Chat with Nick Wagoner
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN NFL Nation St. Louis Rams reporter Nick Wagoner drops by to chat and answer all of your Rams questions.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Wagoner joined ESPN in 2013 after nine years of covering the Rams for StLouisRams.com. He also previously covered University of Missouri football.
Send your questions now and join Wagoner Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Nick Wagoner (1:01 PM)
Good afternoon, Rams fans. Back at it this week. Thanks for joining me. Let's get to business.
Stefan (San Jose, CA) [via mobile]
Does Christian Bryant have any chance at that safety spot opposite of McDonald? I know he hasn't been participating in OTAs so that can't help his cause..
Nick Wagoner (1:02 PM)
There's really no way of answering that since he has yet to participate in a practice. But it seems like a long shot regardless.
Hi, Nick. To start with, I just wanted to thank you for consistently good work. I was bummed when we lost Sando, but you give high quality insight and lots of material. Hands down one of the best bloggers at NFL Nation!I was wondering if there were any signs that Williams might run more 5-2 formations with his front seven since he likes pressuring the QB and it would put our best team (potentially) on the field.
Nick Wagoner (1:04 PM)
Thanks for the kind words, Drew. I think it's a safe bet you'll see some different looks from Williams and Co. We aren't allowed to write about or comment what we see in practice in terms of personnel groupings and such but I'll just reiterate that you'll see some new wrinkles with Williams in charge.
This is truly a question not a criticism....would it be fair to say that Schottenheimer's offensive plan is the reason Sam Bradford's detractors? He was great as a rookie and set numbers rookie records at the time. Then the sytem changed (twice) and Bradford's game seemed much more conservative. How much improvement can we realistically expect from a guy in a conservative system?
Nick Wagoner (1:09 PM)
It's funny, I remember people who disliked Shurmur because he was "too conservative" when Sam was a rookie. And if you go back and look at Bradford's numbers from that year it actually was a conservative offense. He set records for completions and attempts but his yards per completion and rating weren't off the charts. What really threw him off, in my opinion, was year two. The fit with McDaniels was not a good one and they were coming off the lockout. He had little time to learn that offense which was MUCH different than Shurmur's. Then, he had the ankle injury that plagued him. It really set him back, I believe. But Bradford is polarizing amongst Rams fans. Many either want to get rid of him or love him. To me, the truth lies somewhere in between in the sense that as crazy as it sounds, after four years, you really don't know what you have for the long haul.
keep hearing and reading "rams on cusp of playoffs"and this is the year"stuff like that.i think 1 or two more years,your thoughts sir.
Nick Wagoner (1:10 PM)
Too early to make any real predictions but it still seems to me that it will be an uphill climb for Rams to make it this year. The team has earmarked this as the year they want to breakthrough since Fisher arrived. They should be held to that standard.
Considering the Rams schedule they could play better this year and still end up 8-8. What are some of the criteria beside record that you are looking for to say 2014 was a successful season? Or is it all about wins and losses?
Nick Wagoner (1:12 PM)
I think it's about wins and losses. The past two years, it was about seeing improvement. It happened ahead of schedule in 2012 which made 2013 a bit of a disappointment when the Rams didn't improve (though they were missing the QB). Now that the QB is back and the team has made it clear they want this to be a breakthrough year, they should be judged on the results, not just the performance. That's what they want and that's how it should be.
Shedrow (Glendale, Ca.)
Other than Joyner, do any of the rookie corners have the skill set to slide over to FS?
Nick Wagoner (1:13 PM)
E.J. Gaines has said he has some experience at safety so he could theoretically do it but I don't think there will be much need for that to happen.
Nick,Do you think the Rams patience with Sam Bradford is running out? Granted he did get hurt last season which was undoubtedly his best season statistic wise. However, the Rams were still only 3-4 and that's the only statistic that truly matters. To me Bradford seems to lack the "killer instinct" that several of the other great QBs possess. Honestly I would love to see him develop a more aggressive demeanor, and use the obvious team "frustrations" as his fuel to "take over a game." I feel like without this "killer instinct" theres no way the Rams will ever contend in the very competitive NFC West. Am I alone on these thoughts? Do you have anything to add?Thanks
Nick Wagoner (1:14 PM)
I don't get into the whole "killer instinct" or attitude discussions when it comes to this. Plenty of quarterbacks don't show a lot of emotion and go out and rip your heart out. It's an intangible thing that is pulled from the sky to make a straw man argument, in my opinion. However, I do think this is a huge year for Bradford. I've said and written as much in the past and nothing has changed. If he doesn't have a good year or, worse, again suffers a major injury, the team will have little choice but to move on.
