MMQB had a piece Tuesday morning focused on the St. Louis Rams roster battle between Michael Sam and Ethan Westbrooks for what might be the final defensive line spot. It was nice to see a national article about something Rams fans have been talking about for awhile now. Since we're talking about that particular roster spot, a look back at the math itself deserves a mention.
Last season the Rams kept nine defensive linemen. Most of that group will be back this year. Here's the list of DL spots virtually guaranteed, barring another freakish night of injuries in the final preseason game this Thursday:
Chris Long, DE
Robert Quinn, DE
Kendall Langford, DT
Michael Brockers, DT
Aaron Donald, DT
Williams Hayes, DE
Alex Carrington, DT
Eugene Sims, DE
That's eight players. So if they go with nine defensive linemen on the final roster again this year, there's one open spot. Sam and Westbrooks have made the most noise for an open spot, but they're also playing against incumbent Matt Conrath and others.
Fisher and Co. could opt to keep 10 or even 11 defensive linemen on the final 53-man roster, since both Sam and Westbrooks are unlikely to make it through waivers and onto the practice squad. But there's a complication with that possibility: Trumaine Johnson's injury.
A sprained MCL is likely to keep Johnson out the first three or four games of the season. That means the Rams will have to keep him on the active roster, since stowing him away on IR with eligibility to return would mean keeping him out longer than necessary.
The Rams went into the 2013 season with 10 defensive backs last year. They could do that again, but it would leave them with only nine of those players able to play the first month of the season. Since most of those guys also contribute on special teams, they may have to carry an extra defensive back into the season, which would eat up one more roster spot, making it harder to keep 10 or 11 defensive linemen.
Another position that's usually heavy in roster numbers is offensive line. The Rams kept 10 offensive linemen to start the season last year. Given the injury problems of that unit already, it's hard to think of them going with only nine ... even if the guys down the depth chart there do come with plenty of question marks.
The first round of roster cuts is due by 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The Rams cut 10 yesterday, and have four more moves to make to get to 75 players. The next deadline is Aug. 30, when they have to have their 53-man rosters finalized. Players released have to go through waivers before the Rams can sign them to the practice squad.