Print and Go Back ESPN.com: St. Louis Rams [Print without images]

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Rams roster analysis: defense, specialists

By Nick Wagoner

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The Rams made their final two moves to chop the roster to 75 on Tuesday, but that's just the beginning of the moves they must make to get to the final 53.

With one preseason game left to play tomorrow night against Baltimore, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Tuesday that some jobs could be won or lost in that exhibition finale. So while the following exercise has some inherent flexibility based on that, here's my best guess at how the roster shakes out on defense and special teams.

A look at the offense will come later today.

DEFENSIVE LINE


Kept in 2012: 9

This year: The Rams kept nine last year and will probably do so again this year. The first eight spots provide no drama as ends Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Eugene Sims and Williams Hayes will almost certainly join tackles Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford, Jermelle Cudjo and Matt Conrath on the 53. The final spot could come down to a battle of potential against versatility. Mason Brodine has had a solid camp and can play inside and out. Undrafted rookie Gerald Rivers has showed a lot of promise as a pass-rusher. More than likely, the one who doesn’t make it will go to the practice squad. Usually opting for versatility would be the move, but the guess here is that the Rams don’t want to risk losing Rivers on the waiver wire and he secures the final spot.

Prediction (9): Long, Quinn, Sims, Hayes, Rivers, Brockers, Langford, Cudjo, Conrath

LINEBACKER

Kept in 2012: 6

This year: Jo-Lonn Dunbar is suspended the first four games of the season because of a violation of the league’s performance enhancing substance policy. That means the Rams will get an exemption for his spot, and it’s likely they’ll again carry six linebackers not including Dunbar. James Laurinaitis, Will Witherspoon and rookie Alec Ogletree are entrenched as the starters. The final three potential spots also seem pretty well locked up. Josh Hull provides the only experienced presence and special teams value. Undrafted rookies Ray-Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates will likely land the other two spots. Armstrong, in particular, has impressed in camp. Bates has the makings of a core special teams player. Jonathan Stewart is the other option.

Prediction (6): Laurinaitis, Ogletree, Witherspoon, Hull, Armstrong, Bates

Roster exemption (1): Dunbar

CORNERBACK

Kept in 2012: 6

This year: The Rams kept five last year and seem likely to do so again in 2013. The top four are set with Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and rookie Brandon McGee. Darren Woodard has made a late surge could supplant Quinton Pointer, who won the fifth spot last year. But Pointer has been an asset on special teams and has the versatility to play safety in a pinch.

Prediction (5): Finnegan, Jenkins, Johnson, McGee, Pointer

SAFETY

Kept in 2012: 5

This year: The Rams have a lot of options but not a whole lot of experience. Rookie T.J. McDonald is set as a starter. Rodney McLeod or Darian Stewart will start next to McDonald, but both will likely make the roster. Stewart could be in danger but without him, the Rams would have no starting experience on the roster at the position, and he plays special teams as well. Should the Rams keep five, the last two spots would come down to Matt Daniels, Matt Giordano, Rashard Hall and Cody Davis. Giordano has barely played, and though he has experience would be tough to keep over talented youngsters. Daniels and Davis seem to be the best bets for spots four and five.

Prediction (5): McDonald, McLeod, Stewart, Daniels, Davis

SPECIALISTS

Kept in 2012: 3

This year: This one is already locked up with Greg Zuerlein at kicker, Johnny Hekker handling punting duties, and Jake McQuaide as the long snapper. This is the trio the Rams hope to keep around well into the future.

Prediction (3): Zuerlein, Hekker, McQuaide

Total Defense and Special teams: 28