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Sorting Out the 53

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  • Sorting Out the 53

    By Howard Balzer

    It's over now, the preseason that is. In a dizzying 35 days, the Rams signed 12 unrestricted free agents, installed offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' system, and went undefeated in their four practice games.

    Thursday night's 24-17 victory over Jacksonville doesn't mean much in the scheme of things, but it's sure better to win than lose.

    Most important, this team escaped the summer without major injuries except for cornerback Jerome Murphy's broken ankle, and appears primed to open the season on Sept. 11 at home against the Philadelphia Eagles' self-proclaimed "Dream Team."

    Those Eagles are currently starting one offensive lineman that is the same from last season (left tackle Jason Peters), and they have only four starting defensive players from last season in the same spots, and they are playing a new defense.

    There is also a rookie kicker and rookie punter. We won't get ahead of ourselves too much here, because there will be plenty of time next week to devote to dissecting this tantalizing matchup, but this game looks far less daunting now than it did when the schedule was announced in April.

    This is a prime opportunity for the Rams to make a statement that they don't view the first seven games as difficult as most believe. Yes, there are four games against 2010 playoff teams - Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans and Baltimore - that had a combined record of 43-21 last season. And the 10-6 New York Giants will host the Rams on Monday Night Football in Week 2.

    But if there's one thing coach Steve Spagnuolo does consistently, it's have his team focused on one thing: the next game. And now, that game is against the Eagles, and it doesn't matter what follows. Of course, Spagnuolo has been planning for the opener for a while.

    Asked after Thursday night's game when he will start thinking about the Eagles, he said, "Two weeks ago." Truth be known, it was probably longer than that.

    However, before preparations truly begin on Monday, there is the matter of getting the roster down to 53 players, and signing an eight-player practice squad.

    This will be no easy task. By my count, there are 63 players anyone could make a case for being on the opening-day roster, and that doesn't include wide receiver Mark Clayton, who is expected to begin the season on reserve/physically unable to perform.

    For now, some of the decisions are easier because there aren't many injuries, and loading up at certain positions won't be necessary because of that. The difference in players that make it and those that don't will often be determined by how many players are retained at each position.

    Quarterback: Two or three? Thaddeus Lewis has earned a roster spot, but the third quarterback rarely plays. If he isn't on the roster, another position player can be kept. Let's stop the talk now of Lewis being elevated ahead of A.J. Feeley. Lewis has a future, but his exploits have occurred against backups, so Feeley's experience wins out.

    Running back: Four or five, including fullback Brit Miller? Keith Toston is young and promising. Steven Jackson, Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood are all at least 28 years old (Williams is 29). Toston also plays most special teams, as does Miller, even though the fullback won't be on the field a lot. Chase Reynolds could be on the practice squad if Toston doesn't make it.

    Wide receiver: Oh, boy. This can be debated for hours. Six or seven? Will the Rams try to get Austin Pettis through waivers and onto the practice squad? Is Donnie Avery, entering the final year of his contract, trade bait? The amount of time Mardy Gilyard got in preseason games might have been to showcase him.

    Danario Alexander had a 43-yard play Thursday night. Last season, the Rams had six pass plays of 38 yards or more and Alexander had three while playing just eight games. No one else on the roster can do what Alexander does, and no one else stresses the defense like he can. Dominique Curry was on the opening-day roster last year before blowing out his knee and he rarely is talked about. Excellent on special teams, he might also end up on the practice squad. Good luck trying to sort this group out.

    Tight end: The one position complicated by an injury to Michael Hoomanawanui. If he is on the roster, but isn't available for the first couple games, does Fendi Onobun make the roster along with Lance Kendricks and Billy Bajema, or do the Rams have just two tight ends active early on? Ben Guidugli has a shot for the practice squad.

    Offensive line: Eight or nine? Quinn Ojinnaka has likely earned a backup job. The question is whether that knocks center Hank Fraley off the roster. Ojinnaka might be fine in a pinch at guard or tackle, but center might be an issue. Center/guard Drew Miller was pushing for a job, but he has an ankle injury. Versatile Adam Goldberg seems safe along with Renardo Foster, although he hasn't played as well as he did last summer.

