We are moving past the halfway point for Los Angeles Rams preseason football. The Rams will host the Denver Broncos back at the Coliseum in week three. Before we get to that though, we want to present you with a halfway point 53-man roster prediction. There won’t be another until the final game is concluded but here we go.
Quarterbacks (2): Jared Goff & Blake Bortles
This stays the same from last time. I would love nothing more than for the Rams to stick with John Wolford and keep three because I like him that much and Blake Bortles isn’t a long-term backup option. However, that’s just not realistic with the amount of talent this roster has. Brandon Allen outplayed Wolford this past game but Allen is playing for other teams at this point. Anything Allen does is to put on film for other teams as he has no more practice squad eligibility left over.
While you can place Wolford on the practice squad, it’s going to be a matter of if he is available for you to do that. Wolford plays eerily similar to Kyler Murray. Now, that’s not to say he should have been the number one overall pick or that he’s the second coming of Russell Wilson. However, that is to say, he has a unique play style that isn’t seen in many quarterbacks. I am starting to think that dud of a game this past week and the lack of repetitions is what will land Wolford on the Rams practice squad.
Cut: John Wolford (Practice Squad), Brandon Allen
Running backs (4): Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown & John Kelly
I kept the Rams running back number at four, they have too much talent in the backfield to cut three backs. With that being said, I pulled the plug on Matt Colburn. I’m a fan of the former Wake Forest back but my issue is, the Rams have not given him an opportunity. This isn’t a depth chart of necessarily what I would want, but rather what I expect and predict the Rams will do. The big three of Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson were never going anywhere. However, I did feel as though John Kelly was in some trouble coming into camp.
Now, Kelly has earned his keep and will remain on this roster barring something catastrophic. That leaves Justin Davis who has been on the roster for two years and the UDFA Colburn as the odd men out. The real odd man out is Davis though because he has no practice-squad eligibility left and Colburn can easily make the practice squad.
Cut: Justin Davis, Matt Colburn (Practice Squad)
Wide receivers (6): Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, KhaDarel Hodge & N’Simba Webster
This competition is non-existent for the first four wideouts as we all know. With the fifth and sixth guys, now that is a competition. Early signs from week one pointed to KhaDarel Hodge as the fifth guy and a bunch of others in the mix for the sixth spot. Then, Sean McVay came out and said how Mike Thomas is setting himself apart from the crowd for the fifth spot. Look, I was a big fan of Thomas in the draft during the 2016 draft season. However, this is 2019 and Thomas simply hasn’t done anything to deserve to be in this spot.
With guys like N’Simba Webster, JoJo Natson, Alex Bachman, Austin Proehl, Johnathan Lloyd, and Jalen Greene all fighting for a spot, this position battle is far from easy. If you asked me right now who I think the two guys are I would say Hodge and Webster in that order. I know it’s surprising with the praise Thomas has received but I just don’t buy it. Hodge has been a legit member of this team already and Webster looks great in all phases of his game. Which is why I believe the Rams go with the return man and special teams gunner.
As far as the practice squad goes, I think all of these eligible guys are intriguing options but I’ll give the nod to Alex Bachman who has to show up on special teams and would add something to the scout team.
Cut: Alex Bachman (Practice Squad), JoJo Natson, Mike Thomas, Jalen Greene, Austin Proehl, Johnathan Lloyd
Tight ends (3): Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee & Johnny Mundt
Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee are locks which is obvious. However, the third spot is not a lock. The Rams can’t afford to keep more than three tight ends so in this spot they stick with home-grown former Oregon tight end Johnny Mundt. Mundt isn’t perfect, but he’s improved as a blocker and his athleticism is undeniable. I would make the argument for Mundt at this point to be more of a blocking tight end then the anticipated receiving one the Rams thought they were getting. Whether or not injuries are to blame, Mundt as regressed as a receiver and has welcomed his role as a blocker a lot more.
