NFC West: K.C. Asiodu
I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.
This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.
Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).
St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)
Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)
Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)
Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)
Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)
Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)
Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)
Special teams: Ryan Neill
Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)
Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)
Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)
Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)
Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)
Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)
Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)
Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)
Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)
Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)
Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)
Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)
Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)
Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)
Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)
Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)
Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)
Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)
Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)
Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)
Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)
Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)
San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)
Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)
Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker
Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)
Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)
Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)
Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)
Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt
Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)
The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.
The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.
The request came in response to an earlier item about running backs the Rams passed over.
The Rams had too many needs to fill them all in this draft. They also took into account value.
As I sized up the 4-3 outside linebackers, I realized we would be working from a short list. So many of the linebackers drafted went to teams running primarily 3-4 schemes. Several of the 4-3 linebackers drafted projected to the middle, where the Rams are already set with James Laurinaitis. Some potential 4-3 outside linebackers -- take Larry Hart, drafted by the Jaguars in the fifth round -- can even project as 4-3 defensive ends now that they've been drafted.
For the sake of this analysis, I defined 4-3 linebackers as linebackers drafted by teams running 4-3 defenses (I included the Raiders in this group). Some of the 3-4 linebackers drafted probably could have projected to 4-3 schemes, but I wasn't going to make that determination. If a 3-4 team drafted a linebacker, the assumption was that the player might not have been an ideal candidate for the Rams.
The chart shows the Rams' actual picks next to the 4-3 outside linebackers drafted next. I have a hard time making a case for the Rams drafting most of the 4-3 outside linebackers available. Can you?
One exception might be the Rams' decision to draft a second tight end, Fendi Onobun, instead of William & Mary's Adrian Tracy, who landed with the Giants 14 picks later. Tracy played defensive end in college. The Giants are trying him out at strongside linebacker. Onobun, a converted basketball player, could project as even more of a project at tight end. The Rams did sign veteran linebacker Na'il Diggs in free agency, however.
The Rams did draft a linebacker. Josh Hull, a seventh-round choice from Penn State, projects as a special-teams player and potential backup to Laurinaitis in the middle.
The second chart shows the Rams' current linebackers.
Not so within the division.
The chart shows NFC West teams favoring players from the Pac-10, Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Big 12 -- in that order -- after filling out their rosters with draft choices and undrafted free agents.
My totals reflect NFL roster counts after 27 of 32 teams, including all four NFC West teams, signed undrafted free agents (all teams will sign them, but signings aren't official in some cases).
The Seahawks clearly favor the Pac-10. They have 26 of the division's 51 players from the conference coach Pete Carroll called home from 2001 through 2009. The 49ers and Rams seem to favor the Big 12 more than the Seahawks or Cardinals. All four teams tap into the Big Ten close to equally.
Seattle has led the NFL in players from the ACC over the past few years. The Rams have closed ground. The Rams also have the division's only five players from the Division II Lone Star Conference (quarterback Keith Null, linebacker K.C. Asiodu, linebacker Freddie Harris, defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo and defensive end Eugene Sims).
The chart names every conference with at least five players in the NFC West. The Cardinals have an additional 15 players from other conferences, most in the division. Seattle has the division's only three players from Independent programs (Julius Jones, Golden Tate and John Carlson, all from Notre Dame).
All conference listing reflect current affiliations. Totals count signed players, unsigned franchise players and unsigned restricted free agents.
Spagnuolo told reporters he hoped to speak with Pierce at some point, the Rams said via Twitter.
James Laurinaitis is arguably the only starting-caliber linebacker under contract to the Rams for 2010. Paris Lenon, 32 and a stopgap at this stage, can become an unrestricted free agent. David Vobora, Chris Chamberlain, Dominic Douglas, Larry Grant and K.C. Asiodu are the other linebackers.
Pierce carries great appeal by comparison. But there were reasons the Giants parted with a player coach Tom Coughlin lauded as a strong leader. Injuries slowed Pierce recently. A bulging disc in Pierce's neck landed the linebacker on injured reserve last season.
Pierce, 31, was scheduled to earn $4.75 million in salary for 2010. Signing Pierce at a reasonable rate could make sense. But if you are Pierce and you know your career is winding down, why join a rebuilding team?
The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
- Steven Jackson fought through a back injury to make positive contributions, including a 25-yard run early in the game. He finished with 116 total yards and scored a touchdown for the fourth consecutive game. No player in the NFL is averaging more yards from scrimmage per game since 2006.
- Danny Amendola caught seven passes. Fellow receiver Donnie Avery caught his fifth touchdown pass in his last seven games.
