Monday, August 18, 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 is still in the lead for the third spot, though he hasn't done much in either preseason game. The bigger question is whether the Rams keep three.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
We elevated Reynolds last week when he played against New Orleans and Isaiah Pead sat with a finger injury. This week, Pead suffered a torn ACL and will miss the season, taking most of the guesswork out of this projection.
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 four. Bayer vs. Justice Cunningham continues to be one of the more interesting battles on the roster. Cunningham is the better blocker, while Bayer has shown more as a pass catcher. We'll stick with Bayer for now, but that is subject to change.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
The Rams have serious questions about their depth on the offensive line. As reported last Thursday, Barrett Jones is battling a back injury and there's no timetable for his return. He could end up on injured reserve or possibly with the designation to return. Brandon Washington would seem to be a candidate, but he also has been out with an injury. Don't be surprised if the Rams closely monitor the waiver wire when cuts are made.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
The first eight are likely solid in their spots. But after some back and forth, I decided this was the week to elevate Westbrooks after another solid performance against Green Bay. Michael Sam also played well against the Packers, but Westbrooks has been more consistent in practice and offers more positional versatility. Sam remains in the race, but to my eye it looks like Westbrooks has moved ahead for now.
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. With each passing week, I believe the Rams might keep six corners and four safeties, but this projection doesn't reflect that because I'm not yet sure who that sixth corner would be. Marcus Roberson, Darren Woodard and Greg Reid all figure in that competition.
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 bounced back well against Green Bay, which should help his cause. 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.