The LA Rams opened training camp early last week and Saturday concluded the fourth day of practices. There were many questions entering camp and while there is a wait before we get any finality to most of them, there are some clues beginning to form in early reports out of Irvine.
These are six things that I think I’ve learned about the 2021 Rams so far.
Terrell Burgess slotted in as a starter
It hasn’t been clear all offseason whether Burgess would compete at safety or cornerback but no matter where he ends up the field, it sounds as though Burgess will be a full-time player in 2021.
The 2020 third round pick out of Utah has been one of the most talked about Rams players during the first four days of training camp.
Terrell Burgess breakout campaign starting nice and well. Love to see it. https://t.co/Qxq1RGZ5vT— Sosa Kremenjas (@QBsMVP) July 29, 2021
Jordan Fuller has the green dot
The loss of John Johnson could have really hurt but the selections of Burgess and Fuller in the 2020 draft may work out perfectly for Les Snead. Burgess was perhaps on his way to being a regular on defense prior to his injury last season and now Fuller has taken over the “green dot” from Johnson as the defense’s play caller.
I saw a green dot on Jordan Fuller’s helmet And Aaron Donald confirmed it when I asked him just now - Fuller is calling signals so far this year. More coming on this later for @TheAthleticNFL— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) July 29, 2021
Fuller and Burgess could be an even more exciting duo than Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner were for the 2018 defense. He is ready for the challenge:
“It’s a big honor that they look to me as somebody who could hold his own and make plays for this team and also be a leader.”
DeSean Jackson will have significant role in offense
Sean McVay didn’t give his old buddy a good $4 million just to eat up three or four hundred yards. Maybe that’s what happens, but the intention is clear: Jackson will be a featured player in LA’s 2021 offense.
It didn’t take long for Matthew Stafford and DeSean Jackson to connect on a deep touchdown in camp. https://t.co/GPDqKjQFk2— Rams Wire (@TheRamsWire) July 29, 2021
Stafford comes to the team with no obvious favorites and while we shouldn’t expect Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods to lose many targets to Jackson, if he’s as explosive as he appears in practice so far, there will be be plenty of opportunities for him.
Van Jefferson not giving up without a fight
But Jackson’s presence makes things complicated — in a good way — for McVay. He needs to figure out how to best utilize four or five valuable wide receivers when in reality, most teams have difficulty even trusting more than two players at the position at any given time. Jefferson came into 2020 training camp with medium expectations and a virtual offseason, but he left training camp with high expectations following a bunch of very positive reports about his progress.
Then three weeks into the season, he was quietly benched and didn’t return to regular action until late in the year. That doesn’t mean Jefferson’s career is finished though, it’s only been one season, and he’s once again making himself known during training camp.
First team offense struck first in red zone with a Van Jefferson TD, but defense repaid on the next snap with a Darious Williams INT over the top.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) July 29, 2021
While it may feel torturous to him, this may truly be a blessing for rookie Tutu Atwell. The Rams shouldn’t need him at all, so long as Woods, Kupp, Jackson, and Jefferson remain healthy. Jefferson is the one name there who hasn’t proven anything in the regular season yet, but another good August should result in more chances come September.
Justin Hollins, Travin Howard could have inside track at linebacker
Right now it seems as though Hollins will get the first crack at starting opposite of Leonard Floyd. Even without his old buddy Brandon Staley around as defensive coordinator, it appears that LA was also high on this former Broncos linebacker who was had for practically nothing last season.
Sean McVay's presser was *very* interesting. He singled out Justin Hollins, David Long Jr., and then all three safeties when he was talking about the losses of John Johnson III, Troy Hill, and camp battles, etc.— Sosa Kremenjas (@QBsMVP) July 26, 2021
A hint at which players might get first crack at starting spots?
And while it doesn’t mean that Kenny Young and Micah Kiser couldn’t start at inside linebacker to begin the year, Travin Howard is probably the first guy who comes to mind when considering who could start over either. It also doesn’t mean that McVay and Raheem Morris won’t regularly rotate Young, Kiser, Howard, Ernest Jones, and Troy Reeder.
Sean McVay has been impressed by Ernest Jones and Travin Howard so far, specifically calling Howard’s return “big time.” https://t.co/cgTFLx7qKN— Rams Wire (@TheRamsWire) July 31, 2021
Kendall Blanton making argument to be on final roster
Every time I’ve looked at the Rams 90-man roster, I’ve had a feeling that Blanton would make the final 53. After losing Gerald Everett and not replacing him with anyone else, it’s hard to believe that McVay will be comfortable with just Tyler Higbee, Johnny Mundt, Brycen Hopkins, and Jacob Harris. Even if that’s more than three names already.
Mundt is not there to be Higbee or Everett.
Hopkins couldn’t get an offensive snap as a rookie, and while that may have been the plan all along, it doesn’t mean that anyone is an authority who can claim to know that Hopkins is going to turn out to be a good draft pick. He was a fourth round tight end. Many fourth round tight ends do not become starting or number two tight ends. We don’t know anything about him yet.
Harris isn’t a tight end at this time.
I think that gives Blanton a real chance to compete as he enters his third training camp with the team.