The Los Angeles Rams do not have to make any cuts until August 29th, but when that day comes Sean McVay is sure to unveil some surprises. Because the Rams have so many position battles, so many inexperienced and untested players, so many decisions to make relative to all of his other seasons as the head coach at this time of year, it’s even more difficult to guess what he will do next week.
Based on reports in OTAs, minicamp, training camp, and preseason, these three players could have gone from inside to outside of the bubble during that time.
WR Lance McCutcheon
Where did McCutcheon go? The Rams’ all-time leader in preseason receiving yards, McCutcheon seems to have fallen behind veteran Tyler Johnson, himself a player on the bubble behind six other receivers.
We know that the Rams will keep Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Puka Nacua, and Tutu Atwell. We assume that they will keep Demarcus Robinson and Ben Skowronek, of course. Johnson has proven a reliable target in the preseason, whereas someone like Austin Trammell or Xavier Smith also provide value as returners. On the contrary, McCutcheon is basically only an outside receiver, not something sorely needed on L.A.’s roster right now.
A year after being the star of the preseason, McCutcheon’s two catches through two games would seem to imply that he’s outside of the bubble because he’s surely not getting rest days due to being a lock on the roster.
RT Logan Bruss
A right tackle in college at Wisconsin, drafted to compete at right guard, injured far too early during his first training camp, Bruss was moved back to tackle this offseason. It’s the one offensive line position that has a stable veteran starter too, so Bruss’s ceiling for 2023 would be as a backup to Rob Havenstein, a player who has missed few games in his career and has a contract that locks him onto the team through at least 2024.
Coupled with the fact that Bruss hasn’t played well in the preseason and then got injured on Saturday against the Raiders, L.A.’s first pick in the 2022 draft (but still outside the top-100 overall) may not have long left on the Rams. After being way too patient with former third round pick Bobby Evans, perhaps Sean McVay won’t give as many chances to other players in the future just because they were day two picks.
Perhaps his ankle injury puts Bruss back on IR and he is stashed on the roster, but that would now mean that by the time next year’s preseason gets here that Bruss will have played a handful of exhibition snaps over the past 2.5 years of football and nothing more.
OLB Ochaun Mathis
Whether it is that surprising or not that Mathis is on the bubble, I’m not sure. Perhaps his knee injury will also land him on a reserve list and make 2023 a redshirt season. What we can assess is that out of L.A.’s 14 draft picks in 2023, Mathis could be the one who we know the least about.
Will McVay be able to keep all 14 draft picks plus several undrafted free agent standouts?
Mathis, a sixth round pick, plays one of the most important positions and on L.A., one of the biggest apparent weaknesses. For now, untested rookie Byron Young and barely-tested veteran Michael Hoecht look to be starting, with depth of Daniel Hardy, Zach VanValkenburg, Nick Hampton, and Keir Thomas. With those six players and Mathis, can the Rams afford to risk cutting someone who might end up being relatively good?
(Relative to the other six on the Rams that is.)
Hoecht, the most veteran of the group, has 518 career snaps and that was on the defensive line. Thomas, who has 2.5 sacks in two preseason games, has 71 snaps. Hardy has 41 snaps.
It may seem like the Rams would just keep Mathis because he was drafted and the position is so inexperienced, but if McVay keeps Young, Hoecht, Hampton, Thomas, and Hardy, is that worth rolling the dice on that group? Plus, the Rams may be the team first in line for any veteran edge rushers on the market or intriguing projects who end up getting cut next week.
Mathis may not be the only drafted rookie in danger of not making the roster. We could have conversations about at least a couple of other day three picks in that group. But he’s the one missing too many practices and preseason opportunities and he already had a hill to climb when training camp started.