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Which Rams veterans could get pushed out of starting roles or off of the 53-man roster?

7 veterans who may get squeezed out of starting roles, if not 53-man roster spots, without a strong finish

NFL: SEP 25 Rams at Cardinals Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams have nothing this year if not the most competition that Sean McVay has faced since 2017, if not ever in his career as the head coach. In Saturday’s preseason game against the Chargers, several of those competitions played out in the exhibition format, but McVay continues to emphasize that the “controlled environments” in practice like this week’s joint session with the Las Vegas Raiders are even more important to those evaluations.

So these are seven players who will need to have really good practices this week or risk being out of a job by next week.

LT Joe Noteboom

C Brian Allen

Anyone who argues that it doesn’t matter that the Rams still haven’t named three of their five starting offensive line is essentially saying that even though most teams don’t have five good linemen, L.A. must have eight. What a luxury!

There is a Hollywood comedy agent named Barry Katz who has a quote, “If you’re undeniable, you won’t be denied.” Well, any football coach would be overjoyed to have one offensive lineman who was undeniable at left tackle. Either the Rams have two undeniable left tackles, one of whom is Noteboom and the other is a 2021 UDFA with six career starts, or McVay’s just trying to choose the one who will do the least amount of damage.

Just the fact that McVay is testing out Noteboom at right guard is a clear indicator that the sixth-year offensive lineman didn’t do enough this offseason to outright win the left tackle job that he should want. Noteboom was paid big bucks as a free agent in 2022 because the Rams expected him to be the heir apparent to Andrew Whitworth, but 18 months later he’s lost considerable ground to undrafted free agent Alaric Jackson.

Practically every offensive lineman would want to be a left tackle purely for financial reasons. Noteboom wouldn’t just lie down and say, “Give me a job, any job, they’re all the same.” They’re not all the same and Noteboom’s three-year, $40 million contract is as good of evidence as you would ever need to prove that they’re not all the same: He was paid that much only on the premise that he could play left tackle. If Noteboom doesn’t win left tackle, he won’t be on the team in 2024 barring a pay cut.

The Rams aren’t going to have him around as a $20 million right guard, which by the way isn’t a position we have reason to believe that Noteboom will be good at yet.

Therefore, Jackson could push Noteboom out of the left tackle and at that point the Rams may just decide to cut their losses: 5 years, 23 starts, and $29 million earned to date.

But playing right guard assumes that the job won’t be handed to Coleman Shelton if Brian Allen wins center. The Rams also gave Allen a new contract in 2022 and like Noteboom, he’s competing for a job a year later. Allen started nine games in 2019, zero games in 2020, 16 games in 2021, and seven games in 2022. He’s made $11.4 million to date.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Shelton started 13 games in 2022 and though he’s actually older than Allen, L.A. might feel that he has more potential—or just better chemistry with Matthew Stafford—and decide to give him a shot to be the long-term center. But if Allen wins the job, Shelton could end up as the starting right guard, then Noteboom would have nowhere else to go. At least among the starting five.

Right now, the favorites to start might be Jackson, Steve Avila, Allen, Shelton, and Rob Havenstein. Tremayne Anchrum played a lot of reps on Saturday against the Chargers, is that really an indication that the team is hopeful that he can start at right guard?

As far as fifth round pick Warren McClendon, it is unlikely that McVay wants to put a rookie out there protecting Stafford’s blindside.

WR Van Jefferson or WR Demarcus Robinson

With reports on so many different receivers in camp looking “great” (we saw how that worked out last year) the numbers simply demand that one of them doesn’t get so lucky by Week 1. Stafford can’t throw to Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson and Tutu Atwell and Demarcus Robinson and Puka Nacua and Ben Skowronek.

(Setting aside Tyler Higbee, Tyler Johnson, Lance McCutcheon, Kyren Williams, etc.)

Or did we forget that the Rams struggled to find a legitimate number two receiver last season even after they lost their number one receiver?

NFL: AUG 12 Preseason - Chargers at Rams Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you could only pick three receivers to start—which is basically how offense works nowadays—who do you choose besides Kupp? No matter your answer, likely you need to decide between Jefferson and Robinson because Tutu and Skow do their own thing, while Puka is a fun standout rookie who costs nothing.

And by the way, I’m not talking about “who do you keep” because yes, the Rams could keep all six of these players. I’m talking about who do you play, because there just aren’t any offenses in football that rotate six receivers. Or five. Or barely even four.

RB Royce Freeman

Keep Cam Akers, Kyren Williams, Zach Evans, and Ronnie Rivers. That’s it, that’s all I have to say.

DL Marquise Copeland

Any answers on defense are going to be sketchy because there are no real veterans besides Aaron Donald. There’s Ahkello Witherspoon and John Johnson, but I do expect both to have starting roles, which is why they’re on the roster to begin with.

Believe it or not, among all defensive players who are still on the Rams roster from last year, Copeland has the fifth-most snaps after Ernest Jones, Donald, Derion Kendrick, and Michael Hoecht. A 2019 undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati, Copeland is entering his fifth season with the Rams and that makes him a vet leader of sorts.

But there has to be some hope in the front office that one of the younger draftees, such as Earnest Brown, Desjuan Johnson, or Kobie Turner, pushes him out of snaps. Copeland made nine starts and had 31 tackles with a sack in 2022. As of right now, it just doesn’t seem like any of the younger players have necessarily done enough to start over him in Week 1.

That could change.

LB Christian Rozeboom

Another case of a former undrafted free agent who hasn’t played a lot in his career, Rozeboom seems to be falling backwards into a key role at linebacker. Perhaps a position switch for Quentin Lake could change that, if not a strong second half of camp by undrafted free agent Kelechi Anyalebechi, but for now it seems like Rozeboom’s job to lose.

In his third year out of South Dakota State, Rozeboom played in seven defensive snaps in 2022 and he made eight total tackles on defense and special teams.

The Rams may feel confident with Ernest Jones, but everything is up in the air next to him between Rozeboom, Jake Hummel, and all other apparent options.