Two days of rookie minicamp at Rams Park concluded Saturday afternoon. The closed-to-public sessions led to heightened media arousal over assigned numbers and assorted college tales. No. 8 overall pick Tavon Austin wore No. 11 (blue jersey), looked really fast and really isn’t taller than 5 feet 7. The turf was slick on Friday but offered more bite Saturday. Those lads who remain are set to attend today’s Cardinals-Rockies game — and hopefully no one will pull a Jason Smith and try to make off with the star first baseman’s game hat. (Smith was intercepted at the clubhouse door.) Few words of wisdom are gleaned in the time between the draft and organized team activities that begin May 21. Clichés abound. Everyone is excited to be living a dream come true. And that’s how it should be. But, employing the ultimate litmus test, these workouts weren’t even significant enough for Pappy’s to cater the media spread. That said, Rams Park no longer is the NFL’s last-chance saloon. Every indicator from the team’s approach to free agency, its aggressiveness in the draft and its coach’s nod to a more energized offense suggests a franchise operating from a higher baseline. Able to carve a fresh-faced counter-puncher’s 7-8-1 record out of coach Jeff Fisher’s first year in town, the Rams now suggest more of a quick-strike posture from fourth-year quarterback Sam Bradford and his friends on offense. The Rams negotiated two of this year’s seven free-agent contracts averaging more than $8 million per season with left tackle Jake Long and tight end Jared Cook. To industry applause, they famously moved up eight spots to pluck Austin, the draft’s most unique offensive player. The era of trawling dumpster-dive free agents is over, replaced by a nod toward premium talent that challenges the salary cap. The look remains open to interpretation, as evidenced by the ultimate arbiters. Two gambling entities released their projected win totals for each NFL team last week. The first set the Rams at eight; the second teased handicappers with a total of 6½ that ranked higher than only four other teams. The Rams became known as a plodding, ball-control offense last season that exposed itself to turnovers and drive-killing penalties because of its inability to consume chunks of yardage on one snap. The franchise’s willingness to let signature running back Steven Jackson walk suggested discomfort with having to regularly feed Jackson carries. Breaking from the past typically leads to wide-ranging perceptions. “We still want to be able to grind it, but we also want to become more explosive downfield. I’ve been through that before with a veteran team,” Fisher reminded.
Rams starting from a far different place
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | May 12