NFL Nation: Bryan Mattison

St. Louis Rams cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
10:04
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Click here for the complete list of St. Louis Rams roster moves.

Most significant move: The Rams released No. 2 quarterback Kellen Clemens even though Clemens knew the offense better than any player on the roster. Clemens, who spent time with the New York Jets when Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer held the same job there, lost out to impressive undrafted free-agent quarterback Austin Davis.

Davis, drafted by the Boston Red Sox this year, stood out during preseason for his poise. Some players appear as though they belong. Davis did, at least initially. The preliminary assumption here is that Davis fared well enough to win the No. 2 role, although rosters remain fluid and the Rams will consider veterans at every position as they become available. The Rams also released Tom Brandstater, who was initially thought to be competing with Davis for the third-string role.

Onward and upward: Clemens could catch on with another team. Overall, however, the Rams had more holes than front-line talent to fill those holes. The players they released will not be coveted elsewhere. That was partly because the suspension Austin Pettis faces for the first two games bought the Rams time at wide receiver, where the team has quite a few mid-level prospects. With Pettis on the reserve/suspended list and not counting against the 53-man limit, the Rams kept the six receivers considered most likely to stick, including veteran Steve Smith and second-year pro Greg Salas.

Veteran fullback Ovie Mughelli received his release and could appeal to the dwindling number of teams valuing a traditional blocking fullback. The Rams kept only four running backs on this initial 53-man roster. They parted with Chase Reynolds after coach Jeff Fisher lauded the 24-year-old back as someone with the ability to close out a game.

The Rams also cut Aaron Brown, Cornell Banks, Cory Harkey, Jamaar Jarrett, Jose Valdez, Scott Smith, Mason Brodine, Nick Johnson, Ben Guidugli, Kendric Burney, Deangelo Peterson, Sammy Brown, T. Bob Hebert, Tim Barnes, Bryan Mattison, Vernon Gholston and Joe Long. Gholston could be running out of chances.

What's next: The Rams need help throughout their roster. They have the No. 2 priority in waiver claims. Expect them to put that privilege to use. The Rams should be active in pursuing help at defensive tackle after losing first-round pick Michael Brockers for a month (estimated) with a high-ankle sprain. Trevor Laws is already on injured reserve.

The Rams have only eight offensive linemen, one fewer than teams generally prefer to keep. They could use another one. They kept six linebackers, on the low side. The team is carrying 11 defensive backs at present. I wouldn't be surprised if they shopped former starting corner Bradley Fletcher, who was playing deep into games in preseason.

Rams camp battle update: Left guard

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
1:50
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Revisiting the St. Louis Rams training camp battle we previewed back in early July:

Left guard: Rokevious Watkins versus Bryan Mattison was the projected camp battle. It hasn't materialized.

My take then: "Watkins is a rookie fifth-round choice with college experience at both guard and both tackle spots. He's listed at 338 pounds and has weighed considerably more, but the scouting reports question his strength. Mattison started four games for the Rams last season after two seasons in Baltimore as a backup. I've wondered whether Quinn Ojinnaka might project as the starter here, but he's more apt to play tackle. Barry Richardson could be a consideration, as well."

The update: Ojinnaka has gotten the first-team snaps to this point. Watkins reported to camp out of shape. His chances should improve over time.

Richardson has been working with the first team at right tackle, ahead of Jason Smith. Richardson also played left tackle against Indianapolis in the preseason opener. Mattison practiced with the first team at left guard only when the Rams needed Ojinnaka to fill in for Rodger Saffold at left tackle.

Against the Colts, Mattison made a couple good blocks for Isaiah Pead in the second quarter. Ojinnaka appeared more comfortable in pass protection than as a run-blocker. The job appears to be Ojinnaka's to lose, but the team will want more of a mauler in the position long term. Developing Watkins has to be a priority even if Ojinnaka is better suited to start right away.

Kevin Hughes, an undrafted free agent in 2011, played left guard late in the game. He gave up a couple quarterback pressures under difficult circumstances as the Rams were well behind at that point.

This could be a position for the Rams to address in the 2013 draft.

NFC West training camp battles

July, 2, 2012
7/02/12
2:00
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AFC camp battles: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

An early look at the biggest training camp position battles:

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Quarterback: Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton.

The Cardinals have grown accustomed to quarterback competitions. This one has no clear leader heading toward training camp.

The pressure is squarely on Kolb to justify the Cardinals' investment in him. He's had time to get healthy and learn the offense. Kolb should be more confident and relaxed as a result. But he has yet to take charge of the team and command the respect that only comes through performance. He'll have an extended opportunity this summer thanks to an exhibition schedule featuring five games, one more than usual.

Kolb now has 16 career starts. Skelton has 11. Neither has been consistent, but the team won more frequently with Skelton last season.

ST. LOUIS RAMS

Left guard: Rokevious Watkins vs. Bryan Mattison.

The Rams are counting on offensive line coach Paul Boudreau to coach up the position at right tackle and left guard in particular.

Watkins is a rookie fifth-round choice with college experience at both guard and both tackle spots. He's listed at 338 pounds and has weighed considerably more, but the scouting reports question his strength. Mattison started four games for the Rams last season after two seasons in Baltimore as a backup. I've wondered whether Quinn Ojinnaka might project as the starter here, but he's more apt to play tackle. Barry Richardson could be a consideration as well.

Whatever the case, the Rams will likely be counting on an inexperienced left guard to help protect Sam Bradford and clear running lanes for Steven Jackson. It's important someone rises to the occasion.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Nickel corner: Chris Culliver vs. Perrish Cox.

The 49ers easily could have handed the job to Culliver after the 2011 third-round choice played better than 40 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Adding Cox creates competition and improves depth at a position that has become increasingly important as offenses more use additional wide receivers.

Cox started nine games for Denver in 2010 as a rookie fifth-round pick from Oklahoma State. He missed last season amid sexual-assault accusations, then signed with the 49ers following his acquittal this offseason. Cox played for 49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell in Denver, so the 49ers should have a good idea what he can offer.

Culliver seemed to fade some late in the season, no surprise for a rookie making a significant jump without the benefit of a regular offseason. He figures into the 49ers' plans no matter what, but will Cox siphon off some of his playing time?

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson vs. Matt Flynn vs. Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks face a dilemma. Flynn, Wilson and Josh Portis are the quarterbacks they would ideally keep for the long term, but Jackson is the only one with meaningful experience. Jackson is the only one they know for sure they could trust to keep the team competitive right now.

Flynn and Wilson will earn roster spots. Jackson could win one too. He could even start, but so could Flynn or Wilson. Wilson made a spectacular first impression during organized team activities and minicamp practices. His natural leadership ability and drive showed up repeatedly in how he commanded the huddle and the way he kept pressing coaches for additional information on the offense.

While it's natural to assume Flynn will emerge as the starter based on his salary and Wilson's inexperience, the Seahawks' excitement for Wilson has been palpable at every turn. This should be a fascinating battle once training camp begins.

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