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Training camps are set to get underway around the NFL, which means it is time to keep close tabs on certain players and how they perform in practices. For the Los Angeles Rams, there are a variety of positions that are expected to have heated battles or guys simply competing for a roster spot.
It goes without saying that fans of the Rams are chomping at the bit to get a preview of what Matthew Stafford brings to the offense. We’ll all get an opportunity — at least from afar — to get a sneak peek of what Los Angeles is going to look like before meaningful games are played. With the team slated to begin training camp near the end of July, there are a handful of players on the Rams who must stand out.
David Long Jr.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
During free agency, the Rams lost both John Johnson III and Troy Hill to the Cleveland Browns. Losing Johnson leaves a massive void in the secondary, but his leadership is going to be tough to replace. However, Johnson's exit was expected due to Los Angeles drafting guys like Taylor Rapp, Terrell Burgess, and Jordan Fuller in recent years. As for Hill, his departure leaves the Rams looking for a replacement at the nickel cornerback spot. Of course, Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams are one of the premier cornerback duos in the NFL. But for Raheem Morris' defense to repeat what they did a season ago under Brandon Staley, they'll need someone to step up at nickel, and it appears that David Long Jr. could get the first crack at it. In his first two seasons with the Rams, Long has seen a minimal role on the defense, logging 11 percent or fewer defensive snaps in each season. If Long wants to earn a starting job in Los Angeles, he'll need to outperform Donte Deayon and rookie Robert Rochell --- among others --- during training camp.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
You could definitely make the argument that the weakest position on the Rams resides at inside linebacker. Ever since Cory Littleton left in free agency before the 2020 season, Los Angeles has shown no interest in adding a notable name to the middle of the defense. Entering training camp, the Rams will have guys like Micah Kiser, Troy Reeder, Kenny Young, rookie Ernest Jones, and Travin Howard duking it out to see who will start at either inside linebacker spot. Given the lack of consistency that each of them has shown, Howard has a legitimate chance to emerge as a starter in camp. Howard unfortunately suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp last year, preventing him from seeing any playing time. This time around, he's healthy and his athletic profile could give him a leg up on the rest of the interior linebackers on the Rams. It will be interesting to see if the former seventh-round pick out of TCU can carve out a prominent role in his fourth year with the organization.
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
When the Rams were on the clock in the 2021 NFL draft at pick No. 57, the team had a choice of popular prospects like Creed Humphrey, Dyami Brown, or Terrace Marshall Jr. Instead of naming one of the guys above, Los Angeles surprisingly took Tutu Atwell, an undersized wideout from Lousiville. Once the pick was official, it was evident that Sean McVay wanted his guy with the first pick that the Rams had in the draft. Since the draft concluded, fans of the Rams and other analysts have criticized the choice of Atwell, especially with the other options that were still on the board. Humphrey could have replaced Austin Blythe at center or if Los Angeles was keen on addressing wide receiver, they could have gotten more well-rounded options in Brown or Marshall. To begin his career, Atwell is expected to spend most of his time as a returner on special teams. But for Atwell to justify his selection in the draft, he'll need to show he can contribute in a variety of ways in training camp.
(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Besides the departures of Johnson and Hill in free agency, one of the notable moves the Rams made was re-signing Leonard Floyd. Floyd had a career year with Los Angeles in 2020, racking up 10.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and 19 quarterback hits in 16 games. Outside of Floyd, though, the Rams lack a consistent edge rusher on the roster, which means there could be a few guys who rotate on the opposite side of Floyd. One noteworthy name to watch is Terrell Lewis. Lewis was an intriguing prospect ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft and despite his injury concerns, the Rams took him in the third round out of Alabama. His injury issues would instantly be a problem in his rookie season as he began last year on the non-football injury list. However, the first-year edge rusher would show why he could be a viable option in Week 10 versus the Seattle Seahawks by recording two sacks on Russell Wilson. If Lewis can remain healthy throughout training camp, we could hear great things about his role on the defense.
(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
As previously mentioned, aside from Floyd, the Rams don't have an edge rusher they can confidently lean on right now. That means that the team is going to take a long look at each of the possible candidates during training camp. While it's not a particularly productive group yet, Los Angeles is seemingly crowded at edge rusher with Lewis, Justin Hollins, Justin Lawler, rookie Chris Garrett, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo expected to get a chance to prove what they can bring to the defense. For the time being, Okoronkwo seems like the favorite to start on the opposite side of Floyd off of the edge. Whether it be due to injuries or the team's decision, Okoronkwo has yet to have an expanded workload on the Rams. But with a shortage of reliable options, Okoronkwo can certainly make his case to be the starting WILL in Morris' defense. The Oklahoma product definitely has some of the tools to be a formidable edge defender, but he'll need to display consistency in training camp.
(AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Once it was apparent that the Rams weren't going to bring back Blythe this offseason, most assumed that the team had a plan to replace him in free agency or through the draft. On the contrary, Los Angeles didn't take a single offensive lineman in the 2021 NFL Draft, surprising many. Instead of getting a new face to snap the ball to Stafford, the Rams are confident in Austin Corbett sliding to the center position. Corbett was acquired via trade from the Cleveland Browns in 2019, where he would start in seven games at the left guard spot. This past season, Corbett moved to right guard where he started in all 16 games, allowing just one sack and committing four penalties, according to PFF. With the Rams relying on Corbett to be the point guard on the offensive line, he'll need to show he's capable of making the switch from guard to center during training camp.