Sticking with our theme of ridiculously early predictions, I want to pick up where I left off Tuesday with the St. Louis Rams 2013 depth chart. This time, we'll turn our attention to the defense. (Here's our look at the offense).
As usual, let me throw out some caveats. I'm ignoring the undrafted free agents at this point. For one, their addition to the roster isn't yet official. Second, they're undrafted free agents. With the defenses, you get so many different packages, you have to take the "starter" designation with a grain of salt. It's a bit like receivers on the other side of the ball.
Obviously, Long and Quinn are going to get the most snaps, but even those two rarely played every single down during a game. Sims came in third for snaps with 411 last year. Hayes had 378. Long and Quinn had 900 and 849, respectively.
Hayes slides into the tackle spot on passing downs some. Sims is probably the most replaceable of the bunch, especially of Brodine (who played under Mike Waufle in Oakland) or one of the UDFAs can show something in camp.
The Rams really have something special with their top two interior linemen. Adding Hayes into the mix as a tackle on certain passing downs helps keep the rotational advantage. Cudjo has been a pleasant surprise. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He signed a two-year, $1.8 million deal this spring. The Rams obviously feel like he brings something to the mix as a strong defender at the point of attack. Clogging lanes is his specialty.
Conrath was a UDFA last year. He's like 8-feet tall - 6'7 really - with an intriguing blend of raw skills.
I broke my own rule about adding this year's UDFA's to the mix, but I think Goebel has a real shot to make the roster. His size, 6'2 292 pounds, makes him a bit of a tweener, and his motor seems to be the most highly praised aspect of his game. However, the Ohio State had a productive career in college (read more about that from our OSU blog).
Well, the starting three linebackers are set after this year's draft. Think about the last time we knew the Rams' three starting linebackers as of May 1 ... we'll wait. Give up? Yeah, me too, because it was a long damn time ago.
This trio is poised to do some real damage. Right now, the defensive line gets all the looks, but this trio of linebackers will make the front seven that much better. Dunbar was underrated as a pass rusher last year, picking up five sacks in the team's various blitz packages. He was also an asset against the run. Ogletree gives them someone who can pick up the slack in coverage. I'll be anxious to see whether Dunbar or Ogletree stay on the field in nickel defense.
Hull's stuck around the roster this long because he adds something on special teams. He may have more competition this year. Brown and Williams and a slew of UDFA players this year will compete for backup and special teams roles.
Something to think about, Dunbar is a free agent after this season. Is his replacement on the roster?
Depth at this position was a concern heading into the offseason. Bradley Fletcher left. McGee projects as the fourth corner, a guy who can handle some of the slot work based on what I know about him. He could be a good insurance policy if something happens to one of the top three.
Steeples looks like a practice squad guy at this point, but he's got an interesting mix of skills. He's 6'2 190 pounds and he plays a little more like Johnson than the other two top corners.
There's still a huge question mark at safety. McDonald projects as the most likely starter of the bunch. Who's the other safety?
Can Stewart finally live up to the promise the previous coaching staff saw in him? Injuries put him behind the curve last year, and it translated into very little playing time (82 snaps!).
Davis is a really interesting prospect. A lot of experts had the Texas Tech product pegged as a fifth- or sixth-round guy. He was snubbed for the Combine, and his pro day workout left many wondering why. He ran an unofficial 4.41 and posted some explosive numbers in the other drills - like a 41.5 inch vertical jump.