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Thomas: Avery, Gilyard Out As Rams Trim Roster
Avery, Gilyard out as Rams trim roster
BY JIM THOMAS
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Given all the ups, downs and in-betweens of training camp and the preseason, it was only fitting that the Great Wide Receiver Race of 2011 went down to the wire. When the dust cleared at 5 p.m. St. Louis time Saturday and all the paperwork had to be turned in to the NFL, the Rams kept seven wideouts on their 53-man roster. And probably not the seven most observers expected.
Donnie Avery, the first wide receiver taken in the 2008 draft, became the odd man out just before Saturday's roster deadline. There were rumors that he had requested a trade, and league sources told the Post-Dispatch that the Rams indeed tried to trade Avery. But with no takers, he was released, with Avery tweeting: "The feelings were mutual. We both thought I needed a fresh start somewhere else."
Avery missed the entire 2010 season with a knee injury, working hard during the lockout to get his sub 4.3-second speed back. Knee soreness early in camp caused him to miss the preseason opener against Indianapolis, but he bounced back the next week against Tennessee to catch a 19-yard touchdown pass. All told, he caught six passes for 91 yards in exhibition play, averaging 15.2 yards a catch.
In releasing Avery, the Rams weighed what he could do to stretch defenses with his speed against his injury history and the fact that he didn't seem to come down with many contested balls. It's perhaps another indication, too, that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels likes bigger receivers. Other than Danny Amendola, there is no wideout on the current roster under 6-0, and lighter than 205 pounds. Avery is 5-11, 192.
Avery wasn't the only wideout to lose his job Saturday. Mardy Gilyard, the colorful but underachieving 2010 fourth-round pick, was released. The Rams took a long look at Gilyard — he handled 12 of the team's 13 punt returns in exhibition play, and eight of the team's 11 kickoff returns. He finished second on the team in receptions with eight. But Gilyard flashed little of the playmaking ability the team hoped for when selecting him out of the University of Cincinnati.
The news was better for Danario Alexander, who survived Saturday's cuts despite twice missing practice time in camp because of knee soreness. After five surgeries, his left knee probably isn't going to get any better, but the Rams apparently couldn't turn their backs on the heart and playmaking ability of the former University of Missouri star.
"I'll tell you one thing: He is a tough nut," Steve Spagnuolo said after Alexander underwent an MRI exam on the knee Aug. 22 only to return to practice the next day. "He wants this thing bad. He is a competitor and I respect him for that."
Other wideouts to make the 53-man roster were: Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Mike Sims-Walker, Austin Pettis, Greg Salas and Dominique Curry. Pettis was the team's third-round pick in April, while Salas was chosen in the fourth round.
Pettis did next to nothing in preseason play, but the Rams liked how he looked on the practice field, feel he has plenty of potential and in the post-lockout landscape didn't want to cut him after just five weeks of practice. Curry, slowed by a broken hand, made the roster because of his impressive special teams play.
As expected, the Rams placed newly re-signed wide receiver Mark Clayton on the physically unable to perform/reserve list, meaning Clayton doesn't count against the 53-man roster but can't play for at least six weeks. Clayton is still trying to get fully healthy following patellar tendon surgery last season.
There were other tough cuts, and mild surprises among the 19 players released Saturday. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis was cut despite another strong preseason capped by a 12-for-15 performance Thursday in Jacksonville. Less than an hour and a half before the 5 p.m. deadline, Lewis was still on the squad. So the Rams are keeping only two QBs on the roster, Sam Bradford and A.J. Feeley.
In another example of the heated competition at several positions, three of the 12 veteran free agents signed by the Rams a month ago were released: linebacker Zac Diles, defensive tackle Daniel Muir and offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka.
Diles, the former Houston Texan, spent much of camp on the third unit at weakside linebacker behind Ben Leber (a free agent pickup from Minnesota) and Byran Kehl. Kehl had a strong preseason, and the Rams like his coverage ability. Also, 2011 seventh-round LB Jabara Williams was so good in camp and the preseason that the Rams couldn't risk trying to sneak him on to the practice squad. Williams is one of seven linebackers on the 53-man roster.
In order to keep seven linebackers, the Rams kept only nine defensive linemen. Spagnuolo loves stockpiling defensive linemen, and opened last season with 10 on the roster. But Muir, the former Indianapolis Colt, was beaten out for one of four defensive tackle positions by Dorell Scott. Scott, a fourth-round pick in 2009, has been more tease than performer so far in the NFL. The Rams kept "only" five defensive ends, cutting 2010 seventh-round pick George Selvie and keeping Eugene Sims and C.J. Ah You as backups behind starters James Hall and Chris Long, and 2011 first-rounder Robert Quinn.
On the offensive line, Ojinnaka was one of two veteran blockers cut. The other: tackle Renardo Foster, who played in 10 games for the Rams last season including one start but wasn't as impressive this preseason. So the three backups behind the five offensive line starters are Adam Goldberg, Hank Fraley and Drew Miller. Miller, who plays center and guard and missed the Jacksonville game with a sprained ankle, was on the Rams' practice squad all of last season.
Other than long snapper Jake McQuaide, the only undrafted rookie to make the 2011 roster is fullback/tight end Ben Guidugli (pronounced guh-DEW-li).
But keep in mind, although commonly referred to as the "final 53," Saturday's roster cuts are actually the "first 53." The Rams are scanning the waiver wire for backup help at tight end, offensive line and cornerback. In the secondary, the Rams currently have only four corners. It probably won't stay that way.
Re: Thomas: Avery, Gilyard Out As Rams Trim RosterDonnie Avery, the first wide receiver taken in the 2008 draft, became the odd man out just before Saturday's roster deadline. There were rumors that he had requested a trade, and league sources told the Post-Dispatch that the Rams indeed tried to trade Avery. But with no takers, he was released, with Avery tweeting: "The feelings were mutual. We both thought I needed a fresh start somewhere else."
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