Rams will hold first training-camp practice Saturday
Season tickets for their games at the Coliseum are sold out, the No. 1 pick in this year’s NFL draft is on their roster and the second of three major logistical moves is complete.
It’s time for the Rams to finally get onto the field in preparation for their first season as a Southern California franchise since 1994.
“First time back in L.A., first time back in the Coliseum and it goes on and on from there,” veteran quarterback Case Keenum said.
On Saturday at 3:30 p.m., the Rams will hold their first training camp practice at UC Irvine, a chance for fans to watch rookie quarterback Jared Goff — the top pick in the draft — star running back Todd Gurley, two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald and others.
It is one of 16 workouts on campus open to the public, and the Rams have outfitted Crawford Field with bleachers capable of seating about 6,000.
There also is an open scrimmage Aug. 6 at the Coliseum.
The Rams held organized team activity workouts in Oxnard during spring and early summer, but those practices were not in pads and rarely at full speed.
So this is the first opportunity to gauge whether the Rams have the makings of a team that can produce a winning record for the first time since 2004.
Coach Jeff Fisher has a record of 27-36-1 in four seasons with the Rams and is coming off a 7-9 finish in 2015, third in the NFC West.
Rob Boras is the new offensive coordinator for a unit that ranked last in the NFL in passing and total offense last season.
Gregg Williams returns as coordinator for a defense that lost several key players via free agency but features one of the league’s up-and-coming lines.
The Rams, who count defensive end William Hayes as their oldest player at age 31, open the exhibition season Aug. 13 at the Coliseum against the Dallas Cowboys. They will also play a home exhibition against the Kansas City Chiefs (Aug. 20) before road exhibitions at Denver (Aug. 27) and Minnesota (Sept. 1).
NFL teams begin training camp with 90 players. The roster must be cut to 75 on Aug. 30 and to 53 by Sept. 3.
Crews from HBO’s “Hard Knocks” all-access series have been collecting footage for months and have moved into high gear since players began arriving at training camp this week. The first episode airs Aug. 9.
Here are six issues as the Rams begin workouts:
Will Jared Goff start the opener?
Fisher and General Manager Les Snead have said Goff would not play until he is ready.
During OTAs, Goff at times showed why the Rams traded to the top of the draft to select him.
But the former California star also struggled like a rookie.
The exhibition season is usually a snooze-fest for most NFL fans, but the Goff scenario makes the Rams more interesting in the run-up to the Sept. 12 opener against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
Keenum, a career backup, sounds eager to show that he deserves to remain atop the depth chart. But it’s only a matter of time before Goff takes over.
Has there been any upgrade in the receiving corps?
Fisher hired Mike Groh as receivers coach, but the Rams made no significant player moves via free agency or trades.
Receivers Pharoh Cooper and Michael Thomas and tight ends Tyler Higbee and Temarrick Hemingway were selected in the draft. Cooper and Higbee look capable of contributing immediately. Thomas and Hemingway might take more time.
Tavon Austin is the top returning receiver and his multidimensional role is expected to grow.
The Rams need more production from veterans Kenny Britt and Brian Quick.
Can Greg Robinson become a consistent left tackle?
Robinson was a third-year sophomore at Auburn when the Rams made him the second pick in the 2014 draft.
His inexperience showed in his first two NFL seasons, and now the Rams are asking him to possibly protect Goff.
Robinson spent part of the off-season working with former NFL lineman LeCharles Bentley. Fisher has said Robinson “wants to prove something” and Robinson echoed that upon his arrival at camp.
Is Alec Ogletree an elite middle linebacker?
Ogletree was a weak-side standout before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury early last season.
The Rams apparently thought so much of his talent, and potential leadership ability, they released veteran middle linebacker James Laurinaitis and others in moves to clear salary-cap space and go younger.
Then they moved Ogletree to the middle.
Teammates said Ogletree assumed control of the defense during OTAs, but that was essentially a walk-through.
The fourth-year pro from Georgia must prove he can handle the responsibility of calling the defense and make plays in the middle.
Who fills the void from the free-agent exodus in the secondary?
Cornerback E.J. Gaines is expected to replace Janoris Jenkins and play opposite Trumaine Johnson, who received the franchise tag and is playing on a one-year contract worth about $14 million.
Gaines sat out last season because of a foot injury and was also held out of most drills during OTAs. He started 15 games in 2014 and intercepted two passes.
Cody Davis is regarded as the front-runner to replace Rodney McLeod at free safety. Like McLeod, Davis was an undrafted free agent when he signed with the Rams in 2013.
Any players with pending legal issues?
The Rams have three players awaiting the outcome of off-the-field situations.
Running back Tre Mason was arrested in Florida in March on suspicion of misdemeanor drug and driving-related offenses. He has entered a plea of not guilty. He did not participate in off-season workouts in Oxnard. Fisher is expected to address Mason’s status Saturday.
Safety T.J. McDonald was arrested in May in Woodland Hills on suspicion of driving under the influence of a substance other than alcohol. A spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office said this week that officials were still awaiting supplemental reports.
Higbee, a fourth-round draft pick from Western Kentucky, was arrested in April in Kentucky on suspicion of second-degree assault, evading police and public intoxication after an altercation with a man outside a bar in Bowling Green. He pleaded not guilty. Higbee declined to address the situation upon his arrival at camp. His attorney said the process was ongoing.
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