EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Some thoughts and observations from the St. Louis Rams' first open organized team activity on Thursday afternoon:
Defense wins the day: As you might expect when you combine the continuity the Rams have on defense and the moving pieces they have on offense, the team portion of Thursday's OTA was extremely one-sided. The defense looked sharp with all of the pieces in place and humming as though they were in midseason form. Safety T.J. McDonald did not participate but the team plugged Mark Barron in for him and had new addition Akeem Ayers getting plenty of work with the first unit at linebacker. More often than not, the first-team offense barely had a chance to even get a pass off before the Rams' defensive line closed in. It's going to take some time for things to come together for the offense with a new coordinator, new quarterback and so many moving parts so it's probably safe to expect this to be a trend that continues through OTAs and into training camp.
Expansive offensive tweaks? Perhaps there are more changes to the offense coming than we might have expected after the team promoted Frank Cignetti Jr. to offensive coordinator earlier this offseason. Earlier Thursday, we discussed the possibility of the team adding more zone blocking schemes to the mix and while that is likely to be part of the process, multiple Rams players hinted at more elaborate changes. As part of the agreement with the Pro Football Writers of America, we can't go into specific schemes and concepts we see on the practice field but some Rams offensive players weren't shy about indicating there's more in the offing than what we've seen the past three years under Brian Schottenheimer.
"Oh man, we have some stuff," receiver Brian Quick said. "It’s going to take some time but it’s coming. He has a lot up his sleeve and together as an offense we are going to put it together and it’s going to be fun."
Sitting it out: With some players still recovering from offseason or previous surgeries, the Rams weren't exactly working with a full deck during the team portion of Thursday's practice. Quick (shoulder), tackle Greg Robinson (toe), guard Rodger Saffold (shoulder) and running back Todd Gurley (knee) were among the notables not participating in the team portion of practice. Coach Jeff Fisher made it clear that some of those returning from injury wouldn't be rushed back. Saffold, Robinson and Quick did participate in individual drills, however. Of that trio, only Quick appears to be set to take extended time to return.
Line dancing: With Robinson and Saffold out, the Rams had to make do with Brandon Washington and Garrett Reynolds on the first-team offensive line. Barrett Jones got some snaps with the first team at center with rookies Jamon Brown at right guard and Rob Havenstein at right tackle. That group will clearly change as Robinson and Saffold return healthy and the team takes a longer look at center options Tim Barnes and Demetrius Rhaney. But for now, that was the first five and certainly contributed to the problems of the offense.
Odds and ends: Gurley did a little work on the side himself, mostly straight line stuff with athletic trainer Byron Cunningham. He also stuck around after to catch some passes from rookie Sean Mannion, though he wasn't running full speed. ... The biggest offensive highlight of the day came when quarterback Austin Davis hit receiver Kenny Britt on a long pass down the right sideline over safety Cody Davis and cornerback Imoan Claiborne. Britt then tossed the ball at Cody Davis to let him know about it and Davis threw it back and hit Britt from about 35 yards away. All in good fun, of course. ... Quarterback Nick Foles didn't have much luck as part of that first-team offense but did connect on a well-thrown slant over the middle to tight end Jared Cook during 7-on-7. ... Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was all over the place during team and 7-on-7 drills, including an impressive pass breakup on a quick slant intended for receiver Tavon Austin. ... The Rams have their third OTA scheduled for Friday. That session will also be open to the media.