posted on September 03, 2011 19:54
The axe fell swiftly and decisively Saturday morning at Rams Park as the team made some of its toughest cuts throughout the day. I thought I’d offer my thoughts on some of the more notable victims of the turk’s scimitar.
WR Mardy Gilyard
As late as after the Kansas City game, I would’ve said that Gilyard was safe; the coaches raved about his special teams ability, and he did “well enough” in his reps at wideout to offer the squad something on offense. But Gilyard was obviously pressing in the game in Jacksonville, and I think his muffed punt return is what really sealed his fate. If he was going to make the team as a special teams contributor, and spell Amendola 3-4 times per game on punt returns, as a coach, you don’t want to feel like you’re playing roulette with whether or not Mardy’s going to put the ball on the ground back there. Salas and Pettis didn’t show too much as backup returners, but at least they held onto the ball. It’s tough to see a guy like Gilyard go; he was always friendly and well-liked by his teammates. I would expect a team hurting at wideout (Chicago, Buffalo, maybe Cincinnati) to give him a shot. In the end, Dominique Curry ended up outplaying him for the “special teamer that happens to be a wide receiver” spot.
WR Donnie Avery
This one came as a huge shock to me. Avery had showcased nothing but speed, agility, and crisp route running through preseason practice and games. I suppose cutting Avery saved the team some cap room; according to 101 ESPN’s Howard Balzer, Avery was set to make a little over a million dollars this season. I hate to see the team cut Avery because he had a definable tool (speed) that other wideouts on the squad lacked. Dominique Curry must have really impressed coaches on special teams to wrest the final WR spot from Avery. I could see him catching on with any of the same wideout-starved teams that will be in on Gilyard.
OLB Zac Diles
For whatever reason, Diles simply couldn’t get off of the third team linebacker unit. There have been whispers that he wasn’t picking up the Rams’ complex blitz adjustments and defensive scheme as quickly as anticipated, but it’s more than a little odd to cut a guy brought in as a free agent as an “established” NFLer. The team really must’ve liked what they saw from Jabara Williams, who has been learning how to play all three linebacker positions throughout training camp.
OT Renardo Foster
This was a bit of an odd cut. I thought Foster was the clear backup option for both offensive tackle spots, but the team obviously thought that Adam Goldberg performed capably enough to hold down the job. Goldie had a rough game against the Titans filling in for starting LT Rodger Saffold, as Sam Bradford was teed off on more than the first hole at Pebble Beach. I guess the coaches think that it was an aberration, and Goldberg will be ready to go when the season starts. He better be; later in the afternoon, the team released Quinn Ojinnaka, who was mostly an interior lineman but could slide outside in a pinch, leaving Hank Fraley as the interior offensive line replacement.
DE George Selvie
This one really surprised me. Selvie was used in the preseason as both an inside and outside pass rusher in obvious passing situations. His pass rushing skills were very evident, but he must have been outplayed by Eugene Sims, who had a fantastic camp, and C.J. Ah You may be able to handle the inside pass-rush position capably enough to make Selvie expendable. With pass-rushers at such a premium in the league right now, I’d be shocked if Selvie didn’t catch on somewhere else.
TE Fendi Onobun
That drop against the Jags must’ve doomed Fendi; Spags wasn’t joking when he said these TEs and WRs have to “catch every pass” earlier in camp. All kidding aside, I think this was more of a case of the wrong skill set to replace Michael Hoomanawanui if the talented-but-oft-injured TE misses a couple of weeks to start the season. Onobun didn’t develop his immense physical talents quickly enough for the Rams, who had to make a tough choice with so many competitive positional battles in camp. It was a bit surprising to see TE Ben Guidugli make the squad ahead of Onobun, but he might just be a placeholder while the team surveys other options at TE.
QB Thad Lewis
Lewis looked great in relief of Bradford and Feeley throughout the preseason, leading a lot of fans to clamor for the team to keep him instead of Feeley. I can understand both sides of it; Feeley, the steady veteran, may be more of a resource for Bradford right now. Bradford and Feeley appear to get along well, and it might just be as simple as Sam being more comfortable with Feeley as the backup. But it’s a shame to lose Lewis, who, if properly coached, could have become quite the asset down the road for the team. I imagine that the Rams will try to float him through to the practice squad, but with the sad state of some of the QB situations in the league right now (Miami? San Francisco? Seattle?), Lewis may not make it through waivers. Hopefully he doesn’t land with another NFC West team; it would be rough to see this one come back to bite the Rams.
