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Practice Report 7/31: Making an Impact

Posted Jul 31, 2016

Wide receiver Bradley Marquez has a chance to make a significant impact as WR this season. Plus notes on E.J. Gaines, Tavon Austin, and more in today's Practice Report.

Day 2 is in the books for Rams training camp at UC Irvine. Here are some of the biggest storylines from the last day in July.

MARQUEZ MAKING PLAYS

Wide receiver Bradley Marquez made the Rams’ initial 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent  in 2015 largely because of his special teams skills. But he’s always had a knack for getting his hands on the football.

As last season went along, Marquez worked his way into the offensive rotation, eventually finishing the year with 13 receptions for 88 yards. Now he looks as if he can have a more significant role as a wideout in Year 2 — an opportunity he relishes.

“Definitely want to play on offense — I’m working toward that,” Marquez said. “That’s my goal this year as well — one of my goals. And so, I just want to go out and help the team and I feel like I can do that on the offensive side as well.”

But with the type of player and person Marquez is, he’s willing to serve in any role.

“I want to do whatever I can to help the team — whether it’s special teams, offense, and anything else,” Marquez said. “Whatever they ask me to do, I want to be the guy who’s able to be flexible enough to do everything.”

Right now, simply having experience is helpful in trying to expand his opportunities. It breeds a comfort level with everything involved.

“Coming in as a rookie, you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know how the schedule works. You don’t know how the layout of training camp is,” Marquez said. But in Year 2, “[y]ou’ve got friendships, relationships. And, just, obviously, knowing the playbook a lot better as well as everything on the field. It’s just a little bit better, you know?”

Marquez noted he’s worked with Case Keenum, Jared Goff, and Sean Mannion during the offseason program and camp. But the Texas Tech product has spent a good amount of time running with the first-team offense. He’s shown that he has an ability to get open and reel in the ball, making him one to watch in the preseason.

MAKING A COMEBACK

About a year ago at this time, cornerback E.J. Gaines had a leg up in his position battle with Trumaine Johnson. A 2014 sixth-round pick, Gaines had started 15 games for the Rams in his rookie season and led the team with 14 passes defensed.

But Gaines’ promising sophomore campaign was not to be, as he suffered a season-ending foot injury during the first weekend of training camp.

The Mizzou product has been working his way back ever since, and now is in another competition to reclaim his starting role.

“He’s done fine. He got involved towards the end of the OTAs and was coming on, making progress. Worked hard, came back and he hasn’t missed a snap,” head coach Jeff Fisher said on Sunday.

Gaines has mostly been playing with the second group on defense, but that may change sooner than later.

“We’re not giving him the number of reps, for a week or so, that he ordinarily would get, but he gives us the opportunity to have him be in a position to win that job back and compete there,” Fisher said.

“It make take a couple weeks,” Gaines said of getting back to full speed, “but I’ll definitely be ready for Week 1 and I’m excited.”

As is well known, the Rams’ secondary will have a different look for the 2016 season without Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. But Gaines sees the silver lining when it comes to opportunities.

“I just think it leaves it open for competition,” Gaines said. “That’s one thing we all strive for is competition. I think it makes everyone better. And I’m excited to do that.”

For now, Gaines has mixed feelings of anxiousness and excitement to re-establish himself as his third training camp gets going.

“I’m not really concerned about where I start. You know, it’s more about where you finish,” Gaines said. “And I’m excited to get in the season and compete with everybody.”

PROUD NEW PAPA

Linebacker Alec Ogletree has gone through a number of changes this offseason, but one that may mean the most is becoming a father just a short week ago.

“He’s getting bigger — changing a lot,” Ogletree said of his new son on Sunday. “I FaceTime a lot with my wife and stuff just to see him. And he’s changing every day. I hate that I’m missing him changing and stuff.”

“It’s a life-changing experience,” Ogletree added. “It’s something that you really can’t explain until you have your own kids and just kind of go through the feeling of the birth and pregnancy. And once he’s born, it’s all worth it.”

EXTRA POINTS

— Los Angeles has been quick in integrating both tight end Tyler Higbee and wide receiver Pharoh Cooper into the offense. Cooper spent time in OTAs working with the first group, so it’s no surprise to see him there. Higbee, however, did a lot of work on the side during the offseason program as he was still recovering from knee surgery.

Now, both are looking like they belong as they take snaps with the first unit.

“We just plug them in and go,” Fisher said. “If you watch practice, they’re lining up with the ones. That should tell you something – they’re lining up and going. They have a good feel. We’re not going to put them in to fail, but they know what to do, they’re going to get their reps.”

Tavon Austin was carted off the field during Sunday’s practice, but Fisher said the wide receiver should be just fine.

“He got a little dehydrated,” Fisher said. “He was cramping a little bit, so he’ll be fine. He’s not going to miss any practice, won’t miss any time.”

“Great lesson to be learned there — I heard that, for some reason, he didn’t eat lunch. Go figure,” Fisher added. “So anyway, a good message for the rest of the team. He’s doing fine, he’s having a great camp, he’s in great shape. No worries there.

— Wide receiver Kenny Britt was excused from Sunday’s practice and was not on the field. Again, no concerns there, according to Fisher.

“He’ll be back in the swing of things tonight in meetings and tomorrow,” the head coach said.

— Finally, the Rams released wide receiver Deon Long.

“We’ll probably bring some receivers in,” Fisher said. “We’re just trying to upgrade the bottom part of our roster.”