Brian HB, CA [via mobile]
What would you consider the Rams weakest position group from what you have seen in OTA's so far?
Nick Wagoner (1:16 PM)
I wouldn't base anything on OTAs in terms of making this determination so I'd stick with what I thought was the weakest position group before OTAs: safety. There's talent there but it's mostly unproven.
Patrick C (Houston)
Let's discuss the secondary. Arguably the biggest weakness in the team last year, do you think that was a product of poor schemes from Walton or a lack of quality talent on the field? How well do you think Williams' schemes and the rookies will do against high-profile passing attacks, and sub-par ones for that matter.
Nick Wagoner (1:18 PM)
I guess we'll get our answer this year. My hunch is that it was a combination of things but it remains to be seen how the change will manifest this year. I think there is talent in the secondary, part of Williams' job will be to maximize that. Walton was unable to which was especially damning since his background was as a secondary coach.
Brian HB, CA [via mobile]
From what you have seen in OTA's is there any clear cut starting WR's on the roster or is it still too close to a nnoit starters going into camp?
Nick Wagoner (1:19 PM)
I don't know about clear cut. But if I had to guess, it's Givens, Britt and Austin that will end up with the most reps when it's all said and done. Bailey has played well in the OTAs I've seen (again noting that it's just OTAs) but obviously has the suspension.
Kyle (Cape Coral, FL)
As it stands right now, Seattle is expected to have the best record in the division. Do you think its possible for the Rams to surpass ARZ/SF for that 3 spot in the division to get a possible wild card seed?
Nick Wagoner (1:20 PM)
Anything can happen. I do think the Rams can push past Arizona. I'm not so sure about the other two. I wouldn't be shocked if Seattle and/or San Fran dipped a little record wise but I don't expect that dip to be enough to drop either below second place. Injuries could change that.
Jeff Ryan (California)
How has Brandon MaGee looked so far in OTAs? What about Reid?
Nick Wagoner (1:21 PM)
McGee has had some rough moments and some good moments. He's getting a lot of work as the nickel right now. I'd still expect Joyner to surpass him eventually. Not much of note from Reid.
mike bishop ca [via mobile]
Does the denfense under Gregg Williams in the OTA's show alot of aggressiveness that we'll in the season?
Nick Wagoner (1:22 PM)
Well, you can only be so aggressive with no pads or contact in OTAs. But you'll see plenty of aggression during the season, yes.
What are the chances that Shottenheimer introduces two-back sets with Stacy and Mason like the Detroit Lions have done with Bell and Bush? Its not like he would be subtracting from talented receiver touches.
Nick Wagoner (1:22 PM)
Wouldn't be shocked to see a little bit of that.
Alex from kc [via mobile]
Do you think part of the reason our WR and DB progress has been slow is because they are both considered our weakest spots and they directly compete in practice.... seems to me if one was more experienced that would help the other progress...? Your thoughts?
Nick Wagoner (1:24 PM)
An interesting thought. I will say this: while I'm not ready to sit here and say Kenny Britt is the answer to all of the Rams' prayers at WR, there's one thing he brings to the group that seems welcome and that's a fire and competitive drive that's been missing. It gets receivers and DBs fired up and only creates more competition in practice. If nothing else, that's been a positive gain from his addition so far. You can't judge a ton from the OTAs but something like that is pretty clear day to day.
RAMS fan from (NM)
The PFF article categorizing James Lauranites as "a below average" starter seems crazy to me. I have always thought of him as a potential pro bowler. Am I that far off?
Nick Wagoner (1:25 PM)
No, I think they are that far off. He's not Dick Butkus and never has been but Laurinaitis is much better than a below average starter. Does he have his limitations? Sure. But below average is what the Rams used to trot out there before Laurinaitis arrived. Guys like Chris Claiborne or Robert Thomas.
Matt - Idaho [via mobile]
How many other teams in the NFC could Sam Bradforf start for? I say he could start for the Vikings and maybe the Bucs or Cards. If this is the case what chance do we have in the NFC West this year? I've been a Rams fan for over 35 years and appreciate your work.