RB Keith Toston
The writing was on the wall for Toston for a while; the team was unlikely to keep an extra running back with Steven Jackson, Cadillac Williams, and Jerious Norwood on the roster, despite his good preseason. If I was Toston’s agent, I would have been on the phone with Detroit yesterday to see if they could use his services.
DT Daniel Muir
Muir didn’t show too much during camp or the preseason, but that could have been a function of the bum ankle he was nursing. It was surprising to see the Rams cut two veteran free agent defensive players that they brought in; I’m not sure how the business side of free agency works exactly, but it can’t be good for wooing potential free agents in the future. “Come to us! We think you’re a great fit, and—oh, wait, you’re cut.”
Overall it was a roller-coaster day; by far the toughest day thus far to separate my fandom from my job. You have to remember that a lot of times these cuts are made for a combination of reasons; salary cap concerns, personality issues, and even things like draft position can come into play. Also remember that with each cut, the front office and coaching staff put their own jobs on the line; if they make decisions for the wrong reasons, they won’t be making the decisions for very long, so they are “highly motivated” to get this roster correct. As a fan, you can’t over-react to a favorite not making the team. It’s fun to debate and second-guess their decisions for weeks, months, and sometimes even years down the road, but it’s not the end of the world because a Donnie Avery or Thad Lewis was cut. Relax, trust the decision-makers, and get ready for the Rams to take on those "over-paid, over-hyped" birds of prey from Philadelphia in week one.
-I think that sustained gust of wind Saturday afternoon was the Danario Alexander fans breathing a collective sigh of relief when 101 ESPN’s Tony Softli tweeted that DX was safe. Forgive me for thinking that he was gone, but on Friday, it sure sounded like DX was on the bubble when Spags was asked if DX’s knee was a part of the evaluation process, “Well I think it has to play a part in it. It would be unfair to everybody if it didn’t,” Spags said. “I’ve talked with Danario about that and yet, I’ll go back to the statement I made, he is one tough sucker. Nobody works harder at it. He never tries to take anything off. He is always out there battling even if his knee is swelling and he can’t really run full speed, he is still out there practicing. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.” It sounded like the head coach had respect and admiration for Alexander, but was readying the media in case he had to be cut. Looks like he made it, for now (see below).
-Two guys cut from other teams to keep your eye on for the Rams: Former Broncos TE Dan Gronkowski and former Patriots WR Brandon Tate. Ben Guidugli would be the easy cut to get Gronkowski on the roster, but it would be interesting to see what else the Rams would do to sign Tate.
-As expected, WR Mark Clayton was put on the Reserve/PUP list to start the season. That means that he can’t practice or play with the team until week 7 at the earliest, though he can sit in on meetings. Clayton is known for being a very sharp guy and quick study, so he should be mentally ready to go soon after coming off the PUP list. It also gives the team some options for the roster move when he comes back: IR DX if his knee worstens, or trade or cut one of Pettis or Salas if either of their development stalls. Basically, Clayton’s presence on the PUP list means that the competition continues at wideout for another six weeks, which might be good to push these guys to stay focused and give their all.
-DE James Hall continued to improve with treatment for his ailing back, “I believe he got out there and jogged around a little bit,” Spags said. “We didn’t have him do anything strenuous and we may take it easy on him tomorrow. Hopefully, we will get him for Monday’s practice and get back in the thick of things.”
-TE Michael Hoomanawanui is now day-to-day with his strained calf, “That’s an interesting one,” Spagnuolo said, “If you ask him he’ll say [he's ready]. [Head Athletic Trainer] Reggie [Scott] thinks because it’s a calf injury, it’s not a bone bruise, it not a broken finger or something like that. If you go too early with a calf injury and a pull, all of the sudden we could set him back. Then it’s not worrying about the Philadelphia game, it’s worrying about the next one. This is going to be a down to the wire thing I believe. We’re going to try and get him out there but I don’t…this is a legitimate day-to-day deal. I and don’t think you’ll see him practice Monday, Wednesday, I don’t know about Thursday, I don’t know about Friday, we’ll see.” Hoomanawanui’s availability for the game on Sunday could influence whether or not the Rams make another roster move at TE.
-That’s it from me; those of you that follow me on twitter (@djgelner) know that it’s been a long day. We have a conference call with Billy Devaney Sunday afternoon, so hopefully I’ll have more on some of the reasoning behind some of these cuts tomorrow.
D.J. Gelner covers the Rams beat for insideSTL. Follow him on twitter for the latest Rams updates (@djgelner). Be sure to follow his live blogs and tweets on game days.