The 3rd preseason game will be showcasing some new faces at a couple of positions. The new starters include Darian Stewart at safety, Brady Popinga at SAM linebacker and Ben Leber at the weakside linebacker spot.
Stewart, a 2nd year player, will be taking over incumbent Craig Dahl’s position on defense. Stewart has been taking reps with the starting unit all week long, which isn’t really a surprise – the staff was really high on the former undrafted rookie. In Stewart, the Rams get a more athletic option than Dahl. Stewart is also a bit more capable helping out in coverage.
The insertion of Popinga and Leber into the roster comes as no surprise. The previous starters were a liability on the outside. Bryan Kehl, the incumbent weakside linebacker, has blown gaps this preseason that have ended up in big runs by the opposition. Leber is known to be good in coverage – a skill needed at the weakside – and eager to help in the run defense.
Na’il Diggs, last season’s starting at the strongside, has been serviceable against the run in his stay here, but age has been his downfall. Popinga brings a more physical, younger option to the table.
This week’s game is scheduled for Friday. Lets see if these roster changes improve our team.
Other side notes: Rookie Greg Salas has gotten looks with the first team. It doesn’t come as a surprise, Salas displayed toughness and great hands in last week’s game against the Titans. Also noteworthy, Donnie Avery has gotten reps with the first unit. Avery speed and big play ability would be a great asset if he can come back into the starting unit.