Preseason fatigue? Check. I'm officially bored with preseason football. Am I ready to acknowledge the NFL's most meaningless games outside the Pro Bowl should be trimmed down to just a pair of games? Let's not get crazy, especially with the new limitations on practice time. Even the fourth and final game of the preseason has some value, shaping roster decisions. St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo needs another game, along with many of the players, to make some decisions about who stays and who goes. With time to kill and space to fill, join me as we take a closer look at some players on the roster bubble.
Today's subject: WR Danario Alexander
Alexander might be the toughest decision the Rams' coaches face when it comes to cutting down to a 53-man roster. He might be the most talented receiver on the roster, which doesn't exactly put him in the pantheon of elite wide receivers. Four knee surgeries prior to the 2010 NFL Draft caused teams to skip over him completely. The Rams brought him in for a thorough medical evaluation and put him on the watch list. They signed him in late August to a four-year contract. He played 8 games last year, catching 20 passes for 306 yards and 1 TD.
Keep him: Talent. Like I said earlier this summer, he reminds me very much of Malcom Floyd with his ability to overpower defenders and play big. Like Floyd, DX has a long stride that allows him to build up speed as he goes downfield. With that kind of ability, Alexander can stretch the field, forcing defenses to stretch backward and open the middle part of the field.
Cut him: Five knee surgeries does not bode well for a lengthy NFL career. Alexander needs work; that should be evident from his ho-hum preseason play. The only way he can improve is to get more reps. The catch-22 here is that Alexander will be forever limited in the number of reps he can take because of his knee. All joking aside, this year's training camp and preseason carry extra importance because of the lost offseason. Alexander has already missed valuable practice time, which he needs to learn a new offense and grow into an NFL receiver. No special teams contribution further damages his case.
Van's Verdict: Time to move on. Roster space, especially at wide receiver, is already at a premium, and the Rams lack the room for many so-called project players, especially when a history of five knee surgeries further limits the amount of time a player gets to develop. Alexander is the perfect example of a prospect we fans tend to overvalue. Yes, he has talent and our idea of him is shaped by some standout play for a really bad 2010 Rams offense. Why keep Alexander and sacrifice a player, who may be less talented, but able to contribute on a regular basis and develop to his full potential?
This same argument applies to stashing DX on the practice squad. In order to do that in the first place, the Rams would have to waive him first before re-signing him to the practice squad. Of course, being on the practice squad means, you know, practicing regularly, something that players chronically nursing knee injuries cannot do.
Next year's draft offers some intriguing receiver prospects. Healthier players with plenty of talent. The Rams can, and should, target one of those players with an early round pick. We can, and will, talk much more about the Rams' 2012 wide receiver configuration at a later date. I do not foresee Alexander as part of that equation. The Rams will need a steady pool of far more reliable options in a year where Super Bowl expectations will be legitimate.