Nick Wagoner (1:27 PM)
I think he'd start for the three you mention. That might be it but it's hard to say because we know how those QBs perform with the talent around them and the coaching staffs they have in place. Putting Bradford in another place with more proven receivers, for example, might elevate him above others. For example, would Bradford be better than Matthew Stafford if he had Calvin Johnson to throw to? I don't know that, not saying he would be but it makes this type of conversation tough to have.
JJ (BAKERSFIELD) [via mobile]
Im really excited to see all the positions individually during the preseason to give a fans assesment but none more than the secondary because of the addition of so much talent. Being that jenkins is considered more of a man to man, what do you think the chances are of him being pushed inside to cover the slot which requires the nickel to make quick decisions. Jenkins of all is great at risk taking but doesnt do well for him when hes asked to cover zone.
Nick Wagoner (1:28 PM)
I don't expect to see Jenkins in the slot much.
How is Brodine coming along with his switch to tight end? For blocking purposes, it would be nice having a tight end that big...but can he catch? Also, who is your guess on which tight ends will make the team? Does that fullback they signed have a decent shot at making the team?
Nick Wagoner (1:30 PM)
Haven't seen him get many opportunities to catch and blocking is kind of hard to judge without pads on. But I can say he runs better than I expected. I think Cook, Kendricks and Harkey are pretty much locks. If they keep a fourth, which is no guarantee, I think Justice Cunningham could be a guy to watch. And undrafted rookie Alex Bayer turned a couple of heads in yesterday's OTA. Might be worth watching in preseason.
Greg Bazemore (Winston Salem) [via mobile]
If the Rams had been able to pull off the trade for the kid from Notre Dame Martin would they had considered cutting Long?Do you think the both Gaines and the free agent out of Florida both make the squad. I heard the kid out of Florida may be a better prospect than the rookie cornerback from Miami last year.
Nick Wagoner (1:31 PM)
I don't think so. I think the idea with Martin was that it gave the Rams two pieces they could plug in right away but also long term solutions at tackle. Way too early to say on the corners.
I feel bad for SJax. He gave everything he had to the Rams when they were the worst franchise in the history of the NFL (Most losses in a 5 year period EVER). Does he have a a shot at the HOF? I think that he is on par with Frank Gore (probably a better WR) but will suffer for playing for the Rams at that time.
Nick Wagoner (1:31 PM)
As of today, no, I don't think he makes the HOF. And he's going to need a strong year or two to get there. Not sure it's going to be in the cards for him.
I love Joyner's versatility. How much S will he play this season if at all?
Nick Wagoner (1:33 PM)
He's doing some now as a backup in OTAs but I get the impression that's largely because of the many injuries they have at safety right now rather than a commentary on where he'll wind up. I still expect his primary role to be the nickel CB.
JD (California) [via mobile]
There has been a lot of talk about K. Britt's time in OTA's. However, I am personally trying not to get my hopes up too high. What are realistic expectations with his strong showing so far?
Nick Wagoner (1:34 PM)
I think it's best not to get hopes too high or too low based on anything coming from OTAs so your approach is right on. He does look the part and appears to be healthy. Those are two positives. As for realistic expectations? Hard to say but maybe something close to his early years in Tennessee?
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What NFL Team does the St. Louis Rams Open the 2014 NFL Season with?
Nick Wagoner (1:34 PM)
The Minnesota Vikings football club.
Why is Maurice Alexander not participating in OTAs? injury?
Nick Wagoner (1:34 PM)
Al Price (Las Vegas)
Hey Nick...Cay you post every player we received from the big Rams/ Redskins trade? I noticed Vegas has the Rams over/under wins @ 7.5.. Doesn't the over seem like a lock?? I think with a bad season we win 8... with good season we win 9 or 10.. we catch some luck and stay healthy.. maybe 11? What are your thoughts on win total?
Nick Wagoner (1:36 PM)
No thoughts on the win total right now though I think 7.5 is a reasonable number since team has won seven two years in a row. In terms of trade from Washington, keep in mind some players were acquired in subsequent trades but here's the haul:Michael BrockersJanoris JenkinsIsaiah PeadRokevious WatkinsAlec OgletreeStedman BaileyZac StacyGreg Robinson
RAMS fan from (NM)
I read your article about PFF ranking the rams 31st as far as roster talent. Where would you rank them?
Nick Wagoner (1:38 PM)
I haven't looked into it to know the other rosters well enough to rank the Rams out of 32. But if I had to estimate, I'd think something closer to the 18-22 range would be more appropriate. They are unproven, I understand that but that doesn't make them less talented than some teams ahead of them on that list.
