With an admittedly complex defensive playbook, St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has to enjoy the thought of seeing so many familiar faces back in the starting lineup on his side of the ball.
All eleven starters and many of the backups return from last season and with another year. With another year of familiarizing themselves under Williams’ aggressive schemes — and another year of experience — this Rams’ defense could be primed for success.
The preseason opener is set for 9 p.m. Friday in Oakland against the Raiders.
“I can’t tell you right now production-wise (how good we’ll be),” Williams said. “I know there’s an understanding. We play different opponents this year. Some of the offenses that we’re going to play against this year are better than some of the offenses that we played against last year.
“it’s a good group. They’re another year in their development. They’re another year in understanding their strengths and weaknesses of every call and of every player that we use. I think Aaron will improve. I really do.”
With injuries to cornerback E.J. Gaines and other starters nursing or dealing with minor ailments, Williams and the defensive staff have used training camp to take a look at several other younger players and backups.
“The big thing is to see some of the newer players and the younger players, see them in competition,” Williams said. “We try to put as much stress on them as we can in practice. We try to put external pressure on them in practice. But practice is practice.
“Until you get into a live game, you don’t see live pressure, you don’t see live tackling, you don’t see live situations, you don’t see live pressure. I need to see them handle stress. And that’ll be a good part of the game.”
With Pro Bowlers Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald on the defensive line and potential star talent scattered throughout the unit, Williams hopes opposing teams won’t know exactly where to send the extra attention.
Do they load up trying to stop Quinn or Donald, or risk blitzing linebackers and defensive backs?
“Sure, (Donald will) get more attention. He got a lot of attention last year,” Williams said. “People weren’t just saying, ‘Uh oh, you know, he’s a rookie.’ He got that same attention last year. Robert Quinn got that attention also. The fact that they’re both playing together (too).
“A healthy Chris Long, a healthy Will Hayes, all those guys. One of the things that I think that goes unseen or unannounced is how well Michael Brockers plays with all those guys, and how well Michael Brockers plays with Aaron Donald.”
Rams camp notes
- New Rams cornerback Trovon Reed was a teammate of Rams left tackle Greg Robinson when both were standouts at Thibodeaux (La.) High near New Orleans. Both also attended Auburn, although Reed was a year older.
- For now, Barrett Jones is listed as the starter at center ahead of Tim Barnes and Demetrius Rhaney, but all three remain locked in a battle for the starting spot. Jones was a fourth-round draft pick in 2013 who has been sidelined with injuries for much of his pro career.
Barnes is a former NFL starter.
- Among the Rams sitting our all or part of camp practice Monday were defensive end Long (back tightness), running backs Tre Mason (hamstring), Todd Gurley and Isiah Pead (both still limited after ACL surgery), safety Maurice Alexander, cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson, Gaines (foot) and Brandon McGee (foot).
Fisher was asked to give an update on Gaines, who started 15 games as a rookie last season with two interceptions.
“The only thing I can say is that he’s seeing the (foot) specialist right now and we haven’t gotten any results yet,” Fisher said.
The Rams will practice with the Dallas Cowboys next Monday and Tuesday in Oxnard, Calif., then will practice by themselves in California on Wednesday in preparation for their next preseason game Aug. 23 at Tennessee.
The Rams open their preseason schedule Friday night in Oakland against the Raiders.
The Rams’ preseason television broadcast team included Hall of Famer and former Rams great Marshall Faulk and former Rams star receiver Torry Holt as color analysts with Andrew Siciliano doing play-by-play. The game will be broadcast on Fox Channel 2 as well as WXOS-FM 101.1.