Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
NFL Teams across the league are preparing to finalize their final 53-man rosters, that will take time to sort out through the film, coaches decisions, and opinions, and play the role of tough love. The Los Angeles Rams prepare for the exact process, as nearly 35 players will need to be cut, as some will never play the game again.
I will give you my prediction on how the Rams roster may look tomorrow from the offensive side of the ball.
Quarterbacks (2): Jared Goff (starter) Sean Mannion (backup)
For the second season in a row, in my opinion, Sean Mannion only played better than all the quarterbacks in the preseason. Jared Goff had a stellar performance against the Oakland Raiders with a passing rating over 100.
But, his very next game against the San Diego Chargers he seemed to have lost touch one game prior. Nonetheless, Goff will get the nod at the starting quarterback position, but if he slips, no question Mannion will be a summons.
Cut: Dan Orlovsky
Running-backs (3): Todd Gurley (starter) Malcolm Brown, and Justin Davis.
Todd Gurley had some flashes of his 2015 rookie season in this pre-season, and all I have to say is he looked eager, ready, and happy to play in this offense.
I previously reported that Aaron Green would be the fourth back to make the roster, but he was waived earlier this afternoon. Therefore, the UDFA rookie running back Justin Davis from USC has outplayed Green. Green recovered from a surgery, so it wasn’t fair play, but don’t rule Green out as returning to the practice squad. Malcolm Brown solidified the backup role early in training camp, and it will tough for Davis to move him from that role, but time will tell.
Running Back Leonard Tillery never had the opportunity to run the ball, as he was an extra camp body. However, he is a good back, someday he'll be on the active roster, but just need to be given a chance.
Cut: Leonard Tillery and Aaron Green – Lance Dunbar (PUP)
Fullback (1): Sam Rogers
Sam Rogers is that special fullback that can be used in a variety of ways. As a quarterback in high school, converted to running back and tight-end at Virginia Tech, Coach Sean McVay can use him a weapon in the red zone. Able to watch him open up holes on iso’s calls, the running backs really benefited from the fullback. The only competition Rogers had was Zack Laskey, but he was waived shortly after suffering an injury in training camp. The future is bright for this kid, don’t take your eye off of him, especially on special teams.
Receivers (7): Sammy Watkins, Tavon Austin, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Shippen
For years the Rams had been trying to find themselves a number one receiver until a few weeks ago, pulling off the unexpected trade. For years trying to find the caliber of a Torrey Holt, they traded defensive back E.J.Gaines to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for their all-pro receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins has not excited the fans as much on the field, but they know it’s coming.
Watkins joins a Rams team that already signed his partner in crime in Buffalo, teammate and fellowed receiver, Robert Woods. Woods averaged pre-season play, but he will be that receiver to make those tough and hard third-down catches. The Rams receiver core hasn't played together entirely, because of injuries to Tavon Austin. Austin needs off-season surgery to his wrist, as well with issues to his hamstring. The training staff has said he's 100% and will be ready to play week one against the Indianapolis Colts.
Reviewing the rookie receivers Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds; both receivers have played well this preseason, each able to find the end zone. Kupp is the new fan favorite in Los Angeles, as he doesn’t--well won't drop any passes whether he's in traffic, or the pass is out of his range, he still manages to make the catch.
The fans have fallen in love with the play of Reynolds, who can stretch the field vertically. Reynolds not only had a game-winning touchdown against the Raiders but followed up the next week with another touchdown reception against the San Diego Chargers. Before making the touchdown catch against the Chargers, he was hammered hard by a Charger safety and held on to pick up the first down.
Pharoh Cooper in the absence of Kupp, played well against the Raiders, getting leveled by a Raider's safety on a middle third and long, extending the final drive. The next following week against the Chargers, Cooper was as advertised, hauling in catch after catch.
With the release of running back Aaron Green, it is my opinion that the Rams adds an extra receiver or offensive lineman with the extra player. I'll reach for the ladder, and bet it all that they will use it for the additional receiver.
Paul McRoberts and Brandon Shippen have both excelled, not only at training camp but in the pre-season games too. However, I give the nod to Shippen, who in my opinion, looked more polished in his routes as well as catching the ball. He managed to find at least one reception in each of the four pre-season games. He led all receivers in receptions and yardage last night against the Packers proving he needed on this team. Good contributor on special teams, and well can be utilized as a defensive back if needed. McRoberts is there but, I believe McRoberts earned a spot on the practice squad, where he will see action on the active roster some point this season.
