OK, we’ve seen the Rams for two games. Time to put together a 53-man roster. I’m about to make some reluctant cuts, but here goes …
QB (3) Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thad Lewis
RB (4) Steven Jackson, Cadillac Williams, Jerious Norwood, Brit Miller. I like Keith Toston, but unfortunately he’s a victim of the numbers game. Since he was active for nine games last season, he isn’t eligible for the practice squad, either. Miller makes it because he’s the only lead blocker on the team.
TE (3) Lance Kendricks, Billy Bajema, Fendi Onobun or Ben Guidugli. Michael Hoomanawanui is an intriguing prospect, but he can’t stay on the field. After dealing with a concussion for the first couple of weeks of camp, he suffered a calf injury in practice Monday. Last year he missed four games with a left ankle sprain, and four with a right ankle sprain. He also missed five games in his senior year at Illinois with ankle injuries. If he can stay healthy, it’ll be an upset. Onobun made strides with his three catches against Tennessee. Guidugli is seeing lots of playing time in practice and games, and clearly the staff is smitten with him.
OL (8) Rodger Saffold, Jacob Bell, Jason Brown, Harvey Dahl, Jason Smith, Renardo Foster, Adam Goldberg, Quinn Ojinnaka or Hank Fraley. The starting five is set. Goldberg is a terrific swingman. Foster did an admirable job last year when pressed into duty. Steve Spagnuolo has a long history with Fraley, but Ojinnaka was in Atlanta when Billy Devaney was there. Both play guard and center. This will be one of the hot battles for the rest of camp. Both Ryan McKee and Drew Miller, who can play multiple positions, are practice-squad eligible for the second straight year and should be on it.
WR (7) Mike Sims-Walker, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Mardy Gilyard, Donnie Avery, Greg Salas, Austin Pettis or Danario Alexander. The Rams drafted Pettis and Salas in part because of their durability. Pettis played in 51 games, starting 33 at Boise State. Salas played in 49 and started 40 at Hawaii. Avery and Alexander are both coming off injuries, with Avery missing the entire season last year and Alexander only playing in eight games. Avery has bounced back from his knee injury, but Alexander still nurses a joint that has required surgery five times. The first four guys are locks now. Gilyard had turned himself into a dependable special teamer and backup to Amendola. Alexander has to play, and outplay Pettis, who could make it through to the practice squad.
K (1) Josh Brown
P (1) Donnie Jones
LS (1) Jake McQuaide. McQuaide beat out Chris Massey in a bit of a surprise.
DL (9) Chris Long, James Hall, Robert Quinn, George Selvie, Eugene Sims, Fred Robbins, Justin Bannan, Gary Gibson, Danny Muir. Sims beats out C.J. Ah You because he’s 25 as opposed to Ah You being 29, and they do pretty much the same thing. Classic case of upside vs. potential reached. Young defensive tackles Darell Scott and Jermelle Cudjo are replaced by veterans who have won, plain and simple.
LB (7) Brady Poppinga, James Laurinaitis, Ben Leber, Josh Hull, Bryan Kehl, Chris Chamberlain, Zac Diles. Diles makes it over Na’il Diggs due to age and special teams ability. Hull, Kehl and Chamberlain all are solid special teams performers. Rookie Jabara Williams slides to the practice squad.
DB (9) Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Al Harris, Justin King, Dionte Dinkins (for now), Quintin Mikell, Craig Dahl, Darian Stewart, Jermale Hines. This is one spot where I could see the Rams picking up a veteran slot corner at the cutdown, and moving Dinkins to the practice squad. The younger and cheaper Hines beats out James Butler, who did have an interception on Saturday. However, it makes no sense to keep a more expensive Butler over a rookie like Hines. Stewart is the third safety. And, keeping Hines over Butler provides the Rams cap space. If the Rams can’t find a serviceable slot cornerback, they should move Bartell inside in nickel coverages, and play Harris outside. Bartell played well as a slot corner for the Rams in 2008.
Those are your 53. If the Rams want to gamble on Hoomanawanui’s good health, they could get Lewis to the practice squad and keep two active quarterbacks. McKee, Miller, a wide receiver (the rookies, and Dominique Curry are all eligible). It would make sense to sign a practice-squad running back, because you don’t really want Williams and Norwood running with the scout team. That would make for five offensive players on the practice squad.
On defense, linebacker Williams is one. If a veteran corner comes in, that would be two, and a defensive lineman would finish it off. If Lewis is on the active roster, it would make sense from a practice standpoint to have a practice-squad defensive lineman.
It’s the third week in August, and I’ve already cut the squad. I’m ahead of the game here.