5 St. Louis Rams Dark Horse Players Who Will Make the 53-Man Roster
5 Dark Horses Who Will Make the St. Louis Rams Roster
With the way that St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead go about developing players, many of the players who end up contributing could be considered “dark horses”. This has been the case since day one of the Fisher administration last year, when undrafted defensive tackle Matt Conrath worked with the first-team defense in his first-ever NFL training camp practice. Further examples came of this came when Daryl Richardson, the second-to-last pick in the draft, surpassed second-rounder Isaiah Pead on the depth chart and ended up getting a good share of playing time throughout the season. In addition, the Rams were able to call up players like Quinton Pointer, Cory Harkey and Sammy Brown up from the practice squad throughout the year and plug them right into the gameplan without any issues. No matter the case, Fisher seems willing to give everyone a chance and use his best players.
Though this year's Rams group has more established players who have firm grips on roster spots, there still are a few slots open on the 53-man roster that could go to some inexperienced players. In particular, several backup linebacker positions, the sixth receiver spot, and the eighth and ninth defensive back spots seem to be there for the taking. There have been plenty of young players who have stepped up and made good impressions during training camp practices and the first preseason game, so the Rams in no way will be struggling to fill out their team with talented contributors. Here are five of the so-called “dark horses” who have the best shots at cracking the 53-man roster.
5. Raymond Radway, WR
Radway, a 6-foot-3, 204-pound receiver out of Abilene Christian, has been a pleasant surprise throughout camp. He has been bouncing around NFL practice squads since 2011, and joined the Rams down the stretch last year. Radway encountered high and low points during Thursday's preseason opener, handling a short pass on a scramble from Kellen Clemens and running it in for a 53-yard touchdown. However, when called on again, Radway dropped a long pass from Clemens that could have tied the game. He ended up as the Rams' second-leading receiver, finishing with three catches for 78 yards.
Radway currently seems to be the leading candidate to claim the team's sixth receiver spot, which is up for grabs among a host of players with no NFL-game experience. His exceptional size gives him an edge over the others, who profile as speedy slot-style receivers. Radway is capable of being more physical, and with Brian Quick and Austin Pettis, would give the Rams an even 3-to-3 split of tall and short receivers.
4. Robert Steeples, CB
Steeples seems to be the favorite in the battle for the fifth cornerback position, which also includes candidates such as Quinton Pointer and Andre Martin. His imposing size (6-foot-1, 194 pounds) and solid coverage ability make him a good candidate to help out in the defensive backfield if any of the Rams' regular corners should go down. To make it even better, Steeples is a St. Louis native and attended the University of Missouri for several years, so he should be a fan favorite.
3. Mason Brodine, DT/DE
Last year, the Rams picked Brodine up off of waivers from the Oakland Raiders late in the preseason. They plugged him right in at defensive tackle, and the tall, lanky Nebraska-Kearney product proceeded to get pushed around all night. It was obvious that the Rams had plans for him, however, as they kept him on their practice squad for most of the year.
This year, Brodine came into camp as a transformed man. Listed at 6-foot-7 and 284 pounds, about a 15-pound gain from last season, Brodine looks tremendously imposing and extremely athletic. He made a big impression in the first preseason game, recording three tackles and flashing some great sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability.
Though he is still listed as a defensive end, Brodine has worked exclusively at defensive tackle in the absence of Jermelle Cudjo, who filled the third defensive tackle role last year. He seems to be playing his way into a roster spot, and his candidacy should be helped by his quickness and physicality, which will allow him to contribute on special teams.
2. Matt Daniels, S
After Daniels missed all of the Rams' OTAs and minicamp while recovering from a torn ACL, the team brought in 30-year-old veteran Matt Giordano, and Daniels' career in St. Louis seemed to be in serious jeopardy. However, with Giordano having been injured for most of training camp while Daniels has recovered and finally gotten back on the field, Daniels seems to once again have a very good shot at making the team.
The 23-year-old second-year player out of Duke made the team as an undrafted free agent last season and contributed on special teams in four games before suffering a horrific injury in London while facing the New England Patriots. He's an obviously intelligent player who has some serious hitting ability. His college highlight tape is on par with a hard-hitting NFL films special. His weakness seems to be in coverage, though, plenty of NFL safeties have been able to get by purely on their defensive awareness and hitting ability.
Daniels seems to be the player in the Rams' fourth safety competition who has the best chance of being good from scrimmage, and he showed last year that he can handle playing special teams. He works hard, is a good locker room presence and could be an influential leader in the future, so Daniels should be the winner of this competition.
1. Cory Harkey, TE
Harkey may be the Rams' most improved player from the end of last season to this year. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end out of UCLA was called up from the practice squad late last season to help out in blocking situations, and he showed some good potential. He's clearly upped his game this year, though, and has passed up the more experienced Zach Potter and Mike McNeill on the depth chart.
In the absence of Lance Kendricks, Harkey has been getting a lot of work with the Rams' No. 1 offense. Though his time should be cut back when Kendricks gets back on the field, Harkey should still be able to help the Rams out this year, taking over the blocking specialist tight end role that Matthew Mulligan filled last year. At this point, it would be a real surprise if he did not make the team.