Nelson Spruce who was last season fan favorite, can’t stay healthy. For the second consecutive season, his pre-season play is cut short due to an injury. Against the Dallas Cowboys, Spruce made a couple of catches but hurt leg in the Raider game. Shakier Ryan was mainly used as a return man, couldn’t get the snaps at the receiver spot, as KD Cannon was in the same predicament too. Cannon returned a kickoff, and was targeted once, but just not afforded the opportunity to show what he can do on the field. Primarily it's not his fault, but with this kids speed, it is unfortunate he will be released and hopefully signed to the practice squad.
Lastly, receiver Mike Thomas, who reportedly was quite impressing to the coaching staff, having a high camp, but it all had to come to abrupt end. Thomas was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the regular season, for violating the league's drug policy. Spruce and Thomas can is trade bait, hopefully, get late round draft picks for the both.
Cut: Paul McRoberts, Nelson Spruce, Shakier Ryan, KD Cannon, Mike Thomas (SUSP)
Tight Ends (3): Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Travis Wilson
Despite the few drops, I believe that Higbee has sustained the starting position at tight end. A huge target at 6’5” can kill the defenses in the red zone. However, better not slip up, because right on his heels is the rookie sensation tight-end Gerald Everett. Everett will poise as a nightmare against most defenses because of his size and speed. Very athletic with great hands, need to get more comfortable with the system, and when he does, uh---H-E-L-L-O Houston, we have a takeoff.
The most significant surprise is Rams adding Travis Wilson, the 6’7” converted quarterback to tight-end, who looked excellent when given the opportunity. I will reflect back to the game against the Packers, where a pass was thrown behind him and was expected to land out of bounds. Wilson’s long frame, he was able to spin around and extend every bit of his 6’7” body and snatch the ball before it landed on the turf. It was such impressive that not only did it get the attention of quarterback coach Greg Olson, and tight end coach Shane Waldron, but also Coach McVay showed excitement from the catch. He nodded his head toward Matt Lafleur, the Rams offensive coordinator as if yes, that's our guy.
Corey Harkey's time as a Ram seems to have it welcomed worn out in Los Angeles. One of the last remaining Fisher players didn’t quite look as if he was a perfect fit for this offense. Releasing Harkey, the Rams also can save about one-million toward the cap which will help some freeing up for other players. Hemingway out on injury, perhaps if he clears waiver, he will be a player to be the call back at a later date.
Cut: Corey Harkey, Johnny Mundt- Termarick Hemingway-(IR/PUP?)
Andrew Whitworth OT (35 years old) chases down Melvin Ingram
The "Big Uglies," what I refer to the offensive lineman, is the players that get down and dirty to protect the quarterback and open up tunnels for the running backs to run through.
It gets no better than a 35-year-old veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who seems to have the secret of the Fountain of Youth. The same player who played over 800 snaps and only allowed one sack in four years says a little. But when you get this same player, that attempts to chase down a linebacker some seventy plus yards, trying to prevent a touchdown, HE is the leader of your team.
Offensive Lineman (9): Andrew Whitworth, Roger Saffold, John Sullivan, Jamon Brown, Rob Havenstein, Austin Blythe, Andrew Donnall, Jake Eldrenkamp, (Player TBA via trade or Waiver Claim)
The left side of the offensive line is primarily the pass protector side, with tow linemen who seem to compliment each other much. Roger Saffold and Whitmore play as if they played together for years. The more significant concern of the offensive line is the right side, the predominant run side of the line. Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein listed as the starters, but in many eyes, the jury is still out on the two linemen. They’ve shown shades of success, but the majority of the times, they’ve been pushed back or unable to sustain the blocks.
When inserting the reserves into the game, it hasn’t faired any better. Pulling out Brown and Havenstein and plugging in Cody Wichmann (we'll address him later), Alex Kozan, and Michael Dunn, as run blockers, they looked ok. However, Parker Collins and Pace Murphy, and Darrelle Williams struggled time after time with the pass blocking assignments. Williams, on the other hand, seemed a bit better than he did last season, but he still leaves that sour taste in the mouth.
