L.A. Rams head coach Sean McVay must cut the roster down from 80 to 53 players by Tuesday at 1 PM PT. Every NFL team generally has surprises every year around this time and the Rams should be no different, with most of those decisions coming down to a need that most outsiders overlooked or trying to creatively keep players who they don’t want to lose.
McVay will surely have at least one surprise for us at final cuts this year and Lance McCutcheon’s status as a must-keep may be too far gone to qualify as a surprise anymore. That is, unless, McVay does not clutch onto McCutcheon. He is one of three big questions facing McVay’s Rams ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.
How many wide receivers will the Rams keep?
Few teams have six wide receivers virtually locked onto their roster headed into final cuts, but that seems to be the case with L.A.: Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Allen Robinson, Tutu Atwell, Brandon Powell, and Ben Skowronek have all been protected throughout the preseason process. For VJ, that’s in part due to his current injury, but we knew he was safe barring a huge surprise trade.
How do the Rams keep Lance McCutcheon and Jacob Harris? That’s the real challenge.
Harris may have “moved to TE” during training camp but he sure seemed to be a wide receiver during the preseason. L.A. has their top two tight ends and a third tight end is unlikely to see the field this season barring injury. Can McCutcheon and/or Harris be a reliable member of the special teams unit?
I think the most-likely scenario is that McVay keeps both and that it will be crafty roster management that allows the Rams to hold onto McCutcheon and Harris through final cuts. Then it’s a matter of moving pieces around again until maybe the team is back down to six wideouts in Week 1 or Week 2. If the Rams cut McCutcheon, he won’t make it through waivers...he could genuinely start for the Atlanta Falcons by midseason if L.A. puts him at risk. There are too many receiver-needy teams for that to happen.
Harris likely also gets snapped up, but as a project at both WR and TE, it’s not guaranteed.
Who makes up the secondary depth?
Saturday night against the Bengals was an exceptionally rough night for L.A.’s secondary, which is disappointing given how well Derion Kendrick and Cobie Durant played in training camp and the previous two games. Generally speaking, the defense was underwhelming in the preseason and that speaks to concerns about the Rams’ depth that we’ve addressed throughout the offseason.
The good news is that the Rams’ starters give the team a great chance to make another deep postseason run. The bad news is that the backups might be—might be—a little worse than other team’s backups.
I believe that the cornerback and safety positions suffer more injuries than the average position and that could put some of these untested players in prime position to contribute in 2022. The Rams will start Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, and David Long, with Robert Rochell locked in as the fourth option. But Kendrick, Durant, Russ Yeast, Grant Haley, Duron Lowe, and Tyler Hall are fighting to be corners five and six (if six make it) and the numbers are really getting tight at this point—can the Rams keep eight wide receivers and six cornerbacks on the final roster?
Long and Rochell have very little NFL experience, Hill is a journeyman, so we might not be far away from needing to see Kendrick or Durant in the regular season. Who makes up that depth?
Will the Rams add an edge or offensive lineman?
The outside linebacker position has been talked about as L.A.’s biggest question mark ever since Von Miller signed with the Bills and nothing in between that date and Tuesday has answered the query. For now, we know that Justin Hollins and Terrell Lewis will split time opposite of Leonard Floyd, but Keir Thomas has been the shining star in the preseason.
It would be quite stunning if the undrafted rookie is contributing right away, however.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams are starting two new players on the offensive line—Joe Noteboom, Coleman Shelton—and they’ll have two more free agents in 2023 in Rob Havenstein and David Edwards. So the reserves couldn’t be more important, especially after losing Logan Bruss for the entire season with a torn ACL and MCL.
The reserves have not looked good in the preseason, often getting beat by the reserves on other teams. That includes the veteran options, Bobby Evans and Chandler Brewer, which is even more concerning.
It could mean that McVay and Les Snead are looking for offensive linemen reserves bound to get cut or traded by other teams and that may be one area where a new face joins the 53-man roster this week. If not on the offensive line, maybe on the defensive edges.