Rams-Dolphins Five Things to Watch

Lamarcus Joyner (USA TODAY Sports)

The Rams will play the Dolphins in Miami on Thursday in their fourth and final preseason game. Rams coach Jeff Fisher hasn’t said how much his starters will play but there will be several storylines to watch.

Here are five things I’m looking for…

Michael Sam

All eyes will be on the seventh-round pick in his final preseason game as he attempts to secure a spot on the Rams’ 53-man roster going into the regular season.

Despite Fisher’s comment this week that St. Louis could keep as many as 12 defensive linemen on the 53-man roster, it’s possible that the team only keeps nine or 10.

I think undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks will be the ninth behind Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford, Aaron Donald, Eugene Sims, William Hayes and Alex Carrington because the West Texas A&M product has not only played well during training camp and the first three preseason games but is also capable of playing both defensive end and defensive tackle.

Sam has shown enough this preseason to warrant a spot on the regular season roster, but with defensive line being the deepest position group on the roster — with the defensive ends, specifically — and the former Mizzou standout not being much of a factor on special teams it leaves the rookie vulnerable to being among the last players released.

• Cornerbacks

Trumaine Johnson’s knee injury has opened the door for one of the Rams unproven backup cornerbacks to seize the starting spot opponent Janoris Jenkins.

Second-year player Brandon McGee or rookies E.J. Gaines and Lamarcus Joyner could be at that spot during the regular season opener against the Vikings.

Asked on Sunday which player will step into that spot, Fisher wasn’t tipping his hand. He mentioned all three players as possibilities.

“We’ve got a good group,” Fisher said. “We’ll be okay there until ‘Tru’ (Trumaine Johnson) comes back. Lamarcus (Joyner) is making plays, he played there (against the Browns) and inside so we’ve got a good solid group there.”

Joyner, the second-round pick out of Florida State, was expected to start at the nickel cornerback spot but could move to the outside with another player, like McGee or Gaines, playing the nickel role.

All three have had some good moments during camp and the preseason but all three have also missed time with injuries. So those three guys should all get a chance to impress on Thursday night.

It could also be the last opportunity for youngsters Greg Reid, Marcus Roberson and Darren Woodard to state their case for a roster spot.

Austin Davis

Davis was so good against the Browns last time out that he effectively answered any questions about whether he or rookie sixth-round Garrett Gilbert should make the regular season roster.

But now can Davis go out and prove to the Rams that he is steady enough to be counted on as the No. 2 guy behind Shaun Hill or will St. Louis have to go find someone else from outside the roster to be the backup?

• Sixth linebacker spot

The Rams have a solid group of five linebackers with James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Ray Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates.

But if they decide to keep six, who will that sixth guy be?

Phillip Steward probably has the best opportunity to claim that spot, but Thursday’s preseason finale will be another chance for guys like Aaron Hill, Lawrence Wilson or Etienne Sabino to win the job.

• Offensive line

We had the offensive line as our No. 1 thing to watch going into the Browns game and it didn’t turn out so good as left tackle Jake Long struggled in his debut and the Cleveland d-line was able to get too much pressure on Sam Bradford.

That No. 1 unit obviously still needs some work, though how much they will get in the fourth preseason game remains to be seen.

One of the bigger developments coming out of Cleveland, besides the injuries, was that rookie and No. 2 overall draft pick Greg Robinson did not start at left guard like he had previously, with Rodger Saffold in that spot instead and Davin Joseph starting at right guard.

Robinson still got plenty of work against the Browns, but if he’s not in the starting lineup again on Thursday it’s safe to say he probably won’t be when the regular season begins next weekend. If that’s the case, the second-guessing of the Rams’ choice there will grow even louder.

Thursday’s game will also give the offensive linemen on the roster bubble one more chance to prove their worth. The Rams will have some tough choices about which of the backup linemen they should keep.

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

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