It was a good news-bad news day at Rams Camp today. The good news is that the scorching 100-degree heat has finally broken, the cooling clouds and rain parted, and the field drained off nicely so we could actually have a practice. The bad news: this is one day that Jerome Murphy might wish had been rained out.
One day after Dominic Curry suffers a fractured hand, Jerome Murphy may be lost for a significant period of time after getting tangled up with Danario Alexander during a WR-vs-DB sideline drill.
I didn't see the play, but saw the immediate aftermath, Murphy crumpled on the field and just... not getting up. It's the worst feeling, especially at practice. Trainers came over and had his leg up in such a way that at first we were hopeful that it might be a cramp, or at worst a hamstring. But in helping him up, Murphy took maybe one step, and couldn't put any more weight on it. In the end, he had to ride the cart off the field, and a sideline report from Tony Softli is saying that the team fears he might have a fractured ankle.
It put a damper on an otherwise good day of practice, a hard-working day that stretched nearly three hours, and featured some significant hitting during 11-on-11 drills. This is a hungry team, though one that still needs to gel up front on its rebuilt offensive line. Highlights and photos after the break.
Highlights from Individual Drills
The theme for drills all day today was head-to-head competition, offense vs defense. Fans got to see a lot of battling between receivers and defensive backs, between offensive and defensive linemen, and between linebackers and ball-carriers (which were actually other linebackers, carrying footballs).
Greg Salas was apparently sidelined with a tender hammy today, so fellow rookie Austin Pettis had to step up in his place. Pettis played well all day, but really shone in a set of end-zone drills that sent WRs toward the end zone with a single deep defender to beat. This was a drill that naturally favors the offensive player, who has all the momentum, but Pettis showcased a conjurer's bag of jukes and shuffles so subtle that they were easy for the naked eye -- and the defender -- to miss entirely. I don't think he got touched in three trips to the house.
Every receiver got at least one score, making the defensive stops all the more notable. In one confrontation, undrafted rookie Dionte Dinkins absolutely buried fellow un-draftee Danny Amendola with a huge hit at the one yard line. For a 3rd-stringer, life is short if you're not making plays, and Dinkins made me look up his number multiple times today.
In the linemen drills -- my favorite to watch, but very hard to photograph due to the angle I had -- Robert Quinn came off the sidelines to showcase some blistering speed and very nice hand separation, while matched up against Rodger Saffold. In one matchup, Saffold looked to have successfully steered Quinn wide of the pocket, but in another, he clearly would have been right in the quarterback's grill. New DTs Bannan and Muir also acquitted themselves in these drills, but Quinn's performance was most exciting.
The McDaniels offense tends to have its way with the defense in the open field, particularly with Bradford at the helm (and with the red jersey on). But in an excitingly brutal goal-line stand situation, Spagnuolo's defense had its day today.
The energy level among the defensive players was significant, and they were crashing into their white-shirted counterparts with volume and gusto. Neither the first- or second-team offenses could muster even a single yard in six snaps, starting from the three yard line. The only score of the day belonged to Keith Toston, catching a ball on a quick wheel route... but not before he took a vicious hit from new linebacker Zac Diles. If Diles had wrapped up, the offense would have gone O-fer. Give credit to Toston for hanging on and driving through into the end zone though.
In the open field, down-and-distance scrimmages, though, the receivers had their day. Pettis and Lance Kendricks played nearly flawlessly. Kendricks also attracted attention from some of the national media that had stopped in town.
At Rams camp, where rookie tight end Lance Kendricks is off to a star-of-camp start early on. The 2nd-rd pick is going to be a weapon.
Meanwhile, Brandon Gibson again had a good day running with the 1s. At times late in the practice Gibby was hobbling around like an old man after finishing a route, but would come back and run the next one full out. Mike Sims-Walker, wearing #10, made a couple of notable grabs (including one whisper-quiet catch of a ball that Bradford whistled at him from 30 yards away), but spent far too much of the day chasing after AJ Feeley's worm-burners.
Other Notes and Happenings
Deep into the third hour of practices, in what would be the last official work of the day, conditioning was the name of the game. All the wideouts lined up to run a series of consecutive 10-yard sprints, followed by a series of shuttles. But few were paying attention to them, because on the opposite field the linebackers' group (and Chris Long, too) were busy shucking their uniforms and helmets, and running a set of sprints of their own.
The helmets and jerseys were apparently to be auctioned, or given away, or something. But it was easily the funniest moment I've seen at Rams Camp the last few years, watching an awed hush settle over all the women in attendance for this final exhibition.