On Saturday, September 5 (prior to 4:00 p.m. EDT), all 32 NFL teams must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List. Once the waiver process is completed (on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. EDT), clubs may establish a Practice Squad comprised of 10 players. Who will make the Rams' 53-man roster and Practice Squad?
Many quality players will not make the 2015 edition of the St. Louis Rams. It's an enviable position for the team to be in. Under Jeff Fisher and Les Snead, the level of talent on the roster has increased exponentially. It's now time to turn all that talent into results on the field! Preparation - that's on Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff. Execution - that's strictly on the players.
St. Louis Rams Current 75-Man Roster & Depth Chart
The accompanying chart presents the St. Louis Rams' current 75-Man roster and my personal Rams depth chart:
|C||Barrett Jones||Tim Barnes||Demetrius Rhaney|
|RG||Rodger Saffold||Garrett Reynolds|
|LG||Jamon Brown||Cody Wichmann||Brandon Washington|
|RT||Rob Havenstein||Andrew Donnal|
|LT||Greg Robinson||Isaiah Battle||Darrell Williams|
|TE||Lance Kendricks||Cory Harkey|
|TE||Jared Cook||Justice Cunningham||Alex Bayer|
|WR||Brian Quick||Bradley Marquez|
|WR||Tavon Austin||Chris Givens||Emory Blake|
|WR||Kenny Britt||Stedman Bailey||Daniel Rodriguez|
|RB||Tre Mason||Benny Cunningham||Chase Reynolds||Malcolm Brown|
|RB||Todd Gurley||Isaiah Pead||Trey Watts||Zach Laskey|
|QB||Nick Foles||Case Keenum||Sean Mannion||Austin Davis|
|DT||Aaron Donald||Nick Fairley||Louis Trinca-Pasat|
|DT||Michael Brockers||Ethan Westbrooks||Marcus Forston|
|DE||Chris Long||William Hayes||Martin Ifedi|
|DE||Robert Quinn||Eugene Sims||Matt Longacre|
|MLB||James Laurinaitis||Daren Bates||Bryce Hager|
|OLB||Alec Ogletree||Marshall McFadden|
|OLB||Jo-Lonn Dunbar||Akeem Ayers||Cameron Lynch|
|CB||Janoris Jenkins||Marcus Roberson|
|CB||Lamarcus Joyner||Montell Garner|
|CB||Trumaine Johnson||Brandon McGee||Trovon Reed|
|SS||T.J. McDonald||Mark Barron||Maurice Alexander||Jacob Hagen|
|FS||Rodney McLeod||Cody Davis||Christian Bryant|
53-Man Roster & Practice Squad Predictions
C Barrett Jones Tim Barnes RG Rodger Saffold Garrett Reynolds LG Jamon Brown Cody Wichmann RT Rob Havenstein Andrew Donnal LT Greg Robinson Isaiah Battle TE Lance Kendricks Cory Harkey TE Jared Cook Justice Cunningham WR Brian Quick Tavon Austin Chris Givens WR Kenny Britt Stedman Bailey RB Tre Mason Benny Cunningham Chase Reynolds RB Todd Gurley Isaiah Pead QB Nick Foles Case Keenum Sean Mannion PK Greg Zuerlein P John Hekker LS Jake McQuaide DT Aaron Donald Nick Fairley DT Michael Brockers Ethan Westbrooks DE Chris Long William Hayes DE Robert Quinn Eugene Sims MLB James Laurinaitis Daren Bates OLB Alec Ogletree OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar Akeem Ayers CB Janoris Jenkins Marcus Roberson CB Trumaine Johnson Lamarcus Joyner Brandon McGee SS T.J. McDonald Mark Barron Maurice Alexander FS Rodney McLeod Cody Davis Practice Squad Injured Reserve WR Bradley Marquez CB E.J. Gaines C Demetrius Rhaney LT Darrell Williams RB Malcolm Brown DT Louis Trinca-Pasat DE Martin Ifedi MLB Bryce Hager OLB Cameron Lynch CB Montell Garner FS Christian Bryant
Rationale & Observations
Earlier this week, Jeff Fisher left little doubt as to who would be Nick Foles' primary backup this coming season:
"But I think that Case has done a good enough job right now at this point that he’s got No. 2 locked up."
Sean Mannion will be the 3rd QB to make the roster. The Rams will not risk losing Mannion by placing him on the Practice Squad.
Running Back (5)
Although it's not likely to happen, I still believe Todd Gurley should begin the season on the PUP List. Clearly he's not 100% recovered from the ACL tear. With a fine training camp and preseason, Isaiah Pead has earned a place on the roster. Ace special teamer Chase Reynolds is a virtual lock to make the final roster. The Rams could place Trey Watts on the reserve/suspended list to start the season (he wouldn't count against the 53-man roster, but 13/17 of his salary would count against the salary cap). A more likely scenario is a repeat of what the Rams did with Jo-Lonn Dunbar a couple of seasons ago: releasing him, then re-signing him after his 4 game suspension is served. Hopefully the Rams can stash the promising Malcolm Brown on the Practice Squad.
Wide Receiver (5)
The only question remaining with this unit is whether the Rams will keep a 6th WR (Bradley Marquez). They kept 5 on the roster last season and will likely do the same this year.
Tight End (4)
Jared Cook, Lance Kendricks and Cory Harkey are all locks to make the final 53. Justice Cunningham beats out Alex Bayer this year for the 4th TE spot, mostly because of his superior blocking skills.
Offensive Line (10)
The Rams will carry 10 OL on the roster...but it will feel like 9. The Rams can't risk losing Isaiah Battle to another team by signing him to the Practice Squad (after releasing him), but there's still a lot for him to learn before he can become a significant contributor in the NFL. It's tempting to include Demetrius Rhaney on the final 53-man roster. Instead, the Rams will likely stash him on the Practice Squad and opt for the much-needed experience of Tim Barnes at center. Has Rhaney shown enough at the guard position during the preseason to warrant consideration over Cody Wichmann?
Defensive Line (8)
Will the Rams go with 8 or 9 defensive linemen on the final 53-man roster? If they go with 8, Ethan Westbrooks' positional versatility wins out over Louis Trinca-Pasat's Aaron Donald-like qualities. Trinca-Pasat joins the roster if the Rams decide to keep 9 defensive linemen.
For much of the 2014 season the Rams kept only 5 linebackers on the roster. The Rams run a nickel, dime, or big nickel sub-package around 60% of the time/defensive snaps (with only 2 linebackers on the field). It's reasonable to expect the same this season. The signing of Akeem Ayers as a Free Agent adds quality and depth to the unit. For these reasons, it wouldn't come as a surprise to see the Rams carry only 5 linebackers once again in 2015. If they do opt for a 6th linebacker, MLB Bryce Hager gets the nod. Both Hager and Cameron Lynch are ideal Practice Squad stashes/depth (and future insurance, as both Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Daren Bates become Free Agents in 2016).
The season-ending injury to probable starter E.J. Gaines threw a wrench into the Rams' plans for this position. The injury allowed the likes of Brandon McGee, Montell Garner and Trovon Reed the opportunity to compete for the 5th cornerback spot. McGee makes the roster by a nose over Garner (who the Rams sign to the Practice Squad).
Little doubt in my mind...Barron, Alexander, McLeod, Davis and McDonald all make the roster.
McQuaide...Zuerlein...Hekker. Set in stone.
Follow up with us over the weekend as more roster moves are made on the way to 53.
Update: The Rams release the first player on the march to 53:
Rams making some roster cuts today. OG Brandon Washington has been told he's being released.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) September 4, 2015