The Los Angeles Rams must cut their roster to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 2. Here's a final 53-man roster projection:
I went back and forth on this, but ultimately opted not to put Dan Orlovsky on the roster. Goff, the starter, and Mannion, his backup, are both young. Orlovsky has a ton of experience, with a dozen years as mainly an NFL backup. But he hasn't shown much this preseason, and the Rams are going to ride their young quarterbacks throughout the year no matter what. I have them using that roster spot elsewhere.
Asked earlier this week about the running back room getting smaller after final cuts, Gurley said, "I hope it doesn't get any smaller than it is now. There's only about three or four guys in there." The Rams signed Lance Dunbar over the offseason with hopes that he can be their change-of-pace back, but a pre-existing knee injury has kept him from practicing. Brown has established himself as Gurley's backup. Davis, an undrafted rookie out of USC, has looked good in space, though he has had fumbling issues.
FULLBACKS (1): Sam Rogers
The Rams drafted Rogers out of Virginia Tech in the sixth round this year. He's a 5-foot-10, 235-pound ball of fire who can block, run the ball and catch passes. It'll be interesting to see if Rams coach Sean McVay finds some type of role for Rogers in this offense. He drafted him for a reason.
The Watkins acquisition has Nelson Spruce, in my mind, as the odd man out. He's a local product and a fan favorite, and he shined in last year's preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys. But Spruce barely got on the field after that last season and hasn't really stood out this preseason. The Rams are a lot more talented at receiver now. Paul McRoberts and Shakeir Ryan, who has been returning punts, were also tough cuts here.
Temarrick Hemingway suffered a fractured fibula during Saturday's preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers, an injury that could prompt him to miss the entire season. That suddenly opens up a role for Harkey, a sixth-year player, to serve as the third tight end. Harkey doesn't bring Hemingway's skills and athleticism in the passing game, but he's a solid blocker who McVay considers reliable as a receiver. Said Harkey: "I'm here to do whatever I need to do to help the team win, and that's my attitude my whole career."
Donnal hasn't been able to practice because of a knee injury, so right now it looks like Williams (a tackle), Wichmann (a guard) and Blythe (a center) will be the backups for a solidified first-team offensive line. I kept tackle Pace Murphy and center Jake Eldrenkamp out on this one.
This, of course, assumes that Donald will show up before the cut-down deadline. Otherwise, the Rams may add someone like Mike Purcell to the mix. Dominique Easley was supposed to start alongside Brockers and Donald in base sets, but Easley suffered a season-ending torn ACL early in training camp. Now that third spot seems open, with Fox, Trinca-Pasat and Westbrooks seemingly the ones being considered.
The Rams need fewer defensive linemen and more linebackers now that they are transitioning to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. I have Ebukam, Forrest, Littleton and Longacre as the backups to what looks like a talented position group. One can also make a case for Nic Grigsby, Bryce Hager and Ejuan Price.
The Rams lost depth here, with Troy Hill being hit with a two-game suspension and E.J. Gaines sent to the Buffalo Bills as part of the trade that landed Watkins. It would make things a lot easier for the Rams if Robey-Coleman, a standout slot corner, can establish himself as an option on the outside. It'll be Webster and Johnson serving as starters.
The Rams have versatility at this position, with guys like Christian, Countess and Joyner also able to play corner. They've lost starting safeties in back-to-back offseasons, with Rodney McLeod leaving to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 and T.J. McDonald joining the Miami Dolphins in 2017. But they have done a nice job replacing them. The key is Joyner, transitioning from slot corner to free safety this year.
This was easy. Hekker, McQuaide and Zuerlein are among the best at what they do. No need to mess with anything here.