Though they haven’t made any of the most pressing decisions regarding their 53-man roster yet, the St. Louis Rams began trimming down the 75-man group on Friday, parting ways with five players according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Rams released offensive linemen Sean Hooey and Mitchell Van Dyk, tight end Brad Smelley, linebacker Phillip Steward, and safety Avery Cunningham.
Steward’s release was the most surprising of the group, as the second-year linebacker seemed to be the frontrunner all the way through for a sixth linebacker spot. However, Ettiene Sabino had a standout performance last night against the Miami Dolphins, which may have pushed him ahead of Steward. It’s also possible that they could elect to go short on linebackers, as they did from Weeks 2-4 of last season, and roll with Daren Bates and Ray Ray Armstrong as the backups. It’s worth noting, also, that safety Mo Alexander could fill in at the position in a pinch; the rookie spent some time playing up as a ‘backer during the preseason this year.
There didn’t seem to be much of a chance for any of the other guys to make the 53-man roster, though it’s possible that any of them could end up as practice squad projects. Hooey (6-foot-9, 315 pounds) and Van Dyk (6-foot-7, 299 pounds) are both massive linemen who have potential but have a long way to go with their technique. Van Dyk, the team’s seventh-rounder out of Portland State this year, would seem to be a legitimate practice squad candidate. Hooey, who was in his second camp with the team, may also get a second year on the practice squad, as he’s shown flashes this year despite some rough moments at both tackle positions.
Smelley was brought in to be a camp body following a season-ending injury to tight end Mason Brodine, but he took advantage of that small window of opportunity and played very well last night. He’s probably not much of a practice squad candidate because of the presence of two other young tight ends, Alex Bayer and Justice Cunningham, but if something should happen to either of them maybe he’d have a chance.
Cunningham didn’t get much work from scrimmage but was pretty impressive as a special-teamer. He’s not likely to be in the Rams’ plans going forward because of the presence of seventh-rounder Christian Bryant, who seems destined for the practice squad, but perhaps he’ll be able to find a practice squad spot somewhere else.
These cuts leave the roster at 70 players, which means that the team has to open up 17 more spots by Saturday afternoon. Up to 10 players can be brought back and included on the practice squad, which could mean that some of the guys released today aren’t necessarily done with their careers in St. Louis.