Grading the St. Louis Rams' Entire 53-Man Roster
The opening kickoff for the 2012 season is less than a week away, and the St. Louis Rams have completed the process of diluting the roster down to the final 53 players.
Some of the departures—whether by waiving or trading—were somewhat questionable, such as Josh Gordy, Jerome Murphy and Greg Salas.
But in the end, head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead know the players and roster better than anyone, so we'll have to hold our tongues for the time being and trust their discretion.
And with that, here are the final grades for the official 53-man roster.
Interior Offensive Line: B+
Roster: Scott Wells (C), Harvey Dahl (RG), Robert Turner (LG), Rokevious Watkins, Shelley Smith
The interior offensive line is one of the more overlooked positions when discussing the various improvements made by the Rams this offseason.
The Jacob Bell and Jason Brown combination a year ago was awful. Both of them are out, and suddenly Robert Turner and Scott Wells are in.
Wells is a Pro Bowl center, and to his left and right are two of the meanest guards in the NFL—Turner and Harvey Dahl.
Turner isn't a major topic of conversation, but he was phenomenal in the preseason when he played center in Wells' place and should perform at a surprisingly high level.
The depth still needs work, but they managed to draft Rokevious Watkins in the fifth round last April. Rok needs some development, but he provides some depth and will eventually develop into a mauling guard.
Offensive Tackle: F
Roster: Rodger Saffold (LT), Barry Richardson (RT), Wayne Hunter, Ty Nsekhe
One of the biggest disappointments and concerns entering the season is at offensive tackle.
It was a major position of need entering the season. Even if the regime had faith in Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, there was still a clear need for quality depth. Yet the team did nothing to improve the position whatsoever.
Smith was traded to the New York Jets for Wayne Hunter, who is by all means an inferior right tackle, so the Rams don't get any better with that money-saving move. And Barry Richardson is a complete disaster.
On top of that, there is no one on the team even remotely capable of filling in for Saffold in the event of an injury.
There's a chance Saffold will regain his rookie form and become a solid starter on the blind side, but that's about the only positive thing I can come up with.
Tight End: C+
Depth: Lance Kendricks, Matthew Mulligan, Mike McNeill
This position doesn't seem to be totally improved in any way.
They seem to have Lance Kendricks back on track, but we won't really know until the regular season starts based on his collapse a year ago.
On the bright side, Matthew Mulligan is a run blocker who will surely be an upgrade over Billy Bajema, who was possibly the worst overall player on the team last season.
Running Back: A
Depth: Steven Jackson, Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Terrance Ganaway, Britt Miller (FB)
The Rams really improved their backfield, at least that's the general perception based on the preseason.
Steven Jackson looks spry and eager for another 1,000-yard season, while the team drafted Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson as backups.
Richardson looked very promising in the preseason, and while Pead was embarrassingly ineffective for the the most part, he did manage to break free in the final game with 51 yards on 10 carries.
Britt Miller looks to be in superb physical shape and will lead the way for Jackson.
The only downside is that the rookie backups don't have regular-season experience, so the team is still in trouble if Jackson goes down.
Wide Receiver: C+
Depth: Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Steve Smith, Brian Quick, Chris Givens
The team made some respectable additions in the offseason, such as free agent Steve Smith and draft picks Brian Quick and Chris Givens.
However, Quick and Givens haven't earned starting jobs yet and will only see limited action, while Smith still needs to prove that he can produce in a regular-season game after being hindered for two seasons thanks to a knee injury.
Brandon Gibson surprised everyone by not only making the team, but earning a job as a starter. He's been highly mediocre in the past, so we can't be sure that this is a good thing.
As far as depth, trading away Greg Salas may have been a mistake. If the Rams get any injuries, they'll have to rely on rookies.
Austin Pettis should return in Week 3 after serving a two-game suspension, so he'll help the situation.
In the end, it looks as though the Rams will once again be lacking a dangerous playmaker on the outside.
Depth: Sam Bradford, Austin Davis
The Rams did the right thing by keeping undrafted rookie sensation Austin Davis and cutting Kellen Clemens.
