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Preseason Power Rankings No. 20: St. Louis Rams

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The St. Louis Rams were a trendy pick to possibly make a push for the playoffs last season. A 1-3 start to the season put the Rams in a hole and losing Sam Bradford for the year after seven games was the final nail in the coffin to their playoff aspirations.

But the Rams could take positives out of last year’s performances. Their defense became a nightmare to opposing quarterbacks as Chris Long and Robert Quinn led a scary defensive front and Zac Stacy showed promise as a possible replacement for Steven Jackson.

Unfortunately for St. Louis, they find themselves at the bottom of the best division in the NFL.The Rams added 11 draft picks to their roster as the continue to retool their talent under head coach Jeff Fisher. What are the prospects for the upcoming season? We take a look at the roster below as training camp approaches.


St. Louis may have the best defensive front in all of football. With Chris Long and Robert Quinn combining for 27.5 sacks last season and Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald manning the interior, the Rams will be a handful for any offensive line their square off against. In addition, the Rams still have depth along their front with Kendall Langford, Eugene Sims and William Hayes as rotational players.

James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree give the Rams a nice pair of linebackers they can rely on. Also, Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks are a dependable tight end pair.

Greg Zuerlein and Johnny Hekker provide a strong duo of specialists as well for St. Louis.


While the Rams defense proved fearsome at times last season, there were still a could problem areas on that side of the ball. Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Will Witherspoon struggled at times at the strong-side linebacker spot. In addition, Darian Stewart and Rodney McLeod had issues at safety after T.J. McDonald suffered a broken leg and was placed on the short-term injured reserve list. Those areas remain question marks heading into training camp.

St. Louis is still lacking a true No. 1 option at receiver and depth in their secondary as well.


Cortland Finnegan was released by the Rams over the offseason, which elevated Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson into the presumed starting roles ahead of training camp. Johnson could get pushed for his starting job by rookie Lamarcus Joyner, but Joyner may be best suited in the slot.

First-round selections Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald both should slot into the starting lineup on each side of the ball. Robinson is slated to replace the departed Chris Williams at left guard with Donald supplanting Kendall Langford at defensive tackle.

Camp battles.

Most of the major position battles should come on the defensive side of the ball for the Rams. Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Ray-Ray Armstrong will battle for the third linebacker position, Trumaine Johnson could be pushed by second-round pick Lamarcus Joyner for the starting job opposite Janoris Jenkins at cornerback and Rodney McLeod could be challenged by fourth-round pick Mo Alexander at safety.

On the offensive side of the ball, the receiver position seems to be wide open. Tavon Austin’s role is secure as caught more passes than any other St. Louis receiver last year.. However, the Rams have a gaggle of receiving options behind Austin without much separation between them. Chris Givens likely enters camp as the team’s top option on the perimeter after leading the receiving corps with 569 yards last year. Kenny Britt, Austin Pettis, Stedman Bailey and Brian Quick all will be vying for playing time as well.

In addition, Isaiah Pead and third-round pick Tre Mason will likely battle for the backup role to starter Zac Stacy at running back.


The Rams sit looking up at the best division in football. Seattle and San Francisco met in the NFC Championship game last season and the Arizona Cardinals were playing as well as anyone at the end of the regular season.

St. Louis faces the real possibility of being an improved team but still not seeing much improvement in their overall record.

Sam Bradford is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Rams could take a bigger leap than anticipated if Bradford can finally take the step forward in proving he can be one of the league’s better signal callers. Bradford was completing nearly 61 percent of his passes and had posted a 14-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio before his season ended due to injury.

The Rams keep taking baby steps in their quest to improve from their decade of futility. However, they’ll need more than baby steps of improvement to run down the teams at the top of their division.

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Brady makes bad situation worse by admitting to destroying phone


In his effort to make a bad situation better, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had somehow made it worse.

