Now that training camp has begun, here are a few players Ramblin’ Fan is looking forward to watching once the pads come on next week.
We’ve all seen his college tape. The undersized Donald is as quick as DT’s come, and he’s as strong as a bull. For reference, at the combine Donald benched 35 reps, good for second best among all defensive lineman. By comparison, his gargantuan Ram teammate Greg Robinson benched 32 reps and Texans DE Jadaveon Clowney logged 21 reps. What truly separates Donald though, is his advanced hand usage when taking on blockers. He has a multitude of moves he utilized in the trenches to routinely get past offensive guards while at Pittsburgh. The real question is, how will he hold up to NFL-caliber lineman? Quickness and technique can be assessed to some degree during OTA’s, but when Donald takes on the likes of guards like Roger Saffold and Robinson, we’ll get a good idea of the impact he can make on defense in year one.
Mason comes into a backfield that already houses a legitimate starter in RB Zac Stacy and a serviceable backup in Benny Cunningham. Isaiah Pead is a bust, but at least he can play special teams – when he’s not getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that is. Mason figures to compete for a committee spot in a Rams offense that figures to heavily rely on the run to open up passing opportunities. He’ll have a role in the offense, but just how large that role will be is going to be dictated by how well he runs in 7-on-7 drills and scrimmages. On top of digesting the playbook and learning how to play at game speed, he must also show an ability to pass protect from the backfield. When defensive coordinator Gregg Williams dials up blitzes in practice, how quick will Mason be able to read and react, while also keeping Bradford clean in the pocket until he can release the ball?
Ray Ray Armstrong
It seems everyone in Rams Nation is boarding the Ray Ray hype-train, especially after the arrest of LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar. I’m reserving my judgements on Armstrong until I see what he can do outside of special teams. I have no question about his physical tools, but can he learn how to be a true all-around defender instead of just a chase and tackle linebacker? Can he show he can play in space? It’ll take time for him to learn the defense (one advantage Dunbar holds over Armstrong), but if he can we should be seeing a lot more of him this season.
At least he’s confident. He ran his mouth after making plays in OTA’s, but once the pads come on will he be able to replicate those results? If so, head coach Jeff Fisher will be lauded for his decision to bring in his former player from Tennessee. He’ll certainly get his chances against the first team defense this summer. His ability to make plays and develop chemistry with Bradford will be something to monitor.
Many eyes will fall on Sam as he fights to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster come September. Sam came into camp 13 lbs. lighter than he was in OTA’s – placing him presently at 257 lbs. Sam says he’s faster and stronger, which was one of his goals coming out of OTA’s. After passing the conditioning test with flying colors, Sam can now focus on finding a spot for himself among an incredibly deep defensive line. How Sam fares in special teams drills will go a long way toward him suiting up for the Rams on Week 1.