Depth is everything in the NFL. The St. Louis Rams have learned that the hard way over the last decade. And it's been the biggest, if least talked about, challenge for the rebuilding efforts since Jeff Fisher and Les Snead took over in 2012. Slowly but surely, the Rams are restocking the depth chart, pulling out ready-to-start players like Trumaine Johnson to replace worn out pricey veterans like Cortland Finnegan. But do they have all the depth they need on the roster right now?
Over at CBS Sports, blog-loathing Pat Kirwan takes a look at the depth issue in the NFL, laying out 13 essential questions for the depth chart that teams need.
We'll have to wait until training camp and beyond to answer some of these questions, when we get a chance really see what the younger guys on the roster can do. But it's a good starting point for discussion, especially since it's one area where division rivals Seattle and San Francisco have a clear edge ... for now.
1. Backup quarterback
Say what you want about Shaun Hill, but he's a low-risk veteran backup who can manage an offense. The Rams tried to get him before they settled for Kellen Clemens last time they went backup QB shopping.
2. Does your team have a real swing offensive tackle, a guy that can play left or right tackle and has experience?
Yes they do, Rodger Saffold. His versatility is key because it allows them to move around other players should the need arise.
3. Does your team have a solid inside offensive lineman that can play guard or center?
In theory. Second-year Alabama product Barrett Jones was drafted to be that guy. He played all five spots on the line during his days under Saban's thumb. Jones is reportedly bigger this year, which is good, but he's still a wild card. Tim Barnes is another backup interior lineman, but he's more of an unknown at guard.
4. Is there a quality second running back that can deliver a 100-yard rushing day if he had to start?
The Rams have a really good 1-2 at running back with Zac Stacy and Tre Mason. Benny Cunningham was a capable change of pace guy and special teams contributor last year too. Isaiah Pead is, uh ...
5. Is there a good second tight end on the roster?
I'm not really sure there's one good tight end on the roster. Lance Kendricks has been better as a blocker, and he can catch passes when they need him to ... he's just not much of a playmaker with the ball in his hands. Jared Cook is athletic and works well as a receiving option in the right, limited circumstances, but he's terrible as a blocker.
6. Can the third wide receiver step up and start in the two-WR packages if a starter went down?
Well, shoot. We're still not sure the top receivers can be top receivers. The Brian Quick project looks like a bust. Kenny Britt has the potential to get better here, but the deck's stacked against him. The jury's out on whether or not Tavon Austin can be more than a gadget guy. Ah, hell, you know the story with the Rams receivers.
Fisher and Snead bet big that they had all the talent they needed at receiver, skipping the chance to add another in a draft loaded with receivers. That could prove to be to the biggest gamble of the year.
7. Does your team have a designated pass-rush specialist who could play the early downs if need be?
Yeah, I think the Rams are just fine in the pass rusher department.
8. Is there a third defensive tackle that not only plays in a rotation but could play the whole game if need be?
The top three defensive tackles should be the envy of the entire league.
9. Is there a quality nickel corner on the roster, since most teams are at least 50 percent sub defenses?
Man, this is a good question. Right now, it's Rodney McLeod, which leaves a little to be desired. Ideally, it'll be second-round pick Lamarcus Joyner, who has the kind of talent to excel as a third corner.
10. Is there a fourth corner for dime packages?
There's talent at the position; they just need to prove themselves. Joyner, McLeod round out the top four. Then you have some interesting rookies in E.J. Gaines and undrafted Florida product Marcus Roberson. Don't forget Greg Reid, whose speed is enough to make you wonder.
11. Is there a third safety for big nickel defenses?
There could be. Guys like Cody Davis and Mo Alexander have the kind of talent to be standout players in that role. They just haven't really had the chance to establish themselves, especially Alexander since he's a rookie.
12. Is there a return specialist that can either handle both punt and kick returns or contribute as a real position player?
There's Tavon Austin. The stable of running backs can do some damage with returns too.
13. Does your team have a special-teams linebacker that leads the specials and can play inside linebacker in a pinch?
Ray-Ray Armstrong is the Rams special teams linebacker of note. He's a talented player that the coaches envision bigger things for this season too. He had his struggles, mostly with discipline, last year. If the Rams needed someone to player MLB in a pinch, Alec Ogletree would move over with Armstrong taking his spot.