- Josh Brown's 55-yard field goal was his longest since signing with the Rams before last season.
- Rookie K.C. Asiodu blocked a punt, the first time the Rams have blocked one since the 2005 season.
- Rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis collected a sack for the first time as an NFL player.
- Linebacker Paris Lenon forced a fumble that cornerback Justin King recovered, setting up a 10-play touchdown drive in the first half.
- Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe helped the Rams control the Seattle passing game, limiting T.J. Houshmandzadeh to two receptions totaling 14 yards.
- The Rams converted 8 of 18 times on third down while outgaining Seattle, 364-265.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with quarterback Alex Smith regarding the 49ers' offensive tactics against the Colts, followed by a look at every player on the roster. The 49ers abruptly went away from their personnel group featuring Delanie Walker and I am not sure why. More on that from me as the day progresses. Maiocco on Barry Sims: "He entered the game on the 49ers' second offensive play after Joe Staley's injury. He was matched up mostly against Colts DE Dwight Freeney. Sims played very, very well. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he pitched a shutout against Freeney. Sure, Freeney had a sack in the game, but it came on a stunt in which Gore picked him up. Even then, that was more of a coverage sack." The hard part comes now that opponents have time to prepare for an offense without Staley.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at potential options for the 49ers as they deal with significant injuries to Staley and cornerback Nate Clements. Barrows: "Look for Sims and Adam Snyder to be the starting tackles while Staley is out. Newly-signed Chris Patrick also is an option, and the 49ers also could elevate rookie Alex Boone from the practice squad. Boone is strictly a right tackle. Bringing him to the active roster would require the 49ers to release someone on the 53-man squad, likely a receiver." The 49ers did release receiver Micheal Spurlock before adding cornerback Keith Smith. I'd be surprised if Boone made it into a regular-season game. Practice squad tackles generally aren't ready for prime time.
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at Mike Singletary's first year as the 49ers' head coach. Ratto: "In the meantime, the real fun here is not in wondering if Alex Smith has suddenly been cured, or if Joe Staley can miraculously heal himself, or if the secondary can grow in the absence of Nate Clements and his cracked scapula, but what comes next in Singletary's development as a coach. Does he become a headset guy? Probably not, because he is who he is and that's all who he is, to quote the one-eyed maritime philosopher. Does he more forcefully encourage Raye to open up the offense to accommodate Smith's skill-set while finding a way to protect Smith from being obliterated? As yet unproven. Does he keep promising the playoffs? Oh, bank on it. But what he's already done in what is essentially one year's time already is remarkable, at least when you compare with his original, rigid plan."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals need to bench Anquan Boldin for the receiver's own good. Somers: "By playing at considerably less than optimal health, Boldin is hurting the team. It's hard to make him a big part of the game plan, because no one is sure how long Boldin's ankle will hold up. It doesn't appear he can accelerate as fast on his pass routes, or move quickly enough to evade tacklers when he does make the catch." I thought Boldin moved better against the Panthers than against the Giants, but his subsequent re-injury will probably diminish his effectiveness.
Also from Somers: The Bengals signed fullback Tufui Vakapuna from the Cardinals' practice squad.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are testing their fans' patience with repeated home defeats. Bickley: "If you haven't noticed, these Cardinals are a strange bunch. In trouble, they're often at their best. At their best, they're often on the brink of trouble. They frequently bemoan a lack of respect. Once they attain it, they do everything possible to give it away. They are in first place, and unbeaten on the road. Yet only a goal-line stand against the Texans prevents them from being winless at home."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says coach Ken Whisenhunt is taking an even-keeled approach despite the team's inconsistencies. Whisenhunt: "I think our team has seen me get upset a few times when I’m with the team [in the locker room]. Maybe they need to see that a little bit more from the standpoint of being able to establish that consistency. [But] I don’t really buy into that. We have enough good football players that … no matter what the temperature of the game, we can play the style of football that can allow us to win."
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 breaks down the Cardinals' defensive effort against the Panthers. There's plenty of blame to go around.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com details nine roster moves made by the Seahawks. Was this what coach Jim Mora meant when he said jobs were on the line? A team generally cannot release valuable players for the sake of making statements. Edgerrin James was the biggest name to go, but he wasn't a factor.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times expects Louis Rankin to get more playing time following James' release. The Seahawks are valuing players with knowledge of their offense. Rankin played for Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Oakland.
