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Has the Los Angeles Rams’ roster depth improved since last season?

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With the starting roster looking much improved after a headline-making offseason, TST’s Skye Sverdlin looks at the roster depth from 2018 compared to 2017.

NFL: Houston Texans at Los Angeles Rams
Cornerback Sam Shields takes one to the house against the Houston Texans in a preseason matchup on August 25.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Entering year two of Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay’s franchise facelift, it would stand to reason that the team’s depth should be improved.

Last year, Mcvay found his starters on offense, auditioned guys on defense, and was mostly blessed to not have to tap very deep into the depth chart to stay afloat.

While McVay does everything possible to minimize wear and tear, it seems improbable that the Rams will be able to maintain their string of unusually brief injury-reports dating back to last year. The Rams are hoping that adding another draft class and free agent crop will help fill out the roster, provide insurance, and allow some breathers for starters.

Let’s take a look at each position group to see if the team’s overall depth really has improved since opening day a year ago:

Defense

Defensive Line

2018: Ethan Westbrooks, Tanzel Smart, John Franklin-Myers, Sebastian Joseph-Day
2017: Tyrunn Walker, Tanzel Smart, Morgan Fox

Westbrooks should really be listed on both years, and will continue to be big part of the Rams defensive line rotation, but we had to pick three starters for last year’s line. EW seemed more deserving of the title than guys like Walker or Fox, though all three had played around 30% of defensive snaps.

This year Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald, and Michael Brockers, will be backed by Westbrooks, Tanzel Smart, Jonathan Franklin-Myers, and Sebastian Joseph-Day. Morgan Fox is hurt. Dominique Easley has been moved to EDGE.

While I was personally a big fan of Tyrunn Walker, adding Suh pushes Westbrooks into a a very active backup role. Franklin-Myers also looked like a solid player during preseason.

VERDICT

2018 depth is a tad better

Linebackers

2018: Dominique Easley, Trevon Young, Justin Lawler, Ramik Wilson, Bryce Hager, Micah Kiser
2017: Samson Ebukam, Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager, Quinton Jefferson, Matt Longacre, Ejuan Price

Littleton, Ebukam and Matt Longacre are now starters, so they no longer count as depth. In that sense, perhaps last year’s backup linebackers were better. Of course going into 2017, we knew little about Littleton’s or Ebukam’s abilities which is still kind of the case.

Perhaps Kiser or Young are candidates to ascend in a similar fashion this season. Also, if we are to assume Longacre will get the nod as a starter, then that leaves Easley as a high powered backup at EDGE.

Rookie Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is currently on the PUP list, but could potentially have an impact later in the season.

VERDICT

2017, but it’s close. I might look silly here if Kiser becomes the long-term captain of the defense, but I’m guessing Littleton holds down the fort this season at the mike backer spot.

Secondary

2018 Nickell Robey-Coleman, Sam Shields, Troy Hill, Blake Countess, Marqui Christian, Isaiah Johnson
2017 Nickell Robey-Coleman, John Johnson III ,Blake Countess, Dominique Hatfield, Kevin Peterson, Marqui Christian, Cody Davis

I’ve got Johnson listed among the backups, because we’re comparing opening day rosters and Maurice Alexander was still the Rams’ starting safety at that point. Of course, Alexander was demoted by Week 5 and the rest is history, but technically Johnson counts as a backup in this exercise.

This year’s bunch is strong. “Slot God” Robey-Coleman is back after signing a three-year extension last March. Throughout camp and preseason, Shields has flashed some of the brilliance that made him a Pro Bowler in Green Bay. Christian is also becoming a versatile weapon for Wade Philips.

VERDICT

2017, knowing what we know now about John Johnson’s level of play…but Shields seems like a great acquisition, and the 2018 group is strong.

Offense

Quarterbacks

2018 Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen
2017 Sean Mannion

Basura!

Please handle this Lester.

VERDICT: I refuse.

Running Backs

2018 Malcolm Brown, Justin Davis, John Kelly
2017 Malcolm Brown, Justin Davis

Skater John Kelly seems legit- so legit that Rams decided to carry four running backs this seaons.

VERDICT

2018

Wide Receivers

2018 Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas
2017 Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas

VERDICT

Wash

Tight Ends

2018 Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
2017 Gerald Everett, Derek Carrier

Carrier had more, albeit limited, experience than Mundt. But if healthy, Everett should be better than he was as rookie.

VERDICT

2018

Offensive Line

2018 Austin Blythe, Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen, Jamil Demby
2017 Austin Blythe, J.J. Dielman, Andrew Donnal, Aaron Neary, Darrell Williams

Having to let Darrell Williams play at left tackle in the event of a Whitworthian injury was a terrifying proposition that the Rams survived. Now they have third-round selection Joseph Noteboom as their emergency tackle, and things feel a bit better, despite him being a rookie.

Austin Blythe is solid at guard, and will likely get to start until Jamon Brown returns from his two-game suspension. Jamil Demby is bear, but not really a dancing bear, so it’ll be best if the Rams keep him on the interior for now. Brian Allen seems like a solid piece as well.

VERDICT

2018, they’re inexperienced, but far more talented.

Final Decision

Johnson, Ebukam, Littleton and Longacre have been promoted to the starting lineup, which could potentially leave voids.

However, it seems like McVay, General Manager Les Snead, and Defensive Coordinator Wade Philips have been on the same page since last season’s draft and have a clear vision regarding what players are capable of performing specific roles for this team. If that’s case, then it seems likely that there will be at least a few solid contributors added from the class of 2018, despite having no first or second-round picks. Franklin-Myers, Kiser, Noteboom and Kelly already seem like they could be plugged in if need be.

At the end of the day, 2018 wins largely because the offensive line seems far more capable of bailing water should any starters miss time. Not all positions are the same, and having a bunch of flotsam and jetsam protecting starting QB Jared Goff could have dashed the Rams’ high hopes in 2018. However, as long as the injury bug doesn’t take out to many starters at once, they should be okay with their improved depth there this season.

What do you think? Has the Rams depth improved?

Poll

Has the Rams depth improved?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    The Rams depth is better in 2018
    (664 votes)
  • 2%
    The Rams depth was better in 2017
    (19 votes)
  • 16%
    Eh, it’s about equal
    (134 votes)
817 votes total Vote Now