The Los Angeles Rams released their initial 53-man roster on Tuesday. While many of the names were expected, it didn’t come without its share of surprises. Here are the five biggest surprises from the 53-man roster.
1. WR/TE Jacob Harris Gets Cut
In a surprise move, the Rams cut Jacob Harris. After spending the majority of his rookie season hurt, there was a lot of optimism for Harris heading into this season.
From just an athletic standpoint, Jacob Harris is a phenomenon. Comparing Harris’ RAS with Kyle Pitts, and he actually is a better athlete. Unfortunately, the production on the field just never happened. Even this year in the preseason, Harris had just five receptions for 28 yards.
The Rams can still put Jacob Harris on the practice squad. That might be the best place for him as it will allow him to continue to develop. However, many were looking forward to seeing what Harris could do on the field this year.
2. Rams Keep OL Bobby Evans
It’s easy to understand why the Rams kept Bobby Evans. Offensive linemen are hard to come by, especially when it comes to depth. Bobby Evans has been with the Rams for three years and has started games in that span. That’s valuable.
With all of that said, Bobby Evans simply hasn’t been good. In 2019, Evans was actually the Rams’ fourth best offensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus. He looked like a player with starting potential. To say he hasn’t developed that way and reached that ceiling is an understatement.
Evans was the worst graded offensive lineman in the preseason for the Rams according to Pro Football Focus. He gave up a team-high eight pressures despite playing late into games against players who possibly didn’t make the roster on their respective teams.
AJ Arcuri had a good preseason. It seemed like the right time to move on from Evans. Instead, the Rams stuck with the known commodity.
3. Four Linebackers Make The Roster
It’s well known that the Rams don’t value the linebacker position. That’s a main reason why Troy Reeder played as often as he did last season. The linebacker position just simply doesn’t play a big role in the Rams defense.
With Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones, the Rams have two very solid linebackers. Behind them, Christian Rozeboom has spent much of the last three years in the Rams’ system. That doesn’t even mention Travin Howard who’s on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list.
However, the Rams couldn’t let Jake Hummel hit the market. In three games, Hummel broke the preseason record in tackles and continued to make positive plays. The Rams have had success in the past finding value in undrafted free agent linebackers. Cory Littleton and Reeder are prime examples. Hummel looks to be next.
4. Three Undrafted Free Agents Stand Out
Having one or two undrafted free agents make the final roster would be considered a win. After signing 17 following the draft, the Rams kept three. A 17 percent hit-rate may not seem like a lot, but for players who didn't even get drafted, that’s a huge win. It also shows just how good the Rams scouting department is.
Starting with the first one - Lance McCutcheon. McCutcheon led the preseason in receiving yards and looked like he was on another level compared to other players on the field. What’s even more impressive is that the Rams were the first team to call McCutcheon after the draft.
The Rams identified WR Lance McCutcheon as a quality prospect during the draft process last spring even though they didn't select him. I asked him why he chose LA to sign as a UDFA: "They were the first ones to call me, so I just had to take advantage."— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) August 14, 2022
I mentioned Jake Hummel above, but he was probably the best undrafted free agent that the Rams signed. It was always going to be tough for Hummel, but he earned his way onto the roster.
Lastly, the player that few expected to make the roster was edge rusher Keir Thomas. Thomas tied for eighth in the NFL in the preseason with 11 pressures. However, he also had a top-20 run defense grade via PFF.
Thomas was a snub during the NFL combine as he wasn’t even invited. He wasn’t the best athlete as he had a 2.59 RAS score. However, when all was said and done, the Rams couldn’t say no.
5. The Rams only Kept Two Tight Ends
Entering the offseason, the Rams were already thin at tight end. After cutting Kendall Blanton, it was thought that maybe Jacob Harris would switch positions again. Instead, the Rams also cut Harris. Roger Carter and Jared Pinkney were also casualties.
...and then there were two! Tyler Higbee and Brycen Hopkins are the only tight ends on the Rams roster.
As I detailed after Blanton was cut, the Rams can afford to be thin at tight end with how they use their wide receivers and how much they use 11 personnel. Still, two tight ends is not a lot.
It would not be surprising to see the Rams sign a tight end that gets cut from another team. Carter and possibly Pinkney will also be practice squad candidates. It will be interesting to see what the Rams do here because two tight ends over the course of the season isn’t realistic. That’s especially the case when you consider that Higbee hasn’t played a full season since 2018.