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2018 Los Angeles Rams Roster Preview: WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez is out to show he’s more than a name

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Once a highly touted prospect, Gonzalez’s college career flamed out across three schools. Can he recapture the spark in the NFL with the Rams?

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Kansas Jayhawks WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez heads downfield on one of his seven catches against the Rhode Island Rams, September 3, 2016.
Kansas Jayhawks WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez heads downfield on one of his seven catches against the Rhode Island Rams, September 3, 2016.

It wasn’t supposed to go like this.

When WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez headed to Texas A&M in 2013, it was supposed to head upward.

A&M was coming off an 11-win season in 2012 capped with a Cotton Bowl win led by QB Johnny Manziel and WR Mike Evans in a star-studded offense. Gonzalez was joining WR Ricky Seals-Jones and WR Sebastian LaRue in what was gearing up to be a nearly unstoppable offense. But early slip-ups against Alabama and Auburn preceded two late losses and the Aggies’ hype train got derailed. A year later, Gonzalez saw his young career getting squeezed out by freshman WR Speedy Noil and a JUCO transfer in WR Josh Reynolds. With his role diminishing, Gonzalez transferred to Kansas Jayhawks where he exploded in 2016 after sitting out the 2015 season. A diminutive speedster, Gonzalez looked to have things working in his favor. But just days before fall camp broke for the 2017 season, Gonzalez was dismissed for breaking team rules. He quickly headed to FCS program Southeastern to keep his football career going before landing with the Los Angeles Rams after the 2018 NFL Draft as an undrafted free agent.

It wasn’t supposed to go like this.

But here we are.

Roster Battle

The top of the depth chart is set. WR Brandin Cooks, WR Robert Woods and WR Cooper Kupp comprise the starting trio with Gonzalez’s former Aggie teammate Reynolds the immediate backup. WR Pharoh Cooper is in the depth mix as well though his primary duties are as a kick and punt return man. WR Mike Thomas was the final depth piece on the roster last year taking less than 10% of the offensive snaps over the course of the season. Logically, he’s got the loosest grip on the depth chart though it’s worth keeping in mind there’s potentially an extra spot on the 53-man roster available with the trade of WR Tavon Austin to the Dallas Cowboys.

That leaves a camp battle ostensibly between Gonzalez, WR Steven Mitchell, Jr. (roster preview), Fred Brown (roster preview) and Ricky Jeune (roster preview). The rub here is that of role.

Gonzalez, at 5’10”, 170 lbs., is not going to be asked to do the same things by Head Coach Sean McVay, Pass Game Coordinator Shane Waldron or Wide Receivers Coach Eric Yarber that Jeune will be asked to do at 6’2”, 211 lbs. It’s fair to suggest they don’t actually even play the same position.

As such, Gonzalez is likely looking at carving out an offensive role that matches how the Rams used Austin in 2017. Sensible then that Gonzalez has inherited the #11 jersey. If the Rams are eager to maintain that kind of role in the offense, it would seem suited to players like Cooks and Cooper. Perhaps that would put Gonzalez in a bit of a depth chart of his own behind those two which makes the roster battle seem quite different.

Expectations

Not yet of course as a rookie UDFA, but Gonzalez has the kind of skill set that can tear up training camp. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if his combination of speed and quickness lands him in the occasional tweet or practice write-up that has fans start putting some chips here heading into the preseason.

Chances of making the roster (3.5/10)

The one area we haven’t discussed yet is his special teams availability. Given his speed, if he’s got the willingness to really apply himself on behalf of Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel, he could very well land on the 53-man for Week 1.