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Chandler Brewer’s long and winding road to the Rams starting lineup

After battling and beating cancer, his fortunes are on the rise

NFL: AUG 24 Broncos at Rams
Chandler Brewer is ready for a second start in L.A.
Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Back in the spring of 2018, Middle Tennessee State’s three-year starting guard, Chandler Brewer, was preparing for his senior season, when he felt a lump below his left knee. Bumps and bruises are nothing new in the trenches, so although the mass persisted, Brewer didn’t report it until after the conclusion of the Blue Raiders spring workouts.

At first, it was diagnosed by the training staff as an inflamed lymph node, but when doctors later examined it after a routine removal procedure, the diagnosis was the worst—cancer, namely non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Brewer would undergo a series of radiation treatments over the course of his senior year without missing a single practice or any of his 14 games.

It would have been easy to take a redshirt or hang up his cleats and concentrate on a full life off the gridiron, but Brewer would have none of it and chose to move forward in football without going public. Only a handful of his MTSU coaches were taken into confidence

“It’s made me a better man,” he told the Murfreesboro Dailey News Journal, “understanding different things and different elements from having that, because it’s a whirlwind. I’m sitting here thinking I could be as healthy as I could be, twenty-one years old, senior in college, getting ready to play my last season. … It’s not in me to quit and I was going to keep pushing myself through the whole thing.”

Not only did he perservere, he flourished. For the season, he allowed only two sacks over 450 pass attempts and earned first team All-CUSA honors and was thrice-named to Pro Football Focus’ CUSA Team of the Week for his play. At the team level, his work ethic and efforts on the field and in the weight room were honored by his coaches and teammates.

After not receiving a NFL Combine invite, Brewer’s best chance to shine was the MTSU Pro Day and he posted very good numbers. He measured in at 6’ 5”, weighed 320 lbs., with over 34” long arms and 10” hands. In the speed/agility drills he ran 5.13 in the forty, a 7.75 3cone, and 4.82 in the shuttle. He leapt a 26.5 vertical, 8’ 9” in the broad, and pushed 34 reps on the bench in the explosives. His Relative Athletic Score is 9.20.

As if his college journey wasn’t filled with enough hidden twists and hairpin turns, there was no possibility that Brewer could foresee what lie ahead on his trek through the pro game. Although not coming out of highly respected football program or conference, Brewer was not a total unknown, Pro Football Focus rated him as a top 30 prospect going into his senior year.

Although draft day 2019 came and went without calling his name, the Los Angeles Rams signed Brewer as an undrafted free agent and just six month’s past his final radiation treatment, his rookie trying camp commenced. He was released in final roster cuts and signed to the practice squad. As the ‘19 season progressed, L.A.’s offensive line was beset with injuries and in mid-November, Brewer was was called to the active roster. He participated in 17 offensive snaps, chipped in 31 more on special teams, and was given a 68.2 score from Pro Football Focus.

With 2020 came COVID-19 and Brewer, being in the “high risk” category decided to opt out. He told J.B. Long on the Rams Revealed podcast that it was the toughest decision that he ever made, and that even though it was in remission, because of his type of cancer, it was the right decision to make.

The Rams would keep Brewer in the fold for 2021 and although he would never see the active roster, he joined his teammates in procuring a Super Bowl ring. Even though it didn’t translate into any action, L.A. liked his guard/tackle versatility and kept him stashed. After the ‘21 draft, General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay were being questioned as to why they didn’t add any offensive lineman and McVay hinted in press conference that the training camp roster already included a proxy draft pick,

“Chandler Brewer was our draft pick this year opting back in,” McVay said, “ (He’s) A guy that we have a lot of excitement about, that can play inside and outside. Chandler Brewer was the guy we added to the mix that wasn’t with us last year...”

It is well reported that the Rams do not play their starters or top reserves in preseason, so in 2022 as in the past, Brewer logged plenty of exhibition snaps. He played well, certainly as good or better than any other lineman, but was again released in final cuts and placed onto the practice squad.

Injuries have been a dominant theme of this year’s L.A.’s front line, and Brewer has been patiently waiting in the wings. He was elevated to the active roster for three games versus the Carolina Panthers and twice against the San Francisco 49ers, without mustering a snap. Rooted in the unit’s injuries and poor play from the reserves ahead of him, Brewer’s big chance came—a starting right guard role against Akiem Hicks, Vita Vea, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

By any accounting, Brewer had a solid performance. Playing in all 54 offensive snaps, Pro Football Focus gave him a 70.8 score and Turf Show Times writer Steven Ridings said,

“Chandler Brewer was a surprise starter in place of Oday Aboushi. PFF graded Brewer as one of the top offensive players for Los Angeles. I’ll be interested to see if McVay keeps him at right guard when Coleman Shelton returns or if they will experiment with Shelton at left guard.”

SISDataHub charged him with only one blown block. I counted two blown blocks, one pass and one run, on the game film replay.

But, life as a roster bubble player has no guarantees and with starting right guard Coleman Shelton returning to the Rams offensive line this week, Brewer could find himself back on the sideline. McVay could move him to the left side, because although it’s a small sample, (three pre and one regular season game) he has certainly outplayed Bobby Evans.

With all the adversity Brewer has endured on his football journey, his professional path is coming in circle. It was back in 2019, when he saw his first NFL action in mop up duty versus the Arizona Cardinals and his path crosses them again on Sunday. Will it be as a starter this time?