The two biggest Rams needs as they await the regular season opener with Arizona are wide receiver and a backup running back for Steven Jackson.
Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a receiver released on cutdown day that appears better than what the Rams already have. That’s a testament to the low quality of wide receivers in the NFL, but also an indictment of a club that didn’t take a receiver until selecting Mardy Gilyard in the fourth round of the draft- despite a lack of production from the position last year. Even though a team trading for the Chargers’ Vincent Jackson would not have seen him until week four (week seven now), I’m bewildered as to why the Rams wouldn’t want to add the one young number one receiver available.
There were plenty of running backs released, and I like five of them. Here they are, in order of my liking of them…
1) Gartrell Johnson, cut by Giants. The 5-10, 219 pounder isn’t real fast (4.67 40), but he was productive at Colorado State, amassing almost 1,500 yards in his senior year. Johnson was drafted by San Diego in the 4th round in 2009, and they tried to slip him through waivers to their practice squad. The Giants picked him up, and cut him this year after he averaged just 3.1 yards a carry. The Chargers and Giants are pretty good at finding players. Even though Johnson got cut, he’s definitely worth a look.
2) Chris Henry, cut by Texans. I liked Henry last year, when he was released by Tennessee before Houston picked him up. If the Rams want a Steven Jackson look-a-like, this 5-11, 234 pounder fits the bill. He’s been a good pre-season performer, and he runs a 4.4 40. He’s not elusive, but he has more power and speed than any of the current Ram backups.
3) Andre Brown, cut by Giants. The 6-0, 224 pounder tore up an Achilles tendon last year, and they may have cut into his speed. But he did have 13 carries for 61 yards in the Giants pre-season opener this year. A guy the Rams probably should have drafted in ’09. Once again, he’s absolutely worth a look.
4) Michael Robinson, cut by 49ers. A special teams ace and a former college quarterback, Robinson is 6-1, 228 and is a four year player. He’s more versatile than the other backs listed here because he’s been a Pro Bowl alternate on special teams, but he’s also not nearly as experienced as a running back.
5) Jeremiah Johnson, cut by Texans. The 23-year-old is 5-9 and 218. He was undrafted out of Oregon last year but impressed the Texans in camp. After spending last season on injured reserve, Johnson was off to a nice start this summer, but suffered a toe injury. This one may be a stretch, but if the Rams have a line on him, he could be a possibility.
By the way, Houston replaced Henry and Johnson with Derrick Ward, who expressed an interest in coming to St. Louis but was rebuffed by the Rams. These players all have flaws. That’s why they are backups. But they all have advantages, too, and I think each is worth at least a look by the Rams to back up Steven Jackson.