After a long day of stacking kegs, 5 o'clock couldn't have come sooner. It also means it's time for Day 2 of my series breaking down every single player on the Rams roster.
Looking at two rookies today of which most of you have probably never heard of, though you might in the future.
88. Eric Stevens - RB - California - Rookie
I'll start off by saying I GUARANTEE Stevens makes the team. Heck, I'll even go a step further and say that y'all NOTICE the kid on the field this year.
"But, Shmerriman.... he's a running back! Don't we have like 10 of those?! No room for a white guy who ran a 4.72 at the combine!"
Au contraire, my friends. First of all, the RB tag slapped on him is misleading because, well, he never played a down of running back at school. Stevens is a pure-bred Fullback carrying the ball for Cal only 13 times for 51 yards his senior year to go along with 9 receptions for 55 yds out of the backfield.
Now, what do those numbers tell us? Well he played in all 12 games - starting 5 of them - so the low numbers aren't caused by a lack of playing time. What I see here is a kid who was utilized in short-yardage situations who isn't afraid to snag the ball out of the backfield. Here he fills two checks on the road to making the NFL.
Embraces contact. Adequate hands.
Next category; size.
Stevens is 6'1" 242 lbs. Right now, that makes him the tallest as well as heaviest back on the roster with the SAME dimensions as that new guy in Atlanta who's name rhymes with Jeven Stackson. Being the same size as SJ39 is one thing, but being the same size as the opposing MLB has to be reassuring. What he does with this god-given attribute is purely up to him, but I sure as hell wouldn't mind having him as a lead blocker/pass blocker.
Bottomline this kid is the definition of a football player. Take a look at his highlight film and you'll see a guy who loves to hit someone in the mouth and is a bear to take down in the trenches let alone in the open field. (Literally, watch the whole video and tell me if there is ever a solo tackle on him. I'll give you a hint it doesn't happen). AND He's not just tough; he's athletic. One of his carries involves hurdling a poor defender, then lowers the shoulder and drives a guy back 4 yards. That's the kind of stuff that makes me pumped for football season.
Did I mention half his highlights involve him on special teams? My guess is that this was the part of Stevens' game that caught the eye of Jeff Fisher. Special teams cog for the Cal Bears who always ended up around the football whether he made the tackle or not. To not only be able to play, but excel in the special teams department is HUGE for a rookie trying to make the NFL as this is most likely his best shot at getting substantial playing time.
Lastly, something about this kid that I love seeing is his love for the game and his teammates. He was team captain his senior year and always wanted to be the first one out of the tunnel come game time. After every play he was the first to congratulate whoever stepped up. Much like he won't go down easy with the ball in his hands on the gridiron, there's no way he leaves town later this summer without putting up a fight. The ball's in your court, Mr. Stevens.
87. Al Lapuaho - DT - Utah St - Rookie
For some reason the name Al Lapuaho fits an NFL defensive tackle perfectly, yeah?
Lapuaho has average size at best being 6'3" 302 - BUT plays much bigger. He earned first team all-WAC his senior year at Utah State starting all 13 games making 31 tackles with a sack.
Was a captain at Utah State - which is saying something considering he only played there for a year. Means he's a natural leader and a likeable guy to have his teammates vote him captain without ever seeing him play live. Love that about him.
He also put up 225 lbs in the bench press 33 times which makes any coach happy. Upper body strength in the trenches is one of the most important physical attributes in football.
Something that can be both a positive and a negative for Big(?) Al is the fact that he's only 21 with only 1 year of D1 football experience who declared for the draft after his junior season.This works in his favor because it means he's extremely raw as a player and bursting with potential (a la the 2013 Rams as a whole). On the other hand, if his lack of high level coaching and immaturity - there are no issues with this as of yet but lets not forget he's only been able to buy ShockTop on draught (yes, draught not draft) legally for not even a year - may prove too much of a hassle for the team who feels they don't need another project to work on.
What are Lapuaho's chances? There are 6 DT's on the Rams roster including Lapuaho. Conventional defensive wisdom says you keep 4 or 5 guys for rotational purposes and depth. All Lapuaho has to do is not be the least effective Defensive Tackle on the team this summer and then maybe he has a shot.
Thanks for reading, guys. See you tomorrow