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Which players were ‘surprises’ on Rams final 53-man roster?

It’s possible some of these players won’t stick for the next week but for now they are Rams

NFL: AUG 19 Rams Training Camp Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Eric Banks didn’t have his name brought up often in the last month. Perhaps the best of those days for Banks was Saturday, when he hasn’t heard his name mentioned as one of the LA Rams final cuts headed into the 2020 season. For all intents and purposes, it seems as though Banks is a member of the Rams, something that seemed unlikely to people outside of the organization as recently as the second before final cuts were announced.

Read: Rams final 53-man roster

Here’s what I wrote about Banks’ football history back in May, when he was working at a Pet and Lawn Supply Store for a summer job:

Banks was an unranked two-star recruit out of Memphis East High School in Memphis, Tennessee in 2016. He was listed as an “athlete” but the reality is much more unusual: Banks was a quarterback for most of his high school career, then transitioned to defensive end by Marcus Wimberly, the head coach. Banks had just transferred from Memphis Academy of Health Sciences and Wimberly saw him as an exceptional athlete who would have a much better shot playing in college if he switched to the d-line.

There are no other offers listed for Banks and he ended up going to UTSA. He was 215 pounds as a high school senior and 275 pounds by the time he finished his college career. Those weren’t the only changes he went through at UTSA, but his production was rather consistent even as Wilson moved him from the edge to the inside during his senior season.

“We put him inside and allowed him to bust nose, and get his nose busted a couple of times, as well,” Wilson said. “Just roughed him up some, and it’s helped his evolution that when he goes back to the end position, he’s that much more physical.”

His defensive line coach as a freshman in 2016 was Eric Henderson, who was hired to work in the same role for the Rams in 2019. Banks 49 career games is a program record. He spent two seasons on the line with former first round pick Marcus Davenport.

Banks was not invited to the combine and didn’t have a pro day. We don’t know his speed and related elements then, but his size comps (around 6’4-6’6, 265-275 pound defensive linemen) are guys like Yetur Gross-Matos and A.J. Epenesa as second round picks this year, plus Khalid Kareem, James Smith-Williams, and Jason Strowbridge, all of whom were drafted.

With veteran A’Shawn Robinson starting the season on NFI, keeping him out for at least six weeks, Banks may have been able to secure a spot on the final roster over two other undrafted free agent rookies and Marquise Copeland. The Rams obviously didn’t want to try and sneak Banks onto the practice squad, or maybe they thought they couldn’t.

It looks as though Banks will be on the team in Week 1 when few expected it. He’s not the only surprise to make it through Saturday.

Trishton Jackson, WR

It was tough to know which young receivers were standing out, but Jackson got some work on returns and coaches did note him to the media at least a couple of times. Here’s some of what I wrote about the UDFA rookie from Syracuse:

At the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, Jackson measured in at 6’1, 191 pounds, 32.4” arms, and 9.75” hands. He ran a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, had a 36” vertical, and a 117” broad jump. Consider these three receiver measurements at the combine:

Brandon Aiyuk, 6’, 205 pounds, 4.5 40-yard dash, 40” vertical, 128” broad, 25th overall

CeeDee Lamb, 6’2, 198 pounds, 4.5 40-yard dash, 34.5” vertical, 124” broad, 17th overall

Trishton Jackson, 6’1, 190 pounds, 4.5 40-yard dash, 36” vertical, 117” broad, undrafted

Jackson would start off as the number six receiver, you’d think, but we don’t necessarily know what kind of impact Nsimba Webster or Van Jefferson will have on offense to open the year. In any case, this seems to be a special teams move and to see what can develop from him as a receiver given his athletic attributes.

Jachai Polite, LB

Polite was the 68th overall pick in 2019 but didn’t make the New York Jets final roster. He was on the Seattle Seahawks shortly and then went to the Rams practice squad. For now it appears he’s made a final roster for the first time.

Xavier Jones, RB

Less surprising given Darrell Henderson’s current injury situation. Henderson made the final roster with no injury designations though and Jones may or may head to the practice squad eventually. Him staying became more likely as the days went on without Henderson practicing.

It may also be surprising to some that Coleman Shelton, Tremayne Anchrum and Brian Allen made it on as offensive line depth but at the moment the team has no other options. They may change their minds once they get a full look at whose available but it is unlikely that you’ll see any quality linemen let go by their teams these days given how hard it can be to find one.