ST. LOUIS — The reality is, as the Rams stage their first full-squad practice of the summer Friday afternoon, there aren’t many roster spots to be won in training camp. It’s possible to analyze the roster and likely identify, barring injury, more than 40 of the 53 players who will be around on Opening Day.
Still, those last spots contain intrigue as 11 draft choices look to make their mark, along with another group of undrafted free agents. Eight undrafted players from the last two years are currently in training camp, and many have been contributors.
So while checking out the likes of Sam Bradford and Robert Quinn in workouts and preseason games, keep an eye on the following players as well. Some need to show improvement, while others could surprise you.
Wide receiver Brian Quick. Entering his third season, Quick must show he is ready for prime time. It is often noted that other receivers from small schools such as Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson, who began his career in San Diego, took until at least their third season for the proverbial light bulb to come on. Jackson had three receptions as a rookie, 27 in Year Two, 41 in Year Three and 59 for 1,098 yards in Year Four. Quick has a total of just 29 catches in two years, and he needs to start separating himself from others on the roster to justify the 33rd overall choice that was used to draft him.
Defensive tackle Alex Carrington. While first-round pick Aaron Donald has been getting all the attention, Carrington is also one to watch. He was starting in Buffalo last season until he was injured in Week 3 and missed the rest of the season. He will fight for snaps in the rotation on a line that is deeper and more talented than any unit in the league.
Cornerback Brandon McGee. He was turned inside out several times in his most extensive action in one game last season, but at a position searching for depth, he will challenge for a spot along with rookie E.J. Gaines. However, it will be difficult for either to beat out second-round pick Lamarcus Joyner.
Safety Maurice Alexander. He could be the feel-good story of the summer. A South City native who attended Eureka High School, Alexander worked as a janitor at the Dome in 2012 after being kicked out of Utah State because of a fight with a teammate. He did all the right things, including making enough money to pay his own way to return to school last year. Alexander was switched from linebacker to safety and showed enough for the Rams to select him in the fourth round. Depth is needed at the position, and he might provide it.
Defensive end Michael Sam. Obviously, many eyes will be on him in his quest to make the roster as a fifth end. While the notion is advanced that special teams will be his ticket to the roster, the legitimate question is whether he can beat out faster linebackers and defensive backs who make their living getting down the field on kick coverage. That is where core special-teams players reside. The reality is that Sam must show promise as a pass rusher to be on the roster, and even that wouldn’t guarantee him a spot on the game-day active list.
Cornerback Marcus Roberson. Injuries, a suspension and a poor NFL Combine kept him from being drafted. He has good size (6 feet, 191 pounds), but the position is crowded.
Defensive tackle Ethan Westbrooks. At 267 pounds, he has the look of an end even though the Rams insist he’s a tackle and can add weight. Is that to diminish the competition for Sam? A hamstring injury kept him off the field during rookie practices this week, but it will be intriguing to see how he’s used during camp.
Tight end Alex Bayer. The Rams have usually kept four tight ends, and Mike McNeill left for Carolina in the offseason. Bayer displayed receiving ability in OTAs and could steal that fourth spot.
Running back Trey Watts. The son of former Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts, he has the look of a player. He showed speed and quickness in OTAs and rookie practices after gaining 1,724 yards from scrimmage and scoring 12 touchdowns at Tulsa in 2013. Watts has an uphill battle for a roster spot thanks to the presence of Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham, Tre Mason, Isaiah Pead and special teamer Chase Reynolds, but a good summer showing could land him a job on the practice squad.
Howard Balzer can be heard daily on H & Friends from 9-11 a.m. on FoxSportsRadio 1490.