The 20-page, single-spaced ruling from Commissioner Roger Goodell explains that, in materials submitted by Brady only days before the June 23 hearing, Brady admitted that he destroyed the cell phone that would have contained text messages sent and received during the time period most relevant to the #DeflateGate controversy.

Although characterized as Brady’s habit when purchasing a new cell phone, Goodell’s ruling explains that Brady knew that Ted Wells and company wanted to examine the phone that was coincidentally destroyed and replaced on March 6, the same day that Brady met with Wells. Brady, per Goodell, never suggested that the cell phone had been (or would be) destroyed during that meeting.

It’s a very bad look for Brady, and it’s a highly questionable tactic to affirmatively admit that the phone was destroyed in materials submitted to Goodell in connection with the appeal. As a result, Brady’s receipt of bad advice or his deliberate decision to ignore good advice has now extended from the decision not to accept the invitation to allow lawyer/agent Don Yee to personally review the text messages from the phone to the decision to admit that the cell phone was destroyed.

What benefit does Brady derive from disclosing that in the appeal? Even if it’s his habit to get rid of the phone and the data card within it whenever getting a new phone, that habit must yield to an ongoing investigation in which the contents of the phone and the data card have been deemed to be relevant. And so it’s reasonable to assume that Brady was trying to hide something.

Moreover, the decision to destroy the phone under those circumstances confirms the stereotypical “I do what I want” attitude that a multi-million-dollar quarterback with a supermodel wife and a house with a moat would be expected to project. The decision to admit the destruction of the phone in paperwork aimed at contesting the suspension suggests that Brady was represented by the law firm of Moe, Larry, and Shemp.

Apart from the relevance that the destroyed cell phone may or may not have to the looming legal challenge, this news turns the tables dramatically in the court of public opinion. With nothing in Goodell’s 20-page ruling hinting at the same kind of flaws that were lurking in the 243-page Ted Wells report, it’s going to be very difficult for the #FreeBrady crowd to find a cob of corn into which they can sink their teeth.

But if there’s another side to this story, Brady and company need to disclose it, quickly. Before they do, they need to be certain that whatever is said will actually make this very bad situation better.

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Bengals place Vontaze Burfict on PUP list

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The wait for linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s return to the field will go on a little longer.

The Bengals announced Tuesday that Burfict has been placed on the physically unable to perform list. Burfict had microfracture surgery in January after last year’s season-ending knee surgery and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said in May that he expected the linebacker to rehab all the way through the summer, so it’s not an unexpected move.

Cincinnati added A.J. Hawk as a free agent this offseason and he worked with the first team in Burfict’s place during spring work. With Burfict looking like a candidate for the regular season PUP list, he may be in that spot for a while.

The Bengals also placed first-round tackle Cedric Ogbuehi on the non-football injury list because of the torn ACL he suffered while playing football for Texas A&M. Defensive end Margus Hunt (back) and linebacker Sean Porter (torn ACL) will also open camp on the PUP list while wide receiver James Wright has been waived/injured with a knee injury that is likely to require surgery. Wright will revert to injured reserve if he goes unclaimed on waivers.


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Sean Payton wants to see Junior Galette do well elsewhere

Junior Galette Getty Images

The Saints have decided that they no longer want to employ linebacker Junior Galette. But that doesn’t mean coach Sean Payton regards Galette as unemployable.

Payton appeared on Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, and I asked what he’d tell another coach who is considering signing Galette.

“You are going to get a guy that gives great effort,” Payton said. “He is someone that works hard, he’s passionate, you know I love that about him. He plays with passion. I think the key thing in the area that I get frustrated with myself is just making sure that there’s that communication, like ‘Hey here’s what we’re doing, here’s the expectation level.’ And look, guys are going to make mistakes, you know all of us are and at the same time I think it just really got to a point where we felt for this upcoming season it was a decision we had to make.”

Payton mentions he has had success with players who didn’t work out elsewhere, mentioning Anthony Hargrove as a guy who “battled a handful of demons” before flourishing in the fleur-de-lis.

