St. Louis Rams 2011 53-man roster prediction: Defense

A handful of moves since Sunday has the St. Louis Rams down to 80 players on the roster, as the NFL rules mandate. Thursday night's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars will be the final chance for fringe players to make their case for the final roster. Teams have to be down to 53 players by the end of the day Saturday. Sunday's 53-man roster will look a little different than the 53-man roster a week later, as teams pick up a free agent or two among the cuts. The Rams are expected to seek veteran help at cornerback and potentially offensive guard. 

In the meantime, we continue our guessing game of what Saturday's 53-man roster will look like. Yesterday, I took a stab at predicting the offense. My predictions for the final six wide receivers elicited much discussion, as expected. If there's a comparable position on the defense it might be linebacker, where the Rams have more talent than they can legitimately keep. In fact, the defense is a much deeper group as whole than the offense. 

Predictions and justification after the jump. 

Let's start with a little bit of math. Yesterday, my prediction for the offense totaled 25 players. The Rams will keep 3 special teams players: K Josh Brown, P Donnie Jones and LS Jake McQuade. That's 28 players, which leaves a total of 25 spots, per my prediction, for the defense. 

Mike Sando has a tabulation for the number of players at each position on the Rams current roster. The numbers in parentheses represent the number of players at that position on the roster last year.

Defensive End (4)
Chris Long
James Hall
Robert Quinn
Eugene Sims
George Selvie

This is a tough one to predict. Personally, Sims' play impressed me very much through the preseason, more so than Selvie, who has definitely shown improvement himself. The odd man out on this list is veteran C.J. Ah You, a solid, if unspectacular all-around player. He was a Spagnuolo favorite last year...so was Na'il Diggs. Credit Spagnuolo for not putting sentimental value over skills. I think Sims can replace Ah You in the lineup. And why five ends this year as opposed to four last year?

Defensive tackle (5)
Fred Robbins
Justin Bannan
Gary Gibson
Daniel Muir

Last year, the situation at defensive tackle was far less certain. Gibson started next to Robbins. With a more bona fide starter in Justin Bannan, Gibson stays as a rotational, backup player. Muir has taken most of the second team reps with Gibson, and beyond that the Rams lack many viable choices. Darrell Scott's tenure with the Rams is over. 

Linebacker (6)
James Laurinaitis
Ben Leber
Brady Poppinga
Josh Hull
Zac Diles
Jabara Williams
Chris Chamberlain

The starters we know. Josh Hull played as much during the preseason as anyone, and looks like a viable backup to Laurinaitis. Seven linebackers seems like a small army; it is. This is probably where my prediction for the defense falls apart completely. I'd say they keep another defensive tackle, but there is not one on the roster worth a fifth spot. Chamberlain has real value as a special teams contributor. Williams probably sticks because they don't want to expose him on the practice squad. 

Safety (4)
Quintin Mikell
Darian Stewart
Craig Dahl
Jermale Hines

I do wonder if they go with five safeties, keeping James Butler because he has starting experience and knows the system. Keeping Butler might depend on what happens at cornerback, or even linebacker. The Rams have been running a lot of packages featuring three safeties, sometimes four. 

Cornerback (5)
Bradley Fletcher
Ron Bartell
Al Harris
Justin King
FREE AGENT

At this point, you should just accept that the Rams will add another cornerback. All of these players have dealt with injuries in their recent past, and if one of the starters were to miss to any time, I have my doubts about King or Harris as lengthy replacements, or even adequate replacements against teams with a good depth chart at wide receiver. 

There you have it, my sure to be wrong prediction for the September 3 version of the Rams defense. The floor is now open for debate. 

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