The St Louis Rams’ list of inactive players for last week’s pre-season game against New Orleans was more numerous than Antonio Cromartie’s progeny, with a number of starters (or presumed starters) not even dressing for the match. Some of these were down to precautionary measures for players who have not fully recovered from injuries that have hung over from last season (Sam Bradford, Jake Long) to those who have picked up fresher niggles in the early stages of training camp (such as James Laurinaitis and Michael Brockers). Luckily, though, there is encouraging news ahead of Saturday’s home contest against Green Bay, with head coach Jeff Fisher announcing that some of these absentees will be taking to the field, albeit, given the pre-season context, in limited action.
Top of the list is quarterback Sam Bradford. As Ramblin’ Fan’s Blaine Grisak reported earlier, Number 8 will be playing for the first time since his ACL injury last October, with Fisher even stating that he may play into the second quarter. As limited as the value of pre-season action may be, it is obvious that Bradford – who has been active in training camp – needs to take snaps in match conditions and gain awareness in real-time. Bradford will also benefit from working on his timing with his receivers, while some restricted movement will also see him gain confidence in his surgically re-constructed knee. Bradford has looked sharp in training camp and a few positive series will help him approach the regular season with more assurance.
The secondary will also see a sudden influx of support against Green Bay. With Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and Brandon McGee all out against the Saints, a threadbare secondary surprisingly held its own despite the inexperience of players such as E. J. Gaines and Greg Reid. Jenkins in particular has seen little action in training camp and will be keen to get some game time, while the coaching staff will be interested to see how one of the more concerning positions in the roster will fare, even in exhibition circumstances. Again, the starters will not be on the field for too long, but it will be a valuable opportunity to shake off some of the rust that has accumulated over these off-season months.
Another player who will return to the team this week is defensive tackle Kendall Langford. The veteran suffered a bruise to his elbow in camp but has now been cleared to form part of the intimidating defensive line that is forming in St Louis. Langford is reportedly lighter than in earlier incarnations after a disciplined off-season and finds himself in the best shape since entering the League. This may be as a result of the drafting of Aaron Donald and the increasing competition at the position, but it is notable that Langford has reacted so positively. A good showing on Saturday will help to strengthen his claim for the starting status he currently holds.
The news is not so encouraging for other important players who will find themselves on the bench for a second consecutive week. Tackle Jake Long is slowly easing back into full action and may play next week, which would be in keeping with his recovery schedule. Likewise, linebacker James Laurinaitis will see his spot manned by either Jo-Lonn Dunbar or Ray Ray Armstrong, but may return to face Cleveland. Roger Saffold (again!) will also sit this one out, but the prognosis for him is encouraging. More worryingly, however, Michael Brockers continues to be affected by an ankle problem, and his run-stuffing presence is sorely missed at the moment. Little has been officially disclosed about the circumstances surrounding Brockers’ injury, but his return is a priority heading into the regular season.
Another observation for the Packers game is that the Rams will look thin at center. While Scott Wells will be returning, it is likely that his participation will be minimal, and with Barrett Jones and Demetrius Rhaney both injured (Jones’ injury curse continues…), there may be some emergency shuffling in the interior offensive line. For fans, though, it will be a welcome opportunity to see more of the starting squad on the field, however short that time might be.