John Morgan of Field Gulls points out how Seattle receivers Nate Burleson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh jogged out their routes on a running play, possibly by costly consequences. Morgan: "Seattle runs an inside draw. It gets good push from Chris Spencer and Rob Sims. (Justin) Forsett slips through a seam and streams out the other side behind the pulling Spencer. He has the first. Before he's blindsided and the ball pops from his grasp, let's rewind and look around. It's a shotgun snap and the handoff to Forsett is quick and definitive, so the wide receivers have to hustle to influence the play. They're not going to run off their guys, but they could put a body on them. Burleson inches up towards (Terence) Newman and when it's clear he's beat, stops, stands and spectates. Houshmandzadeh starts quicker but slows and instead of engaging nickelback Orlando Scandrick, he jogs up and behind the referee. Newman forces the fumble and Scandrick recovers for 15 yards."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com quotes Seahawks receiver Deion Branch's explanation for what Branch said following his touchdown reception Sunday. Branch: "When you're 2-5 a lot of stuff is going down. I want to win. I want to play. I'm not sitting on the sideline complaining. I've accepted my role on the football team, I just want to go out and help my team win and I feel I can help my team win by playing."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides an appreciation for Rams running back Steven Jackson. Thomas: "These days, few in the NFL pound the rock as well as Jackson. At the midpoint of the 2009 season, he's tied for the NFC rushing lead with Minnesota's Adrian Peterson with 784 yards. And he's tied for second overall in the NFL, trailing only Tennessee's Chris Johnson, who has 824 yards. Add his 186 receiving yards, and Jackson trails Peterson by a scant 3 yards -- 973 to 970 -- for the NFL lead in yards from scrimmage. There can be no doubting that he's at or near the top of the NFL pecking order at running back."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says rookie K.C. Asiodu made a key contribution to the Rams' first victory of the season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
NFC West personnel people were busy Monday. Here's what they were up to:
Arizona: The Cardinals released defensive tackle Keilen Dykes. They asked for and received a roster exemption for tight end Ben Patrick. The exemption expires Oct. 19. I would expect the Cardinals to activate Patrick for their Week 6 game at Seattle. They'll want to check out his conditioning level to be sure. NFL rules banned Patrick from team-related activities during his four-game suspension.
San Francisco: The 49ers released return specialist Allen Rossum and submitted a waiver claim for Seahawks defensive tackle Michael Bennett. The NFL awarded Bennett to the Bucs, who had waiver priority based on an inferior record. The 49ers activated receiver Michael Crabtree to make sure the team had 53 players on its roster. Failing to keep 53 players on the roster would have forced the team to release Dominique Zeigler from its practice squad.
St. Louis: The Rams planned to re-sign receiver Tim Carter after placing defensive tackle Gary Gibson on injured reserve. Carter and former Seahawks receiver Jordan Kent had tryouts Monday. The Rams signed linebacker K.C. Asiodu and defensive tackle Chris Bradwell to their practice squad. To make room, they released defensive tackle Adrian Gandy and cornerback Lamar Myles.
Seattle: The Seahawks lost Bennett to the Bucs. The team did not immediately make a roster move.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams' depth on the offensive line might be better than anticipated for a team with a 5-27 record over the past two seasons.
The team is carrying 10 offensive linemen, one more than typical, while John Greco recovers from wrist surgery.
An 11th, Phil Trautwein, landed on the Browns' active roster when Cleveland claimed him off waivers. A 12th, Roy Schuening, signed with the Raiders' practice squad. Another, tackle Renardo Foster, would seem to be a candidate for catching on somewhere eventually.
I've gone through the initial NFC West cut lists -- those players released at the 53-man deadline -- to see which ones have returned to their teams or caught on elsewhere.
The chart shows results for St. Louis.
Quarterback Brock Berlin signed to the Lions' practice squad after the Rams released him. Defensive lineman Ian Campbell briefly spent time on the Rams' practice squad before the team released him.
A few veterans -- running back Antonio Pittman, receiver Tim Carter, receiver Ronald Curry and special-teamer Todd Johnson -- remain available.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals announced four signings to their initial 2009 practice squad: guard Trevor Canfield, defensive tackle Keilen Dykes, defensive end Alex Field and receiver Ed Gant.
Rules governing practice-squad eligibility can be confusing. Players are eligible as long as they:
- Have spent fewer than three seasons on a practice squad. As the collective bargaining agreement states, "A player shall be deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the club's physical and been a member of the club's Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two Practice Squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third Practice Squad season. (A bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question.)"
- Have never spent nine or more games in one season on a 45-man game-day roster. Failure to understand this rule creates confusion. Seemingly experienced players sometimes retain eligibility.