As for the three undrafted rookies that sparked my interest from the get-go – Kendall Blanton, Romello Brooker, and Keenen Brown are far away from being rostered at this moment in time. The Rams gave Brooker what you would call an isolate tryout in a way last week. He failed to step up in the receiving game and struggled mightily as a blocker. Blanton got the nod as the guy the Rams would push in week two and he was less than spectacular. I had a very high grade on Brown but the Rams barely used him once again. If I could keep any of the three, Brown’s upside would lead me to keep him on the practice squad. However, I think the Rams will go with the former Missouri Tiger – Kendall Blanton and place him on the practice squad.
Cut: Kendall Blanton (Practice Squad), Romello Brooker, Keenen Brown
Offensive tackles (4): Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, David Edwards, Bobby Evans
Everyone from my last prediction stays the same at tackle. The Rams don’t have a choice because they spent decently high draft capital on both rookies David Edwards and Bobby Evans. I think fans should be concerned a little bit just how raw and far away Evans appears. As for Edwards, he has struggled at times but other times he flashes. This is the one with the highest floor of maybe the whole rookie Rams class
Matt Kaskey and Brandon Hitner were two guys that plenty of people felt could threaten and make the roster but it doesn’t appear as though either are on that track. Both of them picked up the past this past week but I’m not sure it will be enough to have them added onto the 53-man roster.
Cut: Matt Kaskey, Brandon Hitner
Offensive guards (4): Joe Noteboom, Austin Blythe, Jamil Demby & Chandler Brewer
We mentioned Matt Kaskey and Brandon Hitner above but we never mentioned Chandler Brewer who I’ve decided to place on the 53-man roster. The obvious two guards are Joe Noteboom and Austin Blythe. After that, the Rams are likely going to keep Jamil Demby around to have him be the utility guy that can move all over the offensive line and fill in if need be. Demby struggled big-time versus the Cowboys but one game shouldn’t be enough to grow sour on him.
As for Brewer, it’s been two games and he has excelled in pass protection. Brewer is an amazing story and is someone that is earning everything that will eventually come his way.
Cut: Matt Kaskey, Brandon Hitner
Last Prediction: Offensive guards (3): Joe Noteboom, Austin Blythe & Jamil Demby
Centers (1): Brian Allen
Brian Allen is the only true center I kept on the roster because I think with how much the Rams continue to use Demby at the center, the Rams may keep him on the roster in case of an emergency. If the Rams went with another true center, my money would be on Vitas Hrynkiewicz who has played very well in his opportunities. Aaron Neary is suspended and Jeremiah Kolone played all of week two at guard so it doesn’t seem likely that there is any true center in front of Hrynkiewicz besides Allen. Even still, I see Hrynkiewicz being placed onto the practice squad.
Cut: Vitas Hrynkiewicz (Practice Squad), Jeremiah Kolone
Exemption: Aaron Neary (Suspended)
Last Prediction: Centers (2): Brian Allen & Jeremiah Kolone
Defensive linemen (6): Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, John Franklin-Myers, Greg Gaines, Morgan Fox & Sebastian Joseph-Day
The defensive line is, of course, fronted by star Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and John Franklin-Myers. After those three, fourth-round pick Greg Gaines, 2018 seventh-round pick Sebastian Joseph-Day and former UDFA Morgan Fox are the favorites to make the squad. I feel comfortable with those six. Now, if the Rams want to keep a seventh they have the crop to battle for it. Undrafted rookies Boogie Roberts, Marquise Copeland, Bryant Jones, and former sixth-round pick Tanzel Smart are all battling it out.
I feel as though Smart has shown all he can at this point. The development isn’t there and so if the Rams went with an additional defensive lineman to keep on the roster, I would lean towards Roberts or Copeland. With that being said, I would keep Roberts on the practice squad who I did cut out from the roster since the last time.
Cut: Boogie Roberts (Practice Squad), Marquise Copeland, Tanzel Smart, Bryant Jones
Outside linebackers (6): Dante Fowler Jr., Clay Matthews, Samson Ebukam, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Natrez Patrick & Landis Durham
The Rams have another big three at the outside linebacker position in the form of Dante Fowler Jr., Clay Matthews, and Samson Ebukam. After those three there is another intense battle going on. Beforehand, Justin Lawler, the former seventh-round pick last year out of SMU was one of the favorites to make the roster. Lawler had spent some time receiving first-team reps until an injury took him out of the equation. In this same token, it opened up more of an opportunity for everyone at this position.
