The Los Angeles Rams kick off training camp at UC Irvine next week with rookies arriving on Sunday, July 25, and the first practice taking place on Wednesday, July 28. The Rams figure to be in the national spotlight for the 2021 season, and are scheduled to be featured in a league-leading five primetime games.
The NFL season is notoriously long and the physical nature of the game takes a toll on players, this is especially true heading into the league’s first 17-game season. All teams suffer injuries to key players, and the Rams are no exception. Playoff contenders separate themselves with roster depth and a “next man up” mentality. Some rosters are better prepared for this than others. Which position groups on the Rams roster are considered the most deep? Are there any particular areas of the team where depth is a significant concern?
Positions with sufficient depth
While most of the attention on the defensive line is rightfully focused on 2020 Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, Los Angeles has a number of ascending role players that will be competing for playing time in 2021.
Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and A’Shawn Robinson are considered starters for the Rams at the start of training camp. Greg Gaines, a former fourth-round draft choice in the 2019 NFL draft, represents a starting caliber player that will be a rotational piece on the defensive line this season. Los Angeles drafted rookies Bobby Brown (fourth-round of Texas A&M) and Earnest Brown (fifth-round from Northwestern) to bolster depth ahead of the 2021 season. Both rookies could reasonably earn a role in the rotation as situational players.
The Rams also return second-year undrafted free agents Michael Hoecht, Jonah Williams, and Eric Banks. Hoecht has been working with trainer Eddy McGilvra and could fill a similar role to the departed Morgan Fox. McGilvra has trained a number of defensive linemen with the team, including Fox, Joseph-Day, and Gaines.
Safety and defensive signal-caller John Johnson left the Rams during the 2021 free agency period and signed with the Cleveland Browns. Los Angeles has several remaining players with starting experience that can be trusted with a larger role in Johnson’s absence.
Jordan Fuller earned a starting role on the team last season after impressing coaches during training camp. Third-year safety Taylor Rapp has filled in for Johnson before, stepping up as the starting strong safety in 2019 when Johnson was placed an injured reserve with a shoulder injury. The Rams also drafted Terrell Burgess from Utah in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, but his rookie campaign was cut short due to a season ending injury.
Nick Scott’s primary role is on special teams, but he was a significant defensive contributor in the second half of the year, sometimes playing in half of the snaps on defense.
Bears running a mesh-sit-wheel concept and Terrell Burgess is tasked with covering one of the most elusive players ever in the NFL in Cordarrelle Patterson coming out the backfield (wheel).— Sosa Kremenjas (@QBsMVP) March 19, 2021
Burgess is gonna be a *great* one. pic.twitter.com/XH84IEs6vF
This may be surprising to some, but Los Angeles seems to have a wealth of players along the offensive line with starting experience and a couple of players who may be considered starting caliber. Joseph Noteboom is expected to start training camp as the reserve left tackle, but he entered the 2019 season as the team’s left guard. Brian Allen was also a starter in 2019, but both his and Noteboom’s seasons were cut short due to injury. Other depth pieces include players that have been stashed on the Rams roster for multiple seasons: G Jamil Demby, C Chandler Brewer, and G Coleman Shelton.
Which position on the Rams roster has the most depth at the start of training camp?
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Other - let us know in the comments
Positions with concerning depth
Darrell Henderson will enter Week 1 as the Rams lead back after Cam Akers suffered a season-ending injury during offseason workouts. Xavier Jones, Jake Funk, and Raymond Calais will look to carve out a role as contributors on offense; however, if Henderson misses time, Sean McVay will risk putting too much pressure on new quarterback Matthew Stafford. LA will need contributions from the young reserve runners in order to keep Henderson fresh over the course of 17 games and potentially the playoffs. This will be a position to watch closely during training camp and the preseason.
Who is the most likely to emerge as an offensive role player behind Henderson?
Who is the most likely to emerge as a role player behind lead-back Darrell Henderson?
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Tyler Higbee has been a reliable presence on the Rams offense since McVay was hired. It’s hard not to shudder at the thought of a 2021 season with either Johnny Mundt, Brycen Hopkins, or Jacob Harris in the starting lineup should Higbee have to miss a significant amount of time.
Mundt is capable of filling the more traditional tight end role and contribute as both a receiver and blocker, similar to Higbee. Mundt has caught nine passes for 84 yards in four seasons with Los Angeles.
Hopkins and Harris are intriguing, hyper-athletic pass catchers, but in McVay’s offense tight ends should be well-rounded and willing to contribute in the run game. Both players are expected to play a significant amount in the preseason, but it seems unlikely that Harris will be ready to play tight end this season given that he was a college wide receiver and a high school soccer player.
The Rams have high expectations heading into the NFL’s first 17-game season and the roster’s depth will be tested. In order to make a playoff push and reach the Super Bowl, unexpected contributors will have to emerge.