Of course, whenever you mix practice squad, linebacker, and the LA Rams, if you don’t immediately think about formerly Rams drafted linebacker Clay Johnston, then you don’t get a cookie. Clay Johnston was the player that the Rams drafted with their last pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, a risky pick for a standout inside linebacker whose badly injured knee set off medical flags with 31 other NFL teams. Of course, the Rams rolled the dice.
With delays to NFL practices, Johnston was able to learn at the same pace as other teammates throughout the virtual team and positional meeting. The change to the NFL timetable even allowed a now fully-recovered Johnston to step onto the field with his teammates, and practice alongside the other 79 LA Rams. He was not quite ready for the NFL season when the date arrived for the Rams to make roster cuts. So he was waived, with an intent to return to the team’s practice squad. Instead, he elected to join the practice squad of the Carolina Panthers. He rejoined his former college coach, and his father, in doing so.
Recall? Why not?
But the Panthers have kept Johnston on their practice squad. Even after six weeks of NFL football, Johnston is no closer to playing defense in the NFL at this point. It will likely remain that way unless the Rams act now. How? Well, the Rams could pull out signing Johnston back to the Rams 53-man roster and get him installed into the defense he learned first.
While that may not be a huge boost to the Rams quality of linebacker play immediately, it does improve the team’s depth at the position nicely, does restore the Rams drafted player back to the roster and does give the team a chance to measure his progress and see if he has matured to a point of handling a larger load. He could play on special teams initially, and work into the defensive rotation as he masters the defense.