Now, it looks as if I added outside linebacker in my latest prediction but the fact is that the Rams moved a guy I had making the roster as an inside backer to outside linebacker. Natrez Patrick is the new addition here due to that position switch. Landis Durham may have been considered a reach from left field, however, since the preseason has started Durham has looked every bit the player I expected to when I placed him on the 53-man roster a month ago. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo finally played a game and he looked every bit the player the Rams want him to be. Free-agent acquisition Josh Carraway is making this a tough decision as well but the Rams in my mind are going to try and place him on the practice squad.
Trevon Young is the odd man out and that may come as a surprise to some but it’s a coin flip in my mind. If you want Carraway or Young on the practice squad, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. Both guys are talented, young and full of potential and athleticism.
Cut: Trevon Young, Josh Carraway (Practice Squad), Justin Lawler, Ketner Kupp
Exemption: Justin Lawler (Injured Reserve)
Inside linebackers (3): Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager & Dakota Allen
Micah Kiser waited all of his rookie year to become a starting inside linebacker. Unfortunately for him, that wait was paying off but will continue after suffering what appears to be a major pectoral injury. With Kiser out of commission, the next-man-up mentality leaves us all wondering who takes the role? Sean McVay has already confirmed that Bryce Hager is the starter moving forward. While the Rams will spend the majority of their defense in nickel, it’s still disappointing to see the Rams go with Hager over a younger and flashier option like last year’s seventh-rounder Travin Howard or this year’s seventh-rounder in Dakota Allen.
This appears to be a position that will be evaluated all season long. I have the Rams keeping three here and that might seem like a shock but here’s why it shouldn’t be. Who is not listed on this portion of the roster is Clay Matthews and Natrez Patrick. Both players can play the inside linebacker position. With the Rams having Ebukam as the third outside linebacker, they could easily look to move Matthews to the inside backer position in certain situations as he did start there towards the end of his career in Green Bay.
Cory Littleton is a lock, then you have to include Hager who seemingly has already won the other starting role and of course, I don’t see the Rams cutting a talent of Allen’s caliber. That leaves Howard and Delaware UDFA Troy Reeder off the roster. Howard didn’t get an opportunity last year with the Rams as he suffered an injury in the preseason and was placed on the injured reserve list. I think Howard should be kept around and would be a valuable member of the scout team. If the Rams place Howard on the practice squad they can look to add him to the roster if they deem Hager isn’t cutting it. As far as Reeder goes, he has an ejection on his resume but he’s a good football player. He will make a run and be a finalist for the practice squad.
Cut: Travin Howard (Practice Squad), Troy Reeder
Exemption: Micah Kiser (Injured Reserve)
Cornerbacks (6): Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Troy Hill, David Long & Kevin Peterson
The Rams are just too deep at the cornerback position to not keep six. Marcus Peters should be in for a bounce-back season, Aqib Talib should have a solid year as long as he stays healthy and Nickell Robey-Coleman is maybe the best nickel cornerback in the game. After those guys, the Rams extended Troy Hill to a two-year contract and they drafted David Long in the third round. That leaves one more spot. I have the Rams going with Kevin Peterson here as he has started for the Rams in the past. Peterson has been outstanding in the preseason over the last couple of years but an injury last year pushed him out of the way. Peterson is back and is fighting hard to stick with this team, that is something I believe he does.
It’s not an easy decision because you can make arguments for Donte Deayon and Darious Williams as well. I have both talents being placed on the practice squad which leaves Dominique Hatfield and Ramon Richards off the roster and practice squad. It might seem like a tough move but Hatfield has not shown up in the preseason and Richards is a player that would likely be kept on speed dial. Should an injury occur, the Rams would be able to promote either Williams or Deayon and add Richards to the practice squad which is where he resided all of last season.
