It's grueling to be on the roster bubble during NFL training camp. Practices are a grind and jobs are on the line. That makes every rep critical and taken with the utmost of importance. Fail to execute consistently and a player's chances of making the 53-man roster dwindle. That is the case for several guys on the Los Angeles Rams.
It can be a nervy time. A large portion of players all across the NFL are going through this exact phenomenon in order to bolster their livelihood. Three players, in particular, need big preseason performances to snag a spot for themselves on the team's 53-man roster.
Brett Rypien doesn't have a ton of experience as an NFL starting quarterback. That wasn't to be expected when he went undrafted out of Boise State in 2020. He's started three games in three seasons as an NFL quarterback. He's gone 64-103 (62.1%) for 664 yards and 3 touchdowns to go with 5 interceptions in those three starts. There isn't much to write home about there. It does make sense that the Rams wanted someone with starting experience to back up Matthew Stafford, but it's possible to do better than Brett Rypien.
The Rams thought so too and decided to use a fourth-round pick on Stetson Bennett. Bennett is far from a perfect quarterback prospect; he's small at 5-11 190-pounds doesn't have a big arm, and is very old for a rookie. Bennett will turn 26 in October and is only 15 months younger than Rypien. But Bennett projects as a fine backup quarterback and may have the inside track on that gig.
Stetson Bennett throwing LASERS 😳
Bennett was given the nod to run with the Rams first team yesterday, with Matthew Stafford on a rest day.
Bennett reportedly looks like the Rams “QB2” as of now, already ahead of Brett Rypien.
Bennett has reportedly been “constantly” seeking… pic.twitter.com/6rq7JnHBth
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) August 2, 2023
Bennett has a legitimate investment from the organization and has a winning pedigree after helping the Georgia Bulldogs win two national championships. Brett Rypien has the NFL experience but he could use a couple of big preseason games to secure the backup quarterback job.
Lance McCutcheon was a preseason breakout star last year. He led the NFL in receiving yards in the preseason. He made big play after big play.
.@mccutcheonlance is a GROWN MAN 💪
— NFL (@NFL) August 14, 2022
Lance McCutcheon ended up making the Rams' 53-man roster last year but still didn't get a lot of playing time. He played in ten games last season but was mostly relegated to special teams work. He didn't haul in a single reception.
Though the Rams' wide receiver depth chart isn't anything special outside of Cooper Kupp, because McCutcheon didn't do much as a receiver last season, he likely is going to need another big preseason to make this roster. Kupp and Van Jefferson are locks to make the roster. Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell, and Puka Nacua are all Rams' draft picks that likely give them an inside track to making the roster. That means McCutcheon is going to have to fend off DeMarcus Robinson, Tyler Johnson, and Austin Trammel. Certainly not a murderer's row of receivers. McCutcheon has balled out in preseason before. If he does it again he should make the Rams' 53-man roster.
Royce Freeman didn't have a job just two weeks ago. It wasn't until Sony Michel retired that the Rams signed Freeman. Freeman hasn't lived up to his college pedigree in the NFL after he ran for 5,621 yards in college. In five NFL seasons, Freeman has run for 1,473 yards at a below-average 3.7 yards per carry clip. Freeman has survived in the NFL through special teams prowess. However, Kyren Williams, the Rams' fifth-round pick a year ago out of Notre Dame, is also a good special teams player.
It's hard to tell how the Rams' backfield will shake out. Cam Akers was almost cut last year but became their workhorse back (again) last season. All that's behind him is Freeman, Williams, and Zach Evans, a sixth-round rookie. Freeman could be the backup. He could be a gameday inactive if he's even on the roster. How he does in preseason games will dictate which side he ends up on.
Preseason games are going to make or break the status of hundreds of players across the NFL and whether or not they make the team's 53-man roster. Brett Rypien, Lance McCutcheon, and Royce Freeman are examples of this with the Rams. But in their cases, not only could a big preseason help them make the roster, but they could possibly carve a path to playing time along the way.