Training camp is painfully close. One week from today, rookies will report to Rams Park while the veterans file in a few days later. We’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks setting our expectations for the 2014 Rams, but before any of those can become a reality, a 53-man roster must first be crafted. With that said, the first of our 2014 training camp previews focuses on the quarterback position, one that will be of major interest to Rams enthusiasts moving forward. Let’s begin:
Sam Bradford – Entering fifth season (all with Rams)
Austin Davis – Entering third season (second stint with Rams)
Shaun Hill – Entering ninth season (first with Rams)
Garrett Gilbert – Entering first season (drafted by Rams in 6th round)
In what has been the most hotly debated topic of the offseason, Bradford returns from a season-ending injury suffered in Week 7 of last year to face what looks like a make or break season for his career moving forward. Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have thrown their support behind Bradford on multiple occasions, and despite his up-and-down career arc, Bradford will be this team’s starter in Week 1 barring health issues.
Austin Davis returns to Rams Camp after spending time last season on the practice squad of the Miami Dolphins. Davis was a strong performer as an undrafted rookie in 2012, where he served as a backup to Bradford. However, after last year’s camp, he was cut by the team in favor of former quarterback Kellen Clemens (now with the Chargers). Davis returned to the team in late October after Bradford suffered a season-ending knee injury and will again have to fight to make the team this Fall.
Shaun Hill brings a veteran presence into Rams Park to replace the departed Clemens. Hill joins the team after spending the last four seasons in Detroit serving as backup to Matthew Stafford. Despite his limited playing time throughout the years, Hill has been a Ram-killer when he’s had the chance, going 4-0 against them as a member of the 49ers and Lions. His acquisition likely means he’ll be given every opportunity to earn the job as Bradford’s primary backup.
Gilbert is an interesting case. Selected in the sixth round of this year’s draft, Gilbert joins the Rams from Southern Methodist University, where he spent the last two seasons after beginning his career at Texas. Many will remember him for being unexpectedly tossed into the fire during Texas’ 2010 BCS Championship Game tilt against Oklahoma as a freshman after starting quarterback Colt McCoy left the game. Gilbert possesses fine size at 6’4 and did well at SMU during his final two collegiate seasons, but looks like a project player for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Entering camp, Davis and Gilbert look set to battle it out for the job as the team’s third string quarterback. While Davis’ experience likely helps his cause, it’s safe to assume that the team wouldn’t have drafted Gilbert if they didn’t expect to keep him around a bit. However, if the team decides to go with two quarterbacks on the final roster, they could simply be competing for a practice squad spot. Either way, like most young players, they’ll want to approach training camp as if their NFL careers are on the line.
Bradford had a good showing in last month’s OTA’s, and will go a long way in comforting Rams fans’ nerves if he can continue that in training camp. He doesn’t need to blow anyone away (after all, the starting job is already his), but if he can show some zip on the ball, a rapport with his receivers and – most importantly – no fear in moving around on his surgically repaired knee, there is every reason for optimism heading into the preseason. While he hasn’t had the vocal confirmation of his job like Bradford, Hill looks poised to take over the role of first off the bench in the wake of Clemens’ leaving for San Diego.
Finally, the Rams have strong depth at a lot of other positions and may have no choice but to run with only two quarterbacks in the roster, so it will be interesting to see if either Davis or Gilbert perform well enough to force the team to keep them on the final roster.