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Rams vs. Browns: Bubble watch

For most of the players on the 90-man roster, Thursday night's game is a big chance to cement their standing.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Rams are finally in action again, game action ... sort of. Preseason football isn't the most exciting version of the pro game, but for players and coaches, it's an important tool for assessing the roster and shaping the depth chart.

The players listed here aren't the super stars, not yet anyway. These are the guys on the fringes of the roster making their case to climb or even just to stick around after head coach Jeff Fisher and his crew trim the rolls down to just 53 players and an eight-man practice squad.

Position Battles

Left guard - Shelley Smith gets the start Thursday night, but he'll platoon with Chris Williams. It's the exact arrangement the Rams used at the end of the season last year filling in for an injured Harvey Dahl. Who has the edge? Hard to say. Both have had their ups and downs in practice, battling against a pretty tough defensive line. Smith may have a slight edge since he's getting the start.

Backup quarterback - Feel the excitement. Austin Davis is the backup right now, and Kellen Clemens is holding down the third spot. But Davis is relatively inexperienced. Clemens knows Brian Schottenheimer pretty well and has a few years of NFL experience under his belt. If Davis struggles in the preseason, it might be hard for Fisher to take him into the regular season as Sam Bradford's primary backup.

Running back - This has been pretty covered, so there's no need to rehash it here. Daryl Richardson leads the race. Isaiah Pead is getting some first-team work as a change-of-pace guy. Zac Stacy might sit out this game.

Free safety - Darian Stewart is starting alongside rookie safety T.J. McDonald, but the door's wide open. The Rams have a very inexperienced group at the position. If Stewart struggles, or misses tackles like he did with extended playing time in 2011, it might open the door for Rodney McLeod or someone else.


These are the guys having a good camp who I'd say have a decent shot at sticking around. What they need to do in this game is make the case that they belong higher up on the depth chart.

Rodney McLeod - I mentioned him the position battle blurb above. This is his second year with the Rams, and it makes him one of the senior members of the safety group. A good game, and he could be in the mix for playing time.

Brandon McGee - This year's fifth-round pick is hovering around the middle of the depth chart. His stock took a hit as a senior at Miami, but the Rams don't have a ton of known commodities behind their top three.

Sammy Brown - A raw pass rusher out of Houston, Brown was among the Rams' last round of cuts in 2012. The Dolphins picked him up, but released him in September. The Rams grabbed him again, and stashed him on the practice squad. He played one game, before going back there. Could he push Eugene Sims for a spot?

Barrett Jones - Jones isn't going anywhere but up. For now, he's behind Tim Barnes at center on the depth chart. He can also play guard. Whether he plays Thursday remains to be seen, but if he does, he could have a shot to move into a primary backup role.

Mike McNeil - Lance Kendricks is out, and McNeil's been getting plenty of work in his place. Could he eat into the tight end workload?

Austin Pettis - The third-year receiver isn't going to take away snaps from Tavon Austin. But with Brian Quick still battling inconsistencies, Pettis could lock himself into the third receiver role.

Joe Barksdale/Ty Nsekhe - These are the backup tackles. They need to make the coaches VERY comfortable with their ability to take over as a starter, considering both Jake Long and Rodger Saffold

On the Bubble

There's plenty of time left in camp and the preseason, but it's never too soon to make a case for sticking around. These are the guys on the fringes who've shown enough to make us want to see more.

Justin Veltung/Raymond Radway - Any receivers hoping to convince the team to keep six or seven, need to be special teams standouts with a some intriguing upside.

Ben Cunningham/Chase Reynolds/Terrance Ganaway - There's a good chance all three of these guys could be cut at the end of the month. However, with Zac Stacy likely sitting out this game, there are more reps to go around for this group.

Phillip Lutzenkirchen/Corey Harkey - More tight ends. But a couple who've looked good to start camp.

Tim Barnes - He's hung around since the Spagnuolo era. Can he stay around as a backup center?

Jabara Williams - It's a crowded field at linebacker. The Rams went with seven to start the season last year. He's battling with guys like Ray Ray Armstrong for the last couple spots.

Cody Davis - Everyone seems to like what they've seen out of the Texas Tech undrafted rookie in camp. He's played the ball well and leveled some vicious hits. There might not be a better spot on the roster than safety for a rookie to earn a spot.

Who else will you be watching in this game?