The cut to 53 is just hours away for all 32 NFL teams. As I break down the St. Louis Rams and apply my formula for a 53-man roster, there are some interesting scenarios and what if situations for Steve Spagnuolo and his coaching staff.
The 53-man roster below is a look at the basic formula that general managers Vice Presidents and coaches use in order to breakdown their team by personnel groupings. There are four categories on the chart that are the structure:
53 – All the players listed in this column are those I feel will make it through the final cut. Players that are Blue (impact play makers and difference makers); Red (Starters and key contributors with Blue traits); and Orange (Back-up and Special Teams players that flash Red traits).
(+) – Players that have a chance to make the 53-man roster, but have several issues keeping them from making it; Injuries, lack of production, limited playtime and you will see some draft picks (Green players that flashed strong orange traits) in this column from the 2011 draft and a few years back that may be in trouble in securing a spot on the 53 man roster.
Bubble – Players with ability to contribute to a NFL team but have yet to develop within training camp and need time to develop, with the strong possibility to be candidates for the Practice Squad.
Long Shot/CUT – Players that have little to no chance to make the final roster.
Practice Squad – A category for those that should earn a spot to help the 53-man roster get ready against weekly opponents.
I also break down positional need on both offense and defense and the number that teams generally keep. Keep in mind coaches and general managers play with the numbers based off personnel, scheme and injuries. Example – do you keep three quarterbacks on the roster or just go with two and allowing yourself an extra player at another position like wide receiver.
Again, based off scheme and how coaches feel their opponent may attack them a defense might need more linebackers to gear up against the run or the offense my see a weakness in the opponent’s defense and feel multiple receiver sets can exploit and give them the advantage in a game, but a heavy tight end formation may be more effective against another team.
The practice squad is an eight man squad. In years past it was about developing a player on the practice squad. Teams tried hiding players on the practice squad years ago, but the rule is any player on another team’s practice squad can be acquired by another team. The team of interest makes a call to the agent letting them know of interest in their client. The next call goes to the team in which the player is currently on, a courtesy call to say they will put in a claim through the NFL Player Personnel Office requesting the said player. The team that currently has that player has no choice and must release him. The rule is once you go get a player from another team’s roster, they must be put on the 53-man roster.
Then I leave a spot for players cut that you might want to track once sent on the waiver wire. Another area on the chart is a place for injury notes for both offense and defense, injured reserve and players placed on PUP (physically unable to perform) that are still a team’s property.
In this 2011 analysis there are two different situations on two different positions that may make an impact on the offensive side of the roster. First, rookie Austin Pettis and third round pick in the 2011 draft has not developed fast enough. He has shown flashes of ability to ascend, but lacks confidence in both practice and game time situations.
First, the question is do you keep a young player that like others was hurt by the lockout with no off-season development both mentally in the class room, physically in the weight room and the timing and anticipation to grow on the field. Keep in mind general manager and coaches don’t like to cut draft picks. It is viewed as a sign of failure of picking the wrong player in the draft. I have been in this same situation, and in a few cases we kept the player on the 53-man roster to develop in the hope that after a few games they would be ready to play and it worked. In another situation, I encouraged the coaching staff to cut the player and put him on the practice squad allowing him to develop. I would only do this if the player had very little to no playtime or production in the first three preseason games. In game four everybody plays and a dominant performance in this game could and is usually fool’s gold. Once the player is cut, all involved with the decision to release the player hold their breath waiting for the player to clear waivers allowing your team to claim him.
Secondly, a player that has upside ascending skill set, natural receiving skills and is in the plans to be a pivotal piece in your offense is tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who struggles to remain healthy. His playtime is spotty for the last two seasons, and he is currently hurt and out for several weeks. Forget your heart; my experience in the past is you better go off your gut feeling. As an old time personnel man told me many years ago, “A player’s future is a direct reflection of his past playtime and production.”
I will have a full breakdown by position of the Rams 53-man roster on Monday, and a look at the Philadelphia Eagles team throughout the week.
Here is my look at what the final roster may look like.