Monday, August 11, 2014
St. Louis Rams' projected roster
By Nick Wagoner
Examining the St. Louis Rams' roster:
(Note: WR Stedman Bailey is expected to make the team but is suspended for the first four games of the season and will not count on the initial 53-man roster)
Bradford and Hill are locks. Gilbert got plenty of work in the preseason opener. It doesn't appear he'll have much competition from Austin Davis for a potential third spot. The only question is whether the Rams keep three.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
The Rams went heavy on running backs last year, keeping five and if they do both Reynolds and Isaiah Pead could make it. But we're going with a change-up this week and elevating Reynolds over Pead. Reynolds is a core special-teams guy, a role Pead could also play but Reynolds has managed to stay on the field and did some good things against the Saints.
With Bailey suspended the first four weeks, the Rams could take a longer look at another wideout for the first quarter of the season, but Bailey plus the five listed here seem to be in pretty good shape. Of the wideouts who could theoretically serve as placeholders until Bailey's return, Emory Blake has been the most consistent and Austin Franklin has displayed the most potential.
TIGHT ENDS (4)
The first three are probably pretty safe, but the Rams could have an intriguing competition for a potential fourth tight end if they opt to keep one. I resisted the temptation to elevate Bayer above Justice Cunningham last week but Bayer continues to perform in practice and had a strong preseason debut. This one could come down to the wire but for now, let's give the edge to Bayer.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
It's still hard to get a read on how the depth could shake out here and it's possible the Rams could go with 10 or 11 linemen as they did at times last year. The first seven or eight listed here should be in good shape, but beyond that, the competition is wide open. Players like Sean Hooey, Brandon Washington, Mitchell Van Dyk and Demetrius Rhaney could be heard from before preseason is finished.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
The first eight listed are all but locks barring injury, but the Rams have kept a ninth defensive lineman each of the past two seasons. Sam didn't hurt his cause with a solid preseason debut but Ethan Westbrooks is beginning to push him and Sam is still refining his special-teams work. I considered elevating Westbrooks this week but think another strong week is needed before making that move.
Don't be surprised if the final tally here looks different than the above. Beyond the first four listed, there could be plenty of room for change, including the potential for a veteran to provide depth. Bates is a strong special-teams player and should stick, but Steward will face plenty of competition from an eager group of undrafted rookies.
With plenty of preseason to go, there's a lot that can change but this group seems to be getting some clarity. The first four here appear to be in good shape and Gaines' strong preseason debut complements what has been a good camp for him. He seems to be in the driver's seat for the next spot. One player that shouldn't be forgotten here is Darren Woodard, who started against the Saints and had a nice pass breakup. Greg Reid and Marcus Roberson will be heard from before this is over and the Rams might end up keeping a sixth corner rather than a fifth safety.
The Rams have kept five safeties under Fisher, in no small part because of special-teams duties. But I'm beginning to wonder if that could change in favor of a sixth cornerback. It's looked in camp like the Rams have more talent at corner than safety, which could cause them to alter the balance at the two positions in terms of numbers. The first three here should be safe and Davis' special-teams contributions are valued, but he struggled on defense against New Orleans. Daniels needs to get it going to get another shot. Christian Bryant is finally practicing but has been nondescript on the field.
It would take a serious injury to disturb this strong trio.