Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Six Rams who can help themselves
By Nick Wagoner
For Rams on the bubble trying to steal a last-minute roster spot before final cuts have to be in on Saturday, there's one chance left.
The Rams close out their exhibition slate Thursday night against Baltimore at the Edward Jones Dome. That game represents one final opportunity for players who haven't already secured a spot to either change the mind of the Rams' coaching staff or confirm what coach Jeff Fisher and Co. already know.
"Our focus is on winning the game and in addition to that we still need to continue to evaluate players, finish up strong and work on a few areas," Fisher said. "There could be some jobs decided, yes."
The Rams roster isn't in the same state of flux it was in 2012 when Fisher and general manager Les Snead took over and began a drastic remodeling project. But there are still a handful of jobs that could go either way. Here's a look at six Rams who have a chance to help themselves in the preseason finale.
CB Darren Woodard: Woodard helped himself in a big way with his performance against Denver last week and not just because of his second interception. Woodard was sticky in coverage and unafraid to come up and tackle. The Rams kept five corners last year and if they do so again this year, Woodard would have to supplant returner Quinton Pointer. Pointer didn't play much at all against the Broncos and has been banged up off and on during camp. Another strong showing from Woodard could make the Rams think twice.
OL Brandon Washington: After working exclusively at guard last year, Washington has been pressed into duty at right tackle during this preseason because of injuries to Rodger Saffold, Joe Barksdale and others. The good news for Washington is that added versatility equals increased opportunity. If the Rams keep only eight offensive linemen it might be hard for Washington to win a spot, but if he can show something at tackle, he might be able to make a case to be a possible ninth.
WR Justin Veltung: The first five receivers are a given, leaving a possible sixth spot up for grabs between Veltung and Nick Johnson. It's not given the Rams keep six, but Veltung has been a pleasant surprise since the Rams signed him a couple of days into camp. Making some catches wouldn't hurt, but Veltung can punch his ticket with some good special teams work, including some return opportunities.
RB Chase Reynolds: You'd be hard pressed to find a more selfless player in the locker room than Reynolds, who has been a dutiful contributor on the practice squad and scout team the past two years. With Isaiah Pead suspended in Week 1, the Rams already figure to have the three backs to handle the carries but they will have a roster exemption and Reynolds has been heavily involved in first unit special teams in the preseason. Even if only for the first week of the season, Reynolds could follow Veltung's lead and sew up a spot with some contributions on special teams.
DE Gerald Rivers: Rivers has been the undrafted rookie to catch the Rams' eye in this preseason, following in the footsteps of defensive tackle Matt Conrath from last year. When Eugene Sims was absent tending to the death of his mother, Rivers got opportunities to work with the first-team defense against Green Bay and held his own. The Rams have eight linemen they'll keep for sure, but pass-rushers are considered a premium by Fisher and staff. A strong performance against the Ravens could help convince the Rams to keep Rivers on the 53 rather than try to pass him through waivers to get to the practice squad.
TE Zach Potter: Potter helped himself a bit last week with a touchdown catch late in the Denver game but he's not here for his pass-catching abilities. Potter is one of two tight ends (Cory Harkey is the other) who will routinely go work with the offensive line in the one-on-one pass-rush drills. While Harkey is considered the team's first option as a true blocking tight end, he's also dealing with an injury that could keep him out for a little while. If that's the case, Potter could cement his spot in the tight end crew with what figures to be plenty of playing time Thursday night.