In what was just an experiment for the Los Angeles Rams previous special team’s coach — now senior coaching assistant John Bonamego — it wont be a reality again for new special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis. On Tuesday, the first unofficial depth chart was released and Cooper Kupp was listed as the starting punt returner.
Coach Sean McVay immediately shut that down in his presser Thursday.
Sean McVay was asked about Cooper Kupp being listed as the punt returner on the Rams' recently-released unofficial depth chart.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) August 13, 2021
McVay, dryly: "I didn't see that depth chart, if we did. He won't be our punt returner, no."
Considering this is just an unofficial depth chart, it should just be a filler until they feel comfortable with naming who will actually be returning punts this year. Hopefully this is the case because the risk of injury to Kupp is not what the LA Rams need as he is such a vital part of the team’s success.
Another veteran who the team probably won’t want to risk the health of but could help with the return duties is DeSean Jackson. We all know Jackson’s history of being one of the game’s most electric special teams players but is it worth it to put him back there? Probably not. He and QB Matthew Stafford have built such a good rapport with the deep connection in training camp as it seems that’ll be a big staple in their playbook.
The job could very well be given to one of the organization’s rookies. With the first preseason game coming up Saturday vs the LA Chargers and the rookies vying for a spot on the team, could a new starter emerge? Here are some names you should watch for:
WR Tutu Atwell
Atwell was the team’s first draft selection at the 2021 NFL Draft being selected 57th overall in the second round. Now this is the obvious choice as he’s probably the fastest and most elusive on the roster outside of WR DeSean Jackson. Now Atwell did not return punts for Louisville in 2020 but he did have some experience in 2019 with an average of 21 yards per return. The Rams have their core wideouts locked in with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, and Van Jefferson but Tutu is too electric of a player to not be involved in some capacity; With that said I believe he will be the returner. It’s already been reported that Tutu was returning punts vs the Cowboys in their joint practice at Oxnard.
WR Jeremiah Haydel
Now, this is an intriguing candidate for the job. Haydel was the primary kick returner for Texas State all four years that he was with the program. It wasn't until his senior season where he started to return punts in which he had 208 return yards and one touchdown. He was highly recognized by the conference as he earned All-Sun Belt honors in numerous categories including punt returner, return specialist, all-purpose player, and kick returner. The ability is there and he needs to show that this upcoming preseason to earn a roster spot.
The Rams lacked a punt returner last season…looks like they may have found one in Jeremiah Haydel. pic.twitter.com/OcNOr915GU— BGrisakDTR (@bgrisakDTR) May 2, 2021
RB Otis Anderson
With five RB’s on the current roster, Anderson needs to make an impact on special teams for a chance to make it. As far as returning punts, at UCF Otis handled that position partially during his sophomore and junior year. His junior year he was the Knight’s top punt returner with 21 for 277 yards including a house call for 87 yards vs Pitt. That punt return was the longest in the AAC in 2019. Apparently, he has already been receiving praise from coach DeCamillis during the special teams period in training camp. The versatility from this young player could provide a ton of value to the Rams, the competition for returner should be an intriguing one to say the least.
Replay of Otis Anderson's 87-yard punt return TD: pic.twitter.com/otNsPWjJqa— Jason Beede (@therealBeede) September 21, 2019
Who should return punts for the Rams in Week 1?
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