Latsch: Predicting the Rams' roster

ST. LOUIS — We’re getting closer to the start of St. Louis Rams’ training camp for the 2014 season, so it makes sense to take a quick look at which players could land jobs on the 53-man roster when the regular season starts in early September.

The Rams have been rebuilding their roster for a few years now since coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead took over in St. Louis, so it doesn’t look like there will be too many spots up for grabs in training camp. But there are always surprises and there’s plenty of time left for guys to fight for the final few spots on the roster.

Here’s a quick look at how I think it will all unfold before the Sept. 7 opener against the Minnesota Vikings. Feel free to disagree with me and explain where I’m wrong on our message boards.

OFFENSE

Quarterback: (3)
Sam Bradford
Shaun Hill
Garrett Gilbert

The first two are obvious choices. The third is much more difficult. Gilbert will battle Austin Davis for that spot, but even if Gilbert beats out Davis it’s possible he doesn’t make the 53-man roster. It could be risky to try to sneak Gilbert through waivers to get him on the practice squad, but the Rams could choose to go with two quarterbacks and use that extra roster spot for another position like an offensive lineman or defensive back.

Running back: (4)
Zac Stacy
Tre Mason
Benny Cunningham
Isaiah Pead

Again, the first two are easy choices. Cunningham was second on the team behind Stacy in rushing yards as an undrafted rookie in 2013. Pead had less rushing attempts than wide receiver Tavon Austin last season but the former second rounder is trying to work his way back into the mix in the backfield after establishing himself as a valuable special teams player. Can an undrafted rookie like Trey Watts impress and earn a job like Cunningham did a year ago? That will be one of the interesting things to watch in training camp.

Wide receiver: (5)
Chris Givens
Austin Pettis
Tavon Austin
Kenny Britt
Brian Quick

Stedman Bailey (suspended for start of season)

Maybes: T.J. Moe, Justin Veltung, Austin Franklin

The wide receivers are always among the most interesting to watch in camp because you never know who might emerge as a potential playmaker and steal a spot. Bailey’s suspension means he won’t count as a roster spot at the beginning of the season, but his return will eventually bump somebody from the active roster. The Rams liked their returning group of Givens, Pettis, Austin, Quick and Bailey and then added Britt as a free agent this offseason. Can one of the other candidates, like Moe, Veltung or Franklin, do enough as a wide receiver and special teams player to make the active roster?

Tight end: (4)
Jared Cook
Lance Kendricks
Cory Harkey
Justice Cunningham

Maybe: Alex Bayer, Mason Brodine

Cook, Kendricks and Harkey have established themselves as valuable pieces of the roster. With Mike McNeill moving on to Carolina, it would make sense to use the fourth spot on a youngster like Cunningham or undrafted rookie Bayer. Cunningham gets the edge here because he got a look of looks during OTAs.

Offensive line: (10)
T Jake Long
G/T Greg Robinson
C Scott Wells
G/T Rodger Saffold
T Joe Barksdale
G Davin Joseph
C/G Barrett Jones
C Tim Barnes
G Brandon Washington
T Mike Person

Maybes: T Mitchell Van Dyk, C/G Demetrius Rhaney, T Sean Hooey, G Travis Bond

There are some difficult calls here. The first eight names are either fairly well established or, in the case of Jones, a draft pick who the team seems set on developing into a contributor at some point. The Rams have a few guys who could develop for the future, including draft picks Van Dyk and Rhaney, but will they be kept on the active roster or end up on the practice squad? With Long returning from a significant knee injury and the injury history of Wells and Saffold, it will be interesting to see how many offensive linemen the Rams keep on the active roster. The ability of Saffold and Robinson to play tackle gives St. Louis some versatility here.

DEFENSE

Defensive line: (9)
DE Robert Quinn
DE Chris Long
DE William Hayes
DE Eugene Sims
DE Michael Sam
DT Michael Brockers
DT Kendall Langford
DT Aaron Donald
DT/DE Alex Carrington

Maybes: DT Matt Conrath, DE Sammy Brown

The biggest question among these nine guys is whether Sam will make the team. I think he will because the Rams will try to develop him. But considering he fell till the last few picks of the draft, it’s possible the Rams could release him and put him on the practice squad if no other team picks him up. He’s not ready to unseat Hayes or Sims as a backup defensive end, but with those guys getting older and costlier, Sam could be a good alternative down the line.

Linebackers: (6)
Alec Ogletree
James Laurinaitis
Jo-Lonn Dunbar
Ray Ray Armstrong
Daren Bates
Philip Steward

Maybes: Etienne Sabino, Caleb McSurdy, Aaron Hill

Ogletree, Laurinaitis and Dunbar are easy choices here for obvious reasons. Armstrong and Bates established themselves as special teams guys last season as undrafted rookies and could evolve into bigger contributors at the linebacker spot. The last spot here is kind of a toss-up but Steward may have a slight edge based on his time with the team last season. The other young LBs on the roster will need to use special teams play to make the roster, like Armstrong and Bates did in 2013.

Defensive backs: (9)
CB Janoris Jenkins
CB Trumaine Johnson
S T.J. McDonald
S Rodney McLeod
CB Brandon McGee
CB Lamarcus Joyner
S Maurice Alexander
CB E.J. Gaines
S Cody Davis

Maybes: S Christian Bryant, CB Greg Reid, CB Marcus Roberson, S Matt Daniels

There should be some interesting battles here for the final few spots. Backups like McGee, Joyner, Alexander and Gaines are likely safe after the Rams invested draft picks on them the past two years and another draft pick, Bryant, could be placed on injured reserve as sort of a redshirting developmental prospect. Reid and Roberson are both intriguing prospects with good resumes. Reid is undersized but showed well at Florida State. Roberson was a three-year starter/contributor at Florida who left school early but went undrafted. I wouldn’t be surprised if either made the roster.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3)

K Greg Zuerlein
P Johnny Hekker
LS Jake McQuaide

Zuerlein and Hekker, a Pro Bowler, are safe. So too probably is McQuaide, unless youngster Jorgen Hus can win that spot.

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

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