St. Louis Rams Sign Christian Bryant and Doug Worthington, Release Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Place Alec Ogletree on IR-DFR


Just one day removed from an impressive 24-6 win over the Cleveland Browns, the St. Louis Rams made a rather significant roster shakeup on Tuesday afternoon, making six transactions that affected the team’s defense. Linebacker Alec Ogletree, who is currently recovering from surgery to repair a fractured fibula, was placed on injured reserve-designated for return, and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar was released. To fill the two linebackers’ spots on the active roster, safety Christian Bryant (who had just been released from the active roster on Friday to allow for the addition of running back Trey Watts) was signed, and defensive tackle Doug Worthington was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad. To fill the two practice squad positions vacated by Watts and Worthington’s recent promotions to the 53-man roster, the Rams signed defensive end Gerald Rivers and pass rush specialist Zack Hodges, who could be used as either a linebacker or defensive end, to the practice squad.

Ogletree, who led the team in tackles at the time of his Week 4 injury and still is just three stops behind James Laurinaitis for the team lead, is recovering on a loose timetable, but now that he’s officially been placed on IR-DFR, he’ll be ineligible to practice for the next six weeks and will not be able to play for the next eight, meaning that the earliest he could return would be for the Rams’ Week 16 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. Considering the serious nature of Ogletree’s injury, there’s no guarantee that he’ll return this year, but with the Rams needing to either use or lose their only IR-DFR designation by next week, it made sense to put Ogletree on the list now and hope for progress with his return.

The 30-year-old Dunbar, who was released earlier this year during the Rams’ final cutdowns after spending the previous three seasons in St. Louis, had been re-signed to the active roster following Ogletree’s injury. After converted safety Mark Barron took naturally to a full-time starting linebacker role, however, Dunbar didn’t really find a purpose during his most recent Rams stint. He was a healthy inactive for both games in which he was on the active roster, and with superior special-teamers Daren Bates, Bryce Hager, and Cameron Lynch making the 46-man gameday roster due to their skills in the kicking game, Dunbar wasn’t going to find a role unless there was another injury. If by some chance the Rams were to sustain another injury at the linebacker position, Dunbar would likely be a candidate to return, considering that he’s already come back to the franchise on two separate occasions after being released.

The 6-foot-5, 318-pound Worthington has been on the Rams’ practice squad for all but two days of the 2015 season, and he also spent the last several weeks of the 2014 season and the entire offseason with the team. The 28-year-old, who played six games for the Washington Redskins in 2012, would likely have been promoted and stepped in for nose tackle Michael Brockers if he had been injured at any point this year. Now with Ethan Westbrooks, who began the season playing primarily defensive tackle, moving back to his natural defensive end position to help fill in for Chris Long, the Rams have an opening for Worthington. Though the Rams usually only dress seven defensive linemen on gamedays, Worthington might be in line for some work as a rotational backup for Brockers and Aaron Donald, particularly against run-heavy offenses. This week’s opponents, the San Francisco 49ers, have gotten more success out of their run game than their passing attack so far this season, so Worthington could be in line to make his Rams debut on Sunday.

Bryant, the Rams’ second of four seventh-rounders in 2014, returns to the team after playing his first two NFL games and then taking a brief hiatus this weekend. The 5-foot-9, 198-pounder has yet to collect a tackle over his first two contests, but he’ll provide some extra special teams depth going forward and will provide the Rams some extra depth at the safety position now that Barron is no longer an emergency backup there. Bryant may struggle to crack the 46-man gameday roster, however, since backup safeties Maurice Alexander and Cody Davis have more of a track record as impact special-teamers.

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The 25-year-old Rivers spent most of the 2013 season on the Rams’ active roster, serving as the fifth defensive end behind Chris Long, Robert Quinn, William Hayes, and Eugene Sims, but he played in just two games and collected one tackle. The Rams had their hand forced late in the season when they needed to promote punt returner Justin Veltung from the practice squad to replace the injured Tavon Austin, and they were unsuccessful in their bid to keep Rivers, who was lost on a waiver claim to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rivers has since taken an expansive tour of practice squads around the league, spending time with the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and New York Giants before rounding his way back to the Rams. Along with rookie undrafted free agent Matt Longacre, Rivers will provide some extra protection in case the Rams need reinforcements for their current group of defensive ends.

Hodges, who went undrafted after an outstanding career at Harvard, is an interesting prospect who will probably take some time to develop on the Rams’ practice squad. It’s unclear exactly where he fits in the team’s defense; the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder had been playing outside linebacker in the Indianapolis Colts’ 3-4 defense during training camp. In the Rams’ attacking 4-3, however, Hodges may be better equipped to play a pass-rushing strongside linebacker role like that of Akeem Ayers.

Next: Maty Mauk Reinstated from Suspension by Mizzou Tigers

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