The Rams used a six-round selection on Wichmann, in my opinion, I felt it was a steal, but when lined up against competition my stomach turns. In week two, the Rams played the Raiders, in which I had the luxury to video the line in slow-motion, hoping to see who was missing their assignments, getting beat, or destroyed. View the video yourself, and determine his success.
If you were able to follow the video and view the left guard, you will see that Wichmann is manhandled by a smaller defensive lineman. This has been the issue with the Rams line last season that brought negative comments from Todd Gurley's mouth.
Andrew Donnal has been hampered by injury this entire pre-season. When healthy, he gives the Rams a better chance at protecting the quarterback as well as run support. He has not been able to get on the field, but when there he is a solid back up.
Cut: Parker Collins, Micheal Dunn, Alex Kozan, Pace Murphy and Cody Wichmann
Rams more than likely will use at least half of the practice squad players on the offense. Some of the players just ended up in the numbers games. Let's take a look at the players returning as practice squad players:
Potential Practice Squad Players
Micheal Dunn (OT)
Johnny Mundt (TE)
KD Cannon (WR)
Lenard Tillery (RB)
Paul McRoberts (WR)
Rounding out the 53-man roster from the defensive side of the ball became entirely of a headache. Contract negotiation looming around from the Aaron Donald side for his extension makes it a bit difficult. However, just going to remain optimistic that the two parties have agreed, and move forward with the direction of the team.
Defensive Line (6): Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Tanzel Smart, Ethan Westbrook, Morgan Fox, Tyrunn Walker.
I will roll with six down linemen just because with a Robert Quinn and Ethan Westbrook’s versatility; they can play several positions. Westbrook has played well at that 3-technique and athletic enough to move across the line. The emergence of rookie Tanzel Smart and solid play of Walker snubs out Louis Trinca-Pasat, but he will be back.
Cut: Louis Tinga-Pasat, Casey Sayles, Mike Purcell, Omarius Bryant
Line Backers (8): Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron, Robert Quinn, Connor Barwin, Cory Littleton, Samson Ebukam, Josh Forrest, and Bryce Hager
Switching to a 3-4 scheme a lot of talent had became overshadowed with linebackers and defensive back. Linebacker core of returning starters of Barron and Ogletree is solid, but how well Quinn adapt to the new scheme. Quinn will be a nightmare in standup but can be used to put his hand in the turf. Addition of veteran Barwin gives a solid four linebackers and to round it out with returners Hager, Forrest, and Littleton. Ebukam finally healthy was able to show the speed and power he had in Eastern Washington.
Hager has a very short rope in which a couple of players could have quickly taken his spot on the roster. Nic Grigsby played well; I instead have to say I was more impressed with him than last season. Matt Longacre, I had to give it some thought, but I believe he will be back soon. Ejuan Price just not enough to sustain a roster position, but will be a practice squad player. Carlos Thompson suffered an ankle injury, and its terrible see where his status will lie, at this point, he’ll probably be on the IR.
Cassanova McKinzy, Andy Mulumba, Kevin Davis and Folarin Orimolade, all made some current cases, but just not enough. As Willie Mays III and Davis Tull joined the team late didn’t have the opportunities to show their skills.
Cut: Ejuan Price, Matt Longacre, Nicholas Grigsby, Cassanova McKinzy, Andy Mulumba, Kevin Davis, Folarin Orimolade, Willie Mays III and Davis Tull Carlos Thompson (IR/PUP)?
Corners (4): Trumaine Johnson, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Kayvon Webster, Dominique Hatfield
Cut: Carlos Davis, Tyquwan Glass, Mike Jordan, Kevin Peterson, Aarion Penton Tory Hill (SUSP)
Safeties (7): LaMarcus Joyner, Marqui Christian, Maurice Alexander, Cody Davis, John Johnson, Isiah Johnson (**Blake Countess **or Free Agent TJ Ward)
Punter (1): Johnny Hecker
Kicker (1): Greg Zuerline
Cut: Travis Coon
Potential Practice Squad Players
Matt Longacre (LB)
Folarin Orimolade (LB)
Casey Sayles (DT)
Michael Jordan (DB)
Kevin Peterson (DB)
*** Many probably thinking why Mike Jordan was released and signed to practice squad and not Countess. Countess is a very versatile defensive back who can play in the slot, outside and the safety position. He excels on the special teams too.