New coaches, a new front office, and a host of roster changes, including the release of two long-time franchise greats, have marked the Rams offseason of change. As hard as it is to believe, the changes aren't done yet. There are some familiar names, familiar to Rams fans anyway, fighting for roles in the months ahead.
In his chat at the Post-Dispatch website yesterday, Bill Coats singled out CB Tye Hill, which should come as no surprise. Here's what he said about the Rams first round pick from 2006:
...he didn't have a very good minicamp and still seems to be affected by his knee injury from last season...I'd go even further and say this is a make-or-break preseason for Hill. If he can't earn the starting spot at the other corner, then he doesn't have much of a future here.
Like I said, not a huge surprise. If Alex Barron plays better this year, then Tye Hill might officially become the biggest disappointment for the Rams in recent years, in my opinion. At times, Hill has shown us glimpses of the talent that made him a first round pick, but injuries and inconsistency have really derailed his career. Tye Hill isn't the only player "on the bubble" heading into camp with a job on the line. Here's a look at some of the other players. (Note: This doesn't include rookies, since they haven't really established any kind of role with the team yet, just players who have been here that have a big case to make.)
TE Joel Klopfenstein - Another "no surprise" candidate and another disappointment from the 2006 draft. The second round pick has never blocked well or done enough offensively to justify his draft status, and now he's in danger of losing his roster spot to a mid-season free agent pickup from last season, Daniel Fells.
RB/FB Brian Leonard - I think Leonard's chances of sticking on the roster are better than Klop's; however, he has to prove he has some kind of role with the team, a role he fills better than Darby, Pittman, Ogbonnaya, Gado, or another potential RB addition that the team could make before the season starts.
RB Antonio Pittman - Really, you can put just about every Rams running back not named Steven Jackson on this list, though I think Kenneth Darby has a pretty good shot to stick as a third down back/return man. Pittman had the second most carries of any Rams RB last season, 79, and averaged 3.7 yards per carry. However, for a speedy guy he never really broke off a long run for a big play. Certainly the Rams poor o-line gets some of the blame, but Pittman has to earn a roster spot this summer.
G Roy Schuening - I really thought Schuening had the chops to be a contributor last year, but he only saw action in one game. And after last season, he still had some supporters in the building who thought he could be a solid player. Now, he's got some legit competition to round out the depth roles for the interior line with rookie free agents Roger Allen III and Ray Feinga.
QB Brock Berlin - Say what you want about the wisdom of the Rams drafting QB Keith Null in the sixth round, he threw the ball well in minicamp and could be a good fit as the third QB in the Rams new West Coast offense. That would make Berlin expendable.
LB Quentin Culberson - There's a log jam of young potential depth guys at LB, but Culberson stands out because he was the guy the Rams liked well enough to justify letting Brandon Chillar walk. If he can step it up in camp and through the season, he could be in line for a job as a starting strong-side linebacker, putting Tinoisamoa's name on this list for next season.
LBs David Vorbora & Chris Chamberlain - Both seventh round picks from last year's draft saw action last season on special teams and with the defense. Vobora even started a game...and he was Mr. Irrelevant you know. Despite their interesting stories from last season, their jobs are far from secure as some of the undrafted rookies and others, like free agent acquisition from last year Larry Grant, could push them for roles on special teams and in the LB rotation.
Obviously, there are other players who'll find themselves in a make or break campaign. These guys just stand out the most. Who else might be in danger of losing a job, or at least a prominent role with the team? Expect this list to evolve once camp starts in July and the season gets closer.