NFL Nation: Roy Schuening

Some around here thought John Greco was more than ready to assume a starting role on the St. Louis Rams' offensive line.

"John Greco is much better than anyone realizes and will be a starting-caliber guard if they give him a chance," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said during a May discussion. "They should be excited about him. He doesn't have a discernible trait where he is a real masher or a wonderful technician or a great athlete, but he is good at all of the above and he really has a nasty streak to him. He is somebody to keep an eye on."

I don't think the Rams saw that nasty streak.

After landing Harvey Dahl in free agency and finding a way to keep Jacob Bell amid salary concerns, the team traded Greco to the Cleveland Browns. Adam Goldberg, the starting right guard in 2010, could still return in a backup role. But with Dahl in and Greco out, the line has undergone a massive overhaul since Steve Spagnuolo's arrival as head coach for the 2009 season.

Orlando Pace, Goldberg, Brett Romberg, Greco and Alex Barron were the starters in the final game before Spagnuolo's hiring. Cory Withrow and Roy Schuening were backups in that game. Bell, Richie Incognito and Anthony Davis were listed among inactive players. Bell is the only one of those 10 players still with the team.

The projected starting five this season -- Rodger Saffold, Bell, Jason Brown, Dahl and Jason Smith -- each started all 16 regular-season games last season (Dahl was with Atlanta).
The Arizona Cardinals began the Ken Whisenhunt era by drafting an offensive tackle, Levi Brown, fifth overall in 2007.

No NFL team has allocated less draft capital for offensive linemen than Arizona in the subsequent three years, however. Whisenhunt has defended the line's play, particularly in relation to the team's struggles last season. But with all three interior starters unsigned for 2011, this could be the year for Arizona to restock through the draft.

By my calculations, the Cardinals had the oldest offensive linemen in the NFL last season, largely because they tended to have veteran backups.

The chart shows how much draft capital teams have allocated for their offensive lines since 2008. By draft capital, I'm talking about the cumulative draft-chart value for the draft choices used on the position.

For example, the St. Louis Rams used the 33rd overall choice of the 2010 draft for left tackle Rodger Saffold. The trade chart values that pick at 580 points. In 2009, the Rams used the second overall choice, valued at 2,600 points, for tackle Jason Smith. In 2008, the Rams used the 65th overall choice (265 points) for John Greco and the 157th overall choice (29.6 points) for Roy Schuening.

Add up those totals and the Rams have allocated a league-high 3,475 draft points for the offensive line over the last three drafts. The San Francisco 49ers, the only team to use more than two first-rounders on the position since 2007, rank third. The Seattle Seahawks are fourth after using the sixth overall choice for Russell Okung last year and a 2009 second-rounder for center Max Unger.

The trade-value chart isn't perfect. It might become more outdated depending on a how a proposed rookie wage scale affects how teams value early choices. At best, though, the values can provide a guide. And in this case, the guide says the Cardinals could stand to draft a lineman.

Rams: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
3:57
PM ET

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

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.

St. Louis Rams
Week 1 Roster
Counts since 2003
QB RB WR TE OL DL LB DB ST
Fewest 2 5 5 2 9 8 5 8 2
Most 3 7 6 4 10 9 7 11 3
Average 2.8 5.5 5.5 3.0 9.2 8.3 6.3 9.7 2.7
Currently on roster
4
7 10 5 15 13 9 14 3

The 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:

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

NFL rookies rarely change the course of a season for their new teams.

The Dolphins' Jake Long and the Titans' Chris Johnson were the only 2008 draft choices named to the Pro Bowl last season.

With teams scrambling to sign their 2009 selections, I'll revisit the NFC West's 2008 class heading into its second season.

  Rodgers-Cromartie

Best choice

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Cardinals. Arizona found an impact player at a premium position. Rodgers-Cromartie, chosen 16th overall, started 11 games in the regular season and four more in the playoffs. Picked off six passes during a nine-game stretch beginning in Week 16.

