Los Angeles Rams depth chart: Six new starters on defense

New Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, a three-time first-team All-Pro, is likely to bring smiles to the faces of GM Les Snead, left, and coach Sean McVay during the 2018 season. AP Photo/Richard Vogel

With free agency and the draft completed, and OTAs and minicamps scheduled for the next month and a half, here’s a closer look at the depth chart for the Los Angeles Rams (starters in bold):


Quarterback (3): Jared Goff, Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen

The Rams need to find out a little bit more about Mannion, a third-round pick in 2015 who has thrown 50 regular-season passes in the NFL. Mannion can be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Do the Rams like him as a long-term backup for Goff?

Running back (3): Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly

Among running backs, only Le'Veon Bell took more snaps than Gurley last season. There isn't a whole lot of room for others to step on the field here, but Kelly, who was just taken in the sixth round out of Tennessee, has a chance to carve out a role as a pass-catching running back.

Wide receiver (5): Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas

No team ran more three-receiver sets than the Rams last season. Given the Cooks addition, that probably won't change in 2019. Coach Sean McVay loves his starting trio of wide receivers. Reynolds and Thomas profile as deep threats, but they're still developing.

Tight end (3): Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Temarrick Hemingway

Higbee, a fourth-round pick in 2016, received 420 more snaps than Everett last season. But Everett, a second-round pick in 2017, finished with only 51 fewer receiving yards. It'll be interesting to see how it shakes out with these two pass-catching tight ends.

Tackle (4): Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, Darrell Williams, Joe Noteboom

Whitworth will turn 37 in December, and Havenstein can be an unrestricted free agent shortly thereafter. Noteboom was the Rams' first pick (No. 89) in this year's draft. The hope is that he'll be ready to take over at one of their tackle spots by 2019.

Guard/center (5): Rodger Saffold, Jamon Brown, John Sullivan, Austin Blythe, Brian Allen

Saffold and Brown can be unrestricted free agents next offseason, while Sullivan, returning as the Rams' center, is 32 with a history of back issues. That's why the Rams used their second pick on Allen, who, like Blythe, profiles as a center but might be able to help at guard.


Safety (4):Lamarcus Joyner, John Johnson, Blake Countess, Marqui Christian

Joyner and Johnson formed a dynamic pairing last season. Now Joyner will play under the franchise tag -- unless he agrees to a long-term deal by July 16 -- and Johnson will enter his second season. The Rams lost a key reserve when Cody Davis left as a free agent.

Cornerback (5): Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Sam Shields, Troy Hill

The Rams' greatest need entering the offseason resided at cornerback. Then they traded for Talib and Peters, who have been invited to a combined seven Pro Bowls, and brought back Robey-Coleman, one of the game's best in the slot. Shields, who spent most of the past two years recovering from concussions, could make this group special.

Outside linebacker (4): Matt Longacre, Samson Ebukam, Obo Okoronkwo, Carlos Thompson

This position is wide open. The Rams traded Robert Quinn to the Miami Dolphins and have left Connor Barwin unsigned as a free agent, choosing to replace them internally and through the draft. Longacre and Ebukam are favorites to start, but there's a long list of players vying for snaps here.

Inside linebacker (5): Mark Barron, Cory Littleton, Ramik Wilson, Bryce Hager, Micah Kiser

Rather than cut ties with Barron, the Rams sent Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants, using the added salary-cap space to then trade for Talib. Littleton, who distinguished himself on special teams, now seems like a favorite to start. But he'll probably have some competition.

Defensive end (4): Michael Brockers, Dominique Easley, Morgan Fox, John Franklin-Myers

Brockers will return as the 5-technique, a role he flourished in last season. Easley is one of the game's most productive defensive ends when healthy, but is coming off yet another major knee surgery. It'll be interesting to see how often the Rams go with four down linemen this year, given the lack of depth at outside linebacker.

Defensive tackle (4): Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Ethan Westbrooks, Tanzel Smart

Donald will continue to be the 3-technique, while Suh will spend most of his time operating as a nose tackle. Suh and Donald have combined to be first-team All-Pro on six occasions. Throughout NFL history, there has never been a more accomplished pairing of interior linemen.


Punter (1): Johnny Hekker

The Rams have the luxury of employing the best punter in the game -- for a long time. Hekker has been named first-team All-Pro after four of the past five seasons and is now signed through 2022.

Kicker (1): Greg Zuerlein

Zuerlein was on pace to set a scoring record before surgery to repair a herniated disk cut his season short after Week 15. The Rams are hopeful that Zuerlein will be ready for the start of the regular season, but they kept Sam Ficken on the roster just in case.

Long-snapper (1): Jake McQuaide

McQuaide doesn't get a lot of notoriety, but he has been integral to a Rams special-teams unit that has been among the NFL's best over the past seven seasons. The team rewarded him with a three-year extension in March.

Return specialist (1): Pharoh Cooper

Cooper replaced Tavon Austin -- recently traded to the Dallas Cowboys -- as the Rams' punt returner early in the 2017 season, then went on to make the Pro Bowl. Cooper will continue to return kickoffs and punts, but will also factor into the receiver group.