ST. LOUIS – It figures to be a nervous couple of days around Rams Park this week.
After 15 players were trimmed from the roster by Monday’s deadline, the Rams still have to make 22 additional cuts by Friday at 3 p.m. to reach the regular season limit of 53 players.
And with their final preseason game set for Thursday night at 6 p.m. against the Baltimore Ravens, the next few days will undoubtedly determine the fate of several players on the bubble. Talk about a pressure cooker.
Play well and an NFL roster spot is yours. Struggle and hit the streets with several hundred other players looking to make a practice squad or catch on somewhere else. But it’s a chance that 15 players won’t get with the Rams after being cut Monday.
“It’s not been an easy couple of days,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher. “You keep in mind that some of these guys that we released have been a part of this team for a couple years. Most of the guys that we released joined this team back after the draft and gave their lives to this football team since late April up until yesterday. It’s never an easy time.
“They understand the game. They understand the numbers. They understand the fact that we’re required to cut down. They also understand the fact that in some cases, there just aren’t enough reps to go around.”
The Rams have difficult decisions to make at spots like tight end. Do they keep three or four? And if it’s three, does St. Louis native Mike McNeill or the often-injured but higher upside Mike Hoomanawanui (Illini Mike) get the final spot?
And in addition to determining the final few spots at each position, the Rams still have a couple of position battles to figure out. One would be at safety, where Craig Dahl and an injured Darian Stewart are battling it out for the starting spot.
“There’s still several that are close,” Fisher said. “If you look at the secondary, we’ve got some decisions to make. Which guy can play nickel or potentially will develop into this and that? And how do you get them the right reps but at the same time how do you get them ready for the season?
“There’s some different scenarios we’re looking at, but I think by Friday things will have cleared up for us and we’ll be able to make the right decisions.”
But the Rams also figure to be very busy on the waiver wire, making it likely more than 22 players currently in camp could be gone by the time Friday afternoon rolls around. A player that is one of the final roster cuts of a team like the Packers or Patriots could still be better than what they currently have.
Reports surfaced late Monday night that the Rams were on the verge of trading former No. 2 overall pick OT Jason Smith to the New York Jets in exchange for OT Wayne Hunter. And they could make more deals in the next few days.
It’s all about finding the best 53 players heading into the regular season and the Rams figure to be very active in looking at outside help leading into the weekend.
“That’s very, very important, especially with a young team,” Fisher said. “A new start is looking to see what’s available. Our staff upstairs has done a great job. They’re prepared. At this point, it’s unlikely that we make any moves before (Friday’s cuts) but we’ll keep watching. We’ll wait and see until all the lists are in and go through it.”
One position apparently not still up for grabs is the backup to quarterback Sam Bradford. Despite an impressive camp from rookie Austin Davis, veteran Kellen Clemens will open the season as the No. 2 quarterback.
Asked about a competition between the two for the No. 2 spot, Fisher said, “No, I don’t think so. Austin’s done a great job, he’s picked up this offense which is not easy to do in a short time and he’s done a good job, but Kellen’s been in this offense for six or seven years. He has a good sense, a good feel for it.”
Davis figures to be a lock for the No. 3 quarterback while the other quarterback still on the roster, Tom Brandstater almost surely will be among those cut on Friday.
Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson have an interesting battle going to be Steven Jackson’s backup at running back. Richardson has been more impressive in camp but Pead, who was the higher draft pick and came in with more hype, likely will emerge on top.
The Rams have just a couple days to make decisions at these and plenty of other spots on the football field. And they appear to have their work cut out for them.