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Finding Claude Wroten's replacement

Claude Wroten gone, so what? Wroten, in two seasons with the Rams hasn't been much more than filler for the middle of the defensive line. As Mike Sando said in his post about the impact of Wroten's suspension, "couldn't have been counting on him, realistically, given Wroten's history with the NFL's substance-abuse policy," a la Fakhir Brown, expect Brown plays at a higher level making him a needed starter. Also pointed out in Sando's post: Wroten saw less than 25% of the snaps last season. Filler.

But sometimes, you need to the filler to have a meal, like sawdust in the meatloaf. The point being, despite the fact that Wroten wasn't exactly the key to success, as filler, he at least gave the Rams defense a couple different looks and, more importantly, helped keep Glover's legs fresh by allowing him to rest on some snaps. The Rams will have other options to find some filler for the line, filler that at the very least won't hurt the Rams while in the game.

I started to look at the stats from the team's first four games last season, games without Wroten, but there's just too much noise in the numbers because of the team's overall poor play, particularly on offense and ST, to find any kind of valid conclusions there, especially since Wroten didn't play all that much after returning from his suspension anyway. And that week 4 game at Dallas brought back really bad memories.

Wroten's suspension last season gave 5th round pick Clifton Ryan the chance to play, the chance rookies dream of and one, as the legend now goes, Ryan used to carve out an indispensible role with the Rams. Through those four games Ryan had 2 sacks and 11 tackles.

The Rams signed 3 DTs as undrafted rookie free agents back in May: Vernon Bryant, Willie Williams, and Joshua Thompson. The first two are listed on the official depth chart at UT - behind Wroten - and Thompson is listed as an NT.

A quick look at the three of them to see if the Rams might have some extra sawdust in the pantry.

Vernon Bryant - The 6'2" 289 lbs DT could be a little small, small enough to have problems with NFL-level blockers. He is, however, fast; the Hampton U product ran his 40 in 4.88 seconds. His draft profile at points out "possibilities" as a three technique tackle. Could he be part of the rotation? The same draft profile projected him as an undrafted rookie free agent who "could make it in a rotational system that uses a lot of twisting and stunting."

Willie Williams - College football talking heads took note when Williams transferred to Louisville for his junior season. He's listed at 6'4", 305 lbs on the Rams official site, and, unlike the man he could potentially replace, has a good work ethic (which I'm beginning to wonder if that's term isn't kind of a "miss congeniality" type of label). He has the motor to be a solid pocket crasher, according to reports like this one at ESPN, and now he'll have the chance in camp to show the Rams how his ability transfer to the NFL.

Joshua Thompson - The Auburn product - same conference as Wroten you know - started his last two seasons at Auburn, leading the team in tackles last year with 67. Here's another one who by all accounts plays with an high level of intensity that has made him a better player than his raw talent indicates. The biggest strike against him, according to his scouting report, is his smallish size that makes him vulnerable to being smothered by a single blocker or taken out of the play. There, he's listed at 6' 295 lbs, but the Rams have bulked him up 310 lbs, which could help overcome that main detractor. He graded out higher than Vernon Bryant on the DT rankings, and like Bryant, he could find his way into a rotation: " His intensity, intelligence, and productivity could help him find a place as a three-technique lineman at the next level."

Whether Wroten's attitude improved or not, we'll never know, but it doesn't hurt to be rid of a potential pariah in the locker room with Rams needing passion and desire as kind of an 11th man during a rough early schedule. It's quite possible that one of these three guys mentioned above can at least replace the limited duty expected from a status quo Claude Wroten. We'll know more over the next month.