I'm not too familiar with Gregg Williams' defensive schemes. Do you expect the Rams to play in a 4-3 alignment consistently, or will they spend significant time in the nickel? Or is all of this dependent on how Joyner/Dunbar play early on?
Nick Wagoner (1:39 PM)
Well sub packages are a function of what the offense is doing personnel wise so we'll see how that plays out. But Williams is a 4-3 base guy who likes to change up looks. You'll probably see a whole lot of different things from this defense, very multiple.
Paul (Buellton, CA)
Do you think the Kaepernick deal puts financial pressure on the Niners that may force personnel changes there that weaken the roster next year or over the next 2-3 years? The Rams are a young roster and as SEA and SF both age and have to adjust to large money deals, can the Rams pass them in the division by just riding their player improvement or do you think it will take some additional talent (veteran) to get them over the hump?
Nick Wagoner (1:41 PM)
Sure. Anytime you have players signing big contracts, it's going to eventually cost you a player or two. The thing is, the Niners have done such a good job of stockpiling talent (they basically use I.R. like a farm system) that they should be in position to replace those guys. For the Rams, they can't worry about what everyone else is doing. The biggest thing for them right now is player development. Lots of young potential but potential means nothing until it turns into production.
Todd (Fresno, CA)
Hey Nick...as usual, great stuff! Also really appreciate the OTA insights to help curb our withdrawls!! As you state, SB is polarizing Ram fans. I'm a SB fan. Personally feel SB has been bittien by a bit of the Schleprock bug overall but c'mon....lets just review the tools he's been working with.....show me the list of WR's that have left and performed at a high level with their new teams??........anybody? Also....I watched a ton of NFL games last year and I am struck by the epidemic level of dropped passes accross the league!!...just me or did you noticce too?....Thanks as always!
Nick Wagoner (1:42 PM)
There's no doubting the validity of your arguments. I do think there are plenty of things he can do better and he really needs to stay healthy but your points are the ones most often cited by his supporters. And yes, dropped balls seem to be popping up more and more.
Don Riley (New Jersey )
Is Jim Leonard over the hill ? I think he's still a free agent. I know the Jets team pretty well. Jim Leonard was probably the most valuable player on the team in the two Jet Playoff runs. The guy is so underrated its incredible. He made big play after big play for the Jets defense. He's little guy but he plays really big, he 's a catalyst for the entire defense. But I guess he's over the hill........or finished, if not could the Rams get that desperate to give the Old guy a try or anybody else, who might be on the scrapheap ?
Nick Wagoner (1:43 PM)
I don't get the impression the Rams are interested in an older safety. It hasn't been their M.O. under Fisher to go grab those guys and I doubt it changes this year, especially after drafting a pair of safeties.
Ryan(Ohio) [via mobile]
I know its early but which LB stood out for you even though its without pads. Anyone intrigue you
Nick Wagoner (1:45 PM)
Ray Ray Armstrong looks like he could be ready for an expanded role.
Paul (Buellton, CA)
Thoughts on Michael Sam's progress in the OTAs...noting your coverage and coverage elsewhere (Bleacher Report) of his near interception the other day. Have there been any more plays like that that would stand out in the coaches minds as they evaluate him? Does he seem like he's a fit for ST duty?
Nick Wagoner (1:46 PM)
It's the only one I can think of but remember they aren't in pads. OTAs definitely not the time to judge any players but especially linemen on both sides of the ball. As for special teams, he says he wants to lose a little weight so he can be faster to contribute there. That's still his best bet to earning a roster spot.
What is the NFL criteria for assigning team schedules? It seems like the Rams and the whole NFC West have gotten some tough draws in recent years... Do they take that into account?
Nick Wagoner (1:47 PM)
No. It's simply a rotation. You play a different division in each conference every year on a rotating basis for eight games. Then you play the six games against your division opponents. Then you play the team from the other two divisions in your conference that equals your finish in the division from the previous year.
Fisher seems like a no-nonsense guy committed to player safety, but I feel like penalties killed us last year. How much of that should improve with our young team "maturing" or should there be more emphasis in coaching the penalties away?
Nick Wagoner (1:48 PM)
His teams have a long history of penalties. I'm just not sure if that's going to change.
Do you think Pead makes the Rams roster? If not, will be considered a horrible 2d round pick only 2 years ago
Nick Wagoner (1:49 PM)
I don't think he's a lock to make it but will have a chance to earn a spot in camp. They do like his special teams ability. As far as living up to being a second round pick, barring a shocking turnaround, that ship has sailed.