The Rams added seventh-round choice Chris Ogbonnaya and 2008 Eagles third-round defensive end Bryan Smith to their practice squad, joining cornerback Cordelius Parks, tight end Eric Butler, linebacker Dominic Douglas, linebacker K.C. Asiodu, defensive end Ian Campbell and receiver Sean Walker.
The 49ers signed seven to their practice squad Sunday. They'll could add an eighth after releasing a player to make room on the 53-man roster for offensive tackle Tony Pashos.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams continued tweaking their roster Sunday by claiming defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey from the Titans and free safety Anthony Smith from the Packers.
This was probably just the beginning.
The Rams cleared room on their roster by releasing linebacker Quinton Culberson and receiver Nate Jones. That left the Rams with only four wide receivers on the 53-man roster. That number will certainly grow.
The team also signed six of the players it released Saturday to its practice squad, leaving two spots open. The six: linebacker K.C. Asiodu, tight end Eric Butler, defensive end Ian Campbell, linebacker Dominic Douglas, cornerback Cord Parks and receiver Sean Walker.
I'll pass along Scouts Inc.'s take on Ramsey. Scouts Inc. does not have analysis for Smith.
Scouts Inc. on Ramsey: Ramsey has some burst and initial quickness with above-average athletic skills. He has good functional play strength and flashes the ability to shed blocks quickly. He has good lower-body strength when he maintains his pad level at the point of attack. As a pass-rusher, he has adequate closing speed and flashes a variety of pass-rush moves.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
NFL teams can begin forming eight-man practice squads once released players clear waivers this afternoon.
I've put together a list of recently released Rams players with eligibility for the practice squad. Each was released on the reduction to 53 players.
The decision to keep rookie quarterback Keith Null on the 53-man roster meant releasing Brock Berlin. Does that mean Berlin is finished with the Rams? It could, but the quarterback does remain eligible for the practice squad.
Running back Chris Ogbonnaya seems like a natural candidate. With a new coaching staff and relatively new front office, the Rams could be more likely to consider players from other rosters. Coach Steve Spagnuolo was with the Giants last season. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was with the Eagles. Defensive coordinator Ken Flajole was with the Panthers. Those ties could influence the Rams' thinking.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Biggest surprise: The Rams cut former special-teams captain Todd Johnson, a safety, and they also flushed out two veteran receivers they hoped would contribute, Ronald Curry and Tim Carter. Keeping rookie quarterback Keith Null over the more experienced Brock Berlin made sense because the Rams' top two quarterbacks, Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller, have lots of seasoning. The biggest roster surprise came when the team traded 2006 first-round cornerback Tye Hill to the Falcons. Free-agent addition Quincy Butler stuck on the 53-man roster after a strong training camp and preseason. He looked better than Hill, frankly, and the Rams' new leadership wasn't afraid to part with symbols of past failures. Placing defensive tackle Adam Carriker on injured reserve cleared another spot.
No-brainers: The Rams also released linebacker K.C. Asiodu, defensive tackle Antwon Burton, tight end Eric Butler, defensive end Ian Campbell, linebacker Dominic Douglas, tackle Renardo Foster, fullback Jerome Johnson, center Tim Mattran, running back Chris Ogbonnaya, cornerback Cord Parks, running back Antonio Pittman, safety Mark Rubin, guard Roy Schuening, tackle Phil Trautwein and receiver Sean Walker.
What's next: The Rams still need to make one move by the 6 p.m. ET deadline for complying with the 53-man limit. With only four running backs on the roster, counting fullback Mike Karney, the team probably needs to seek help at the position. Backup Samkon Gado suffered injured ribs in the final exhibition game. The Rams lack quality depth and they are starting over. As a result, the team could pursue players released from other teams.
Update: The Rams placed defensive lineman Eric Moore on injured reserve to comply with the 53-man limit.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
More Rams players are eligible for the practice squad this summer after the team parted with a long list of aging veterans this offseason.
The chart shows all 33 current Rams players with eligibility, arranged by position. The team had 24 players eligible when I produced a similar list nearly one year ago.
The lists come in handy when analyzing battles for the final few roster spots. I've added loose status descriptions for eligible players based on my general expectations.
To review: NFL teams must reduce rosters from 80 to 75 players Sept. 1. They must reduce to 53 players Sept. 5. They can begin forming eight-man practice squads Sept. 6 at noon ET.
The league explains the process this way:
"After 12 noon, New York time, clubs may establish a practice squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free-agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons."
