NFL Nation: Kendric Burney

St. Louis Rams cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
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.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams were deep into practice Tuesday when Jeff Fisher gathered players around him.

Reporters not yet familiar with Fisher's ways figured the team's new coach was calling an end to the session, a move that would have seemed merciful given the 103-degree heat and direct sunlight blasting down upon everyone in attendance.

But practice wasn't finished. Fisher, drawing upon research collected over the years, had called for a stretching session. Practice then resumed, with Steven Jackson breaking a long run in work featuring the starting units.

"We've come to realize that the third day (of camp) there's a an increased pull history," Fisher explained, "so we intended on just taking a moment and getting stretched out so we didn't have any fatigue issues and fatigue pulls in the weather."

NFL teams have become more proactive, particularly since Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer died from the heat at training camp on Aug. 1, 2001.

The Rams weigh players before and after practices to ensure they've done enough to replace spent fluids. Times have changed.

"We're an air-conditioned society now," Fisher said. "In the old days, we spent summertime outside. I remember when you got in trouble, Mom said, 'Go to your room.' You say that now and they go, 'Yeah, cool, we got all kinds of stuff to do in the room.' Moms need to say, 'Go outside' now. ... We're very much aware of it."

[+] EnlargeSt. Louis' Janoris Jenkins
Jeff Curry/US PRESSWIRESecond-round pick Janoris Jenkins has impressed so far at Rams' training camp.
A few more notes from the Rams' latest practice:
  • Breakout player: Second-round cornerback Janoris Jenkins has fit right in with the starters. Asked to project a potential breakout player from the Rams' defense this season, veteran safety Quintin Mikell named Jenkins. Mikell: "He is a young guy who is coming in with a lot of confidence. He has come in and made a lot of plays already. I can see it coming. He's going to have a good year. They're going to test him and he might have a little bit of struggles here or there, but he has a lot of confidence and is a guy who can make plays."
  • Work in progress: Another rookie second-round choice, receiver Brian Quick, is adjusting. He beat cornerback Cortland Finnegan with a beautiful inside release, breaking into the clear in the end zone. Sam Bradford delivered the ball a little high, but the 6-foot-3 Quick got both hands on it. The pass bounced off his hands. Quick could easily make that catch, but rookies sometimes are thinking so hard while they learn an offense, they forget to finish. Later, Quick made a catch away from his body when Bradford went his way in the end zone. At first I thought Bradford was throwing away the ball. Quick put his reach to use in snatching the ball cleanly.
  • DB shortage: The Rams practiced without cornerbacks Josh Gordy and Kendric Burney. Tight hamstrings sidelined them. That left the secondary shorthanded under extreme weather conditions. The receivers fared well and wondered if the depth issues in the secondary contributed in some way. Steve Smith got behind Jenkins to make a hands catch (as opposed to body catch) of a ball Bradford threw with velocity. Austin Pettis might have made the catch of the day, rising high above Quinton Pointer and falling into the end zone with the ball. Rookie Chris Givens also showed up with a couple strong catches, although assistant head coach Dave McGinnis ruled him out of bounds on one (offensive players protested).
  • Alexander running: Receiver Danario Alexander was running under a trainer's supervision during practice. He's rehabbing a hamstring injury.
  • Sims scare: Defensive end Eugene Sims, a player the Rams expect to play extensively this season, left practice with what appeared to be an injury to his right arm or shoulder. He was walking slowly with his right elbow pointing to the side and his hand pointing forward, limiting movement. I'm checking with the Rams to find out more.
  • Kendricks update: Tight end Lance Kendricks was one of the Rams' most impressive players during camp a year ago. He had some problems with drops in this practice.
  • Good from 60: Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein continues to impress with his strong leg. One attempt from 60 yards cleared the crossbar with several yards to spare. Another from 64 yards had the distance and barely missed to the right.

That's it for now. I've got a long list of interviews to process before putting together our annual "Camp Confidential" file for later in the week. Those wondering about Bradford's performance to this point in camp should know he continues to perform at a high level, impressive coaches and teammates alike.
The St. Louis Rams' scheduled visit with Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan, noted by ESPN's Adam Schefter, lines up with expectations heading into free agency.

Finnegan played for new Rams coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. His reputation for hard-nosed play would lend an edge to the Rams' secondary.

Since 2007, when Finnegan became a starter, he leads the NFL with 16 combined penalties for disqualification, face mask, horse-collar tackle, personal foul, roughing the kicker, roughing the passer, taunting, unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct. The chart identifies league leaders in these "swagger" penalties since 2007, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Finnegan earned Pro Bowl honors for his play during the 2008 season. The Titans decided against naming him their franchise player at a cost of nearly $10.3 million for one season.

Injuries wiped out the Rams at cornerback last season. The team released starter Ron Bartell, who finished the 2011 season on injured reserve with a neck injury. The other starter, Bradley Fletcher, is returning from a season-ending knee injury.

