Another preseason game gives the St. Louis Rams to get a better feel for some competitive spots on the depth chart. With a few notable exceptions, the starting lineup looks to be mostly written in ink at this point, barring injuries or a surprise performance. Superstars aside, depth plays a big role in whether or teams win or lose in the NFL. The Rams have a few interesting subplots brewing on the roster among players who will become a key part of the team's depth chart.
Yesterday, I looked at the bottom of the cornerback depth chart. Today's question is more about a particular position, the fullback.
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Obviously, the days of the single-purpose fullback disappeared, going extinct, not coincidentally, about the same time as the lone back rushing attack. The hybrid fullback, however, is alive and well.
Britt Miller saw a number of snaps against the Colts last week with the first team. His most notable play came on sneaky fourth-down conversion, keeping the Rams scoring drive alive. At 6'1" 250 lbs, Miller has prototypical fullback size. A converted linebacker, he doesn't have a long resume catching passes, something you would assume figures into his workload in Josh McDaniels' offense.
Obviously, the Rams have their top three running back positions figured out, with Cadillac Williams backing up Steven Jackson and Jerious Norwood working situationally. Last year, the Rams kept four running backs, three tailbacks and fullback Mike Karney to start the season. Karney's playing time decreased as the Rams passed more and opted to use fewer and fewer two-back sets. Miller worked his way into the lineup, after being signed from the practice squad, as a special teams contributor, and he's a pretty good teams guy, as you might expect from a former linebacker transformed into a fullback.
Miller's special teams ability might be the deciding factor. More likely than not, the Rams will keep a fourth running back. Miller's main competition would seem to be Keith Toston, who played very well against the hapless Colts last week. McDaniels kept four backs on his rosters in Denver, but never a true fullback type. In 2009, he had Peyton Hillis, but dealt him away the next year, and that was the closest he had to a fullback.
It stands out to me that Miller took as many snaps as he did with the first team last week; however, the offense resembled last year's more than the new version. They also ran a significant amount of play action passes, which often featured two backs.
Keep an eye on how much Miller plays tonight, when the Rams are expected to be using more of McDaniels' playbook. Keith Toston's role also merits attention to see if he can pick up where he left off last week.