The Rams have only one running back, seventh-round choice Chris Ogbonnaya, with practice-squad eligibility. Eight other NFC West running backs have eligibility.
I'll break out corresponding lists for the rest of the division, answering a frequently posed question that follows a familiar format: "Is so-and-so eligible for the practice squad?"
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams' roster requires additional study after a thorough house-cleaning this offseason. With so many new faces, I feel less familiar with the Rams than with the other teams in the division. This initial look at the roster will hopefully help bring some focus.
Donnie Avery's injury and overall health concerns at receiver could influence how many players the Rams carry into the season at the position.
Marc Bulger's broken pinky shouldn't affect the roster as long as he recovers on schedule. Teams must reduce to 75 players by Sept. 1 and 53 players by Sept. 5. Those initial 53-man rosters sometimes change by Week 1 kickoffs. For that reason, I've been focusing on Week 1 rosters when setting baseline expectations for each position.
he chart provides a framework for how many players the Rams might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Seahawks.
Here's a quick look at which Rams players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kristof from Jacksonville writes: Mike, after reading some articles about the Rams, a consensus weak spot are the linebackers, both the quality and the depth. Most of the talk has been about the new staff and the receivers, but how do the Rams' linebackers compare to the rest of the division? And what are the other weak spots in the West?
Mike Sando: The Rams' linebackers have much to prove. Will Witherspoon, Chris Draft, Quinton Culberson and rookie James Laurinaitis are the only ones I would consider as potential starters. Draft is 33 years old and nearing the end. Culberson didn't last long as a starter when the Rams played him in that role last season. That leaves Witherspoon and Laurinaitis as arguably the only Rams linebackers a team would want in its lineup for a full season. The players could prove otherwise, but I think the evidence is there.
The Rams need Laurinaitis to emerge as an immediate impact player at the position.
Kenny from Las Vegas writes: If a player -- Michael Crabtree -- were to hold out the entire year, could they re-enter the draft the next year? Could you please explain how this would work? Thanks.
Mike Sando: Yes, a player would become eligible for the draft once again. I cannot recall the last time it happened. A player could go that route to rehab from an injury, thereby improving his stock, or to avoid signing with a particular team. Crabtree won't go that route.
Hayden from San Francisco writes: Sando great work everyday. You make the offseason almost bareable. My question is, what is the deal with Crabtree? Is he getting any closer to signing? Rookies report [Tuesday], don't they? Rookie holdouts by far are the worst thing about football (along with unproven players making top salaries in the league, but that's another email). I know you'll keep us updated when you hear anything. Thanks. GO NINERS!
Mike Sando: Thanks, Hayden. Of all the NFC West choices, Crabtree had the best chance of an impasse, in my view, because Crabtree was perceived as a top-five talent and the best receiver in the draft, only to slip to No. 10 -- after the Raiders made Darrius Heyward-Bey the first receiver drafted.
I don't think Crabtree's potential absence is a huge deal. Crabtree was already going to be behind this season. It was doubtful to me how much he would contribute as a rookie after missing so much time rehabbing the foot injury. If he misses two weeks of camp, yes, that would be significant. If he misses the first weekend, no big deal.
Let's wait to see how much camp Crabtree misses -- if he misses any camp -- before trying to figure out the impact.
Craig from Tennessee writes: What are the odds the Cardinals will try and sign Michael Vick? I mean, on Twitter, Darnell Dockett and Larry Fitzgerald went out of there way to say he has paid his debt. The Cards sure could use a fast RB and maybe even use him as a returner. Ken Whisenhunt had [Antwaan] Randle El in Pittsburgh and loved him. Vick is 10 times better then him. I'm saying it: The Cards will sign Vick for two years at $1 million a year ... and give him a chance!
Mike Sando: Don't see it happening, Craig. One, the Cardinals probably aren't following their players' Twitter accounts for guidance on personnel matters. Two, general manager Rod Graves has already said the team will not sign Vick.
I do think extreme circumstances can change a team's priorities, but unless the Cardinals lose Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart and possibly even Brian St. Pierre to injury, I have a hard time thinking they would sign him. I also don't necessarily see Vick trying to return as a specialist. His value was as a quarterback.
Antonio from Oakland writes: What's the situation with Jordan Kent on the Seahawksawks? Does he have any potential?
Mike Sando: Kent has potential and he has worked hard to maximize it, but I haven't seen evidence he'll be more than the fifth guy on a roster. The Seahawks found out last season what it means to rely upon players of that caliber. It's one thing to keep a player around as the fifth or sixth guy and say you like his potential. It's another thing to play him extensively.