Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams concluded their 2019 pre-season by defeating the Houston Texans 22-10 last night. Rams head coach Sean McVay will have some tough decisions to make by reducing their 90-man roster down to 53 players. Having depth at just about every position, they will need to explore different options on returning to the Super Bowl.
General Manager Les Snead has worked out some magic in drawing veteran talent to the team. The past two seasons, the roster would only include 52 players as they sought out for trade or have signed a player from the practice squad of another team in the league. Currently, the Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonzo have requested for a trade from the Dolphins. Acquiring Alonzo can be a great addition since the loss of Micah Kiser who will be out for significant time.
The offensive line depth, in our opinion, is not very strong in case of injury. Behind the starters, the line can use more help, and perhaps they may bring in a veteran lineman. Defensively, they have several defensive backs and a defensive lineman they can utilize as trade bait. Therefore, the roster short will become one player short and let us see how it works out this season.
Quarterbacks (2): Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
Jared Goff returns for his fourth season and third full season as the starting quarterback. After a very disappointing performance in Super Bowl LIII, the young talented quarterback will attempt to get the Rams back to the Superbowl. Goff will put up some significant numbers with this explosive offense, which was one of the league's highest-scoring offenses. Many of the Ram starters did not play one single down in the preseason, as he will need to be sharp in week one against a good Carolina Panthers defense.
The Rams will have a new backup to Goff, as Blake Bortles the former Jacksonville Jaguars starter signed with the team in free agency. This season will be the first year that Goff will have a backup that has experience playing in the league.
Brandon Allen battled with undrafted rookie John Wolford from Wake Forest, but after returning for his third consecutive season with the team, Allen seemed to have had the edge early. However, Wolford play seemed to be more impressive only by his ball security, unlike Allen. Wolford finished his preseason passing 25-44-249 yards and three touchdowns. On the other hand, Allen threw 44-59-426 yards, with no touchdown but threw three interceptions. Both players made active cases, but the team decided to advance with Wolford. Wolford seemed to move the offense and was consistent with protecting the ball. Wolford will be signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers.
(Practice Squad) John Wolford
Running Backs (4): Todd Gurley, Darryl Henderson, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly
All discussions have surrounded Todd Gurley and his arthritic knee since the Super Bowl. Analyst throughout the league seemed to have the Rams have written off the Rams run game primarily due to Gurley's non-participation in the preseason. In our opinion, Gurley is ready to return and run the ball with fresh legs to help explode the Rams offense. The Rams drafted rookie running back Darryl Henderson out of Memphis, who will be the clear cut favorite as the number two running back behind Gurley. Henderson did perform average; however, his explosiveness was able to be seen. Malcolm Brown will be in the mix behind Gurley, as they matched the Detroit Lions offer to bring him back. The was an uphill battle between Justin Davis and John Kelly, but expect one of the two traded by final cuts. Davis, the shifty of the two backs, do not be surprised as the Houston Texans make an offer for him after losing Lamar Miller for the season with a torn ACL.
(Practice Squad) (none)
Receivers (7): Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, KhaDarel Hodge, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster.
The Rams potentially will return the best four wide receivers in the league this season with Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Josh Reynolds. They had their first two-1,000 yards receivers since the "Greatest Show On Turf," with Woods and Cooks. The team probably would have had three receivers had Kupp did not go out with a season-ending knee injury who was on pace as well. Josh Reynolds will be another weapon in his third season in this offense. Reynolds can easily be a starter on most other teams in the league but stepped up big when Kupp went down. Mike Thomas will continue to battle for action as seemed to have impressed this preseason. Thomas was lost last season after an injury to his ankle in the opener against the Oakland Raiders. Do not get too comfortable on Thomas, as he may become available for trade. If so, this will open the door for undrafted receiver Nsimba Webster from Eastern Washington. This preseason Webster has been impressive both as a receiver and return specialist. Webster hauled in his first NFL touchdown in his final preseason game against the Houston Texans. We believe Webster has done enough to outdo Jo Jo Natson, and will get the nod in the return game. If not, Rams will take the risk in cutting Webster and signing him to the practice squad. Let us not forget about KhaDarel Hodge who played well in the preseason while leading the Rams with 176 receiving yards on eleven receptions.
