We have reeled in some observations and overall takeaways from Rams camp and preseason. Here is how I see the roster looking for the Rams at this point in time.
Quarterback (2): Jared Goff, Sean Mannion
There is still no doubt in my mind the Rams need a legitimate backup QB behind Jared Goff but Sean Mannion isn’t going away until his contract is up after this season. The Rams are in a tight one here seeing as there is not much preseason left to get players acclimated to the current system and offense. Robert Griffin III and Teddy Bridgewater seem to be the most rumored options although Griffin III is really starting to develop a trade market that surprisingly is right up there with Bridgewater. The Rams will likely have to tough it out regardless of acquiring RG3 or Bridgewater before they can move on from the veteran Mannion.
Brandon Allen needs to really explode this week or next as far as I’m concerned. Allen put on solid at best tape against the Ravens third-string team but he really set himself back this past preseason game with the Raiders which included, throwing an interception and overthrowing WR Steven Mitchell, who was open in the back corner of the end zone.
As for Luis Perez, I would operate under the term of the Rams hiding him from teams and not letting him play to keep his overall buzz down enough to stash on the practice squad. Perez should be expected to compete in game four for sure but if he does
Starter: Jared Goff
Backup: Sean Mannion
CUT (2): Brandon Allen, Luis Perez
Running back (4): Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly, Justin Davis
This is a fun RB room in the grand scheme of things. The Rams are looking at the best back in the league in Todd Gurley and a consistently solid backup in power back Malcolm Brown who they found as a UDFA in that same year the team acquired Gurley. After that they added another UDFA last year that ended up making the team in Justin Davis, another UDFA this year in Nick Holley who’s twin is also on the roster and a sixth-round pick in John Kelly who already looks ready for the NFL.
Unfortunately, the Rams cannot keep them all so you the obvious one’s are Gurley, Brown and newly-drafted Kelly. The questionable one is Davis. Davis was on last year’s roster but does he survive another year on a more talented team that has some positions where they need extra depth? I do see Davis being too talented to store on their practice squad so I think albeit not being a true need, the Rams do indeed keep Davis again and roll with four backs on the roster. Holley could be a practice squad guy but he will need to see a lot more action to even come to the conclusion that he will be on the practice squad.
Starter: Todd Gurley
Backup: Malcolm Brown
3rd String: John Kelly
4th String: Justin Davis
CUT (1): Nick Holley
Wide receiver (6): Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Mike Thomas, Josh Reynolds, Pharoh Cooper
This wide receiver core looks impressive all around but is it staying as is? Originally, I felt like the rest of the guys that were undrafted were trying out for a spot on the practice squad but here’s the thing. Josh Reynolds may not be as big of a lock to make the team for opening day if he continues to struggle and battle through injuries. He might as well be placed on the PUP list. However, the same can be said for Mike Thomas who has really impressed the coaching staff in practice but has done next to nothing in preseason. Cooks, Woods, Kupp and Cooper are the locks in this room but shockingly I believe that Thomas and Reynolds are closer to the edge than people think.
This year will be Reynolds’ second year, so he could and should very well have a pass but Thomas is in year three and while he’s an impressive gunner on special teams, the Rams need to see more from him as a receiver for the offense. Of course, I will stick with both of them making the roster but I may change my mind because KhaDarel Hodge is really stepping up in preseason and pretty much as limited of snaps as you can have. Hodge put himself in the public eye after his incredible diving grab near the sidelines against the Oakland Raiders. Steven Mitchell, the UDFA out of USC has looked crisp with his route-running but he hasn’t been receiving the looks and it’s hurt him. The other guys are likely not in the conversation besides 5-foot-7 return man JoJo Natson, who has looked very impressive in the return game and could be a practice squad stash after cut downs. Today’s preseason game is going to tell us a lot about what the Rams think when it comes to the WR’s. Right now it’s Mike Thomas — Josh Reynolds — KhaDarel Hodge — Steven Mitchell, that’s the pecking order. Hodge is just chomping at the bit to break out this game and put himself in the driver’s seat to acquiring a roster spot on a Super Bowl caliber team.
