The St. Louis Rams will actually be playing their starters on Thursday night against teh Ravens, unlike most NFL teams in the final week of the preseason. Head coach Jeff Fisher sees it as one more chance to get his guys dialed in and evaluate the depth chart. Nevertheless, this is a big night for the backups making their case for spots in the various rotations or just stay on the final roster.
Here are five non-starters I'm interested to watch on Thursday night.
Austin Davis, QB - The PD has a nice piece on Davis in Thursday's edition; he's giving the coaches something to think about with his strong preseason play. I remember the Keith Null love affair well, a classic example of how we fans of bad team latch on to any kid with a gram of talent as a potential franchise savior (I know a few people are still upset about the Jabara Williams thing). It's different with Davis because, if nothing else, he's been just plain fun to watch. There is enough talent there, so it seems, to keep him around and spend some time developing him.
Isaiah Pead, RB - I've covered the running back situation behind Steven Jackson pretty extensively, and you know that seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson appears to have jumped Pead's place in the order. Regardless of who sits where on the depth chart, Pead needs to iron out that rookie tendency to try and make things happen, like bouncing runs outside, rather than just hitting his gap and going for it, defenders be damned. He has done a nice job on kick returns.
Matt Conrath, DT - There's definitely some talent with the UDFA from Virginia. His height, 6-foot-7, makes one more obstacle for quarterbacks, but it also compromises his technique, causing him to lose leverage against interior linemen. For now, I think he has a spot on the final roster, but that could evaporate if the Rams find a known veteran on the wire after Friday's cuts.
Rodney McLeod, S - Another Virginia product turning heads in the preseason, McLeod has even seen some reps with the starting defense. He could see a few more this week as Fisher and his crew evaluate the mix of players for the unit. Safety is arguably the biggest area of concern on defense. A strong rookie season from McLeod could help tremendously. The Rams are also likely going to look for safety help after Friday's cuts, which means the rookie needs to make a statement in order to keep his roster spot.
Rokevious Watkins, G - Offensive line is such a huge question mark, to put it nicely, for the Rams. Fisher has praised his fifth-round rookie throughout camp and the preseason, after tearing away a sizable chunk of his ass physically and no doubt verbally when he reported to camp out of shape. Watkins has done some strong work, but mostly against second teamers. Don't be surprised if he gets a look with the starters on Thursday with Harvey Dahl sidelined.