5 St. Louis Rams Veterans Who Won’t Make the 53-Man Roster
5 St. Louis Rams Veterans Who are At Risk
At the end of every August, the ugliest part of professional football rears its head, as every NFL team must cut its roster almost in half, moving from a 90-man roster limit that is in place for most of the preseason to the regular season 53-man max. Though the majority of the players that get released in these situations are younger players with little or no NFL game experience, there are a few surprises each year as teams decide to let go of more established veterans.
There aren't really that many veterans that the St. Louis Rams have the ability to let go of. After all, they only have five players that are older than age 30. As general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher make the cut to 53, they will probably be trying to retain as much veteran leadership as possible for the young squad without compromising their depth. Unlike with the Rams' previous regimes, however, the veterans are not just going to receive a free pass, and if they do not perform well during training camp and the preseason they will be on the chopping block.
This year's Rams roster is much more put together than it was at this time last year. More players have more or less locked themselves into jobs with their strong performances last year during the team's encouraging 7-9 season. Last year, the Rams had a massive collection of rookies, but it's difficult to see that happening again this year due to that crop having advanced into their second year with their jobs secured. This season, only five or six spots are really up for grabs. It should be exciting to see how the next three preseason games go, and which players are able to take a stranglehold on the available jobs. Here are the five veterans who are most likely to become victims of the roster crunch.
5. Quinton Pointer, CB/S
It's somewhat of a stretch to even call Pointer a veteran. He made the team last year as an undrafted free agent, and was shifted between the practice squad and the active roster several times during the year. The vast majority of his contributions came from providing coverage on special teams, and he totaled five tackles for the season while playing in six games.
This year, Pointer faces more of an uphill battle to make the team. Though he is a very talented special teams player, he has seemed to struggle during practice and preseason games when he has seen action from scrimmage. His coverage ability is lacking, and at 5-foot-9 and 186 pounds, he doesn't have the ideal size to match up with most receivers in the NFC West.
Meanwhile, undrafted rookie corner Robert Steeples, a 6-foot-1, 194-pound St. Louis native who finished up at Memphis after playing most of his college career at Mizzou, has been impressive in camp and seems to be the favorite to win the fifth corner job. Steeples is superior to Pointer in coverage and matches up better size-wise to wideouts.
While Pointer may not make the 53-man roster, he is still practice squad-eligible, and there's a good chance that the Rams could retain him and bring him up later in the season if a spot opens up.
4. Tim Barnes, C
Barnes has been very solid during his time with the Rams and it is very possible that he has what it takes to be a starting center in the NFL. Unfortunately, there is a limited number of roster spots, and the Rams just do not have room for him this year.
The Rams signed 32-year-old veteran Scott Wells to a big contract last year, and he is locked into the starting center spot. The team selected Alabama lineman Barrett Jones in the fourth round of this year's draft, and he is likely their center of the future. The odd man out here is Barnes. He played in 15 regular season games last year, mostly on special teams, though he was forced into action on the line against the New England Patriots.
Barnes simply becomes a victim of the fact that the Rams don't have room for three centers. Though the team has worked him at guard before, he really is not adept at playing any position besides center. Even if one of the centers should go down, Chris Williams has taken snaps during practice and would likely be the emergency guy. Barnes is no longer practice squad-eligible, but good centers are hard to find, so he may get another NFL job right away.
3. Mike McNeill, TE
McNeill is another player who hasn't really done anything wrong, but the Rams have brought in more tight ends who are better equipped for NFL jobs than he is. The 25-year-old St. Louis native joined the Rams' practice squad late in 2011 and succeeded in an uphill battle last year to make the roster out of training camp. On a team that was starved for receiving tight ends, he wowed with his pass-catching ability, though he only caught four passes for 31 yards during the regular season.
Head coach Jeff Fisher wasn't exactly complementary of McNeill in a recent interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, saying, “Mike's got to be consistent on offense, and with the understanding of what he's supposed to do and get to the right place at the right time.” While he was complementary of McNeill's special teams ability, Fisher showed last season that he likes to fill his roster with players who are capable of contributing from scrimmage and not being exposed, rather than keeping players who are exclusively special-teamers.
The Rams already have three tight ends who are safe bets to make the team in Jared Cook, Lance Kendricks, and Cory Harkey, so McNeill is fighting for a possibly nonexistent fourth spot. If the Rams keep a fourth tight end, it's more likely that the spot will go to a less experienced player such as Phillip Lutzenkirchen or Cameron Graham. Both players have impressed as receivers during camp, and Lutzenkirchen made a huge impression by making a difficult catch late in Thursday's loss to the Cleveland Browns.
McNeill is not practice-squad eligible, and he could have a tough time finding another NFL job.
2. Zach Potter, TE
Potter was brought in as a player who could fight for the Rams' blocking specialist tight end role, vacated with the release of Matthew Mulligan in March. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound veteran who spent the past four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars hasn't been that impressive during training camp and has had some embarrassing drops during practice.
He didn't see much action during the team's first preseason game, getting only nine snaps from scrimmage. He has pretty clearly been passed up by Cory Harkey, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end entering his second year. It would not be a huge surprise if the Rams parted ways with Potter during their first round of cuts.
1. Matt Giordano, S
Giordano was brought in at the end of minicamp to shore up a secondary that lacked experience. He has barely gotten on the field since training camp started, however, due to a calf injury. The 30-year-old veteran has missed out on a chance to make an impression with the Rams, while undrafted safeties Cody Davis and Rashard Hall have taken advantage of the opportunity and made some big plays during practice and the first preseason game.
Moreover, Giordano may not even be the most highly-regarded safety coming off an injury in Rams camp. Matt Daniels, coming into his second year after making the team as an undrafted free agent last season, recently made his way back from a torn ACL suffered in the middle of last season. Daniels has a lot of physical ability and may be cleared to play in the Rams' game Saturday against the Green Bay Packers.
The Rams probably will only keep four safeties on their active roster, and three spots are basically locked up by Darian Stewart, T.J. McDonald, and Rodney McLeod. That leaves all the aforementioned players fighting for the final spot, and Giordano has done the least to earn a position thus far. He's older, slower, and less durable than the other players, and he doesn't have to ability to be flexed between the active roster and practice squad week-by-week like the others. At this point, Giordano seems to be facing a huge uphill battle to make the roster.
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