“I think it’s about the fit,” Payton said, “and listen I would be more than happy to visit with another coach or G.M. with regards to signing Junior. You want to see him do well. I want to see him do well and have success and realize all his dreams.”

Payton also explained that “a series of things” contributed to the decision to move on from Galette.

“I think when it’s all said in done there was more expected off the field,” Payton said. “There were too many times there were some inconsistencies, some things that took place where we didn’t feel comfortable as a club.  Obviously when you write a check like that and make a commitment like that you have a long-term vision. Certainly we did. That same vision we had when we signed Junior as a rookie player. Shoot, as a head coach you feel like you failed because you take a vested interest him having success and seeing him accomplish all the things you want. Yet at the same time there is team element that we felt was really paramount, and it was really in the best interest for in what we felt going forward for our team.”

Galette still faces potential league scrutiny for a paid of off-field incidents, which could prompt a team to take a wait-and-see approach to signing him. Also, a head coach or G.M. will likely want to conduct plenty of other research before giving the guy who squandered his roster spot in New Orleans a second chance.

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Report: Le’Veon Bell suspension reduced to two games

Le'Veon Bell AP

There were reportedly settlement talks between the NFL and NFLPA regarding Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s suspension appeal, but we learned on Tuesday afternoon that they were unsuccessful and that Brady remains suspended for four games.

Things have apparently gone better in the talks about reducing Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell’s three-game suspension. Jarrett Bell of USA Today reports that the suspension has been reduced to two games as a result of settlement conversations following the running back’s appeal.

Bell was arrested last August and charged with DUI and marijuana possession. Under current NFL policy, first-time DUI offenders are subject to a two-game suspension and the marijuana possession likely led to the additional game. Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount was with a member of the Steelers and in Bell’s at the time of the arrest and was suspended one game for his marijuana possession charge.

Bell will miss the opener against the Patriots and a September 20 game against the 49ers before becoming eligible to return in Week Three against the Rams.


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Goodell cites destroying phone in upholding Tom Brady’s suspension

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In a not-at-all unexpected end (for now) to the #DeflateGate saga, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld his four-game suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady

In the league’s release on the matter, they stated that “important new information disclosed by Brady and his representatives” during his appeal hearing came into play.

“On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed,” the league statement read. “He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone. ‎During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.”

As a result, Goodell did not shorten his initial punishment, which will now certainly be headed to court.

“The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs.”

Let the games begin.

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Roger Goodell upholds Tom Brady’s four-game suspension

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld the four-game suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady over Deflategate.

In a ruling announced today, the league said Goodell has denied Brady’s appeal.

“NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld today the four-game suspension imposed on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on May 11. Brady’s appeal ‎from that discipline was heard for more than ten hours on June 23,” the league’s statement said.

“In the opinion informing Brady that his appeal had been denied, Commissioner Goodell emphasized important new information disclosed by Brady and his representatives in connection with the hearing.

“On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone. ‎During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.

“Based on the Wells Report and the evidence presented at the hearing, Commissioner Goodell concluded in his decision that Brady was aware of, and took steps to support‎, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL’s Official Playing Rules. The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs.”

For Brady, the next step is either to accept Goodell’s ruling or to take the NFL to court. A lawsuit appears likely.

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Todd Gurley passes physical, will begin Rams camp on active roster

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The Rams were prepared to let rookie running back Todd Gurley start training camp on the non-football injury list if need be.

Apparently, there will be no need.

According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Gurley passed his conditioning test Tuesday — “impressively” — and will begin camp on the active roster.

As recently as last week, there were reports that the Rams were content to ease Gurley into things after he tore his ACL last November, which allowed them to get him with the 10th pick in the draft. After all, they have a deep running back group (Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham and Isaiah Pead), so it’s not as if they need him immediately.

If he’s back to the form he showed at Georgia so soon, and is truly ready to go, it justifies their willingness to make the bold call to choose him so high.

