St. Louis Rams Veterans Who Have Been Put on Notice This Offseason
The NFL roster is constantly evolving and changing form. No team's roster is exactly the same for two consecutive years and, typically, a team's Week 1 roster is almost never the same as its Week 17 roster.
The influx of talent from the NFL draft provides a virtually endless source of fresh competition on an annual basis. As a result, if a veteran slows down or experiences the slightest dip in production, he'll undoubtedly be replaced by younger, hungrier talent.
The NFL is a fierce, unforgiving environment and a shining example of Darwinism.
It's a harsh line of work, but it's an undeniable reality—the young rise to the top and the veterans get devoured at the first sign of weakness.
The Rams have a number of veterans who are nearing the edge of the cliff. It's time for these players to either produce or be replaced by a player who can.
This article will highlight five veteran St. Louis players who must turn heads at training camp no matter what. If these players fail to do that, they'll either be watching the games from the sidelines or, even worse, their sofas.
Brian Quick, Wide Receiver
Brian Quick was the No. 33 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft—making him a borderline first-round selection—but his production has been inconsistent at best.
After catching 11 passes as a rookie in 2012, Quick ended the 2013 season with just 18 receptions and 302 yards.
To be fair, Sam Bradford had a season-ending injury in Week 7, so the passing game greatly suffered after Kellen Clemens took over under center. With Bradford out of the lineup, it was hard to gauge where Quick was with his development—and the same goes for the other receivers as well.
However, if Quick does not enter training camp as a brand new football player, he's in danger of being cut.
The Rams added Kenny Britt in free agency, and Britt is certainly capable of outplaying Quick and replacing him on the roster.
St. Louis has struggled offensively for several years now, so patience is running thin when it comes to the development of underperforming players who only have a roster spot thanks to draft status.
Scott Wells, Center
Scott Wells is the best center on the team when healthy, but his health has been an enormous concern since coming to the Rams in 2012.
Wells has missed 13 total starts in the last two seasons. With three young centers on team—Barrett Jones, Tim Barnes, Demetrius Rhaney—waiting for an opportunity, there will be little patience this time around when it comes to Wells and his health.
The Rams had no problem cutting Harvey Dahl and saving salary-cap space following the 2013 season. Since Spotrac indicates that cutting Wells can potentially save the team $4.5 million in cap space, there's no reason why the Rams won't do the same to him if there's a viable replacement waiting on deck.
If either of the three young centers can match Wells' performance in training camp, the Rams will likely part ways with the 33-year-old veteran.
Out of the three younger centers on the roster, Barnes is the one with the most NFL experience, so keep an eye on him as a potential replacement.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Linebacker
Barring another suspension, there's no way linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar is in danger of being released from the team, but he's danger of losing his starting job.
Dunbar was a pleasant surprise after being signed by the Rams in 2012. In his first season with the team, he recorded 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He was a low-key pickup in free agency, but proved to be one of the team's better playmakers on defense.
In 2013, a suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs forced Dunbar to miss the first four games, and he was not the same after his return. He finished the season with zero sacks, zero picks and zero forced fumbles.
While Dunbar struggled on defense, undrafted rookie Ray-Ray Armstrong made a name for himself on special teams. Armstrong struggled with penalties, but his athleticism and playmaking skills stood out.
If Dunbar struggles in training camp and is unable to regain his 2012 form, he'll be sidelined and Armstrong will be more than ready to step in.
Rodney McLeod, Safety
The Rams drafted three defensive backs and added a number of undrafted rookies to the secondary in May, so the team is clearly unhappy with the way the unit played in 2013.
The entire secondary struggled last season, but safety Rodney McLeod was certainly the weak link.
McLeod joined the league in 2012 as an undrafted rookie and basically inherited the starting job, so it's still possible that he'll improve and eventually retain his job. However, rookie Mo Alexander will certainly light a fire under him.
If McLeod struggles in camp and starts to flash old habits in the preseason games, the Rams will likely stick with Alexander and allow him to learn on the job.
Also, keep an eye on rookie sixth-round pick E.J. Gaines. He was drafted as a cornerback, but has the versatility to play up top. He should be considered a dark-horse candidate for the job.
Isaiah Pead, Running Back
Isaiah Pead is easily the most disappointing draft pick of the Jeff Fisher era. He was selected in the second round in 2012—with star linebacker Lavonte David still on the board—and his production has been almost nonexistent.
Fans were quite shocked when Pead ended the 2012 season with only 54 rushing yards, so you can imagine how fans felt after he miraculously managed to cut his rushing total to 21 yards in 2013.
Is there any doubt that the Rams could have generated equal or greater production from a seventh-round pick or even an undrafted walk-on talent without wasting a lofty second-round pick?
In fact, that's exactly what happened.
In the same draft, the Rams also selected Daryl Richardson in the seventh round. Richardon finished with a respectable 475 rushing yards in 2012 and ended 2013 with 215 yards on the ground.
Richardson is no longer with the team because he's incapable of contributing on special teams. As such, it has to be assumed that Pead's special teams play—which is actually fairly decent—is the only thing saving him.
However, with special teams guru Chase Reynolds still on the roster, along with rookie addition Tre Mason, it appears that Pead will need to show more than few flashes on special teams if he wants to make the final roster.
If Pead can't tap into the potential that made him a second-round pick, he'll be done in St. Louis before Week 1.