Zach Ertz, Jordan Poyer Face Early Test

Rams running back Isaiah Pead called his rookie season “miserable.”

The 50th overall pick in the 2012 draft and presumed heir apparent to Steven Jackson never got off the ground. He slipped behind seventh-rounder Daryl Richardson on the depth chart and ended with only 10 carries for 54 yards on the season.

Rams general manager Les Snead attributed a portion of Pead’s struggles to the effects of the league’s graduation rule — the same one that kept tight end Zach Ertz and cornerback Jordan Poyer away from the NovaCare until recently. From PFT:

Pead slid behind Richardson in part because, as Rams G.M. Les Snead explained it during Thursday’s PFT Live, Pead wasn’t available for OTAs due to the rule that prevents rookies from joining their teams until after final exams have ended at their respective colleges.

Richardson’s presence, coupled with Pead’s absence, gave Richardson a head start he never relinquished.

A couple important things to point out as we examine Ertz and Poyer’s situation through this prism:

Missing time early doesn’t have this kind of impact on everybody. Andrew Luck, as an example, was forced to sit out last spring and turned out alright. The key is how you respond to it. Pead, who will miss the opener for violating the NFL’s policy for substance abuse, admitted that he allowed the early trials to get the better of him, and apparently arrived late to a couple meetings once he fell below Richardson on the depth chart.

The mental approach is key. And by the sounds of it, Ertz and Poyer have been handling things the right way.

“It was tough to see all my teammates out here doing a lot of football activity but at the end of the day there was nothing I could really do about it, so I took it with a grain of salt and studied the playbook as much as I could,” Ertz told the team’s website.

Poyer said that after the post-draft minicamp he went back to Oregon State and spent the time working out with his trainer and studying film.

“For not going to minicamp, I think I am where I need to be,” said Poyer.

Both Ertz and Poyer have missed all activity since the post-draft minicamp because of the graduation rules. They finally re-joined the team this week for the final few days of the rookie program. They’re using this time to try and get as caught up as possible.

Chip Kelly didn’t draft a weapon like Ertz 35th overall to sit him on the bench. He’ll certainly have plenty of opportunities his rookie year, even with Brent Celek and James Casey on the roster. And Kelly is very familiar with Poyer, who played at rival Oregon State. The seventh-rounder will have a chance to compete, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the cornerback position.

But they missed some valuable learning time. And it’s fair to question whether this rule, as it’s currently written, isn’t doing more harm than good to the students it effects.

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