What to watch as Rams open offseason program

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams will officially begin their offseason program today, the first day they were able to according to NFL rules.

Since the Rams didn't go through a coaching change in the offseason, they had to wait until Monday while teams with new coaches already have begun the process. Here in St. Louis, it's on to what figures to be a pivotal fourth year with the Rams for coach Jeff Fisher and Co.

While Fisher, general manager Les Snead and the rest of the coaching and personnel staffs finish up their final homework for the NFL draft, the players can now report to work at Rams Park, go through workouts and begin diving into playbooks.

According to league rules, Monday's beginning of the program is part of phase one. Phase one allows for strength and conditioning work and rehabilitation. After two weeks, teams can transition into phase two, when they can begin on-field workouts with players but with no contact or any sort of offense-vs.-defense drills. Phase three comes later in the form of organized team activities. Each team gets 10 of those and the Rams wrap up in mid-June.

All of the above activities are voluntary and though most teams have a mandatory minicamp, the Rams are the lone team that chooses not to. In a general sense, part of the reason for eschewing the mandatory minicamp is that it's something of a carrot for players to attend the voluntary portions of the offseason. Under Fisher, the Rams regularly have had near-perfect attendance for the offseason program.

With all of the details out of the way, here's a few things we'll be monitoring as the offseason program begins:

Finding Foles: Newly acquired quarterback Nick Foles technically has been with the Rams since the early March trade with the Eagles, but league rules have prevented him from getting a chance to really dive into his new system. Now that the offseason program is here, Foles finally can dive into what offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti has for him. In fact, the entire offense can get an up-close look at whatever tweaks Cignetti has in mind. For Foles, it's an important opportunity not only to get deep into his playbook but to begin building rapport with his new receivers. It's a safe bet that Foles will be very attentive in this offseason program.

On the recovery: The Rams don't have a lot of players on their roster coming off serious injury, but they have enough guys still working their way back that the offseason program actually has been going on for awhile in their worlds. Rehab for a guy like receiver Brian Quick has been an ongoing process, and Fisher indicated in March that while Quick is progressing, he still didn't want to put a timetable on his return. Tackle Greg Robinson is coming off a foot issue and still is working his way back. Fisher said in February that Robinson should be able to bounce back just fine. Aside from that duo, the Rams seem to be mostly in good shape in the bigger health picture.

Man in the middle: The start of the offseason program won't offer many clues on who will ultimately be the team's starting center, but it is an important time for the three players currently on the roster who figure to be competing for the job. Barrett Jones never has been able to make it to a season healthy and has been in need of additional strength since arriving in the league. Some of his most important work will come in the weight room. Demetrius Rhaney is returning from an injury and also could use some added bulk in his pursuit of the job. Tim Barnes also is back in the mix. Of course, the dynamics of the position could change through the draft but it seems a good bet at the moment that one of these three will get a chance to win the job.