It’s right around the corner, the Los Angeles Rams training camp is here and soon, the NFL preseason will follow. We’ve all seen players make or break their roster stock in the preseason. While many will discount the impact of the preseason, it does in fact matter and so here are five players you are likely to see break out in the preseason this year.
QB John Wolford
The first one on this list is a signal-caller you will likely see a lot of, John Wolford. Wolford played plenty of snaps in the AAF and because of that stint, he has valuable experience moving forward. Whether or not Wolford makes the roster, he is going to make something happen this preseason. Wolford has plenty to play with on his offense such as weapons: KhaDarel Hodge, Austin Proehl, Jalen Greene, Alex Bachman, Nsimba Webster, Johnathan Lloyd, Keenen Brown, Johnny Mundt, Kendall Blanton, Romello Brooker, Justin Davis, John Kelly and Matt Colburn.
Wolford finished his AAF career throwing for 14 touchdowns, seven interceptions on 1,616 passing yards. He converted on six two-point conversions while also finishing with a 63.4 completion percentage. He will have the opportunity to replicate that type of production with the NFL preseason. Wolford possesses adequate arm strength, poise in the pocket and overall toughness. Wolford also shows off his pocket mobility and does a nice job of extending plays while going off-script.
One could expect Blake Bortles and Brandon Allen will get their opportunities but something tells me the Los Angeles Rams will want to see more of Wolford. Expect Wolford to make a big-time impact and even have a game in which he throws for three touchdowns in.
RB Matt Colburn
We’ve seen it in the preseason before, Los Angeles Rams running backs always show out and have their moment. Don’t expect anything different to happen with Matt Colburn. The former Wake Forest Demon Deacon can win in the passing game or in the running game. His solid hands allow him to make plays as a receiver out of the backfield. However, the ultimate key for Colburn is his vision as a ball-carrier. He’s not overly physically imposing but Colburn makes things happen in the open field.
Last year John Kelly ran wild in the latter portion of the game but Colburn regardless of when he plays will be able to replicate that. Everything checks out for the talented undrafted rookie back. His lack of elite burst as a running back is why he wasn’t drafted along with his lack of size. However, Colburn brings a lot to the table and is the type of back that can get streaky and really build off multiple runs while stringing together even better runs. As the game goes on Colburn actually seems to become more effective.
It will be interesting to see what the Rams think of him but I am higher on Colburn than any running back on the roster after the first three.
TE Keenen Brown
This is the perfect opportunity for Keenen Brown. The former Texas State product has a very similar play-style as Los Angeles Rams starting tight end and former second-round pick Gerald Everett. Brown is not overly physical, but the former receiver-turned-tight end is able to win with his elusiveness and agility in the open field. His lack of efficiency as a blocker won’t be enough to overshadow him as long as he stays the course and produces as a receiving tight end. That will be the key, display what you can display.
The thing with a player like Brown is the worry about having a duplicate player. He is, however, not Gerald Everett but he does have a long way to go, like Everett himself. Brown is by definition a project with long-term value. If the Rams don’t see Tyler Higbee in their future at the position there is a chance Keenen Brown could nab a spot.
This preseason, Brown will have the opportunity to work in-line and outside the numbers. The former Texas State tight end is bound to find a crease during one of his plays in the preseason if he does he could take it the distance. Highly-athletic pass-catching tight ends like Brown tend to eat in the preseason.
Once you factor in the fact that Brown is faster than most linebackers and bigger. You realize he will have an easier time than other tight ends on the roster at making plays after the catch.
OLB Josh Carraway
Josh Carraway was a late free agency pickup that has been a little slept on to start. The former talented TCU pass rusher finished his college career with 18 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss. It’s worth noting that Carraway recorded 16 of his last 18 sacks in the last two seasons with TCU. That speaks volume in regards to showing off the kind of development Carraway had to finish off his career.
Carraway has the prototypical size for a 3-4 edge defender and is a superb athlete in his own right. His issue has never been about athleticism which is why he could standout big time in the preseason. His issue has always been about the lack of edge to his game. The biggest knock on the former Horned Frog’s game is the lack of overall physicality. He would rather scoot by his assignment using his fluid hips, quickness and agility rather than using strength at the point of attack. In turn, that makes Carraway rather one-dimensional.
With NFL coaching and experience around the Rams coaching staff, the hope is that Carraway finds his stride, finds his inner dog and is able to play violent. If Carraway comes out in preseason as a passive player that could be his downfall. Still, I believe Carraway is going to receive plenty of playing time and opportunities to make this roster. Whether the Rams keep him remains to be seen. However, one should really pay attention to the very athletic former All-Big 12 first-team outside linebacker.
CB Donte Deayon
The 25-year-old corner out of Boise State spent two seasons with the New York Giants before coming over onto the Los Angeles Rams practice squad. The same practice squad spot almost ended up resulting in a Super Bowl ring. Donte Deayon is one of the few players that sat on the sidelines unable to dress for the Super Bowl and just watch knowing he could literally do nothing. Deayon can now, this is his opportunity. Preseason.
Before you sleep on the Boise State product, realize that Deayon is a talented cornerback and the perfect type to make something big happen in the preseason. While with Boise State, Deayon picked off a whopping 17 passes and took two back to the house. Deayon’s biggest weakness is his fairly thin frame. The ballhawk cornerback stands at just 5-foot-9 and weighs in just under 160 pounds. Due to the lack of mass, Deayon is primarily a slot cornerback. He’s got fluid hips, he moves well laterally and can mirror his assignment well.
He’s got the instincts, the ball skills and the competitive nature of a starting NFL cornerback. However, the size is what holds him back. For his lack of size, Deayon has some pop behind his pads and is a solid tackler. If the Rams want to genuinely give Deayon a shot to make the roster, they will have to let him return kicks and punts in addition to playing cornerback. This preseason, look for the ball-hawking Deayon to bring down a couple of interceptions and absolutely ruin his assignment’s day in coverage. Deayon is very talented and while the size might be an issue, he’s simply too talented of a player to not give a chance.
When it comes to Deayon’s size, there are players in the league that do not have the traits he has. Ball skills, athleticism, competitiveness, toughness and instincts are what Deayon possess. Not every cornerback in the league right now can say the same. However, because they might stand at 6-foot-3, they continue to get opportunity after opportunity. The Rams know Deayon is flying under the radar but this is going to be his opportunity to really show off.
The last thing to keep in mind in regards to Deayon. Technically he’s taller than Nickell Robey-Coleman and about the same weight class. Size is not a skill and maybe, just maybe, Deayon is worth finding a spot on the roster for.