Finnegan and the San Francisco 49ers' Carlos Rogers could make sense for the Rams as free-agent additions. The team could also consider LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall choice in the 2012 draft.

Fletcher, Jerome Murphy, Marquis Johnson, Brian Jackson, Nate Ness, Chris Smith, Josh Gordy and Kendric Burney are the corners on St. Louis' roster at present.

New Orleans' Tracy Porter is another option. Like Rogers, he played for Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams elsewhere.
The Carolina Panthers just sent out their official list of the undrafted rookie free agents they have signed. Here it is.
Word of various agreements between teams and undrafted free agents are starting to trickle out.

Keep in mind, none of these have been officially announced by teams. The news is coming from players, their agents and their colleges. It’s not unheard of for a player to agree with one team and end up signing with another. As soon as teams send out official lists of their signings, we’ll share them with you.

In the meantime, here’s what’s being reported.

Mike Triplett reports the Saints have agreed with Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn.

D. Orlando Ledbetter reports the Falcons are expected to add West Virginia running back Noel Devine and Boise State defensive end Ryan Winterswyk.

Triplett also reports the Saints have agreed with Texas receiver John Chiles, Walsh receiver Joe Morgan, Illinois receiver Jarred Fayson and Iowa linebacker Jeremiha Hunter.

Fordham safety Isa Abdul-Quddus said on his Twitter account that he has agreed to a deal with the Saints.

North Carolina defensive back Kendric Burney said via Twitter he’s signing with the Panthers.

Auburn receiver Darvin Adams and offensive lineman Ryan Pugh reportedly will join the Panthers. That should make former teammate Cam Newton happy.

The Saints reportedly will add Ohio State defensive tackle Dexter Larimore and safety DeAndre McDaniel.
Another in a series on what looms in the NFC North during the mad scramble to assemble teams when the lockout ends:

NFL front offices will balance an unprecedented number of tasks in the days and weeks after the lockout ends. Perhaps the most chaotic will be the pursuit of undrafted rookies who otherwise would have been signed immediately after the draft.

[+] EnlargeSam Shields
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesSam Shields intercepted a pair of passes in the Packers' win in the NFC Championship Game.
If the NFL expands training camp rosters beyond the traditional total of 80, some teams literally will need dozens of these players to give coaches enough bodies to run the kind of training camp they have planned. Their arrivals will coincide with other important tasks, from signing draft picks to acquiring veteran free agents.

As we noted in April, some of our teams got a head start on this process by trading back in the draft to collect late-round picks. The Minnesota Vikings grabbed six players during the final two rounds of the draft combined, while the Green Bay Packers drafted five. All teams keep a list of players who are on the fringe of the draft, and sometimes the guarantees due a seventh-round pick are cheaper than the results of bidding wars during the hectic free-agent period.

If you doubt the significance of this process, look no further than the Packers. Two rookies who signed last spring as undrafted free agents, linebacker Frank Zombo and nickelback Sam Shields, played prominent roles in the team's run to Super Bowl XLV.

Who will be the next Zombo or Shields? In May, Scouts Inc. ranked the top 40 players who weren't drafted Insider. You'll need an insider subscription to see the entire list, but I can give you a peek at the top 5:
  1. Rutgers safety Joe Lefeged
  2. North Carolina cornerback Kendric Burney
  3. Southern Arkansas defensive tackle Cedric Thornton
  4. Auburn receiver Darvin Adams
  5. Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel

If you're wondering if the Vikings might have targeted someone to replace pending free agent Ryan Longwell, Scouts Inc. lists UCLA's Kai Forbath as the top place-kicker available.
One of the first things teams will do after the lockout ends will be to sign undrafted free agents.

Those are the college players who were passed over in the April draft. Those guys are at a distinct disadvantage compared to other years because the lockout prevented them from having offseason time to impress the coaching staff. They’ll have to really stand out in training camp to have a shot at a roster spot.

You can bet that teams already have lists of guys they want to pursue and many teams told agents before the draft that they might be interested in their clients if they went undrafted.

Let’s go back to this Insider post from right after the draft in which Scouts Inc. listed the top 40 undrafted free agents. We can’t share the whole list here, but we’ll give you the top five.

In order, they are Rutgers safety Joe Lefeged, North Carolina cornerback Kendric Burney, Southern Arkansas defensive tackle Cedric Thornton, Auburn wide receiver Darvin Adams and Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel.

I could see any of those guys possibly landing in the NFC South. Lefeged might have a shot at a roster spot in Tampa Bay where there is uncertainty at safety with Tanard Jackson suspended through at least late September. Thornton’s a defensive tackle and Carolina and Tampa Bay could be in the market for depth at that position. Burney, Adams and McDaniel could be options for Carolina and Atlanta because the Panthers and the Falcons have shown a past tendency to sign guys from their own backyards.