    Defensive line: The Rams entered 2010 with 10 defensive linemen. Will they do it again? Tackle Darell Scott and ends C.J. Ah You, George Selvie and Eugene Sims are fighting for the final one or two jobs.

    Linebacker: Six or seven? Rookie Jabara Williams appears ticketed for the practice squad. Does Zac Diles make it? Only if seven are retained.

    Defensive back: The search is on for a fifth cornerback. Unless rookie free agent Tim Atchison is on the roster, the Rams are on the lookout. Actually, if he makes the initial 53, the Rams will still be looking. Always remember, there is no such thing as the final cut. At worst, Atchison will likely be on the practice squad. Joselio Hanson of the Eagles remains a possibility in a trade, but that likely wouldn't happen until after the first game. The nickel back remains a question, whether it's Justin King or if Ron Bartell goes inside with Al Harris on the outside in passing situations. The question is whether Harris can hold up consistently in that role.

    At safety, James Butler could be in jeopardy as he and Jonathan Nelson vie for the fifth spot. Jermale Hines appears safe.

    Specialists: Finally, an easy one with kicker Josh Brown, punter Donnie Jones and long snapper Jake McQuaide.

  • #2
    Re: Sorting Out the 53

    "Quarterback: Two or three? Thaddeus Lewis has earned a roster spot, but the third quarterback rarely plays. If he isn't on the roster, another position player can be kept. Let's stop the talk now of Lewis being elevated ahead of A.J. Feeley. Lewis has a future, but his exploits have occurred against backups, so Feeley's ".... out of any nfl team..... how can a rams lover take that position????? kind of dumb founded...

    James butler I personally would consider letting go... isn't he getting like 4 mill or something?


    • #3
      Re: Sorting Out the 53

      QB 3 is active all games this season as per the new CBA


      Related Topics


      • ZiaRam
        Donnie Avery, Mardy Gilyard Among Rams' Cuts
        by ZiaRam
        By Howard Balzer
        On Friday, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said getting the team's roster down to the 53-man limit was like a "jigsaw puzzle that we are trying to put together."
        By late Saturday afternoon, the puzzle was complete, although some pieces could be replaced in the ensuing days.

        As the day ended, the Rams' roster looked like this:

        Quarterbacks (2): Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley. Waived: Thaddeus Lewis.
        The Rams are clearly hoping Lewis clears waivers so he can be signed to the practice squad. The claiming period ends at 11 a.m. Central time Sunday, at which point teams can start adding to the practice squad.

        Wide receivers (7): Danario Alexander, Danny Amendola, Dominique Curry, Brandon Gibson, Austin Pettis, Greg Salas, Mike Sims-Walker. Waived: Donnie Avery, Mardy Gilyard, Greg Mathews. Reserve/physically unable to perform: Mark Clayton.
        The notable releases were Avery and Gilyard, as the rookies Pettis and Salas, and Alexander and Curry, who is outstanding on special teams, earned roster spots. Pettis and Salas will likely be inactive on game day, although Salas could be active if there is a need for six receivers. Mathews and Joe West are practice-squad possibilities.
        Factoring into the Avery release was the fact he is entering the final year of his contract and it's unlikely he would be re-signed, especially since he's not currently among the team's top three or even four receivers. The Rams made the decision to part ways even though his $638,750 salary for this season is guaranteed. The Rams obviously hope he is claimed, so the new team inherits the guarantee and the Rams would be off the hook for the cash and the cap hit.
        However, if he clears waivers, there is no offset, meaning the Rams would owe him the entire salary and it would count against the cap. Avery would make additional money if he was then signed by another team.

        Running backs (4): Steven Jackson, Brit Miller (fullback), Jerious Norwood, Cadillac Williams. Waived: Chase Reynolds, Keith Toston.
        Toston was a difficult cut for the coaches because of his youth and ability on special teams. But special teams coordinator Tom McMahon couldn't win every battle. Norwood might be used on kickoff returns, but he is a year out from knee surgery and there is a slight risk. Reynolds is a candidate for the practice squad.

