Here are five things to watch as the St. Louis Rams travel to California to take on the Oakland Raiders (9 p.m. Friday; TV-Fox Channel 2; Radio-WXOS-FM 101.1).
1. How well will new quarterback Nick Foles click with his receivers and with the offense in general?
Not only is Foles the new starter at quarterback after coming over from Philadelphia in a trade for Sam Bradford, the Rams also are breaking in yet another new offensive coordinator in Frank Cignetti. One of the team's most productive receivers early last season was Brian Quick, who was lost to shoulder surgery. Since the team brought back most of the same receivers, including veteran Kenny Britt and youngsters Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, Foles has had time to develop chemistry with everyone during OTAs (organized team activities) and camp.
2. How will rookie right tackle Rob Havenstein and rookie right guard Jamon Brown hold up in their first live NFL experience?
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he expected Foles to play for only a handful of series, but it will be interesting to see how the offensive line looks with three new starters. Along with Havenstein and Brown, who have been listed as starters since Day 1, there's also a three-way battle at center with Barrett Jones expected to be the starter against the Raiders. Keeping Foles upright and healthy is a major concern for a Rams team that saw Bradford go down twice with ACL surgeries. Look for Havenstein and Brown to see a lot of playing time in the preseason.
3. Who will emerge as a go-to receiver for the Rams?
Tight end Jared Cook has been a frequent target of Foles throughout training camp and the pair could combine for a special combination this season. Quick was on track to becoming a breakout performer at receiver for the Rams last season before being sidelined by shoulder surgery. Austin was the eighth overall pick in the draft, but the Rams have seemingly never found a way to get him conistently more involved in the offense. With a new coordinator that's an obvious area to study. Chris Givens and his speed are still here, as is Bailey and his sure hands.
4. Any other rookies pushing for playing time?
Along with Havenstein and Brown, who are penciled in as starters, the Rams may want to check out offensive tackle Isaiah Battle, whom they selected in the NFL supplemental draft. Andrew Donnal, another tackle, was the Rams' fourth-round pick and also will likely see a lot of action in camp. It would seem rookie quarterback Sean Mannion will make the team, especially since the Rams used a third-round pick on him, with veterans Austin Davis and Case Keenum battling for the backup job behind Foles. First-round pick and former Georgia star running back Todd Gurley has been gradually increasing his activity at practice, but is being brought along slowly during the final stages of rehab frmo ACL surgery.
5. Any wide-open position battles?
Center is the most obvious one, with Jones battling Tim Barnes and Demetrius Rhaney in a three-way bout that has continued throughout camp. Injuries to several cornerbacks, including starter E.J. Gaines (foot), could create some opportunities there as well. Barring injuries, the entire defense seems fairly set.