Training camp is quickly approaching, which means it's time to preview the most exciting part of the summer. Over the next month, Around The NFL's Conor Orr will break down all 32 teams and give us something to look for in late July.
Training camp report dates: Rookies July 27, veterans July 29.
Training camp location:University of California-Irvine, Irvine, Calif.
Offseason in a nutshell: The Rams essentially announced to the rest of the NFL that they are one player away from competing in perhaps the best division in football. After lauding their success in the Robert Griffin III draft train robbery, the Rams essentially reversed course, mortgaging the future for the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL Draft. Jared Goff is a work in progress and is going to spend the season making the type of mistakes rookie quarterbacks make. At the moment, the team is unsure if he is their opening day starter. What does all this mean, exactly? The disaster scenario is staring us down: Hard Knocks will be in town to film training camp. An owner interested in rapidly building (or restoring) a fan base wants his underperforming coaching staff to come out of the gates fast and the teams the Rams will have to face a total of six times a year all got better this summer. Did the Rams?
Player to watch: Tight end Tyler Higbee -- Free agency picked away at the Rams' roster a bit, leaving the team to try and solve their remaining holes via the draft-and-pray scenario. Higbee, a troubled product out of Western Kentucky, may end up battling as many off-the-field issues as on-the-field hurdles this August, but the Rams are in need of a reliable intermediate target. Rookie quarterbacks love and depend on tight ends, especially early in their careers, and the Rams just watched Jared Cook head north to Green Bay.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS:
1. How good is this secondary, and will we know by the end of camp?
The Rams let go of Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod this offseason along with other defensive staples like Chris Long and James Laurinaitis. The secondary is now rolling with Lamarcus Joyner in the slot and (probably) E.J. Gaines and Coty Sensabaugh opposite Trumaine Johnson. They were pick-heavy in mini camp, but will need to figure out a way to make sure they can contend with the likes of Arizona and Seattle -- a team that will be passing much more in 2016. In practice, it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff does anything to negate the lack of a full workout given that they'll be breaking in a rookie quarterback and working against the same Kenny Britt/Tavon Austin tandem once again. There is a sense among those close to the Rams that this is a chance to show off depth and let some of their unheralded stars emerge while they spend the smart money elsewhere.
2. Can they placate -- and consistently use -- all these "dynamic" weapons?
I would love to have Tavon Austin and Pharoh Cooper on my team, but I would only do so if I were positive I could get them the ball on a regular basis. Austin had his best year in 2015, setting career highs in targets, catches yards, rushing attempts, rushing yards and touchdowns but that took three very frustrating seasons and a handful of offensive coordinators. Cooper is being billed to us as a slightly taller and more practical alternative who may end up functioning better in the slot. On paper? Great. But let's see it in camp first.
3. Will the players show up in shape and healthy?
Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News brought up an interesting point. The Rams were shut out of their Oxnard, Calif. camp at the end of June and won't have another facility until after the beginning of training camp. That means a drop-off spot where people can lift, run, work out, use the cold tub and ice up. Not that these athletes wouldn't have trainers across the country throwing gym memberships their way, but is there something to be said about the lack of a true home base? Players are fickle and depend on routine. One tweaked hamstring could have a significant effect on the regular season.
Way-too-early season prediction: Seeing is believing with Goff. He is talented, smart and has a great arm, but the Bear Raid offense at Cal doesn't seem to translate well. There will be growing pains and, to me, five or six wins makes a lot of sense.