        Tight ends (4): Billy Bajema, Ben Guidugli, Michael Hoomanawanui, Lance Kendricks. Waived: Demarco Cosby, Fendi Onobun.
        Kendricks have been a revelation this summer, and had three touchdowns in four preseason games. Guidugli, whose father was once a personal trainer for former NBA star Dave Cowens, made the roster instead of Onobun, who could end up on the practice squad. Hoomanawanui appears unlikely to play in the season opener because of a strained calf.

        Offensive linemen (8): Guard Jacob Bell, center Jason Brown, guard Harvey...
        -09-04-2011, 01:43 AM
      • Rambos
        Whats your final 53 man roster and practice squad?
        by Rambos
        Here is my take... what is yours? Lets see if any of us can get close to the final roster.

        Quarterback (Two)

        1. Sam Bradford

        2. A.J. Feeley

        Practice Squad

        Thaddeus Lewis

        Running Back (Four)

        1. Steven Jackson

        2. Cadillac Williams

        3. Jerious Norwood

        4. Brit Miller (Fullback)

        Practice Squad

        Keith Toston

        Wide Receiver (Seven)

        1. Danny Amendola

        2. Mike Sims-Walker

        3. Brandon Gibson

        4. Donnie Avery

        5. Danario Alexander

        6. Greg Salas

        7. Austin Pettis

        * Mark Clayton PUP

        Practice Squad

        Dominique Curry

        Tight End (Four)

        1. Lance Kendricks

        2. Billy Bajema

        3. Fendi Onobun

        4. Michael Hoomanawanui

        Practice Squad

        Ben Guidugli

        Offensive Line (Eight)

        1. Rodger Saffold

        2. Jacob Bell

        3. Jason Brown

        4. Harvey Dahl

        5. Jason Smith

        6. Renardo Foster

        7. Adam Goldberg

        8. Hank Fraley

        Practice Squad

        Randall Hunt

        Drew Miller

        Defensive Line (Nine)

        1. Chris Long

        2. Robert Quinn

        3. James Hall

        4. Eugene Sims

        5. George Selvie

        6. Fred Robbins

        7. Justin Bannan

        8. Daniel Muir

        9. Gary Gibson

        Practice Squad

        Darrel Scott

        C.J. Ah You

        Linebacker (Seven)

        1. James Laurinaitis

        2. Ben Leber

        3. Brady Poppinga

        4. Zac Diles

        5. Chris Chamberlain

        6. Jabara Williams

        7. Josh Hull

        Defensive Back (Nine)

        1. Ron Bartell

        2. Bradley Fletcher

        3. Al Harris

        4. Justin King

        5. Quintin Mikell

        6. Craig Dahl

        7. Darian Stewart

        8. Jermale Hines

        9. Jonathan Nelson

        Special Teams (Three)

        1. Josh Brown

        2. Donnie Jones

        3. Jacob McQuaide (Long Snapper)
        -09-02-2011, 10:58 AM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Thomas: Avery, Gilyard Out As Rams Trim Roster
        by r8rh8rmike
        Avery, Gilyard out as Rams trim roster

        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,...
        -09-04-2011, 11:41 AM
      • r8rh8rmike
        No Rams-Patriots Deal On Running Back
        by r8rh8rmike
        No Rams-Patriots deal on running back

        Wednesday, September 15, 2010

        On a day Laurence Maroney was shipped to Denver, league sources told the Post-Dispatch that the Rams had been talking to New England about trading for one of its running backs.

        But the sources said the Rams were more interested in other running backs on New England's roster, not so much Maroney, the St. Louis native who has been slowed by injuries for much of his four seasons with the Patriots.

        Maroney, who attended Normandy High and the University of Minnesota, was traded along with a New England sixth-round draft pick to Denver for a Broncos fourth-round pick. Maroney did not play in New England's season opener because of a thigh injury.

        The Patriots currently have four running backs on their roster, including veterans Kevin Faulk, 34, Fred Taylor, 34, and Sammy Morris, 33, plus youngster BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 25.