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Sammy Watkins says he’s “full go” for camp

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Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins thinks the team should win the AFC East this year and he plans to be on the practice field helping the team toward that goal from the start of training camp.

Offseason hip surgery limited Watkins during offseason work, but he said he won’t need any time on the sidelines before jumping into work when the Bills start training camp with a practice on Friday.

“I’ll definitely be ready to practice,” Watkins said, via “I’ll be full go. I’ll be prepared to go out there and make plays.”

A healthy Watkins will front a deep group of targets in the passing game that also includes Robert Woods, Percy Harvin and Charles Clay. Figuring out which quarterback will be throwing them the ball will be a major focus at Bills camp, but whoever winds up winning that battle won’t be able to complain about a lack of targets come September.

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Hernandez lawyer seeks permission to question tipster on juror misconduct

Aaron Hernandez AP

The first Aaron Hernandez trial ended in a conviction. But that still may not be the end of it.

Via the Associated Press, lawyer James Sultan now knows the name of a tipster who claims that one of the jurors in the Odin Lloyd murder case participated in discussions about the other double murder case involving the former Patriots tight end.  If true, this means that the juror lied during jury selection in the case involving the murder of Odin Lloyd.

Sultan now wants to question the tipster, in order to learn more about whether the juror truly was lying during jury selection. Sultan also conceded that the tipster has had “extensive personal contact” with Hernandez.

“That contact is clearly relevant to this individual’s credibility,” Sultan said in a court filing. “Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that this individual likely possesses information relevant to whether a juror was exposed to prejudicial, extrinsic information.”

Judge E. Susan Garsh eventually will rule on whether the tipster may be interviewed, which could result in the juror being questions. Which, in theory, could result in the conviction being scrapped and a new trial being conducted.

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Todd Bowles won’t hesitate to pull Geno Smith if need be

Todd Bowles AP

Perhaps the least-deserved vote of confidence this offseason came when Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said it wasn’t really a competition, and the starting quarterback job was Geno Smith’s to lose.

New head coach Todd Bowles moved quickly to cut that talk off in May, and on the eve of his first training camp, made it clear he wouldn’t hesitate to pull Smith if he doesn’t perform.

“If you feel that his position or any other position is hurting the team, as a head coach, it’s up to you to do something about it,” Bowles said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “It’s not a year-long thing for anybody. You earn your keep by the week. You earn your keep by the day. . . .

“If somebody is not doing their job, it’s up to me to rectify the situation.”

The Jets have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in reserve, and his experience with Gailey gives the Jets a baseline expectation for what their offense could be. Smith has the physical potential to offer somewhat more, which is why he’s going to have to be a disaster in training camp or the preseason to not have the job in the regular season. But Bowles insisted it wasn’t a season-long appointment.

“A bad two or three weeks is relative,” Bowles said. “Whether it’s mental, whether it’s confidence or whether it’s physical. … All those things have to be [considered] and be determined. If you see progress among the mistakes, that’s one thing. If you don’t see any progress and you see a spiraling for any position, then it’s your job to make a move. . . . I’m always fair. . . .

“It all depends on how he’s not performing, whether it’s the first game, second game, third game. Is it consecutive? Is it just a bad game? All those factors play into it. Again, it’s not just the quarterback. It’s every position on our team. . . . Everybody has to do their job. The quarterback is an important part of it, but he’s part of the team. And he’s treated like everybody else is treated.”

The Jets have enough talent on defense to compete now, as long as their quarterback position doesn’t hurt them. And if it does, it sounds like Bowles will make a change, regardless past investments there.

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Jake Long visiting the Falcons

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Former No. 1 overall draft pick Jake Long is hoping to revive his career in Atlanta.

Long is visiting the Falcons for a physical and a workout, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports.

The 30-year-old Long was the first overall pick of the Dolphins in the 2008 draft. After five seasons with the Dolphins, he spent the last two years with the Rams.