Best immediate contributor

John Carlson, TE, Seahawks. Carlson was the Seahawks' top tight end from the beginning, setting a franchise record for receptions by a tight end (55). The position he plays isn't a premium one, explaining why Rodgers-Cromartie emerged as the best selection, albeit narrowly. Carlson also has star potential.

  Morgan

Best value

Josh Morgan, WR, 49ers. Cardinals fifth-rounder Tim Hightower had better production as a rookie, scoring 10 touchdowns, but Morgan's career might be on a higher trajectory after Arizona benched Hightower and used a 2009 first-round choice on running back Beanie Wells. Morgan looks like a potential long-term starter for the 49ers. On that basis, I'll tentatively give him the edge over Hightower. The Cardinals and 49ers both hope to better establish their ground games. That could ultimately favor Hightower, although it's tough to envision him starting for long with Wells on the roster.

Most to prove

Kentwan Balmer, DE, 49ers. Using a first-round choice on a 3-4 defensive end was hardly a flashy move. The position doesn't lend itself to obvious production. Balmer didn't seriously threaten for a starting job as a rookie. He has expressed determination to make the jump this season. The Seahawks' Lawrence Jackson was the other top candidate for this designation. While Jackson also has much to prove, he did start 14 games as a rookie.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams listed fullback Brian Leonard and receiver Donnie Avery among their inactive players against the Eagles today.

Leonard was active for all 16 games last season. He started seven of them. The Rams had listed Leonard as probable with a shoulder injury. Avery, a rookie receiver, had been questionable, but his inclusion on the list of inactive players had been expected.

Other inactive players for the Rams: safety Brannon Condren, linebacker David Vobora, offensive lineman Roy Schuening, offensive lineman John Greco and defensive lineman Eric Moore. Brock Berlin is the third quarterback.

The Rams are listing Dan Kreider as the starting fullback, but offensive coordinator Al Saunders uses the position situationally. He also leans hard on tight ends for blocking.

Rams eligible for
practice squad
Pos.Probable Status
Brock BerlinQBKeeper
Chris LongDEKeeper
John GrecoOLKeeper
Donnie AveryWRKeeper
Roy SchueningOLKeeper
Chris ChamberlainLBKeeper
David VoboraLBBubble
Derek StanleyWRBubble
C.J. Ah YouDLBubble
Russ WeilFBLikely cut
Marc MagroLBLikely cut
Cortney GrixbyDBWaived
Lance BallRBLikely cut
Nick CleaverTEWaived
Marcus RileyLBWaived
Donovan RaiolaOLWaived
Dustin FryOLLikely cut
Julius WilsonOLLikely cut
Henry SmithDLWaived
Mark LeVoirOLLikely cut
Willie WilliamsDLWaived
Matt CaddellWRWaived
Marques HagansWRWaived

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams' released 10 players in anticipation of the 53-man roster limit, which goes into effect Saturday.

I've singled out eight of them on our chart of Rams players with practice-squad eligibility. The eighth and ninth players released, veteran safety Jerome Carter, and cornerback Tanard Davis, have no such eligibility.

Expect the Rams to make their remaining cuts before the 6 p.m. ET deadline Saturday.

The Rams are carrying 66 players once they move Steven Jackson to the active roster from the exempt list.

Die-hard alert: Updated roided-out NFC West rosters here.

Earlier: The chart shows each of the Rams' players with practice-squad eligibility, according to the team.

Practice-squad rules can be confusing, and exceptions sometimes apply to relatively experienced players.

I've categorized each player based on his perceived likelihood of earning a spot on the 53-man roster. Those are rough characterizations. Teams still have not made decisions. It's conceivable that a player listed as a "keeper" could face his release.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals refused Anquan Boldin's latest request for a trade. The team still wants to extend Boldin's contract, a spokesman said.

Also from Somers: Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart is taking the quarterback competition in stride. Leinart remains the starter, but Kurt Warner continues getting first-team reps. Leinart doesn't have a free pass this season. He must produce.

One more note: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt explains why Deuce Lutui could be in danger of losing his starting job to Elton Brown at right guard. Whisenhunt: "Deuce has shown signs of making good plays, but then he'll have one or two plays a game that are not acceptable, so Elton is making a strong push. This week, we'll see if we can rotate (Brown) in some during the game and see how that goes."

Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read provides historical perspective for Alex Smith's situation. It's tough to find healthy No. 1 overall draft choices who didn't start in their fourth seasons.

Also from Brown: Ray McDonald is making progress on the defensive line.

And this: more on the quarterbacks, including a look at their disparate salaries.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee brings us up to date on the 49ers' quarterback situation. J.T. O'Sullivan has worked with the starters since Aug. 6.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers answers questions about Smith's future with the team. He doesn't see the organization releasing Smith this season if the organization goes with O'Sullivan as the starter.

Also from Maiocco: A notebook that leads with the quarterback situation but also touches on Takeo Spikes' progress on defense. The recently signed Spikes is mostly concerned about getting lined up properly.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers moved Jonas Jennings from left to right tackle in part because of Jennings' injury history. Jennings underwent surgery to repair a broken knuckle in his right hand. An offensive tackle's outside hand is hugely important, one reason coach Mike Nolan was concerned about what type of cast Jennings might wear. An overly restrictive cast would inhibit Jennings' ability to do his job.

Also from FitzGerald: O'Sullivan is all but certain to start the regular-season opener.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are fighting to recoup bonus money paid to suspended defensive tackle Claude Wroten.

Also from Thomas: Anthony Becht's hamstring injury is affecting the Rams' plans for their tight ends. Becht: "I know my main (attribute) is the blocking factor. Short-yardage, goal line, two tight situations. ... I get a real thrill out of getting big runs for the running backs. That's something that's important to me."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with John Greco and Roy Schuening, the Rams' rookie offensive linemen. Both are on alert after the team lost backups Mark Setterstrom and Brandon Gorin to season-ending injuries. Greco is working at guard and tackle. Also, quarterback Marc Bulger threw without limitations. He has a sore shoulder.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer followed the Seahawks inside to their new indoor practice field. Not that rain is ever a factor in the Northwest.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says center Chris Spencer isn't quite ready to resume full-contact work, but he's getting closer. Also, coach Mike Holmgren thought the Seahawks were far too sloppy during their most recent exhibition game. Williams also checks in with Matt Hasselbeck.

Also from Williams: A conversation with defensive coordinator John Marshall, who is "really happy" with cornerback Josh Wilson's improvement.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times takes a look inside the Seahawks' new facility. Check out the photos (1,2,3).

Also from Romero: Hasselbeck and Spencer were back at practice.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

 
 AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
 Chris Long appears likely to earn a starting job entering the regular season.

The Rams lack depth, but only one of their rookie draft choices -- defensive end Chris Long -- appears likely to earn a starting job entering the regular season. That was a risk the Rams took when they drafted a developmental receiver, Donnie Avery, early in the second round. We take a pick-by-pick look at the Rams' 2008 draft class:

  • (1) Long, DE, Virginia. Long will learn on the job as the Rams' starting right defensive end. He made no tackles and no discernable impact during the Rams' exhibition opener against Tennessee, but he wasn't alone in that regard. Long is diligent, talented and sure to improve. He is not likely to hit double digits in sacks as a pure pass rusher might.
  • (2) Avery, WR, Houston. A hip injury kept Avery off the field until this week and he remains somewhat limited in practice. He was already facing a significant adjustment from the offense he ran at the University of Houston. The Rams would like him to emerge as a deep threat, but his development will take time.
  • (3) John Greco, OL, Toledo. The Rams haven't done a very good job developing mid-round offensive linemen, but Greco might help them improve that way. Coaches have moved him between tackle and guard. Greco enters the season as a backup, but the Rams remain somewhat unsettled on their offensive line.
  • (4) Justin King, CB, Penn St. King was looking like the Rams' third cornerback, but a toe injury ended those plans abruptly. The Rams placed King on injured reserve, ending his season. Toe injuries can be tricky. His long-term prognosis is unclear.
  • (4) Keenan Burton, WR, Kentucky. Burton made an immediate positive impression in camp. Avery's absence helped him in the short term. The Rams still do not have a clear-cut No. 3 receiver now that Drew Bennett has replaced Isaac Bruce in the starting lineup. Will Burton emerge? Dante Hall is playing the role now. Reche Caldwell has not stepped up. The Rams threw three passes Burton's way in the second half of the exhibition opener. None were complete. Burton has also had problems with injuries.
  • (5) Roy Schuening, G, Oregon St. Schuening hasn't been afraid to mix it up. He took down Titans defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch during a practice scuffle, and he recovered a fumble during the exhibition opener. Schuening is also fighting for a roster spot. Immediate contributions appear unlikely.
  • (7) Chris Chamberlain, LB, Tulsa. Chamberlain was one of the Rams' more impressive players on defense during the exhibition opener. That isn't saying much -- the Rams allowed 340 yards rushing as the Titans exposed their poor depth -- but Chamberlain did impress. He made one tackle for no gain and another 19 yards downfield. Depth at linebacker is a concern for the Rams, so Chamberlain needs to be ready.
  • (7) David Vobora, LB, Idaho. "Mr. Irrelevant" figures into the team's plans in part because the Rams lack depth at the position, but he struggled against the Titans in the opener. Barring injuries, Vobora should spend most of his time on special teams.
The Rams are better than they showed against the Titans, but their poor depth will cause problems as the season progresses. Their defensive backups had no chance against the Titans, who played some starters longer and dominated.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE -- Maybe some of St. Louis' short throws would have turned into big gains in a game situation.

But in a joint-practice situation, those completions that are such a big part of what the Rams do were hardly the highlight.

I thought Tennessee's defense manhandled the Rams for the most part, and the Titans set the tone in that side of practice Wednesday morning. They got the better of most of the fights, too.

A run down out of my notebook:

  • Torry Holt caught a pass over the middle and got leveled by Calvin Lowry, who popped his helmet off. The official nearby told Holt: "If you buckled your chin strap, that wouldn't happen."
  • Reserve defensive back Chris Carr had a good morning running as the second-team left corner, getting his hands on multiple balls and delivering a few nice hits, including one in run support on back Travis Minor.
  • Corner Cortland Finnegan went for a sideline kill shot on Holt on a short ball and missed, flying by.
  • DB Vincent Fuller pulled in two interceptions, both of Brock Berlin. On the first, Fuller timed it up beautifully, jumping a short pass for Shaine Smith on the sideline in the red zone. It would have a touchdown return for sure.
  • During a field goal period, Titans special teams coach Alan Lowry pointed out to an official that Rams long snapper Chris Massey was flinching and tensing his arms before the snap to try to prompt someone to jump.
  • Vanden Bosch was frustrated after he worked part of a two-man rush in the one-on-one period, as guard Roy Schuening pushed him back and forced him to take a lengthy looping route to the quarterback.

On to the fights:

  • Finnegan wrapped receiver Reche Caldwell in his arms and wrestled him to the ground for a scrap. Finnegan has scratches above and below his right eye.
  • After Michael Griffin crushed Dane Looker, Bulluck and Caldwell went at it. Bulluck's one-two swipe took off Caldwell's helmet. "It's his third team in two years, that's what I told him," Bulluck said.
  • After Joe Klopfenstein ran under a deep ball down the middle and into the end zone on a play where the Titans busted coverage, a big bout broke out near the sideline at the line of scrimmage -- Vanden Bosch and Goldberg's fight spilled into a full-team melee. Both teams were huddled up as their coaches tried to calm things down.
  • Rams tackle Mark LeVoir and Titans end Sean Conover weren't finished, however, and went at it with LeVoir getting the upper hand. Vanden Bosch, who wasn't in the play and didn't have his helmet on, came flying in as support staff.

Holt's take on all the extracurriculars:

"As excessive as that got, it does take away from the work," he said. "Now you're totally getting away from your technique and what you're trying to do as a football team. But as far as the mixing it up and the physicality, I think it's great for both football teams. Your macho comes out and you see where you are. There is some give and take there, but we were able to settle those differences and finish up on a good note."

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