Davis is now secure on the Rams' roster, and the beautiful thing is that they didn't necessarily lose Clemens either. If an injury occurs and they don't trust the rookie Davis, Clemens will be at home just a phone call away.
There's no downside to cutting Clemens, especially since it's doubtful another team will pick him up unless there's a swarm of injuries.
And as far as Sam Bradford, he seems to be a great fit for this offense if the preseason is any indication.
Defensive End: A
Depth: Chris Long (LE), Robert Quinn (RE), William Hayes, Eugene Sims
The Rams didn't have to make any difficult decisions here, and defensive end will be the best position on the team as long as there are no injuries.
Chris Long and Robert Quinn will both achieve or come close to double-digit sack totals. Meanwhile, William Hayes and Eugene Sims are solid backups that can be rotated in.
If the Rams will do just one thing well this year, it's sacking the quarterback.
Defensive Tackle: B+
Depth: Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford, Matthew Conrath, Jermelle Cudjo, Darell Scott, Kellen Heard
Overall, the defensive tackle position is miles ahead of last year's group.
First-round draft pick Michael Brockers received an ankle injury and will be out for several weeks, but he'll provide the Rams with an enormous run-stopper for the majority of the season.
Kendall Langford, who the Rams brought in during free agency, will be a solid starter and a key piece to the defensive line.
Jermelle Cudjo and undrafted rookie Matt Conrath have looked good in the preseason and should fill in nicely for Brockers until he returns.
Depth: James Laurinaitis (MLB), Jo-Lonn Dunbar (WLB), Rocky McIntosh (SLB), Mario Haggan, Justin Cole, Josh Hull
Outside linebacker was considered a major need entering the offseason. Some people were concerned when the Rams failed to use a high- or mid-round draft pick on one, but it turns out that they were able to improve the position regardless.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar will be a solid tackler with good coverage skills, while Rocky McIntosh and Mario Haggan will greatly improve the team's ability to stop the run.
Justin Cole and Josh Hull will provide decent depth and produce on special teams.
And of course, James Laurinaitis is the leader of the defense and will perform at a Pro Bowl-caliber level in the middle.
The linebackers are looking like a solid group up to this point.
Depth: Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins, Bradley Fletcher, Trumaine Johnson
This group surely seemed to be an easy A+...until the front office made some very questionable moves.
They traded Josh Gordy to Indianapolis for peanuts and released Jerome Murphy, which makes the depth weaker than what we initially thought.
Gordy was the No. 3 cornerback on the team when he was traded (in place of the injured Bradley Fletcher), while Murphy was a third-round pick just two years ago.
Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins are two very promising and exciting starters, while Fletcher and Trumaine Johnson are competent backups. Yet an injury or two will really hurt the team.
Depth: Quintin Mikell, Darian Stewart, Craig Dahl, Rodney McLeod, Quinton Pointer, Matt Daniels
The team did nothing to upgrade the position, as the top three safeties are exactly the same as they were last season.
Quintin Mikell is a solid tackler and a competent starter. Darian Stewart can also get the job done, but he's been battling injuries throughout camp.
Craig Dahl will take Stewart's place in the meantime, but Dahl is a liability in pass coverage.
Rodney McLeod, Quinton Pointer and Matt Daniels are all young projects who will contribute on special teams, but they aren't ready for serious playing time.
And that's another thing. It's understandable to keep one, maybe two young projects at a position. But why keep three?
Did the team have to get rid of Josh Gordy and Greg Salas in order to make room for Matt Daniels? That makes little sense.
Special Teams: A+
The Rams look very impressive on special teams in every aspect.
Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein can routinely sink 50- to 60-yard field goals, which will end up being tremendously helpful for an offense that will inevitably have some struggles.
As far as returns, the team has an entire platoon of capable return men—Danny Amendola, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead, Chris Givens and Daryl Richardson.
The team won't skip a beat on special teams with the loss of a returner.
And with the coverage teams, the tackling has been excellent thus far. There haven't been any big returns, and the gunners are absolutely swarming to the ball-carrier.