- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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There were no real surprises among the 20 Rams released Saturday evening to bring the roster down to the league-mandated total of 53.(Note: The Rams have roster exemptions for suspended running back Isaiah Pead and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, both of whom were placed on the reserve/suspended list.)
Most significant move: Releasing linebacker Josh Hull. It’s not that letting Hull go was a surprise so much as where it leaves the team in his absence.
Removing Hull from the picture, the six linebackers the Rams currently have include four rookies, three of whom are undrafted free agents. Alec Ogletree is an expected starter, but for now is backed up only by rookie free agents Ray-Ray Armstrong, Daren Bates and Jonathan Stewart.
Veteran Dunbar is still around, too, but the Rams have a four-week exemption for his roster spot following his suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead are not afraid to trend younger, but they have left themselves with a quartet of unproven rookies behind veterans James Laurinaitis and Will Witherspoon.
Hull spent three seasons with the Rams, playing in 28 games, with most of that work coming as a core piece on special teams.
Armstrong, in particular, flashed the upside of a future starter, but unless the Rams add another veteran, they’ll go a quarter of the season without experienced depth against teams such as Atlanta and San Francisco.
Keeping Clemens: Last year, the Rams surprised many by cutting veteran quarterback Kellen Clemens in favor of undrafted rookie Austin Davis. Davis played well in the preseason and the Rams were concerned they wouldn’t be able to get him to the practice squad. They had the added benefit of bringing Clemens back after week one, making his contract non-guaranteed. This year, Clemens and Davis competed for the job throughout camp and neither really set himself apart until Clemens’ strong performance in the preseason finale. The Rams opted to release Davis, leaving Clemens as the backup for now and eschewing the chance to execute the same plan as last year.
What’s next? Probably a lot of scouring the waiver wire and looking for more help at the bottom of the roster. Fisher and Snead didn’t hesitate to take advantage of waivers last year, making four roster moves within 48 hours of the initial cut to 53. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they were equally active this year, though they don’t have the benefit of the No. 2 spot on the waiver wire this time around.
In addition to linebacker, the Rams are light on experience on the offensive line and could look to bolster those areas with some veterans. Backup quarterback and safety are two more positions where they could do some tweaking.
QB: Austin Davis FB: Eric Stevens TE: Philip Lutzenkirchen, Zach Potter OL: D.J. Young, Ty Nsekhe (waived/injured), Sean Hooey WR: Nick Johnson, Emory Blake, Justin Veltung DL: Garrett Goebel, Sammy Brown, R.J. Washington, Mason Brodine LB: Josh Hull S: Rashard Hall, Cody Davis CB: Drew Thomas, Andre Martin, Darren Woodard