EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Since returning to the practice field after a hamstring injury early in training camp, St. Louis Rams running back Trey Watts has embraced every facet of the game in an effort to steal a spot on the team's initial 53-man roster.
Watts has proved a shifty runner capable of making defenders miss, catching the ball out of the backfield and, well, just about anything else the team asks him to do.
"He's very talented with the ball in his hands," coach Jeff Fisher said. "In college, he was a versatile back. [He] worked out of the backfield, lined up in the slot, and did all those kinds of things."
All of those kinds of things are the little details that have added up to Watts possibly emerging as a surprise on the team's roster. NFL teams have until 4 p.m. ET Saturday to trim their rosters to 53 players. A proposition that seemed like a long shot upon signing and even more of one when watching early camp practices from the sideline now seems within Watts' grasp.
That's because Watts has been one of the team's best performers in the past two preseason contests. Against Green Bay and Cleveland, Watts piled up 55 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries to go with 39 yards on four catches.
After being forced to watch those early practices while healing, Watts returned knowing he'd have to do everything possible to impress the coaching staff.
"Every rep counts," Watts said. "You have got to show the coaches that you're accountable and they can put you in there in any situation and they can trust you to get the job done."
Watts, who is the son of former Oklahoma quarterback and politician J.C. Watts, means it when he says any situation. At Tulsa, Watts handled many roles but his only special teams contributions came as a kick returner. But if he is to make it in St. Louis as an undrafted free agent at a crowded position, he's well aware that he must impress special teams coach John Fassel as much as running backs coach Ben Sirmans.
To that end, Watts has had to make a major mental adjustment.
"[I'm] just trying to stay confident and just go down, turn your brain off and throw your body into somebody and hopefully you just make a play and the coaches notice," Watts said. "That eye in the sky it watches everything."
Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham and Tre Mason are almost certain to land roster spots ahead of Watts. Chase Reynolds is also in the mix though he's exclusively a special teams player rather than a running back. Isaiah Pead's season ending injury could open a spot since the Rams kept five backs last year. But it seems unlikely the Rams will keep as many this year with depth needed at other positions.
If they do keep five, Watts would make it but if they choose to go with four, he's locked in a battle with Reynolds for the spot. Although Reynolds has been a key special teams contributor, Watts' ability to do both could give him a leg up.
It also wouldn't hurt for Watts to provide a strong closing statement in Thursday's preseason finale at Miami.
"You never want to count your chickens before they hatch," Watts said. "Don't act like you're there or you've arrived and I'm playing as if I still have to fight for a spot on this team."