The Los Angeles Rams could be without tight end Tyler Higbee on Sunday. Higbee has been dealing with a number of injuries this season, but the latest is a neck injury that has him listed as doubtful for Sunday’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
While Higbee hasn’t had his best year to date, he still has 34 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns. Higbee’s 34 receptions rank third in the Rams offense behind just Puka Nacua and TuTu Atwell while his 367 yards rank fourth.
It is worth noting that Higbee has been dealing with an injury almost every week this season and has shown a lot of toughness to be on the field and start in every single game. The Rams have seemed to take note of Higbee’s injuries as of late as they have been rotating their tight ends a lot more. Both Hunter Long and Davis Allen have gotten more playing time over the last two weeks.
Despite playing no fewer than 87 percent of the team’s offensive snaps all season, over the past two weeks that number has dropped for Higbee. In the past two games, Higbee played in just 75 percent and 67 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Meanwhile, Hunter Long played 22 and 33 percent of the team’s offensive snaps during that time period and Davis Allen played 13 percent of the snaps in Week 12 against the Arizona Cardinals.
This has been more of a rotation as the Rams haven’t been using heavier personnel. Over the past two weeks, Sean McVay’s offense has still run 95 percent of its plays out of 11 personnel. Simply put, Allen and Long have both been getting more playing time.
Since trading Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins, Long has simply been a name on the Rams roster. Long spent most of the offseason injured and began the season on injured reserve. At points this offseason and even since the beginning of the year, there were serious question marks on whether or not Long would make the roster or get any playing time.
Again, the Rams have been utilizing him more as of late, especially as a blocker. Over the past two weeks, Long has the second-highest run blocking grade among tight ends in “gap” scheme runs.
Hunter Long sighting?— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) November 30, 2023
Long did some nice work as a blocker in his first game action. Excited to see how the Rams continue to utilize their tight ends moving forward.
Solid rotation of Higbee, Long, and Allen against the Cardinals. pic.twitter.com/EtDFBY1Uj0
It’s been a small sample size, but Long has shown some flashes as a blocker. If Long can continue to show effectiveness in the run game, he will certainly earn more playing time in the offense. This is an area where Brycen Hopkins has struggled and why he’s been buried on the depth chart.
Kyren Williams is listed at just 194lbs, but he runs so physical. He ranks second in the NFL this season in yards after contact per attempt with 3.94.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) December 7, 2023
Good example of him here bouncing off of contact and picking up a few extra yards. pic.twitter.com/ZXFN6epHPP
As the veteran player, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Long take a majority of the snaps in the case that Higbee is unable to go on Sunday. However, another name to watch will be rookie Davis Allen. Allen was drafted in the fifth-round and has shown flashes when given the opportunity.
Allen was a standout in the preseason as he ranked third among tight ends with nine receptions and was impressive with his contested catches.
#87 (Davis Allen is his name, by the way) with the extension for the great catch on the Seam pic.twitter.com/cRl6qyteqf— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) August 21, 2023
However, while he wasn’t seen as a blocker at Clemson, he is capable in that department. There is still some room for improvement and that’s what has kept him off of the field early in his career, but he is willing and that in itself is important.
Davis Allen has some work to do as a blocker, but he had some good reps against the Cardinals.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) November 30, 2023
Love that the Rams rotated their TEs as much as they did. Wasn't solely Higbee in 11 personnel packages. pic.twitter.com/STsAUUPhiA
The Rams won two games in the regular season back in 2021 without Higbee. In those games it was Hopkins and Kendall Blanton who stepped up in his place. Long and Allen are a better duo than Hopkins and Blanton. It’s very possible that Long is the primary tight end against the Ravens with Allen coming in on obvious passing downs or limited running situations.
There will be some drop-off from Higbee, but Long and Allen should be able to get the job done in the case that the Rams starting tight end is unable to play.