The Rams’ trade to the top of the draft for quarterback Jared Goff impacted this season’s roster and will affect their roster for years to come.
The best-case scenario was that Goff would be ready to start next week’s opener against the San Francisco 49ers on “Monday Night Football.”
Instead, Goff probably will be on the Levi’s Stadium sideline in a Rams’ sweatsuit.
Coach Jeff Fisher said after last week’s exhibition defeat at Minnesota that second-year pro Sean Mannion would be the probable No. 2 quarterback behind starter Case Keenum against the 49ers.That meant Goff probably would be inactive for the opener because teams have only 46 players on game days and rarely activate three quarterbacks.
Fisher told NFL Network on Tuesday that Goff would, indeed, be inactive.
So while Carson Wentz, the No. 2 pick in the draft, starts the Philadelphia Eagles’ opener, Goff will be a spectator in his return to Northern California, where he starred at California.
Goff, 21, is the second-youngest player on a Rams team that is one of the NFL’s youngest. The Rams’ two biggest stars — running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald — are Pro Bowl players beginning only their second and third seasons, respectively.
“Even though we’re young,” Fisher told an audience at a charity luncheon Tuesday, “we’re an experienced young football team.”
Whether the Rams have enough talent and experience to successfully navigate one of the NFL’s most challenging schedules remains to be seen.
The roster has not been significantly upgraded from last season, when the Rams finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season.
After trimming the roster to 53 last week, Fisher indicated the Rams would make a few moves before the opener.
“The roster is for the most part 99% set,” he said Tuesday. “There are a couple more things we have to do to get ready.”
Re-signing veteran linebacker Akeem Ayers won’t be one of them.
The Rams terminated Ayers’ contract last week, and Fisher had indicated that the door was open for Ayers’ possible return. It closed Tuesday when the Indianapolis Colts signed Ayers, who had been due to earn about $3 million with the Rams.
So add linebacker to receiver and the secondary as major question marks.
Middle linebacker Alec Ogletree will be learning his new position while flanked by Mark Barron on the weak-side and, probably, a rookie such as undrafted free agent Cory Littleton on the strong side.
That vulnerability might be protected somewhat by a Donald-led defensive line that supposedly is on the rise.
The back end, however, could be a liability, as the Rams did little to offset the free-agent departures of cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Rodney McLeod.
Trumaine Johnson established himself as a top-tier cornerback last season, but uncertainty surrounds cornerback E.J. Gaines’ ability to avoid injuries that slowed him during training camp. The Rams’ depth chart Tuesday listed Johnson and cornerbacks Lamarcus Joyner and Coty Sensabaugh as starters in a 4-2-5 scheme. And as of Tuesday, the Rams had only three safeties on the roster.
The offense is strong in at least one area.
Gurley — the reigning NFL offensive rookie of the year — and Benny Cunningham are a solid combination at running back.
Right tackle Rob Havenstein sat out off-season workouts and nearly all of training camp and the exhibition season because of a foot injury. He returned against the Vikings, which bodes well for an offensive line that will be together for the second consecutive season. Left tackle Greg Robinson, however, remains a question mark.
Rookie Tyler Higbee infuses the tight end corps with his pass-catching skill, but the Rams are still lacking at wide receiver.
Tavon Austin, who recently signed a four-year extension reportedly worth $42 million, and veteran Kenny Britt are the starters. Fourth-round draft pick Pharoh Cooper will be sidelined for the opener because of a shoulder injury. That leaves inconsistent veteran Brian Quick, second-year pro Bradley Marquez, inconsistent sixth-round pick Michael Thomas and undrafted free agent Nelson Spruce as the backups.
Then there’s Goff, who cost the Rams a total of six picks in the third round or higher in the 2016 and 2017 drafts.
Fisher said that he probably would flip the roles of Mannion and Goff in Week 2.
In the meantime, the Rams will tap into their roster depth for an emergency backup: punter Johnny Hekker.