As we transition from the NFL’s preseason, where a team can utilize as many players on its roster as it so chooses, to the regular season, where teams are limited to 46-man active rosters on gamedays, every coaching staff will need to make some tough decisions about what players they want to utilize, with Jeff Fisher’s staff being no exception.
The St. Louis Rams have a rather oddly-composed roster at the moment, which doesn’t provide much room for choice with this task. There is a certain group of guys who have to be up for special teams purposes, and anyone who doesn’t contribute to those units is a pretty safe bet to be in street clothes come Sunday’s season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
Every team needs to sit seven of the players on their 53-man roster on a weekly basis. Based on a combination of production to this point, special teams ability, and how Fisher has composed his gameday roster in the past, here’s a guess at who the inactive players will be this Sunday.
QB Case Keenum
Keenum, who the Rams claimed on waivers on Monday, will need a few weeks to learn the system, and he’ll stay behind Austin Davis on the depth chart at least until he’s comfortable. Since the NFL scrapped the “third quarterback” designation several years ago, there is no longer any reason for a team to dress three quarterbacks on Sundays, and Keenum is the victim here.
RB Tre Mason
Mason has to be the most surprising guy of this group. The rookie back from Auburn didn’t do enough to surpass Benny Cunningham or Zac Stacy on the running back depth chart this summer, and he also didn’t do anything to establish himself as a special-teamer. Meanwhile, fellow backs Chase Reynolds and Trey Watts showed strong skills on special teams and are more likely to be active for that reason. Mason will need to continue proving himself during practice to earn a role in the offense.
Jones is recovering from back surgery and somewhat surprisingly was not placed on injured/reserve during the cutdown to 53 this past weekend. Obviously, the Rams still have hope that he can play this season, but Jones won’t even be ready to return to practice for a couple more weeks, much less be ready to play in a game.
DL Ethan Westbrooks
Westbrooks was the star of the Rams’ preseason, but because he’s not a special-teamer, he’ll almost surely be left standing on the sidelines on Sunday. His only hope of dressing would be if something happens to banged-up defensive ends William Hayes or Eugene Sims during practice this week.
Carrington, the most experienced player of this bunch, is the fourth defensive tackle on the depth chart, and Fisher usually only dresses three on gamedays. It would be nice for the Rams to try to find a way to get Carrington in on Sunday against arguably the best back in the league in Adrian Peterson. But with the Rams only having five linebackers, four safeties, and five receivers, there’s not really another position they could cut from to get Carrington in the lineup unless they were to subtract a special-teamer like Watts.
Johnson, who’s dealing with a sprained MCL, is expected to miss the first four to six weeks of the season. Obviously he won’t be a factor in the opener.
CB Marcus Roberson
Roberson actually showed some nice skills on special teams during the preseason and did enough to earn a roster spot as an undrafted rookie, but the Rams seem to be covered at corner with Janoris Jenkins, E.J. Gaines, Brandon McGee, and Lamarcus Joyner. They should be fine without Roberson on Sunday.