Long is coming off his second ACL surgery, and it’s unclear how healthy he is. But if he’s ready to go, he could provide an upgrade on the Falcons’ offensive line, perhaps taking over at left tackle and allowing last year’s first-round pick, Jake Matthews, to move to right tackle. Long isn’t worth anything close to the five-year, $57.75 million deal he got as a rookie with the Dolphins or the four-year, $36 million deal he got in his second contract with the Rams, but on a low-cost, incentive-laden deal, he could be a good fit in Atlanta.

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NFL and NFLPA negotiating a settlement for Le’Veon Bell

Le'Veon Bell AP

The NFL is apparently talking to Le’Veon Bell about shortening his suspension for his DUI and marijuana arrest.

Of course, doing so would shorten the lifespan of the precedent they’re trying to set.

According to Dan Graziano of, the league and the NFLPA are negotiating a settlement to reduce the Steelers running back’s suspension from three games to one or two.

But doing so might create more problems for a league that already has issues getting punishments to stick.

Two games is their new standard for DUI arrests, and they can add more if there are aggravating factors. Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith got a game above the baseline, and he crashed his car into a light pole.

Bell was stopped on his way to the airport last year in the preseason, and told cops he wasn’t sure why he was getting a DUI, saying: “I smoked two hours ago, I’m not high anymore.”

Shortening the suspension to one game would seemingly take the teeth out of their new policy on drunk driving arrests, so it’s unclear if that’s a step the league is willing to take.

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Report: Muhammad Wilkerson will report to Jets camp on time

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Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson skipped the voluntary portion of the offseason because he wanted a new contract.

He arrived in time for the mandatory minicamp to avoid a fine.

So it follows that he’s going to show up for training camp on time, since that’s when the serious fines accrue.

According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, Wilkerson is expected to arrive on time tomorrow despite the lack of a new deal.

Wilkerson’s riding out the $6.96 million option year left on his rookie deal, and is obviously hoping for something with far more security soon.

But it’s apparently not worth the big financial hit it would take to make this level of statement. While players can rack up $72,920 in fines for skipping a three-day mandatory minicamp, it jumps to $30,000 per day in training camp.

“I’m very confident, hopefully that things will work out with myself and my agent and those guys get something worked out,” Wilkerson said in June.

The clock’s ticking. But at least the meter’s not running.

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Cowboys drop Ryan Williams

Dallas Cowboys OTA

The Cowboys won’t be bringing running back Ryan Williams with them to training camp.

Williams was waived on Tuesday, ending a run with the Cowboys that began last year but never saw Williams take a regular season snap for the team. Injuries have been an issue for Williams ever since the Cardinals made him a second-round pick in 2011 and they continue to get in the way of his attempt to carve out a professional football career.

Todd Archer of reports that Williams had knee surgery after June’s minicamp, which made for a steep uphill climb if he was going to make the 53-man roster.

Williams’s departure may spark another round of speculation about the Cowboys making a move to bolster their running back group. Chris Johnson and Ray Rice are two names that may come up, but the Cowboys have maintained all offseason that they are happy to move forward with Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Darren McFadden.

The Cowboys also released linebacker Cam Lawrence and offensive lineman Ryan Miller. They signed offensive lineman Ronald Patrick, linebacker Justin Anderson and running back Gus Johnson.

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PFT Live: Sean Payton, Cardinals talk with Kent Somers

Sean Payton AP

Saints coach Sean Payton is getting ready for his 10th season with the team, but he’ll take a break from his preparations to spend a few minutes with PFT Live on Tuesday.

Payton will join Mike Florio on the program a day before the Saints report to training camp in Florio’s home state of West Virginia. Among the topics that they’ll discuss is the team’s decision to cut linebacker Junior Galette and what Payton thinks the defense needs to do to make up for the loss of a player who gave them 10 sacks last season.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic will also join the program to talk about the Cardinals’ bringing Dr. Jen Welter on as a training camp intern to work with inside linebackers.

We also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app.

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