On Monday, I wrote about three LA Rams on offense who could push for the final 53-man roster if they caught the attention of Sean McVay one or six more times. Today, we move to the defensive side, where competitions at linebacker and safety have been as heated as anywhere else on the roster.
Except — maybe — punter.
Terrell Lewis, OLB
There was a time not long ago when we would have assumed that Chris Garrett was named here instead of Lewis, but I think by now we have to agree that Garrett looks like a better bet for the final 53 than Lewis. It could be that Lewis still has some mystical “higher ceiling” than Garrett, but the 2020 third round pick simply hasn’t appeared on a field enough times yet to make it matter.
CB Darious Williams is practicing. Red non-contact jersey and club for CB Robert Rochell. Nick Scott, Trishton Jackson, Terrell Lewis working out on the bikes this morning. I don’t see Leonard Floyd (ankle) yet this morning, so that situation merits followup. Lawler likely sub.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) August 18, 2021
We know very little of what McVay and the staff truly think about Lewis and whether or not he’s special enough to keep on the 53-man roster despite how few opportunities they’ve had to see him play.
Will Lewis be in practice this week? Will he play in the game on Saturday? A strong week for Lewis could make the decisions at linebacker incredibly difficult. An absent week though, and he might be out of chances with LA.
Kareem Orr, DB
The defensive back competition has been at least as intense at the one at linebacker and it’s difficult to say who is in the lead to be the last name or two on the 53-man roster. Jalen Ramsey, Darious Williams, David Long, Jordan Fuller, Taylor Rapp, Terrell Burgess, and Nick Scott would seem to be seven defensive backs with extraordinarily good odds to be on the final roster, and fourth round pick Robert Rochell is likely number eight. I also want to say that Dont’e Deayon’s absence in the second preseason game, plus his consistently present excitement and hustle at training camp, makes him number nine.
McVay only kept nine defensive backs last year.
The question then becomes whether or not McVay will go to 10 defensive backs, if Rapp, Deayon, Scott, or Rochell could be a surprise cut, or if there isn’t room for any other cornerbacks and safeties on the roster.
The names left include Orr, J.R. Reed, Juju Hughes, Brontae Harris, Donovan Olumba, Troy Warner, and Tyler Hall. I only see the first four names there as guys who seem to have a shot and any of those four could be difficult cuts. Yet we can almost guarantee that at least half of them won’t make it.
Hughes was on the 53-man roster in 2020 and regularly played on special teams.
Harris has gotten a ton of reps in preseason and had a nifty interception last week.
Reed’s been a stand out in both preseason games and often in training camp. But so too has Orr stood out in camp and joint practices.
It may be easy for some fans to scratch out Taylor Rapp or Dont’e Deayon in favor of a younger player, but that doesn’t seem to be the reputation for Sean McVay and it’s not what would be expected after going the entire month with Rapp as a starter. A strong final week for any of those four players could make it difficult, but Orr, Reed, and Hughes might be the ones most clearly on the bubble.
Corey Bojorquez, P
While not specifically a defensive player, the punter’s job is to give the defense the most possible amount of yards between the opposing offense and his own team’s end zone. Whoever the Rams punter is in 2021 — and it is still likely to be Johnny Hekker — he’ll be like the Oz of the LA Defense; always behind the curtain, often controlling the world that they live in.
With Bojorquez activated to the roster on Tuesday and Hekker still confined to the COVID-19 reserve list, there’s no question that a strong week by the second-year punter can make McVay’s $4.9 million decision very difficult.
Per the Rams transaction page, punter Corey Bojorquez has been activated off the COVID/reserve list. Bojorquez was a close contact. In order to keep the roster at 80 players, TE Kyle Markaway was waived. Punter Johnny Hekker remains on the COVID/reserve list.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) August 24, 2021
Hekker is the NFL’s highest-paid punter and the Rams could find themselves in need of money this year, whether it be at running back, offensive line, or elsewhere. Bojorquez led the league in yards per punt in 2020 and he’s held his own in camp, earning further opportunities somewhere in the NFL, if not LA.