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Chris Givens Frustrating St. Louis Rams Defensive Backs in Practice

August 16th, 2013 at 11:47 AM
By Brent Lancaster

With unseasonably cool temperatures, as well as a “Ladies’ Day” promotional event that the St. Louis Rams were running, the turnout for Thursday’s practice was quite good for a weekday. Legendary former coach Marty Schottenheimer (father of Rams’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) stopped by to take in practice and chat with Rams’ COO Kevin Demoff.  Rams legend Torry Holt was also back to work with the young WR’s.

Holt seems to be putting in a lot of time with WR Brian Quick, who many believe can take the next step. The Rams were looking to bounce back after the unwelcome news of LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s four game suspension. After practice, Coach Fisher used the phrases “very, very disappointed” and “selfish” to describe how he felt about the situation. It appears veteran LB Will Witherspoon will step in for Dunbar and, according to Coach Fisher, there are no guarantees on Dunbar’s job security upon return. Witherspoon is already running with the first team defense.

After a full team warm up, the squad delighted the fans with some one on one fireworks between receivers and defensive backs. One thing that is apparent throughout camp is how the young players are making one another better, especially in one on one “prove it” drills. Rams WR’s must show they can win individual battles in order for the offense to be successful.

This was fully on display between players like Chris Givens/Janoris Jenkins, Brian Quick/Trumaine Johnson and Tavon Austin/Cortland Finnegan, the players who represent the Rams' future. In particular, Quick and Givens really stood out, with Quick muscling his way to a red zone touchdown despite physical coverage by Johnson and Givens gaining separation no matter the defensive back (easily winning Thursday’s Gold Star). If Quick can stay consistent, the Rams could have a very strong WR corps. Tavon Austin continues to impress, and his arsenal of head fakes, jukes and double moves appears to be just what the Rams ordered.

These players continued to impress into team activities, with Austin Pettis continuing to show solid hands and route running. Pettis’ quickness in short areas continues to shine, making him a red zone weapon.

What about the other receivers? WR Nick Johnson had a very nice practice (his birthday is coincidentally today), snagging quite a few catches in team activities and showing his speed in the return game. Do not forget about him as a Dark Horse candidate, as he was on the Rams’ practice squad throughout 2012 and is as experienced in the offense as any other receiver.  Andrew Helmick, Raymond Radway and Emory Blake also made some nice plays. Helmick in particular could earn a living on special teams (as he has return experience), Radway has a rare size/speed combo (6’4, 4.4 40), and Blake. Separating out a sixth WR, if the Rams carry six, will be very difficult at this point.

On the other side of the ball, CB Brandon McGee had a very nice showing in drills and team activities, breaking up several passes and showing strong recovery speed. DB Quinton Pointer continues to be sticky in coverage, and appears to be primed for a role as a nickel corner, backing up Finnegan.

At safety there is truly a competition for depth and special teams roles, as Cody Davis, Matt Daniels and Rodney McLeod have all been seeing time with the second team defense. Davis is a rangy athlete who can come up and make a play in the box, Daniels is a heavy hitter who is also a strong special teamer, and McLeod is a "Swiss army knife" with his ability to man cover. The next few preseason games will be very telling indeed.

Gold Star:  WR Chris Givens The player that was constantly frustrating defensive backs on Thursday was Givens. His ability to plant and go deep as well as cut sharply into short/intermediate routes, all while maintaining balance and concentration, makes him truly dangerous. He looks every part a number one WR, if he sees the volume of targets, and should worry defensive coordinators.. He was especially effective in red zone drills (coverage by Jenkins or Finnegan), at one point causing Finnegan to pound a goal post in frustration after he was beat on a hitch route. Additionally, Givens managed to pull in several contested catches that showed his hand strength and ability to focus while being draped by a defender. He appears poised for the next step. Other Notes from Monday’s Camp (via the @Rams_101 Twitter feed)

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