With the Rams now being in Los Angeles, there is an exciting atmosphere around the team. Spirits are high and there is plenty to get amped up about. Of course, players like RB Todd Gurley, DT Aaron Donald and DE Robert Quinn will be fan favorites, but a few lesser known players are looking to become favorites, as well.
WR Nelson Spruce
This one is too obvious.
Spruce is an excellent example of hard work paying off. As a college player, Spruce spent his time at the University of Colorado, one of the worst programs in a Power Five conference over the past few years. That did not stop him from being productive, though. Spruce caught 294 passes for 3,347 yards and 23 touchdowns over his four-year career in Colorado. His 294 career receptions are a Pac-12 record, standing well above a second-place former Arizona WR Mike Thomas, who had 259 career receptions from 2005-08.
Spruce went undrafted despite all of his accomplishments. Considering his athletic skill set is not overwhelming, it made some sense, but players as productive and savvy as Spruce are tough to find. After the Rams signed him following the 2016 NFL Draft, Spruce faced an uphill battle in a cluttered wide receiver depth chart. Spruce rose above the rest quickly as camps got under way.
Aside from Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin and rookie draftee Pharoh Cooper, Spruce looks like the best wide receiver on the team. In the team’s first preseason game versus the Dallas Cowboys, Spruce hauled in six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. He was a workhorse late in that game and made a great case for him sticking on the roster. Unfortunately, a sprained knee has kept Spruce out of recent action and may affect whether or not he makes the final squad. Luckily it is a minor injury and, even if he can not finish the preseason, Spruce has already proven his worth.
DL Dominique Easley
A reclamation project. A story of rising from the ashes. A Comeback Player of the Year candidate. Whatever you want to call Dominique Easley, he comes to LA riding an underdog’s current.
Two years ago, Easley was a first-round pick by the New England Patriots, but injuries and locker room disagreements forced the Patriots to send him packing. The Rams gave him a chance shortly following his release from New England.
It took Easley some time to get back into his groove, but he is forcing himself into the spotlight again. In training camp, Easley has been proving himself as a nuisance to offensive linemen, be it in one-on-one drills or in team sessions. He’s had no problem carrying that play over into preseason games.
Easley has been dominating all throughout preseason. He has made an impact every time he has taken to the field, showing that he can return to being the first-round caliber player he once was and, truthfully, always has been.
It’s always nice to see players battle back from unfortunate circumstances and return to form. Easley looks like he could fall into that category.
DL Matt Longacre
Slowly but surely, Matt Longacre has worked himself into a safe role with the Rams. Longacre opened the 2015 season (his rookie year) on the practice squad, quickly making his way to the active roster in early November. Once Longacre grabbed an active roster spot, he never let go of it. He served as a quality rotational player as a strong side defensive end, largely due to his raw strength and fierce play style.
As the 2016 preseason has unfolded, Longacre has proven himself every step of the way. Though he is not a first team player, Longacre looks to be about as good as a rotational defensive end can get. He can defend the run and rush the passer. His strength allows him to overwhelm opposing linemen in both phases of the game.
Much like Spruce, Longacre is an inspiring story of hard work paying off.