Governor’s Cup Wrap – Looking at Players on the Bubble

Well, the Rams gave a good show for the hometown fans, which is in itself a rarity. A defense that gave up a few big plays managed to not be killed by any of them, and showed a resiliency and aggressiveness that resulted in game-changing turnovers.

In striking contrast to the Chiefs, the Rams did not play any of their first-string skill players all game, and as such the offense did not do a lot. But this did give us an extended look at several players on the bubble. Here are my snap reactions from the game, on who played well and who might be packing their bags, using Jim Thomas’ Countdown to Cutdown as my guide.

Quarterbacks: Marc Bulger, Kyle Boller, +1

On the bubble • Brock Berlin, Keith Null

It may be heresy for those Rams fans who saw the face of Kurt Warner in 6th-round-pick Keith Null, but he failed to overtake Brock Berlin this preseason. In this game, the two quarterbacks had a reversal of type, with Berlin hitting his wideouts on the corners and out in space, and Null playing it safe with checkdowns. Berlin went 9-for-17, but several of his incompletions came on passes that hit his receivers in the numbers. (Carter got the ball popped out twice, Fells was clearly interfered with on another.)

Null does have a nice arm and upside, and it’s tempting to argue that he played the entire preseason with the Rams’ lowest-string talent. But at the same time, Berlin showed a more complete grasp of the offense, and appears to be as comfortable under center as he is in shotgun, while Null clearly is more effective in the shotgun set.

I wouldn’t be disappointed to be wrong here, and see the Rams keep Null and attempt to coach him through his progressions, and eventually tap gold from that cannon arm. But on pure preseason performance, Berlin has gamely held on.

Running Backs: Steven Jackson, Samkon Gado, Mike Karney, +1 or 2

On the bubble • Kenneth Darby, Chris Ogbonnaya, Antonio Pittman

Chris O(g)bonnaya was clearly showcased in this game’s second half, which could mean one of two things — either the Rams have declared him the guy, or they are giving him a chance to latch on with another team. If he sticks, it must have been the product of an amazing week in practice, as he has seen minimal game action to this point.

On the other hand, in a game in which so many bubble players were used, Darby barely got a look, and it’s possible that his ship has sailed. However, Pittman is clearly the man on the bottom of this totem pole. I can’t fault his effort, but I don’t see him sticking with this group.

Tight Ends: Randy McMichael, Daniel Fells, Billy Bajema

On the bubble • Joe Klopfenstein

Klopfenstein was the only wildcard here, and Fells clearly beat him out. Bajema continues to look like a reliable blocking/receiving threat. And we hope McMichael still has some magic left. However, this is one area that the Rams will have to improve next season.

Wide Receivers: Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson, Keenan Burton, +3

On the bubble • Tim Carter, Ronald Curry, Derek Stanley, Sean Walker, Nate Jones

I differed from Thomas here — I am positive the Rams keep six receivers total, as insurance for Avery, and I bumped Walker and Jones up to the “bubble” group. In part, because I think Tim Carter’s star has fallen. His drops tonight after contact, and his brittleness this preseason, have hampered his comeback.

This keeps the door wide open for Stanley to continue to be the primary return man and fifth/sixth receiver. (Stanley could have cemented a bigger role if he hadn’t dropped a sure TD in Thursday’s game.) Curry has played well enough to stick, and Walker has made a succession of nice connections with Null. Nate Jones had one really nice route and catch that led to the Rams’ only offensive touchdown on the night, but I don’t think it’s enough to completely make up for an unremarkable preseason.

Walker is not a strong sixth, though. This is definitely one area, as Van at TurfShowTimes has already strongly suggested, that the Rams could make noise in this coming week.

Offensive Line: Alex Barron, Jacob Bell, Jason Brown, Richie Incognito, Jason Smith, Adam Goldberg, John Greco, Mark Setterstrom, +1

On the bubble • Renardo Foster, Roy Schuening, Phil Trautwein

I didn’t see enough tonight to change my opinion here — I think Schuening is the keeper as a backup guard, for his run blocking. However, line play has to be studied more closely, and it seems that there is positive copy floating around Trautwein, the rookie from Florida. As a Gator fan, I wouldn’t be displeased with that.

Defensive Line: Jake Long, Adam Carriker, James Hall, Leonard Little, Clifton Ryan, Darell Scott, +2

On the bubble • C.J. Ah You, Gary Gibson, Eric Moore, Hollis Thomas, Victor Adeyanju

On the basis that Adeyanju was the lowest-rated lineman by the guys at Pro Football Focus, and that he was a product of the historically bad 2006 draft, I thought for sure he would be a bubble player. Or rather, I hoped someone would come along and clearly outplay him. Jim Thomas was more confident in Adeyanju’s ability to stick on the roster than I was, though, and last night #94 showed us why. He was really disruptive against the Chiefs, and showed a nasty edge in pummeling Brodie Croyle all night long.

Gary Gibson is a player that has made noise early in the preseason, but little this week, while CJ Ah You was all motor all over the field. CJAY literally played as though his life depended on it. That has been his M.O. all throughout camp, and I think he makes the team if only because coaches like a guy like that to motivate the men in front of him on the depth chart. If Gibson moves someone, it may be Clifton Ryan, who just doesn’t have much speed.

I admit I had high hopes for the Hollis Thomas signing, but it increasingly appeared that he had little in the tank. He barely saw action, if at all, last night and is probably done.

Linebackers: James Laurinaitis, Chris Draft, Will Witherspoon, David Vobora, Chris Chamberlain, Larry Grant, +1?

On the bubble • Quinton Culberson

His name wasn’t exactly ringing out Thursday night, on defense or on special teams. The tape may reveal more. My guess, he’s out and the Rams cast eyes around the league for his replacement –especially on special teams — on cutdown day. Depth here is still a major concern, even with the emergence of Larry Grant.

I’ve often wondered, why haven’t the Rams given a free agent tackling machine like Derrick Brooks a call?

Secondary: Ron Bartell, OJ Atogwe, James Butler, Tye Hill, Jonathan Wade, Todd Johnson, Justin King, Bradley Fletcher, Craig Dahl, +1 or 2

On the bubble • Quincy Butler, Cord Parks, David Roach

First of all, there’s no doubt Quincy Butler makes this team, with the release of Tye Hill and with Butler’s big-play instincts. I bumped Parks and Roach into the conversation, hoping they would show something. Parks saw a lot of time on special teams as a return man, while Roach was literally hit-and-miss all night. Parks may stick — he has steady hands and speed potential, and a lack of fear that I like. But the odds are not with him.