        The Rams' conversations with the Patriots date back at least to late August, when the teams met in Foxborough for the third game of the preseason. But for now, the Rams' search for backfield help behind Steven Jackson remains just that a search.

        Otherwise Tuesday was a busy day at Rams Park, although minus any earth-shattering moves. The Rams signed former New York Giants tight end Darcy Johnson to the active roster, releasing defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo to free up a roster spot.

        The Rams also did some work on their practice squad. Fullback Brit Miller and fullback-tight end Jamie McCoy were added, with wide receiver Brandon McRae and running back Allen Patrick released from the squad to make room.

        The Rams also worked out three street free agents Tuesday: offensive tackle Kirk Chambers, safety Macho Harris and linebacker Kevin Malast. But none of the three was signed.

        Johnson, the tight end, was with the Rams during training camp but didn't survive the cut to 53 players. He's a solid blocker with limited receiving skills. The Rams now have five tight ends on their active roster, but one of them rookie Michael Hoomanawanui is expected to miss at least a month with a sprained ankle suffered in the first quarter Sunday against Arizona.

        Hoomanawanui also played fullback, and with him unavailable for several weeks, Mike Karney is the only fullback on the roster. Which probably explains the signings of McCoy and Miller to the practice squad as insurance. McCoy was in training camp with the Rams as an undrafted rookie.

        Miller appeared in five games last season with San Francisco as an undrafted rookie. Miller, who is from Decatur, Ill., was converted to fullback after playing linebacker at the University of Illinois. He had six special teams tackles and was credited with 17 special teams blocks in those five games for the *****.

        There's a...
        -09-15-2010, 12:07 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Rookies Rise To The Challenge For Rams
        by r8rh8rmike
        Rookies rise to the challenge for Rams

        Posted: Wednesday, September 8, 2010

        As the Rams left the practice field late Saturday morning, with the deadline for roster cuts only hours away, running back Keith Toston was beyond nervous.

        "I was scared," Toston said. "My head was like on a swivel. You could see those guys."

        By "those guys," Toston meant the members of the Rams' scouting department who tell you that the boss wants to see you, and bring your playbook. In NFL lore, "those guys" are known as the Turk.

        "We know exactly what guys come in here and get players out," Toston said.

        And in a brief moment of fear Saturday, Toston said they were looking at him.

        "I looked at 'em back," Toston said. "But they didn't say nothing."

        Toston, a running back from Oklahoma State, never got that tap on the shoulder. For at least the immediate future, he's safe on the 53-man roster. After a slow start in training camp that included some lost time due to a concussion, Toston improved steadily as the preseason progressed.

        "I might have started out slow for the first couple preseason games, didn't feel like I did the best that I could," Toston said. "But I felt I got better every game."

        He scored a touchdown in the third preseason game against New England, and carried 10 times for 47 yards in the finale against Baltimore. He finished as the Rams' leading preseason rusher with 127 yards on 39 carries, albeit for a modest 3.3 yards a carry.

        Toston credits running backs coach Sylvester Croom for his improvement, "just by pushing me in practice."

        Of the three players competing for backup spots behind starter Steven Jackson, Toston looks like the most natural runner. He and Kenneth Darby performed well enough that they survived the weekend cuts, with Chris Ogbonnaya getting released.

        There's no doubt the Rams will continue to look for upgrades at running back. Which means there's no guarantee that Toston will have a lengthy stay in St. Louis. But as an undrafted rookie, the former all-Big 12 selection already has beaten the odds.

        "Any time a team or teams feel like you're not good enough to be drafted, most players take it as a challenge," Toston said. "There's only 53 spots on a team, and sometimes the best guy, or the guy that may be a little better, is not drafted. Because in the whole draft situation, you can't measure the size of a player's heart."

        In that sense, Toston has plenty of company on the Rams' roster. In a normal year, maybe one or two undrafted rookies make a team's roster. Some years none make it at all. But five undrafted rookies survived the weekend cuts at Rams Park: Toston, quarterback...
        -09-08-2010, 10:45 AM