As with just about any other seventh-round pick, Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam faces a challenge to make the 53-player roster.
The 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Sam joins a club that is already very strong at his position. The Rams’ starting right end, Robert Quinn, earned 2013 Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Pro Football Writers of America after a 19-sack season. The starting left end, Chris Long, has two seasons of 11 sacks or more to his credit.
When the Rams go to their bench, they can call on seventh-year pro William Hayes, who’s notched a combined 12 sacks in two seasons with St. Louis and signed a three-year contract with the club in 2013. Another reserve end, Eugene Sims, has 54 regular season appearances to his credit with St. Louis.
If the Rams keep Sims and Hayes in 2014 — which seems quite reasonable — then Sam could be competing for the fifth defensive end role. The club carried five ends into the opening week of 2013, with the now-departed Gerald Rivers making the roster at the start of the regular season.
Mason Brodine, who spent the 2013 season on the Rams’ practice squad, is among the candidates for a reserve role behind the Rams’ primary ends. It’s also possible the club could add more DE depth in undrafted free agency.
The 6-foot-2, 261-pound Sam was the only defensive end selected among the Rams’ 11 picks in the 2014 draft. In some ways, that’s a good thing for him. In other ways, it’s a sign of the tough work ahead, for defensive end didn’t really look like a pressing need for St. Louis entering the draft.
Like other late-round selections and undrafted free agents, Sam can only help his cause to make the roster if he shows skill in special teams coverage. As an entry-level employee in a competitive business, he’ll have to show the go-getter spirit of the ultimate generalist — the willingness to do anything and everything the coaches ask — while displaying the professional defensive skill the Rams clearly believe he has.