Written by: The Blitz Team
We are just a few weeks away from teams kicking off training camps! Each team will start of with a 90-man roster, and in a little over a month they will work that down to 53 players. This is a process that can be difficult to navigate through and it’s stressful for players that are on the roster bubble. Sometimes players find themselves in the right situation in which a team lacks depth at a position, so it offers them a better chance to make the roster. On the flipside, increased competition may mean unemployment for others. For this month’s All32, we take a look at players we believe have a chance at making the 53-man roster.
JJ Nelson (WR)
JJ Nelson has shown flashes of potential of the player he can be since the Arizona Cardinals selected him in the 2015 NFL Draft. He has dealt with drop issues, which is one of the big reasons he has underperformed, but the team is still lacking depth at the wide receiver position. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, the team will be using training camp to see if there will be a number two option in the passing game. At this point, it appears that their 2nd round pick, Christian Kirk, and free agent signing, Brice Butler, are locks to be on the team.
General managers typically like to keep 4–6 receivers on their roster. This is a great sign for Nelson’s chances to continue his run with the Cardinals. If he has shown development and fixes his drop issues, then he should easily find his way on the 53-man roster and possibly become the player the team hoped he would be.
Los Angeles Rams
Tegray Scales (LB)
The Los Angeles Rams, the “Paper Champions” as some have called them, have had one of the more impressive off-seasons in recent memory, bringing in big name talent like Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and Brandin Cooks. This team appears to be in win-now mode, and those names, along with the starters they retain from an 11–5 NFC West championship squad, affords flexibility to now focus the attention on managing the depth behind the treasure trove of All-Pros on the roster. Of all the big moves the Rams have made to solidify positions of need, the one that did not get addressed was a serious lack of depth at linebacker. Their only known commodity is converted safety Mark Barron, who is not your traditional LB. Past him the position gets pretty thin. The list of names on the depth chart include Matt Longacre, Samson Ebukam, Ramik Wilson and Bryce Hager — players not exactly on-par with the other units on this team. This is where I focus my attention, as it is most likely that we see a bubble player make the 53-man roster, and if I were a betting man (now that it’s legal I may be), I’d put my money on Tegray Scales.
Scales is also not your typical LB, as he doesn’t have elite size or speed, stands 6 feet tall, and ran a 4.77 40. However, he was a team captain and MVP at Indiana, named a second team ALL-American by Sports Illustrated, and second team All-Big 10. He has a great football I.Q. and one of his best traits is his ability to read angles and cut off running backs at the point of attack. He seeks out the play rather than waiting on it to develop, which helps him make up for his lack of elite speed. He poses decent coverage skills and finished his collegiate career with 8 interceptions, and with the secondary he will have playing behind him he should be able to take a few risks at the point of play.
This team doesn’t have a lot of holes. Best case scenario, I could easily see Scales ultimately taking over the starting LB role opposite Mark Barron. Worst case scenario, he makes the team and should Barron miss games for any reason, then Scales would be able to slide right in without modifying the playbook to much. We only have one year of head coach Sean McVay to study, but in that one season I have already come to trust that he will get the best out of every player on his roster. Why not take a chance on a vocal team leader who always seems to be where the play is?
San Francisco 49ers
Jonathan Cooper (OG)
Jonathan Cooper was the 7th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He has failed to live up to that selection as he has continued to battle injuries throughout his NFL career, and has already played for the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, and the Dallas Cowboys. He ended up starting a career-high 13 games last year in Dallas, so it appears that his health is starting to favor him.
It’s hard to believe that he will play a full 16 game season at this point, but the 49ers did bring him in to compete for the starting guard position. Joshua Garnett, former first round pick, has failed to live up to his expectations, and there have been reports that he could potentially be cut. Cooper is not only in position to make the 53-man roster because he at least gives them depth, but he has a chance to earn a starting position for 2018.
J.D McKissic (RB)
The addition of 1st round pick Rashaad Penny has resulted in quite a stable of young running backs in Seattle. Mike Davis, C.J. Prosise, Chris Carson, and J.D. McKissic are all under the age of 25. With Seattle drafting the nation’s leading rusher, one of these four men will be playing for someone else in 2018. Mike Davis has shown to be a reliable backup running back; he’s safe. Carson had an impressive rookie showing, earning himself the starting role before breaking his ankle. He’s here to stay too. This leaves Prosise and McKissic. Both players are college wideouts turned running backs, and both will need to impress as receiving backs to make the roster.
The best ability is availability, and C.J. Prosise has nine listed injuries that caused him to miss time dating back to 2015. According to sportsinjurypredictor.com, that’s four separate ankle sprains, two fractures, two pulled muscles, and a concussion. Once Prosise went down, McKissic rushed for 187 yards on 46 carries, caught 34 passes for 266 yards, and scored three touchdowns. His first game of the season against the Colts resulted in a two-touchdown performance, including 65 yards on five total touches. His quick-twitch elusiveness, speed, and ability to run routes like a receiver should propel him past the injury-prone C.J. Prosise.