The preseason isn’t just for players trying to earn starting jobs. It’s even more important for guys competing to make the 53-man roster – players on the roster bubble and in danger of potentially being cut.
For the Rams, there are a bunch of players on the bubble heading into the first preseason game on Saturday night. Lance McCutcheon and A.J. Arcuri are among them, as is rookie Jason Taylor II after the signing of John Johnson III.
Here are eight guys on the bubble as the preseason gets underway this week.
Rivers is competing with Zach Evans and Royce Freeman to be one of the running backs the Rams keep on the roster behind Cam Akers and Kyren Williams. He’s currently slotted ahead of them on the depth chart but it’s hard to imagine the Rams cutting Evans and keeping Rivers.
Rivers will need to impress in the preseason to remain ahead of Evans, a sixth-round rookie, and Freeman, a free agent who was signed last month.
There hasn’t been much said about Johnson this offseason, which probably isn’t a great sign. He’s the third defensive tackle on the depth chart behind Aaron Donald and Larrell Murchison, slotting ahead of Taron Vincent, too. As the final pick in the draft, he’s in no way assured a roster spot so he has a lot of work to do in the preseason. The defensive line is wide open, which gives Johnson a chance to contribute, but being a drafted rookie doesn’t give him an edge over anyone else.
Thomas is a third-string edge rusher going into the first preseason game, behind two rookies, Byron Young and Nick Hampton. Like the defensive line, the outside linebacker group is completely up for grabs so Thomas can’t be ruled out yet. With a strong preseason performance, he could very well secure a roster spot.
S Jason Taylor II
The whole safety room was shaken up by the addition of John Johnson III, but Taylor’s job security was perhaps impacted the most. While it’s unlikely the Rams will only keep four safeties (Jordan Fuller, Johnson, Russ Yeast and Quentin Lake), it is a possibility, which would leave Taylor on the outside looking in. He needs to stand out right away this preseason before he falls further behind the projected top four.
The Rams are actually pretty deep at cornerback thanks to the addition of Ahkello Witherspoon. Jolly is still listed as one of the top six corners on the depth chart but he must beat out Timarcus Davis, who was spotted on the field with the first-team defense, as well as others. It’s also possible, though unlikely, that the Rams will only keep five cornerbacks and carry an extra safety with position flexibility instead.
Rypien and Stetson Bennett are technically even on the depth chart but Bennett’s job is far more secure than Rypien’s simply because he’s a fourth-round rookie who isn’t going to be cut by the Rams. The only way Rypien makes the team is if the Rams keep three quarterbacks, so he needs to make the case that he’s worth keeping around into the regular season.
WR Lance McCutcheon
The additions of Tyler Johnson and Demarcus Robinson really set McCutcheon back this summer. He hasn’t made much noise in practice, certainly not to the extent that he did last offseason, and the result is him being listed with the third-team offense. The top six receivers are almost locked in, so it could come down to McCutcheon, Johnson, Austin Trammell or one of the three undrafted rookies.
LT A.J. Arcuri
Arcuri is a candidate to be the Rams’ swing tackle, along with either Joe Noteboom or Alaric Jackson, depending on who wins the starting left tackle spot. Warren McClendon Jr. is also in the mix at right tackle, so Arcuri doesn’t have a clear path to a roster spot. His play in the preseason will tell us a lot about where he stands heading into roster cuts next month.
WR Tyler Johnson
As previously mentioned, Johnson is competing with McCutcheon, Trammell and others to make the team at wide receiver. He’s been highlighted for a few of his impressive catches in practice, which is a positive sign as he tries to make the 53-man roster. Johnson has NFL experience, but he’s going to get playing time in the preseason because of where he stands on the depth chart (with the third-team).