Starter: Brandin Cooks
Starter: Robert Woods
Slot Starter: Cooper Kupp
Backup: Mike Thomas
Backup: Josh Reynolds
Slot Backup: Pharoh Cooper
CUT (5): KhaDarel Hodge, Steven Mitchell, JoJo Natson, Fred Brown, Kendal Thompson
Tight End (3): Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Temarrick Hemingway
Lots of potential in this group but not a lot of proven talent. We have seen Tyler Higbee make some incredible plays and drop some big-time opportunities in the end zone. We have watched Gerald Everett have four consecutive games with a 40-plus yard catch and then we have seen Everett fall out of favor with the coaching staff and struggle to get on the field. We have seen Temarrick Hemingway fight poor coaching and a season-ending injury but we haven’t really seen what he can do showcased in a game. We have seen Johnny Mundt look sharp as can be in the limited amount of snaps but Mundt’s issue has always been injuries.
Do the Rams keep all four of the top Tight ends? I would absolutely have to say they want to, Higbee is the best TE on the roster right now, Everett has the most untapped potential, Hemingway has the best set of raw skills and Mundt is the youngest with a ton of room to grow. However, Mundt seems like the perfect player to sneak on the practice squad, he’s eligible and would be on speed dial if an injury were to occur. The problem is the Rams basically have to choose between Mundt and Justin Davis. It makes more sense to keep Mundt for the simple fact the TE room is a lot less figured out than the RB room but Davis is likely the better player and because of that the Rams will likely keep Mundt in the building, just not on the 53-man roster.
After the big four it comes down to Henry Krieger-Coble and Codey McElroy. I think the Rams are going to keep McElroy in the building as a practice squad player but I don’t see him or Krieger-Coble forcing the Rams hand to keep five TE’s.
Starter: Tyler Higbee
Backup: Gerald Everett
3rd String: Temarrick Hemingway
CUT (3): Johnny Mundt, Henry Krieger-Coble, Codey McElroy
Offensive line (8): Andrew Whitworth, Rodger Saffold, John Sullivan, Joseph Noteboom, Rob Havenstein, Jamil Demby, Austin Blythe, Brian Allen
The Rams went out of their way in a draft where they lacked capital after trading away their first two round picks for receivers, to select the future of their offensive line. It’s to be expected the Rams are thanking themselves that they did. It’s not even the regular season yet and the Rams have already seen huge flashes of brilliance out of all three offensive linemen they drafted. Joseph Noteboom, the headliner of the draft has looked as immovable as one would want in protecting the QB, Jamil Demby has shown his ability to dominate at the point of attack in the run game not even including his versatility to practically played every position on the line and Brian Allen has also flashed his ability to really finish defenders off in the run game.
The other side of the coin is the fact the Rams do not have much after their starts and rookies although both Jake Eldrenkamp and Aaron Neary have flashed a bit as well. Darrell Williams and Cornelius Lucas were supposed to be the depth at offensive tackle the Rams needed but at this point, the team would be better off moving on from both of them and either claiming someone after cut downs or just waiting and drafting another tackle next year. Eldrenkamp and Neary could be kept but neither play tackle and so the Rams do not really need their depth on the interior line due to Sullivan, Blythe, Allen and Demby holding that down as well as Jamon Brown who will be back from suspension after week two.
Starting LT: Andrew Whitworth
Starting LG: Rodger Saffold
Starting C: John Sullivan
Interim Starting RG: Joseph Noteboom
Starting RT: Rob Havenstein
Backup G/T: Jamil Demby
Backup G/C: Austin Blythe
Backup C: Brian Allen
CUT (5): Darrell Williams, Jake Eldrenkamp, Jeremiah Kolone, Aaron Neary, Cornelius Lucas
Suspended List: Jamon Brown (2 games)
Defensive line (6): Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers, Ethan Westbrooks, Sebastian Joseph-Day, John Franklin-Myers
This group appears to be the most talented and the most set in stone. The starters are set in stone and then you have fourth-round diamond in the rough John Franklin-Myers and the Rams sixth-round selection Sebastian Joseph-Day who at this point look like locks to make the roster. That leaves one more spot which is going to go to Ethan Westbrooks who has been the most dominant defensive player outside of maybe Samson Ebukam on the Rams this preseason.
