The St. Louis Rams play their preseason home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts at the Edward Jones Dome. Here are five key areas to watch as the home fans get their first live look at coach Jeff Fisher’s squad (7 p.m. kickoff; TV: Fox Channel 2; Radio: WXOS-FM 101.1):
1. Many coaches use the third preseason game as something of a dress rehearsal to unveil a little more of their offense and push some of their starters into the second quarter. Will Fisher follow the plan?
It’s doubtful. He likes to keep everything close to the vest and throughout the preseason has kept things on offense about as spicy as cold oatmeal and a glass of water. I would think the Rams may show a little more than they have, but don’t be too sure. It would be good to see a little more production from new quarterback Nick Foles, who has completed 6-of-12 passes for 87 yards and no TDs with one interception.
2. How are the training camp battles going? Has anyone done enough to push themselves up the depth chart?
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Based on game production I’d say backup quarterback Case Keenum (19-for-33 in the preseason for 247 yards and one touchdown) has been impressive. He started games with the Houston Texans last season and was with the Rams briefly, and seems to have an edge on another veteran competing for the backup job, Austin Davis. In fairness, Davis hasn’t gotten much work with the first or second offensive units. There doesn’t seem to be much room at running back, receiver or the defensive line outside of the proven performers. That being said, there’s always hot competition for that final handful of roster spots when teams make the cut to get down to the 53-man roster.
3. With running back Todd Gurley cleared to return to active practice duty from ACL surgery rehab — he still won’t play in a preseason game — what type of impact could he have on the Rams this season?
The Rams didn’t draft the former Georgia star 10th overall to sit on the bench. Once he’s healthy and comfortable with the offense, expect to see the team ease him into things before giving him the full-time No. 1 job. One of the most impressive running backs in camp has been Trey Watts, an elusive speedburner who has to sit out the first four games of the season because he violated the NFL substance abuse policy. Isaiah Pead, coming off knee surgery, is another option.
4. One of the most-watched aspects of camp has been the development of the rookies on the offensive line and the battle at center. Where do things stand now?
There is no question that the Rams are starting high draft picks Rob Havenstein at right tackle and Jamon Brown at right guard. Barrett Jones remains the top option at center, apparently, over Tim Barnes. The third center in that battle, Demetrius Rhaney, has seen time at left guard during recent practices while Rodger Saffold (shoulder) has been out. Another rookie draft pick, Cody Wichmann, is expected to see his first action of the preseason after missing time with a calf injury.
5. Chris Givens caught an 80-yard TD pass from Case Keenum in the loss to Tennessee last Sunday. Could he still have an impact role in this offense?
It’s possible. Givens leads the Rams with five catches for 116 yards in the preseason. He and Tavon Austin are the quickest receivers and Rams’ fans remember Givens’ rookie season when he made an array of catches of 50 yards or more. However, Givens caught only 11 passes last season for 159 yards, including a 47-yard TD pass. That team lost emerging wideout Brian Quick to a shoulder injury and Givens didn’t step up then. This might be another good opportunity.