With training camp two weeks away, the Los Angeles Rams coaching staff is busy trying to decide which players fit into what roles. While many players are working on strength and conditioning in the training complex, camp starts on officially July 25 and one thing is assured, there are bound to be surprising moves.
The biggest surprises are always when veteran players get either released or traded. Realistically, the Rams don’t really have that many long-term veterans, let alone any that are in danger, but there are a few short-termer’s that could get caught up in the numbers game and be vulnerable.
Robert Rochell- cornerback
The forgotten man of the Rams secondary? What I can’t forget is that the Rams last two cornerback additions, Akhello Witherspoon and Vincent Gray, have been of the larger variety. That doesn’t necessarily mean Rochell is on the block, but adding two players with similar measurables certainly says something.
There is no question of Rochell’s size, length, and athleticism with a 9.65 RAS. His 4.41 forty, 1.51 split, 6.84 3Cone, and 4.08 shuttle show long speed, burst, and short area agility. Twitch shows up in 43” vertical and 11’ 1” broad jump. His puny nine reps on the bench doesn’t really square and it’s unclear the number is from lack of effort or that his FCS program didn’t do much weight work.
To go along with the aforementioned big corners, DeCobie Durant could also be competition outside. In his first season, 2021, Rochell battled chest and knee injuries. Last year, his defensive reps were down from his rookie year, 234 to 26, although his special teams snaps surged up to 325. He was the Rams gunner on punts and kickoffs.
One thing I noticed regularly in Rochell’s special teams snaps was his lack of awareness. He did not seem to track the ball on punts well and was too often out of position to make a play on the returner or the carom of the bouncing ball. If this regularly shows up in his coverage during practice, that is a major flaw for zone coverage.
Christian Rozeboom- off ball linebacker
Signed as a 2020 undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State. Was a tackle machine in college, starting all 53 games, logging 100+ tackles four straight years and eight interceptions. As a Ram, he’s been a special teams stalwart spanning both coverage and return units. Only seven of his 559 pro snaps have on defense. He has 13 total tackles.
Rozeboom’s seven snaps puts him as the second most tenured member. So why is his position tenuous in a thin room? He projects best as the “Mike” backer, an aggressive, downhill thumper that takes on blockers at the point of attack, not the “Will” type of backer who is adept at coverage and defending space. Ernest Jones is locked in at “Mike”, will wear the green dot as defensive leader, and likely seldom leave the field unless struck down with injury.
At first blush, It would seem that Rozeboom’s competition is second-year Jake Hummel and five rookie UDFA linebackers, but his actual rival for snaps could end up being a safety or even, cornerback. The Rams have a stable of good-looking young secondary players and L.A. has been very liberal in its use of nickel and dime formations. Last year, Jones only played in 66% of snaps in the “Will” role.
The Rams have waived Rozeboom in two of his three pro seasons. The Kansas City Chiefs picked him up after the 2021 release and cut him a month later. He must answer two big questions in camp. First, has he developed enough to see the field on defense? And second, can he hold off the youngsters for a special teams role?
Jonah Williams- defensive tackle
Williams NFL path is very similar to that of Rozeboom’s. A small school UDFA out of Weber State in 2020, Williams was an FCS All-American and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, booking 15 sacks, 28 tackles for loss, and three each, fumble recoveries, forced fumbles, and blocked kicks. He’s also been released by the Rams twice in three years. The Minnesota Vikings scooped him off waivers in 2021, but he couldn’t pass his physical.
The Rams defensive line is fairly deep on rotational talent. Starting talent is another thing. L.A. will likely keep six down linemen. Aaron Donald, Bobby Brown, rookie Kobie Turner are locked in and I think Larell Murchison has enough size, versatility, an athleticism to to batten down a fourth spot. That leaves three statistically similar players, Williams, Marquise Copeland, and Earnest Brown to battle Round 7 pick Desjuan Johnson and youngsters, T.J. Carter, and Taron Vincent for two vacant roster spots.
Injuries allowed Williams six starts lat year. He totaled 23 tackles, 1⁄2 sack, and five pressures over 341 snaps. He’s also added 200+ special teams snaps in his 24 pro games. He is one of the most athletic candidates of the down linemen. In college he timed 4.65/4.67 in the forty with a 35” vertical and 30 reps on the bench.
I like Williams, always have, but he’s been around now for three seasons and is 28 years old. Again, as with Rozeboom, has he developed enough to be more than a spot player? I always thought he would do best as an outside pass rusher, but the Rams seem intent on playing him inside against bigger blockers. While he certainly plays hard, there has been no significant uptick in pass rush pressure and the Rams have stocked up the outside pass rushing with young candidates.
Lance McCutcheon- wide receiver
From everybody’s 2022 camp crush to potential practice squad bubble, How can this be? Even though he led NFL wide receivers in preseason game yardage, he was mired in the Rams no man’s land of WR#6 or WR#7. He was just too raw and undeveloped to gain much traction against starting grade pro defenses.
And that may very well be the case in 2023. Until his game is groomed, his best attributes are his size and contested catch ability. That “big” role is already filled by Bennett Skowronek and supported by the Rams acquisitions of Tyler Johnson, Demarcus Robinson, and Tyler Hudson, all over six foot tall.
McCutcheon did get get some much-valued, regular season rookie play time last year. He played in 10 games and got one start. His output numbers weren’t much, 56 offensive snaps, five targets and zero receptions. His special teams ability was questioned during training camp and while did get 110 reps, again his output was limited to two tackles.
The same questions swirl around McCutheon for this training camp. Can he create his own route separation? Has his blocking improved? And finally, can he add some value on special teams? He will have to show more than overpowering roster bubble cornerbacks in the preseason.
Tremayne Anchrum- offensive line
How long do you wait for a young player to develop? Particularly if said player has the ceiling of an NFL backup? Yes, the Rams have a history of keeping backup grade offensive linemen around. Bobby Evans, Jeremiah Kolone, Jamil Demby, Chandler Brewer, and to a lesser extent, Brian Allen, just to name a few.
Which brings us to Anchrum. Should the Rams invest more time and a roster spot in his potential development? Drafted at #250 of Round 7 in 2020, he still quite young at 25. But, he’s in the last year of his rookie contract, makes $1 mil+, and has missed most of the last two seasons with major ankle injuries. He’s only logged five offensive snaps in L.A.
Two-year starting right tackle at Clemson, his squad’s had a 29-1 record over that time. Although Anchrum is not the prototypical NFL tackle at 6’ 2” 315 lbs., he got a big shot at guard last year after David Edwards and Brian Allen went down, but after three plays in his first NFL start, he broke his lower leg.
For 2024, the Rams hold control over all their offensive linemen except Anchrum and Coleman Shelton. They have also selected guards in their past two drafts and have a full compliment of picks in next years draft. A decision to keep Anchrum must take next season into account as well. Can he show enough in camp to prove his worth going forward?
On offense, I guess running back Sony Michel could fit into a list of possibilities. I’m hard pressed to think that L.A. will keep both wide receivers Tyler Johnson and Demarcus Robinson. Guard Zachary Thomas on the offensive line faces the same situation as Tremayne Anchrum. Now none of those players are long term Rams, but bubble candidates just the same.
The defense is so young, it’s wide open. Someone has to go on the defensive line, either Jonah Williams, Marquise Copeland, or Earnest Brown. Maybe two, if Desjuan Johnson can show out in camp. In the secondary, Richard LeCounte was a Round 5 pick just two years ago.
There could be bigger thunder strikes on the horizon, a 5-12 season demands some kind of answer. Sean McVay and the coaching staff are on record as saying the best players will play. Fans will be watching.