However, Webster led the team with 15 receptions for 150 yards in addition to his touchdown. It will be interesting to read when the Rams finally post their final 53-man roster.
(Practice Squad) Jalen Greene
Greene has earned himself a lock on the Rams practice squad, as he made several good catches against the Raiders in his debut. Greene also grabbed his first NFL touchdown last week to help defeat the Denver Broncos. Green returned home to the Coliseum where he once played as a USC Trojan.
Tight Ends (3): Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Tyler Higbee will start but will be challenged for his starting position and playing time by second-year tight end Gerald Everett. Everett in his third year is expected to break out in this offense as Jordan Reed. Johnny Mundt will back up the two and will play on primarily on short-yardage plays.
Rookie Kendall Blanton who scored in the final pre-season game was the better of the reserves and will land on the practice squad.
(Practice Squad) Kendall Blanton
Offensive Linemen (8): Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, Austin Blythe, Joseph Noteboom, Jamil Demby, David Edwards, Bobby Evans, Brian Allen,
The Rams are optimistic for the first time in two seasons, as their offensive line will have a new look up front. An overhaul to their line created where they lost players at critical positions. They will return both starting tackles in Andrew Whitworth and John Havenstein, along with starting right guard Austin Blythe. Blythe who filled in last season as starter Jamon Brown received a suspension from the league for the first two regular-season games. They lost veteran left guard Roger Saffold to free agency as he signed with the Tennessee Titans. Center John Sullivan did not receive a contract extension as they look to succeed him in the lineup.
Second-year lineman Joseph Noteboom will start at left guard replacing Saffold, and as well as the second-year center, Brian Allen who replaces Sullivan as the new starting center. Reserved center Aaron Neary, who faces a four-game suspension stemming back to the last season DUI, he also fractured his ankle against the Broncos last week. The only natural center on the roster at this point is undrafted Vitas Hrynkiewicz from Youngstown State, slips onto the roster possibly until the return of Neary's injury and suspension. To round out the remaining linemen, will be second year Jamil Demby, rookies Bobby Evans and David Edwards.
The depth at reserve linemen will be of a bit of a concern as they struggled at critical times in pre-season. Evans, Edwards, and Demby seemed to struggle with powerful bull rushes and the speed from fast edge rushers. Do not be too surprised if the Rams seek a veteran presence for the offensive line.
(Practice Squad) Vitas Hrynkiewicz
*** (Unfilled Roster Spot)***
Defensive Linemen (5): Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, John Franklin-Myers, Greg Gaines, Sebastian Joseph-Day
The Rams with so much depth of the defensive side of the ball; here we have another tough decision. The easiest decision is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers shore up the three-techniques. In the middle, if healthy by week one, expect Sebastian Joseph-Day to start at the 0-technique position.
The Rams did not resign veteran defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, instead drafted Greg Gaines from the University of Washington in the fourth round. Gaines strength has shown early in the preseason and will provide an addition to its defensive line nucleus.
John Franklin-Meyers return as the same player last season with anything to show differently. However, still is disruptive this preseason and solidified another year on the roster. On the other hand, we see Tanzel Smart getting snubbed due to the talent, as he was inactive almost entirely last season.
(Practice Squad) none
Inside Linebackers (5): Corey Littleton, Clay Matthews Jr, Bryce Hager, Dakota Allen, Travin Howard
The Rams returned pro-bowler Corey Littleton at inside linebacker and were expecting second-year linebacker Micah Kiser to beside him on game day. Unfortunately, Kiser lost to a torn pectoral that required surgery and will miss significant time this season.
The Rams added six-time pro bowl linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. who has excellent pass-rushing experience. Due to the injury to Kiser, expect for Matthews to play predominately inside on early downs unless they can attract trade to in acquiring another linebacker. Bryce Hager returns as well, but not sure if he will start aside of Littleton.
