Friday, May 5, 2017

Los Angeles Rams Weekly

Rams' depth chart is starting to clear up -- The dust has (mostly) settled.

The draft is over, undrafted free agents have been signed, and the Los Angeles Rams did a little bit of roster maintenance in recent days, parting ways with offensive lineman David Arkin and claiming nose tackle Mike Purcell. Their roster sits at 88 players, two shy of the offseason limit. And OTAs are now only 18 days away.

With that in mind, here's a position-by-position look at where the Rams' depth chart stands.

Quarterback: The path is clear for Jared Goff. The 2016 No. 1 overall pick is the starter and Sean Mannion, a third-round pick in 2015, is his backup. The Rams never really planned on signing a veteran quarterback, even as insurance, because they want to see what they have in their two young signal-callers. Aaron Murray, a former Georgia teammate of Todd Gurley who was a fifth-round pick by the Chiefs in 2014, is third string at the moment.

Running back/fullback: All eyes in the fantasy football world will be on whether Gurley can bounce back, after being the top running back in many drafts and then finishing with the NFL's second-fewest yards per carry. Gurley should have a more productive season on the ground -- it can't be worse, right? -- but his targets may suffer with free-agent addition Lance Dunbar taking on a pass-catching role similar to what Chris Thompson was for coach Sean McVay in Washington. Malcolm Brown, who previously impressed Jeff Fisher's staff, could see some third-down carries. Don't be surprised to see a fullback on the field at times, either Zach Laskey or 2017 sixth-round pick Sam Rogers. One lingering question: What about Cory Harkey, a run-blocking fullback and tight end who has also been a key locker room presence? He seemingly has to prove himself to this new staff.
After Todd Gurley's disappointing sophomore campaign, the Rams added some pieces to support their lead running back. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver/tight end: I explored this topic further here. Tavon Austin and Robert Woods are the two primary receivers, and the third spot seems pretty wide open -- between Pharoh Cooper, Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds, the latter two drafted this year. At tight end, Gerald Everett, taken 44th overall in 2017, will compete with Tyler Higbee, a fourth-round pick in 2016, for the primary role. The Rams also have Temarrick Hemingway, whom McVay recently spoke highly about, and Travis Wilson, a former quarterback and current project. At receiver, there's Bradley Marquez, who has been mostly a special-teams contributor, and Mike Thomas, Nelson Spruce, Brandon Shippen, Paul McRoberts and Marquez North, all headed into their second season. That's a total of 16 pass-catchers, if you include Harkey. For the Rams, that means better chances of someone blossoming.

Offensive line: Free-agent addition Andrew Whitworth is the left tackle and veteran Rodger Saffold is locked in at left guard. John Sullivan, a fixture for the Vikings until back issues crept up, is a heavy favorite to be the starting center. But the Rams are also cross training some of their young guards for the position. The right side currently consists of two transitioning players -- Greg Robinson, going from left tackle to right tackle, and Rob Havenstein, from right tackle to right guard. In the end, the best five will play. And Robinson and Havenstein will have to prove themselves if they want to start. Jamon Brown, Cody Wichmann and Andrew Donnal, all drafted in 2015, will be the main guys fighting for playing time. The Rams didn't draft an offensive lineman this year, but they had their reasons.

Defensive line: It's Aaron Donald, the game's greatest interior pass-rusher, reclaiming his role as the three-technique and Michael Brockers remaining at nose tackle. The third spot -- in a 3-4 base set -- seems open, but it will probably go to Dominique Easley, who signed his $1.797 million tender on Thursday. As backups, the Rams currently have Purcell, Ethan Westbrooks, Matt Longacre, Tyrunn Walker, Morgan Fox, Louis Trinca-Pasat and Tanzel Smart, a sixth-round pick in 2017 who will have to beat out several veterans for playing time.

Linebackers: Connor Barwin and Robert Quinn will be the outside linebackers when the Rams are in a 3-4, but will probably serve as defensive ends in sub packages. Quinn is going to spend the vast majority of his time rushing the quarterback, and Barwin will do so frequently, as well. New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will have to rotate players to keep Quinn and Barwin fresh. And that means Samson Ebukam, a fourth-round pick out of Eastern Washington the Rams are excited about, should see some playing time. Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron are the starting inside linebackers, and it will be interesting to see how Phillips uses them. Don't forget about Josh Forrest here, a 2016 sixth-round pick who was starting to carve out a role before undergoing season-ending knee surgery. Nic Grigsby, Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager and Ejuan Price, a seventh-round pick this year, lead the rest of the position group.

Cornerbacks: Trumaine Johnson, in line to play under his second straight franchise tag, is the primary corner. Newcomer Kayvon Webster will compete with E.J. Gaines for the other spot on the outside. In the slot, it looks like it will still be Lamarcus Joyner in subpackages. But newcomer Nickell Robey-Coleman is certainly capable of filling in, which could allow Joyner to remain at free safety full time. The NFL recently announced that backup Troy Hill will be suspended for the first two games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Blake Countess and Mike Jordan offer additional depth, though.

Safeties: John Johnson, a third-round pick out of Boston College, could see some immediate playing time at free safety if Joyner indeed goes back to his natural role as a slot corner in subpackages. He's also insurance in case Joyner doesn't take to free safety as well as the Rams hope. Maurice Alexander will transition to strong safety full time, taking the spot of T.J. McDonald, who signed with the Dolphins. As backups, the Rams have Cody Davis, Marqui Christian, Isaiah Johnson and Brian Randolph.

Rams Claim DT Mike Purcell Off Waivers.
The Los Angeles Rams have claimed DT Mike Purcell off of waivers from San Francisco.

He signed with San Francisco as an undrafted free agent in 2013. The Wyoming alum played in 23 games with the 49ers, starting eight games with 42 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.


Purcell is a nose tackle in the 3-4 defensive scheme. With Wade Phillips implementing a new defense in Los Angeles, Purcell's position experience will be valuable.


Excited to be a part of the @RamsNFL ready to get to work with the team!
A satirical look at more than 75 years of Football's Rams history, combined with discussions of American Exceptionalism and almost 50 years of personal experience in the life of a Rams Fan. The history parallels and intertwines life to form a humorous, yet serious look at American HistoryWorld History, an American Football team, and Political Science.