A couple of joint practices are not enough to understand the opponent for the Ravens tonight, therefore Turf Show Times managing editor Joe McAtee and I exchanged a few questions to better inform both fan-bases.
1.) Who are Rams fans cheering for that is a dark-horse candidate to make the final 53-man roster?
Sign of the apocalypse (though given how things are going these days, I think we’ve got plenty): Rams fans aren’t really worried about the 53-man roster since the starting roster is, well, really, really good. In normal years, we’d be looking at the roster battles as legitimate impacts on the Rams’ season. I don’t think that’s the case this year. So with that being said, there hasn’t been as much momentum behind the roster fringe battles. In other words, IT’S GREAT TO NOT BE BAD.
That being said, there are a couple intriguing battles. The jobs to backup QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley aren’t set in stone. And while backup QB Sean Mannion is in his fourth year, the rest of the QB depth chart is pretty new and the Rams drafted rookie RB John Kelly, so plenty to look for there. The WR depth chart is really interesting too. Steven Mitchell had a somewhat quiet career at USC, but improved in 2017. SoCal prospects always play well for Rams fans since relocating back to LA.
Defensively, the Rams’ linebacking unit is wiiiiiiiiiiiiide open. Three starters from the OLB & MLB spots are gone in OLB Robert Quinn, ILB Alec Ogletree and OLB Connor Barwin. So with promotions and new blood, there’s a ton for Rams fans to look at. If we’re looking for a true dark horse candidate, it might be the UDFA rookie out of Indiana, LB Tegray Scales. I’d throw rookie UDFA S Steven Parker in there too; he had a nice career at Oklahoma and could be the newest UDFA safety for the Rams in the mold of Rodney McLeod or Darian Stewart.
2.) The Rams look like they’re going all-in for a championship this season. Is there any area they are weak at where Ravens fans should watch for?
Well, yes, but I don’t know how much of the starting weaknesses we’ll see. I’m worried about the O-line holding up all year. They didn’t suffer an injury all year despite the advanced age of LT Andrew Whitworth and C John Sullivan. The Rams were perilously thin there last year, so they drafted three new linemen in Joseph Noteboom, Brian Allen and Jamil Demby. I think most Rams fans are eager to see all of them in action. And the aforementioned linebacker slots. The turnover alone means a lot of action for reserves from 2017 and new names. But it’s worth pointing out the QB depth chart since, compared to the Ravens’, it’s much, much weaker. It might prevent the wide receiver and tight end depth from being in position to make plays.
3.) When the third-string units are on the field, who are the players to watch for on offense and defense?
Offensive line jumps to the fore, but I’d also keep an eye on TE Temarrick Hemingway. He broke his leg in the preseason last year and missed all of 2017, so I’m sure he’s eager to get involved in the Sean McVay era.
Defensively, there’s much more youth to work through. That being said, I’m unsure of the rotation. Fourth-round pick DL John Franklin-Myers is a small school prospect out of Stephen A. Austin. And while DL Sebastian Joseph-Day saw stronger competition at Rutgers, he came 60 picks later in the sixth round. Not sure how those guys line up or when. Fifth-round pick Micah Kiser was a tackle machine at Virginia. One other guy I’m interested in is DB Ramon Richards. The Rams have a ton of guys of that stature (<6’, <190 lbs.) ESPECIALLY compared to a secondary like yall’s. Clearly, there’s a role there that Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips covets. Richards did a bit of everything at Oklahoma State, so maybe he’s just got enough natural skills to compete at this level.