TSX Report: St. Louis Rams

Larry Grant (Getty/Al Messerschmidt)

There were some raised eyebrows when training camp opened and Larry Grant was lined up as the Rams' starter at weak-side linebacker. Most had figured Bobby Carpenter would be the odds-on favorite to win the job after he was acquired from Dallas after the draft for tackle Alex Barron.

Grant's advantage was that he had a year in coach Steve Spagnuolo's defense under his belt. But he still had to prove it on the field. So far, after several weeks of practice, Grant has showed that he deserved the chance.

He was all over the field in the Rams' opening preseason game against Minnesota, and then continued his solid play against Cleveland, forcing a fumble in that game.

"Being in this business now for a few years I've learned that it takes more than just wanting something," Grant said. "It takes a lot of stuff off the field -- and while people aren't looking -- to become a starter.

"I've told myself for the longest (time) now, that I'm going to keep this tunnel vision that I have. And there's going to be something at the end of this vision waiting for me and the rest of this team. So James has been helping me a lot with that."

James is middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, who was a teammate of Grant at Ohio State. The irony in Grant's ascension is that after Carpenter's arrival, there were numerous stories about the Rams' trio of Ohio State linebackers: Laurinaitis, Carpenter and Na'il Diggs. Grant was often overlooked. But no more.

"We all have the same tradition," Grant said. "Being at Ohio State, they taught us to learn to love football a lot more."

Said Laurinaitis, "Larry has an unbelievable amount of talent. He's very skilled. It's always just been little things here and there -- little mental lapses here and there. I'm just trying to stay on him more to make sure those mental lapses don't happen.

"Larry's just a guy that I've been friends with for a while. And so it's just trying to constantly reiterate that he's got plenty of talent to do this thing. And take advantage of the opportunity he has."

Said Grant of Laurinaitis, "The guy's a smart player. He's probably the smartest player on defense I've ever played with. Being with him at Ohio State, he did all the checks there. And now here, he's continuing to progress and become the defensive leader we need."

After his performance against the Vikings, coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "Larry showed up in the game. He's done some versatile things here where he has played the WILL in the base package and also been doing some stuff in the nickel package. Anytime you can do that, you help yourself."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes Aug. 24.

NOTES, QUOTES

As if it wasn't obvious before Saturday night, but it became even more glaring during the Rams' 19-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

The Rams are a different team with running back Steven Jackson on the field. In the preseason opener, Jackson didn't play and the Rams totaled just 150 yards.

Saturday, in a 19-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns, the Rams had a mere 172 yards, but 65 came on their first possession of the game when a 10-play drive resulted in a touchdown. Jackson rushed for 20 yards on four carries and then left the game.

The decline was substantial, with 107 additional yards on 57 plays. Quarterback A.J. Feeley completed 4 of 5 passes for 45 yards in the drive and the Rams had five first downs.

Feeley didn't return because of a hand and elbow injury, and what followed with Sam Bradford at quarterback were eight consecutive possessions without a first down. Bradford was in for 24 plays and the Rams gained 30 yards.

Backup running backs Chris Ogbonnaya (seven carries for six yards) and Keith Toston (13-23) combined for 29 yards on 20 attempts.

Bradford might start Thursday night in New England if Feeley can't play, and it's possible Jackson could get more work, meaning it would be the first time in the preseason Bradford would have Jackson's presence.

Asked about having Jackson on the field, coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "It was a big help. That's the kind of boost our team will need. That's what he is. He's one of the best players on our football team. And to have him out there, I think the offensive line feels better and the quarterback does too; everybody does."

Jackson had back surgery on April 15 and hasn't been limited in practice. Asked before the game whether he was hoping to play, he said, "I would say I would need it if I wasn't getting banged around, but we've had a pretty physical camp around here. The more time I can buy getting ready for Arizona (Sept. 12) without having to play a full-out game puts us in a more safe comfort. But at the same time, I've told you guys repeatedly I'm not worried about the back. I think it's something that probably ... just get it on and over so we can stop answering the questions about it, but I feel great, though."

After the game Saturday, he said, "It really felt good to be out there once again on that first drive and I think the guys felt really comfortable with me in there."

The big question is whether the Rams will be watching the league transaction wire to augment the depth behind Jackson. There had been interest in Brian Westbrook, but he signed with San Francisco.

Jackson said not to worry.

"Having a veteran at this point of the game now, I don't know if it's as big a concern as everyone is making it to be," he said. "I feel great physically. The younger guys are coming along just fine. And if we continue to stay healthy, I don't think it'll be a concern."

- The NFL is holding a special meeting Wednesday in Atlanta, and all indications are that minority owner Stan Kroenke will be approved as the team's majority owner.

In April, Kroenke exercised a right of first refusal on the 60 percent of the team owned by Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez. Kroenke already owns 40 percent of the franchise.

The league appears poised to allow Kroenke to become the majority owner while he still owns the NBA's Denver Nuggets and the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. His specific intentions aren't known yet, but Kroenke reportedly plans to "sell" those teams to his wife and son.