Omarius Bryant is really right on the bubble and if the Rams do decide to go with seven on the defensive line he would likely be the next-man up. It’s worth noting the rest including Bryant have practice squad eligibility so the Rams shouldn’t feel hand-cuffed in any situation with the back end of the defensive line roster depth. With Dominique Easley now switching over to the outside linebacker position the Rams can likely keep less in this group and still fall back on Easley’s ability in the trenches as a crutch.
Starting DE: Aaron Donald
Starting NT: Ndamukong Suh
Starting DE: Michael Brockers
Backup DE: Ethan Westbrooks
Backup NT: Sebastian Joseph-Day
Backup DL: John Franklin-Myers
CUT (5): Omarius Bryant, Tanzel Smart, Chunky Clements, McKay Murphy, Lord Hyeamang
Outside linebacker (5): Samson Ebukam, Matt Longacre, Dominique Easley, Justin Lawler, Trevon Young
Changes had to be made to this positional depth chart after seeing the way Trevon Young has played in preseason and the fact the Rams moved Dominique Easley to the edge. Originally it seemed like a foregone conclusion that former Redskins veteran OLB Junior Galette was Los Angeles bound. The Rams gave him their attention but in the end, the Rams decided to pass on the opportunity of signing Galette due to undisclosed reasons. It also is worth noting that the Rams are leaning towards having another roster spot with the lack of progress fifth-round pick Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is making in recovering from foot surgery. Okoronkwo is likely to spend the start of the season on the PUP list.
That would leave last year’s seventh-round pick Ejuan Price, veteran Ryan Davis, UDFA’s Brian Womac and Marcus Martin left to fight for a roster spot that may not exist at the moment. Aside from Davis, the rest of the mentioned names would be eligible for a practice squad spot on the Rams. Price has made some strides in year two but will it be enough with all of the new rookies coming in? That’s the real question.
Starter: Samson Ebukam
Starter: Matt Longacre
Backup: Dominique Easley
Backup: Justin Lawler
3rd String: Trevon Young
Physically Unable To Perform List: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
CUT (4): Ryan Davis, Ejuan Price, Brian Womac, Marcus Martin
Injured Reserve: Morgan Fox (Torn ACL), Carlos Thompson (Knee), Garrett Sickels (Undisclosed)
Inside linebacker (6): Cory Littleton, Mark Barron, Ramik Wilson, Bryce Hager, Micah Kiser, Tegray Scales
Perhaps what everyone calls the weakest position group of the Rams roster. I don’t agree, the Rams have a stud linebacker in Mark Barron, Cory Littleton who is an emerging talent in this league, Ramik Wilson, Bryce Hager who are solid veterans and two rookies that might be the future in fifth-round LB Micah Kiser and high priority UDFA Tegray Scales. The Rams drafted Travin Howard out of TCU but the former Horned Frog has been battling injuries this preseason and has failed to see the field because of it. With Wilson only on a one-year deal, he is a potential cut but Wilson has played far too much with the first-team while Barron was out to think he won’t make the roster.
The long-term option for the Rams remains clear in the balance. They can extend Littleton if they do so desire, keep Barron throughout the entirety of his contract (which doesn’t seem likely), groom any of the three rookies in Kiser, Scales and Howard to start or try their luck with Hager and Wilson who are still just entering their prime. The most likely option has to be the less expensive and more affordable option and that is grooming the three rookies. One would hope if Littleton turns out to be as much of a gem as we are all starting to think, the Rams would extend him long-term when the time came.
Starter: Cory Littleton
Starter: Mark Barron
Backup: Ramik Wilson
Backup: Bryce Hager
3rd String: Micah Kiser
3rd String: Tegray Scales
CUT (1): Travin Howard
Cornerback (5): Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Sam Shields, Troy Hill
There is so much talent on this roster to the point where players like Kevin Peterson (who is out for the year) might not have had the roster even if he stayed healthy. Dominique Hatfield is really breaking out in preseason year two but he’s not a lock to make the roster by any stretch. Troy Hill finished last season in the playoffs as the best CB on the Rams but he has struggled in preseason. It’s all going to be tough for the coaching staff to cut it down. Unfortunately, the Peterson injury made their decision a lot easier.
