The St. Louis Rams concluded their 2014 preseason on Thursday with a 14-13 defeat at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. The score means nothing of course, but the performance of those playing could mean the difference between being the last man on or last man off the roster.
Two players thought to be battling each other for the presumed final defensive line spot, defensive ends Michael Sam and Ethan Westbrook, highlighted a night of solid defensive play for the Rams.
Sam came into the game with three sacks in the preseason, but a good showing Thursday would further his chances of making the team. Sam had that good showing, recording six tackles on the night despite not being able to make his way to the quarterback.
Westbrooks, on the other hand, had made solid plays throughout the preseason, but had only been able to record a single sack before Thursday’s finale. Westbrook also played well against the Dolphins, recording four tackles and a sack while playing similar time to Sam.
The performances make the Rams decision on which player to keep even more difficult. Both have shown flashes that could make them contributors to the team this season and in the future. Sam recorded three sacks and ten tackles and Westbrooks recorded two sacks and eleven tackles, both in limited but similar action.
With statistics nearly the same, the Rams may look at the overall athleticism of Westbrooks and deem him a better fit for a team dealing with injuries.
Sam could be the Rams choice due to his quick improvement during mini-camp and during practices. Sam’s quick first step allows him to be a good pass rusher with the chance to get better, and in this league pass rushers are more valuable than ever.
— St. Louis Rams (@STLouisRams) August 29, 2014
Both players have shown ability that warrants their making of the final Rams’ roster and that too could become the case. Sam’s ability and effort can’t be questioned as much as his athleticism, but the skill he showed during his days at Missouri has actually translated pretty well to the NFL, albeit against other players sitting on the cut-line. Westbrooks’ versatility, length, and athleticism could allow him to be a backup both on the ends and on the inside of the line.
Defensive tackle Alex Carrington didn’t have a great preseason, but was assumed to be the fourth man on a defensive tackle depth chart that includes veteran Kendall Langford and up and comers Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald.
Thanks to the performances of Sam and Westbrooks, Carrington’s position on the team is no longer a sure thing. With final cuts to come, it should be interesting to see which tough decisions the Rams will choose to make.