Today the St. Louis Rams must cut down the roster to 75 players. On Friday, it must be down to the final 53 players. At this point, many roster spots have been won or lost. The fourth preseason game is usually meaningless when it comes to the final spots, but some players have won jobs before in the preseason finale, most notably, Hall of Famer Sharon Sharpe.
Nevertheless, it's becoming clear who the 2012 Rams will be and after the jump, I give you my final roster prediction.
I see the Rams keeping three QBs for two reasons. First, Sam Bradford, sadly, cannot be depended on to stay healthy for 16 games. Carrying two QBs could leave the Rams with a situation they ran into last season, having to pick up a guy off the streets to play. Secondly, Austin Davis has been very impressive in the preseason; so impressive, that he would likely not be able to be stashed on the practice squad without another team picking him up. The Rams do not want to lose him, but he is an undrafted free agent. He's not ready for primetime yet. Doing well in preseason is one thing, but performing well at regular season speed is another entirely.
The first three come as no surprise. Steven Jackson is....well, Steven Jackson. Isaiah Pead has struggled in the preseason running north and south versus east and west, but he was a second-round pick with legitimate talent. Daryl Richardson has outperformed anyone's expectations as a seventh round pick, and may get more carries than Pead. Many thought Brit Miller's days were over when the Rams brought in veteran FB Ovie Mughelli, but Brit Miller has received most of the first team snaps. It also doesn't hurt that Brit is one of the Rams' best special teams players. Calvin Middleton has a huge fan base here at TST, but I think he is a better candidate for the practice squad at this point. If the Rams do decide to keep four tailbacks he certainly would get the spot.
**Austin Pettis is suspended for the first two games. He won't count against the 53 man roster for the first two weeks, and his inclusion on this list raises the number of players to 54. He has performed well enought to earn a spot after his suspension where the Rams will have to decide who to cut to make room.
Brain Quick, Chris Givens and Danny Amendola are absolute locks to make the team, and Steve Smith isn't far behind them. Bradon Gibson is loathed by many. He performs very well in the preseason, but he has been a disappointment in the regular season. Sam Bradford and Gibson do have decent chemistry, and he is not a bad option as a 3rd or 4th option. Greg Salas makes the team for now thanks to Pettis' suspension, but he will have to impress the coaches against the Lions and the Redskins if he does not want to be cut when Pettis returns.
Brain Schottenheimer loves using TEs on playaction. Kendricks, McNeill and Illinois Mike have all shown an ability to get open on play fakes. Mulligan is a pretty safe bet as a blocking specialist, given that the Rams plan on pounding the rock with Steven Jackson in 2012.
The Rams will probably keep nine offensive linemen on board given all the players with injury concerns (Rodger Saffold, Jason Smith, and Scott Wells). These are clearly the top nine guys as each has received first team reps.
The reason I see the Rams keeping nine defensive linemen instead of eight is I only see the Rams keeping six LBs given how much nickle the Rams will play on defense this season. Also Brit Miller doubles as a FB and a special teams guy. These have been the top guys in camp. Matthew Conrath is a small surprise, but the Rams are very high on him. Against the Cowboys he received first-team snaps on passing downs.
The hardest projection I had to make was the final two LB spots. Sammy Brown, Aaron Brown and Justin Cole have all made good cases for roster spots, but I leave Aaron Brown off. He doesn't have the pass rushing potential of Sammy Brown, and Justin Cole has been making more plays in preseason games. The Ravens game will be a huge game for the two Browns and Cole.
Yes, Craig Dahl is on the list. Take a breath before you go crazy in the comments section. Dahl has starting experience and is a fine special teams player. He is a liability in coverage, but honestly, who could the Rams pick up that's better? In a small upset, Rodney McLeod beats out Matt Daniels for the last spot. Daniels came into camp with high expectations, but he never made plays that stood out while McLeod has.
ST: Greg Zuerlein, Jake McQuaide, and John Hekker
Greg the Leg, or Young GZ, has the talent to be the best kicker in the league. It's likely that many of the Rams drives will stall around the 40 yard line. His ability to make 50+ yard kicks effortlessly will be huge for the Rams this season. John Hekker gives the Rams both a rookie kicker and punter and he has looked decent to this point.
What say you Rams fans? Am I right on? Is there somebody I'm clearly overlooking? Are the Craig Dahl trolls present? Have it out in the comments!