There are four locks on this roster, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Nickell Robey-Coleman and Sam Shields. After that, it’s between Troy Hill and Dominique Hatfield. Hatfield still has practice squad eligibility so you could fall back on the hope that he clears waivers and makes it back into your building but with Hill, if you cut him he’s likely gone and you will not be able to see what he could have been after what was an extraordinary playoff performance. In the end, the Rams cut the guy they have the ability to bring back on the practice squad and that is Hatfield.
Starter: Aqib Talib
Starter: Marcus Peters
Nickel Starter: Nickell Robey-Coleman
Backup: Sam Shields
Backup: Troy Hill
CUT (3): Dominique Hatfield, Taurean Nixon, Curtis Mikell
Injured Reserve: Kevin Peterson (knee)
Safety (5): LaMarcus Joyner, John Johnson III, Marqui Christian, Blake Countess, Afolabi Laguda
The back end of the secondary is deep to the point where the Rams can’t really afford to keep six safeties like they probably want to. Players like Steven Parker, Nate Holley and Ramon Richards offer too much upside and make the cutdown process difficult. Two of those three are likely to get brought back on the practice squad as all three UDFA’s are eligible. Afolabi Laguda is the newbie on this list as he has had a huge preseason thus far. The big four of Joyner, Johnson III, Christian and Countess are locks but if there is a fifth spot that battle is going to be tough. Right now, it’s between Holley and Laguda for my money. Laguda offers more as a complete safety but Holley has shown superb ability in coverage.
It’s going to be tough and this could very well be the position that has a random cut no one sees coming like a Blake Countess since it seems to happen every year. If that’s the case, the Rams are likely keeping Holley and Laguda. Both Holley’s seem like prime candidates to join the practice squad and remain in the building. Steven Parker seems to be the one to keep an eye on as he’s had the fewest amount of playing time and has quietly put on some good film. Parker could really help himself in week four of the preseason.
Starter: LaMarcus Joyner
Starter: John Johnson III
Backup: Marqui Christian
Backup: Blake Countess
3rd string: Afolabi Laguda
CUT (4): Nate Holley, Steven Parker, Ramon Richards, Isaiah Johnson
Special Teams (3): Greg Zuerlein, Johnny Hekker, Jake McQuaide
There is nothing else to say besides the fact this is a Pro Bowl trio of a unit that I don’t foresee being separated for a long time. Sam Ficken will go off and do wonderful things, it just won’t be with the Rams as long as Greg Zuerlein stays healthy.
Kicker: Greg Zuerlein
Punter: Johnny Hekker
Long Snapper: Jake McQuaide
CUT (1): Sam Ficken
FINAL 53-MAN ROSTER
QB: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion
RB: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly, Justin Davis
WR: Brandin Cooks, Mike Thomas
WR: Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds
SLOT: Cooper Kupp, Pharoh Cooper
TE: Tyler Higbee, Temarrick Hemingway
TE: Gerald Everett
LT: Andrew Whitworth
LG: Rodger Saffold, Jamil Demby
C: John Sullivan, Brian Allen
RG: Joseph Noteboom, Austin Blythe
RT: Rob Havenstein
DE: Aaron Donald, Ethan Westbrooks
NT: Ndamukong Suh, Sebastian Joseph-Day
DE: Michael Brockers, John Franklin-Myers
OLB: Matt Longacre, Dominique Easley
ILB: Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager, Tegray Scales
ILB: Mark Barron, Ramik Wilson, Micah Kiser
OLB: Samson Ebukam, Justin Lawler, Trevon Young
CB: Marcus Peters, Sam Shields
CB: Aqib Talib, Troy Hill
NICKEL: Nickell Robey-Coleman
FS: LaMarcus Joyner, Marqui Christian
SS: John Johnson III, Blake Countess, Afolabi Laguda
K: Greg Zuerlein
P: Johnny Hekker
LS: Jake McQuaide
PROJECTED PRACTICE SQUAD
QB Luis Perez
RB Nick Holley
WR KhaDarel Hodge
TE Johnny Mundt
OL Jake Eldrenkamp
DL Omarius Bryant
LB/S Travin Howard
OLB Ejuan Price
CB Dominique Hatfield
S Nate Holley