Cut: Darious Williams (Practice Squad), Dominique Hatfield, Donte Deayon (Practice Squad), Ramon Richards
Safeties (5): Eric Weddle, John Johnson III, Taylor Rapp, Marqui Christian & Steven Parker
Here’s another deep unit headlined by veteran star Eric Weddle, rising star John Johnson III, and second-round pick Taylor Rapp. The Rams are going to have to make a tough decision here as all of these guys have flashed in some facet in the preseason. Marqui Christian in my mind is next-man-up after his performance last year and then I have Steven Parker. The former Oklahoma Sooner had a magnificent preseason last year and followed it up this year for the first half looking just as impressive. While many may believe the Rams are keeping four or that seventh-round pick Nick Scott is making the roster. I would make the argument neither is occurring.
The Rams will keep five which will include Parker due to the fact it’s going to be too much of a gamble to bring him onto the practice squad. Then I think the Rams will cut Scott and Jake Gervase. Those two will be on “speed dial” as mentioned earlier and the Rams will not add any of the cut safeties to the practice squad. I’m still eyeing the Blake Countess situation as someone who was cut from the Eagles. I know the Rams let him go and there may have been contract disputes or role dispersal issues but Countess could still help this roster and he’s a free agent at the moment. Still, until anything like that happens, Parker is the last guy to make the cut of the safeties.
Cut: Nick Scott, Jake Gervase
Specialists (3): Greg Zuerlein, Johnny Hekker & Jack McQuaide
This unit will go untouched. All three are probably the best at their respective positions in the whole game. The tough thing is for Brock Miller who loves being a Ram but knows it’s simply not in the cards while Johnny Hekker is in the house. Hekker is quite possibly the greatest punter of all time and as great as Miller has looked in the preseason, you cannot simply move on from Hekker. With that being said, keep an eye on a potential trade of Brock Miller following the conclusion of the preseason. Why not before? The Rams have Miller signed so they don’t have to use Hekker in meaningless games. Once the preseason ends, the Rams will try and trade Miller before announcing their roster cuts. The rare left-footed punter has accumulated a net of 46.4 yards per punt including six punts inside the twenty-yard-line and zero touchbacks.
Cut: P Brock Miller
Projected 10-Man Practice Squad:
QB John Wolford
RB Matt Colburn
WR Alex Bachman
TE Kendall Blanton
C Vitas Hrynkiewicz
DL Boogie Roberts
OLB Josh Carraway
ILB Travin Howard
CB Donte Deayon
CB Darious Williams
All ten of these guys could make the 53-man roster if they were all given a chance to earn that spot. However, with the lack of spots available, with the lack of touches and snaps to go around these are the ones I feel will fall off the 53-man roster but will end up on the practice squad.
I think John Wolford brings a unique skill set as one of those short and stocky mobile quarterbacks that play kind of like Doug Flutie and Kyler Murray. Matt Colburn is a solid running back that was teammates with Wolford at Wake Forest as well as Alex Bachman who I also have the Rams keeping. Kendall Blanton is exactly why the NFL has practice squads, he has the potential but needs some time to isolate certain areas of his game and develop them. Rounding out the offense, Vitas Hrynkiewicz of Youngstown State is the only undrafted rookie offensive lineman aside from Chandler Brewer that has shown me anything to be excited about on film. He’s got a ways to go but Hrynkiewicz could be a perfect practice squad option.
Kicking off the defensive side of the practice squad, Boogie Roberts of San Jose State can play all over the defensive line. He wins as a run stuffer and can rush the passer. He will benefit being in the Rams building all year long without the stresses of game days. Josh Carraway is a former draft pick from the 2017 draft that has yet to find his stride or his chance. He doesn’t make it this time around but the Rams can hang onto him here and help him reach his potential. Travin Howard is a player that is similar to former Ram Mark Barron which is something to hone in on as you develop a player like that.
Rounding it out former Boise State stud cornerback Donte Deayon is small but he plays way bigger than his stature and can spend one last year waiting for a true opportunity. With Darious Williams, he was on the Rams roster all of last year, he would make the most sense to keep because he is a former UDFA last year from UAB that had a role with the Ravens until Jimmy Smith came back from injury. The Rams did their homework during the joint practice last year with Baltimore. They pinpointed Williams as a player to acquire and they got him via the waiver wire.
Injuries are a part of this game ultimately and with that being said, we can expect to see plenty of them which will likely open up the practice squad a little bit and allow these names mentioned to gain some valuable in-game experience.