It is also believed that for now, Kroenke will buy half of the 60 percent owned by Rosenbloom and Rodriguez and purchase the remaining half at a later date.

Meanwhile, rumors have surfaced that former Rams coach Dick Vermeil will join the organization in either a consultant's role or a larger position once Kroenke is in control.

Vermeil recently claimed he hadn't been approached by Kroenke, but said if it happened he'd listen.

"Oh yeah, I'd listen," Vermeil said. "There's nobody in the United States more prepared to be an owner as Stan Kroenke. It'd be a crime for him not to end up with this football team."

As for Kroenke's wealth, Vermeil said, "(That's) a plus. But he would spend it wisely. And the other thing is -- I've said this many times -- he's made enough money to be any kind of man he wants to be. And he's selected just to be a great human being. He really is. I feel strongly about him."

- QB Sam Bradford completed just 6 of 14 passes for 24 yards against Cleveland. Coach Steve Spagnuolo called Bradford's performance "a little but up and down."

Bradford was victimized by a couple drops, and the wet ball didn't help matters.

He said, "Obviously, I would have liked to have a few more completions out there tonight. I felt like I struggled a little bit early, but once I settled down I made some smart decisions. I feel like, for the most part, I was in the right place with the ball tonight."

- After allowing six sacks the week before, there were none against Cleveland.

"Pass protection was great tonight," Bradford said. "I think I only got hit one time and they actually brought a blitz we couldn't pick up at that time. Other than that, our offensive line played great tonight."

With OG Jacob Bell back, the Rams played the unit that will start the season as long as they stay healthy. From left to right, that's LT Rodger Saffold, Bell, C Jason Brown, RG Adam Goldberg and RT Jason Smith.

"It's good to have that group playing together," Spagnuolo said. "They are getting used to each other."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had a lot of missed tackles, but it was soaking wet out there and that is going to happen. It's like trying to tackle somebody with ice around them." - LB James Laurinaitis on the rainy conditions Saturday night against Cleveland.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Rams waived Brooks Foster and signed former Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander. Alexander has had a string of knee injuries and went undrafted. The 6-5, 220-pounder had 191 catches in four seasons at Mizzou, including 113 for 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.

PLAYER NOTES

- QB A.J. Feeley has more of a hand injury than elbow, and was scheduled for an MRI on his thumb, which was sore and swollen Sunday.

- DE Victor Adeyanju injured his ankle Saturday night against Cleveland and is considered day-to-day.

- TE Daniel Fells, who scored the Rams' only touchdown Saturday night against Cleveland, has a hyperextended knee and is day-to-day.

- CB Jerome Murphy, who injured his ankle in the first preseason game against Minnesota, is expected back at practice on limited basis this week.

- S Kevin Payne, who has been sidelined with a knee injury, is expected to do limited in work practice this week.

- TE Michael Hoomanawanui has been working at fullback and had six plays there Saturday night, in addition to about 25 at tight end.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Danny Amendola vs. Mardy Gilyard for slot receiver job - Amendola is winning, but Gilyard made strides last week after returning from a forearm injury. Against Cleveland, Gilyard had three punt returns for 49 yards and three kickoff returns for 70 yards. Both will likely make the roster, and could share time at receiver and split up the return jobs.

OTHER BATTLEFRONTS: With TE Michael Hoomanawanui working at fullback, it could be a way for the team to keep four tight ends and could make Mike Karney expendable. TEs Daniel Fells and Billy Bajema are solid, and the Rams love the potential of TE Fendi Onobun.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: PK Josh Brown - Brown didn't kick in the first preseason game after missing time with a muscle issue below his hip flexor that occurred while warming up prior to the team's Aug. 7 scrimmage. Brown was back Saturday night and made all four of his field-goal attempts, including the game-winning 28-yarder with 3:29 remaining in the game. Said coach Steve Spagnuolo, "He was ready to go. I thought maybe we were going to have to limit the area he would have to kick field goals. He said, 'Coach I'm fine,' at the beginning of the game and he kicked them. I tell you one of those; (holder) Donnie Jones was the reason. When he got that ball it was down, and he got it back up and Josh kicked it through. The operation of center (Chris Massey)-kicker-holder was so huge. And those three guys have worked together for a long time, so it's good to have them out there."

ROOKIE REPORT: Rodger Saffold remains the starter at left tackle, and will remain there ... LB Josh Hull, a seventh-round pick, is around the ball and is solid on special teams. He is making a push to win a roster spot ... WR Dominique Curry, an undrafted free agent, is making his presence felt on special teams. ... DE George Selvie, who was having a presence as a pass rusher, missed the game against Cleveland because of a leg injury and is unlikely to play this week.

INJURY REPORT: QB Sam Bradford could end up starting Thursday night against New England with A.J. Feeley having injured the thumb on his throwing hand. In a shortened week, the Rams will just have two practices before leaving for New England on Wednesday.

GridIronGateway.com Recommended Stories


Up Next


The St. Louis Rams signed rookie free agent wide receiver Danario Alexander on Sunday and released…

Forums


5 Fans online
    Join The Conversation

    Tweets