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Searching for gems in Rams' rookie class
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The majority of the heavy lifting in the rebuild of the St. Louis Rams roster is over. At least that's how coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead look at the project.
Which means as spring turns into summer and training camp arrives, things figure to heat up in the battle for roster spots.
After adding 11 drafted rookies and 15 more rookie free agents when the draft was over, the Rams have a crop of 26 players hoping to make enough of an impression to land on the 53-man roster. But the reality is there probably aren't many spots available barring some injuries or off-field issues cropping up. Some training camp battles might be more geared toward landing a spot on the eight-player practice squad more than the roster.
Back before the draft, Fisher and Snead indicated in interviews the roster might have somewhere between eight and 10 spots up for grabs in training camp. They clearly feel good about the development of their many young players at a number of positions so most of those battles figure to come in the form of backup spots that dot the depth chart.
Here's a look at a few of the spots that could be up for grabs with the reminder the existence of some jobs may not even come to fruition depending on how the Rams want the opening-day roster to open up.
Third quarterback: This is a prime example of a job that may not even exist but if it does it's between sixth-round choice Garrett Gilbert and Austin Davis. Clearly, Gilbert will get the first shot at winning the gig as the Rams look to bring along a youngster at the position. But the Rams could opt to carry two and keep someone like Gilbert for the practice squad.
Fourth (and fifth?) cornerback: The Rams haven't gone heavy at this position in two years under Fisher but it seems reasonable they'll carry as many as five. Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner are locks. After that, the Rams have E.J. Gaines, Greg Reid and promising undrafted rookie Marcus Roberson among a group of those vying for spots. Roberson is an intriguing name to watch after a strong college career was derailed by injuries and off-field issues that kept him from being drafted.
Extra offensive linemen: Considering the presence of multiple linemen capable of playing all over the line (guys like Rodger Saffold, Barrett Jones and Greg Robinson), the Rams might not have to go as heavy on offensive linemen as they have in the past. But they carried double digits for part of last season and like to allow line coach Paul Boudreau the opportunity to develop youngsters. Beyond the projected starting five, you have a crowded group that includes Jones, Tim Barnes, Brandon Washington, Mike Person, Sean Hooey, Mitchell Van Dyk and Demetrius Rhaney jockeying for position. Not all will make the roster and it seems logical for the Rams to go a bit lighter at the position this year.
Fourth tight end: The Rams have carried four at this position in the past and probably will do so again but it's not a lock after the offseason departure of Mike McNeill. Justice Cunningham is a name to watch here. The Rams wanted him in 2013 but weren't able to add him until late in the season. Mason Brodine is attempting to transition to this spot from defensive end and could be interesting if he is able to prove capable as a blocker. Undrafted rookie Alex Bayer is another who could fight his way into the mix.
Sixth linebacker: There's an obvious need for a veteran backup here which means the Rams could bring back someone like Will Witherspoon later on. If not, it's fair to wonder if they'll even carry a sixth. Behind the starting trio, the Rams have youngsters Ray Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates and only Armstrong has flashed the upside to play in the base defense if needed. But Armstrong and Bates are special teams dynamos when under control meaning a potential sixth spot would add a third special teams player to the group. The current roster is full of unknowns for this possible spot with names like Etienne Sabino, Caleb McSurdy and Phillip Steward. Undrafted rookie Tavarius Wilson from North Alabama is another name to watch.
There are, of course, always some surprises in camp and this list is in no way complete. Battles for spots down the depth chart at safety and, potentially, wide receiver could also be worth watching. And that says nothing of the potential for the team to carry a ninth defensive linemen with the first eight spots likely locked up.
Re: Searching for gems in Rams' rookie class
For now, I'd like to see Greg Reid and Mitchell Van Dyk get there at CB, OL.
Re: Searching for gems in Rams' rookie class
Marcus Roberson looks like an NFL CB to me. He has good size and an NFL skillset though he's not very fast.
If he can stay healthy and out of trouble, he could be one to be reckoned with.
Like EJ Gaines as well.
Going to be a tough battle.
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