Wade Phillips has to be very impressed of second-year linebacker Travin Howard and rookie Dakota Allen. Both Howard and Allen made active cases in securing roster spots as they played well in preseason. Lost to Kiser open ups a back-up for one of the two as well will perform on special teams. The pursuit of the ball carriers was violent as Allen dislodged on player helmet this preseason.
Rookies Landis Durham and Ketner Kupp showed signs but just too much talent in front of the two who lands on the practice squad.
(Practice Squad) Landis Durham, Ketner Kupp
**(PUP List)** Micah Kiser
Outside Linebackers (4): Samson Ebukam, Dante Fowler, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Morgan Fox
Samson Ebukam and Dante Fowler are the favorites in starting outside opposite of each other. Rams signed returned Fowler with a new one year prove it deal as he looked very explosive during preseason workouts. They had yet another tough decision on players to keep as they buried on the outside. Morgan Fox is finally healthy and making through the preseason deserves his opportunity to shine.
Second-year EDGE rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo finally was able to get in the field after being sidelined nearly the entire 2018 season. Okoronkwo did not disappoint once afforded the opportunity, as making his presence felt up in the last preseason game. Okoronkwo posted seven total tackles (six solo and two for losses), two sacks, one quarterback hit, and a pass deflection. Natrez Patrick also played well after converting outside but will casualty and end up on the practice squad.
(Practice Squad) Natrez Patrick
(PUP List) For the second year in a row, Justin Lawler will spend at least six weeks on the PUP list. He's still recovering from a foot surgery that was required early in the OTA's.
Corner-backs (6): Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Nickell Robey-Coleman, David Long, Troy Hill, Darious Williams
The Rams will return three starting corners in Michael Peters, Aqib Talib, and slot specialist Nickell Robey-Coleman. Last season, Peters and Talib were injured early; however, Peters remained in the lineup hurt. Peters struggled early and never used his injury as an excuse and gutted it out. As the season progressed he the corner that we were so familiar of the season as the Rams headed to the postseason.
They drafted David Long from Michigan whom they expect to take over for Talib once his contract ends. It was a robust decision making finalizing the roster as great talent is released. In four of the first five games, the Rams will play against teams that spread out the field. Rams will carry extra defensive backs to counter the offenses.
They rewarded Troy Hill to a new two-year deal as deserving, as he earned the raise. However, the most impressing of the corners was Darious Williams, who seemed to turn more heads as he made play after play. Rams signed him off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad, as he remained on the active 53-man roster. His effective play will overshadow other returning talent who deservingly should be on the team. Kevin Peterson shined with two interceptions, Donte Deayon, and Dominique Hatfield will not make the final roster.
(Practice Squad) Dominique Hatfield, Kevin Peterson,
Safeties (5): Eric Weddle, John Johnson III, Marqui Christian, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott
The Rams did not resign safety LaMarcus Joyner as he departed and signed with the Oakland Raiders. Rams added veteran safety Eric Weddle to its backfield to accompany returning starter John Johnson III. Weddle adds a veteran presence in the defensive backfield that will assist Johnson to his first pro bowl selection.
The Rams have deep with their safeties and with young talent. However, they have just too many to make their final cuts. Marquise Christian returns in his third season with the team and will play all over the defensive backfield.
Rams rookie safeties Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott impressed while on the field. Rapp seemed to be already in regular-season form flying to the ball. Scott will excel on special teams and perhaps play some dime linebacker in coverage, as his speeds are recognized all over the field.
(Practice Squad) Steven Parker
Special Teams (3): Punter-Johnny Hekker, Kicker Greg Zuerlein, Long Snapper Jake McQuaide
This group of specialist never seem to amaze us, as they tend to have life-time contract and roster spots. Jake McQuaide, a pro bowl snapper to former pro bowl punter Johnny Hekker, takes the snap for pro bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein who put the Rams in Super Bowl LIII against the New Orleans Saints after making a 57-yard field goal.