CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 26: Logan Thomas #3 of the Virginia Tech Hokies throws the ball as Matt Conrath #94 of the Virginia Cavaliers attempts the tackle at Scott Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
Undrafted rookie free agent Matt Conrath is a name popping up plenty in report out of the St. Louis Rams training camp this year. He mostly overlooked in the furious prospect discussions leading up to the draft, and he could now be on the verge of cracking the final 53-man roster with a strong showing in the preseason.
Jim Thomas at the Post-Dispatch put Conrath at the top of his list of undercards to watch over these next four weeks. He pointed out that the personnel department in St. Louis targeted Conrath specifically. Even more interesting for fans is this:
Conrath has opened some eyes the first couple weeks of camp, getting reps with the starting defensive line - particularly in the nickel.
Head coach Jeff Fisher acknowledged that how the 6-foot-8 defensive tackle plays in preseason work will go a long way toward a final determination about his status.
"We're seeing some potential there," Fisher said following the team's August 4 practice. "He has a chance to be a pretty good football player. The process is evaluating them in the games. That's where you get a better sense. Based on what we've seen so far, he's very strong, he's got a lot of growth potential physically, but he's a very smart young football player."
As a senior at Virginia, Chris Long's old school, Conrath recorded 66 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Even more impressive are his three passes defensed, proof of his height advantage at the line of scrimmage and an ability to get his arms up as a real obstacle for passers, hence the work in the nickel package. He also can contribute on special teams with his giant wingspan an obstacle for punters as well.
His height was also the knock against him on scouting reports, leaving many analysts to wonder if he could get low enough to get leverage at the NFL level. Check out this write up from CBSSports.com:
Frame limits ability to anchor and overall power, as center of gravity is just too high, even with good knee bend, to remain at interior DL in the NFL. Frame may also limit agility needed to succeed at DE. Has a tendency to get tall if initial move fails. Needs better and stronger hand play as well as additional moves.
Conrath is a player that could really benefit under defensive line coach Mike Waufle, who had that same job with the New York Giants where GM Jerry Reese had a well-documented preference for taller defensive linemen (Chris Canty is 6-foot-7).
Expect the Rams to carry either four or five defensive tackles. Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers obviously have the top two spots locked up. Veteran Trevor Laws, who missed three days with a sore knee, would seem to be one of the likely candidate for a job as part of the rotation. Conrath is in direct competition with Jermelle Cudjo and Darell Scott, a pair of holdovers from the previous regime.