The Los Angeles Rams seized much of the football world’s attention during the offseason with high profile acquisitions. DL Ndamukong Suh, CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib and WR Brandin Cooks joined last year’s heroes to soak up most of the spotlight, but seasons and games often come down to plays that have to be made by all those other guys on a roster.
Here are some other Rams who are riding under the radar right now that might unexpectedly play a role in a few significant outcomes this season.
CB Sam Shields
Shields has plenty working against him.
Becoming a solid contributor after a two-year concussion-induced layoff would be a tall task for anyone. Make no mistake, strapping on a helmet again for real (albeit preseason) football will be a major, pressure-packed moment.
After Shields shakes those jitters, he will then be looking to compete for playing time at a position where the Rams are currently loaded with talent. With Peters, Talib, slot CB Nickell Robey Coleman, CB Troy Hill and other talented depth guys, the Rams were not in a position of need when they took a chance on Shields.
Shields was just gravy on top.
But so far, so good. Reports from camp so far are that Shields has been one of the Rams most impressive players:
Today was the first time #Rams CB Sam Shields has been in full pads since 9/11/16, He's been an early hit in training camp although he said he's still in the process of getting re-acclimated. If he stays healthy, he really lengthens an already deep CB group.— Vincent Bonsignore (@DailyNewsVinny) July 30, 2018
Rams Head Coach Sean McVay recently remarked:
He’s doing a great job. He’s one of those guys you talk about a lot of the big-time guys that we’ve signed, but I think people forget what a productive player Sam’s been in this league. Elite man-to-man skills, unbelievable lateral agility and just short-space quickness. He’s a great guy...He’s an elite-type player with elite skills and really happy for him. We’re hoping he’s able to stay healthy.
Shields appears to be satisfied with his efforts so far:
I’ve been through a lot, I took time off and now I’m here and I’m doing a hell of a job.
DE John Franklin-Myers
He went 0-40 in high school earning his stripes in Nacogdoches, Texas. So scouts had a right to wonder if Jonathan Franklin-Myers was the truth.
Hence, Rams General Manager Les Snead and his merry band of pranksters decided to head to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl to see what invitee Franklin-Myers looked like against stiffer competition. Well, Franklin-Myers dominated that day. His size and wingspan made him look all the part of a classic 4-3 defensive end, but his skill set could allow him to line up elsewhere in the Rams current 3-4 scheme. Some may say that makes him a tweener but the Rams seem to think a better adjective would be versatile. So far in camp, Franklin-Myers has had plenty of run with the 1st team defense, lining up at several positions, while the Aaron Donald contract saga continues to unfold (or not). At the very least, it seems Franklin-Myers has an excellent shot to be part of Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ rotation this season:
Charles speaking the truth. Franklin-Myers is already emerging as a nice piece on the defensive front. https://t.co/ex76i73U9I— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) July 30, 2018
OL Jamil Demby
Following a substance abuse violation for weed, starting RG Jamon Brown will be suspended for the Rams’ first two games this season. That will leave a vacuum that currently seems likely to be filled by OL Austin Blythe who came aboard last year and has a full season’s experience under McVay.
However, so far in camp the Rams have given third-round 2018 NFL Draft rookie draft pick Joseph Noteboom an opportunity at that spot as well. Noteboom’s footwork could work well in zone blocking schemes, but Demby is a bit more of the mauler-type that might be a good fit at that guard position. So far, Demby, a sixth-round pick himself who was selected just 103 picks after Noteboom, has gotten work in several spots including right tackle and left guard.
Sadly, it seems like a longshot that the Rams offensive line will be able to sustain their run of almost-perfect health that they experienced a season ago. If there’s an issue, somebody new is going to play an important role. Demby is a big guy that plays with a mean streak.
He might step in at some point and prove to be a draft day steal.
OLB Matt Longacre
With EDGE Robert Quinn having been dealt to the Everglades and OLB Connor Barwin departing for East Rutherford, the Rams were in need of two suitable edge rushers. Second-year man Samson Ebukam and his upside have drawn such strong reviews that Phillips has already declared him a starter. On the other side, Longacre is likely to be the other starter.
Last season, Longacre was third on the team in sacks with 5.5 of them tallied on far fewer snaps than Quinn or Barwin. Longacre seems like he should be able to provide an adequate pass rush this season, provided he can rebound from a bicep injury that he endured last week in camp and an offseason back surgery.