Rams' 53-man roster projection altered by suspensions

Wide receiver Mike Thomas was handed a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Paul Rodriguez/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

The Los Angeles Rams open training camp July 29 on the campus of UC Irvine in Southern California. Here’s a 53-man roster projection.

QUARTERBACKS (2): Jared Goff, Sean Mannion

The Rams need to see what they have in Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, and Mannion, a third-round pick in 2015. Goff will enter as the starter, and Mannion will serve as his backup. New head coach Sean McVay appeared to crack the door open for competition during the offseason program, saying, "We’re trying to win football games, and whoever we feel like gives us the best chance is who’s going to play behind center." But Goff is the starter. On Thursday the Rams signed a third quarterback, veteran Dan Orlovsky, who spent the last three years backing up Matthew Stafford. But he has a lot to prove in a new offense before locking down a role.

RUNNING BACKS (3): Malcolm Brown, Lance Dunbar, Todd Gurley

The Rams signed Dunbar during the offseason, and he might end up taking some targets away from Gurley. Dunbar could serve in a role similar to Chris Thompson, who specialized in catching passes out of the backfield for McVay's offense in Washington. On the ground, though, it'll be all Gurley all the time. Depth-wise, Aaron Green was a tough cut at this position.

FULLBACKS (2): Cory Harkey, Sam Rogers

Yes, McVay does see a role for fullbacks in his offense. He used a sixth-round pick on Rogers -- a solid blocker who also produced as a runner and a receiver for Virginia Tech -- because he finds his skill set appealing. Harkey has by far the most experience, but is he versatile enough to lock down a role under the new coach? Zach Laskey is another option.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7): Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, Cooper Kupp, Bradley Marquez, Josh Reynolds, Nelson Spruce, Robert Woods

I had Mike Thomas in here initially, but then he was handed a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Austin and Woods are the two main receivers. Beyond that, there are a lot of different ways McVay can go, which is just the way he likes it.

TIGHT ENDS (3): Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, Temarrick Hemingway

The Rams are very young at tight end, with all three of these guys coming in the past two drafts. They're all big, athletic players who can be factors in the passing game, and it will come down to either Everett or Higbee as to who will be the primary target at this position. It could be both.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Austin Blythe, Jamon Brown, Andrew Donnal, Rob Havenstein, Pace Murphy, Rodger Saffold, John Sullivan, Cody Wichmann, Andrew Whitworth

Right tackle is still somewhat open, but Brown is the favorite to lock down the starting spot. Blythe, claimed off waivers in May, seems on track to be the backup center, with Donnal and Wichmann looking like primary backups at tackle and guard, respectively. With the last spot, I chose Murphy over Darrell Williams.

DEFENSIVE LINE (7): Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald, Dominique Easley, Matt Longacre, Mike Purcell, Tanzel Smart, Ethan Westbrooks

The Rams have carried no fewer than eight defensive linemen on their initial 53-man roster the past three years, but the switch to a 3-4 look requires fewer of them. I have Westbrooks, Purcell, Longacre and Smart, a sixth-round pick this year, as the backups to Donald, Brockers and Easley. Morgan Fox is also vying for a spot, among others.

LINEBACKERS (7): Mark Barron, Connor Barwin, Samson Ebukam, Josh Forrest, Bryce Hager, Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn

The Rams didn't have much need for linebackers under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who deployed only two of them most of the time. But Wade Phillips requires more depth. Beyond Barron, Barwin, Ogletree and Quinn, it's pretty wide open. Nicholas Grigsby, Carlos Thompson, Ejuan Price and Cory Littleton are also in play, but I went elsewhere. Keep your eyes on Forrest, who saw his rookie season cut short because of a torn ACL, and Ebukam, an under-the-radar fourth-round pick.

CORNERBACKS (5): E.J. Gaines, Trumaine Johnson, Mike Jordan, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Kayvon Webster

Phillips said during the offseason program that the secondary is "stronger than what people think." We'll see. Gaines and Webster are vying for a starting spot at cornerback opposite Johnson. Robey-Coleman can be a major weapon in the slot. Troy Hill could've competed for a backup spot but is suspended for the first two games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

SAFETIES (5): Maurice Alexander, Blake Countess, Cody Davis, John Johnson, Lamarcus Joyner

It'll be Alexander and Joyner as starters, but Joyner could resume his role as a slot corner in substitution packages. That would open it up for Davis or Johnson, a third-round pick this year, to receive snaps at free safety. I had Countess beating the likes of Isaiah Johnson and Marqui Christian, but it might be a toss-up.

SPECIALISTS (3): Johnny Hekker, Jake McQuaide, Greg Zuerlein

Nothing has changed here. Nothing needs to.