Dave (St. Louis)
Any rumors of potential veteran free agent signings lately?
Nick Wagoner (1:49 PM)
Nothing as of now. Could revisit in camp or end of preseason. Think they're mostly pleased with what they have on hand.
Roger Schutt (Grass Valley, CA)
Nick, I've not heard WHY certain guys are on the sideline these days. Could you please elaborate a bit on the following players: S Christian Bryant, S Maurice Alexander, RB Chase Reynolds, S Matt Daniels, DE Sammy Brown, DE William Hayes, DT Michael Brockers.
Nick Wagoner (1:51 PM)
I wish I could but since this is OTAs and the league doesn't require injury reports, the Rams keep their injury information close to the vest. I do know Alexander had a knee scope, Daniels is returning from an injury last year, Bryant also had an injury that kept him out at the end of his college career and Brockers had his ankle wrapped during yesterday's practice. But again, nothing official and the Rams aren't saying.
Dave (St. Louis)
Any estimate on when we might start hearing more about stadium negotiations between the Rams and the city? When would the be the sonnest possible date you could see a new stadium being ready?
Nick Wagoner (1:51 PM)
I wouldn't expect anything anytime soon. On either count.
Who is going to play safety for the Rams opposite McDonald? Fact that Joyner was 2d round pick and Rams traded up to get him, shouldn't he be the other starting safety rather than the nickel back?
Nick Wagoner (1:51 PM)
McLeod is the best bet.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
Most likely candidate on either side of the ball to get their first Pro Bowl nod this year?
Nick Wagoner (1:52 PM)
Hmmm... I think I might go with Rodger Saffold for this one. If he can stay healthy, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him earn a bid as a guard.
Alex kc [via mobile]
It seems to me we have a plethora of offensive linemen that are young and talented or the coaches have high hopes for... ie jones washington... etc... how many do you seem them keeping and any thoughts on who makes it and the end I know it's early and blocking without contact is pointless but it's a interesting group
Nick Wagoner (1:53 PM)
Hard to say but they have gone heavy on OL in the past and it wouldn't surprise me if they did again this year. I'm guessing closer to 9 than 10 this time but I think you have your starting five then Jones and Joseph. That's seven. From there, probably a good competition amongst Washington, Barnes, Hooey, Person, Van Dyk, etc for two more spots or so.
Seems like a logjam at WR. I think that Britt (apparently has looked good), Bailey, Austin, and Givens are safe. Do you think that Pettis or Quick get cut?
Nick Wagoner (1:55 PM)
I don't really see the need to cut either of them. Why not keep all six? Especially with so many unproven why not have options in case one you think is going to work doesn't? Especially with Bailey's suspension, I suspect all six start the season on the roster (with Bailey not counting because of the suspension).
I was surprised at the low guaranteed money Kap got from the 49ers, but that type of deal would be perfect for Bradford, since you never know what you're going to get from him. You think Snead/Bradford would consider a deal like that if he performs like he did in 2012?
Nick Wagoner (1:57 PM)
If Bradford has a big year and earns a contract extension, I think a deal like Cutler's is probably the best baseline to work from in a realistic sense. The going rate for QBs is such that even average ones get paid big bucks. It's like a No. 3 starter in baseball.
John (Yorba Linda, CA)
Hi Nick,Enjoy your column. I had some questions about practice squads. First, are those guys paid? Are they protected? Last, and I know its early, but what Ram rookies do you see ending up on the practice squad? Seems like they may have some talent this year which may not make the roster, but could end up on the practice squad, particularly at db/ss.Thanks,John
Nick Wagoner (1:59 PM)
Yes, they are paid. No, they are not protected. A team can sign one of your practice squad guys at any time. However, if they do, they must sign them to the 53-man roster. I have no idea who will be practice squad candidates at this point though I think it's a safe bet they try to get one of their young OTs through to that group.
RAMS fan from (NM)
hey nick, if i wanted to meet some players, get autographs, etc, any recommendations?
Nick Wagoner (2:00 PM)
Yeah, training camp is your best bet. The Rams have a setup after each practice where a position group signs autographs every day. Not sure if they release that schedule but other players also meander over to sign autographs on a regular basis. In general, training camp is your best opportunity to get up close to those guys.
Nick Wagoner (2:01 PM)
That's going to do it for today. Back next week at the same time with our final chat before a little summer hiatus (read: vacation). Talk to you then.