As the Rams get ready to begin their season, they’ll have plenty of tough decisions ahead. They have had two great drafts filled with future stars.
As they continue to evaluate the roster, players will have to prove their worth to stay on the 53-man roster to begin the season.
Many of last year’s rookies are looking to retain their spots. Obviously, Cam Akers and Jordan Fuller will continue their starting roles as they proved their potential last season.
Cam Akers struggled with injuries at the beginning of the season. However, he got hot down the stretch averaging 70.6 yards per game, and scored two touchdowns. That’s not mentioning his 221 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs. Jordan Fuller started every game last season except for four — three of which he was on IR. However, he managed three interceptions and 60 total tackles; these two will continue to impact next year.
Let’s look at the sophomore players that will take that leap to join Akers and Fullers and full-time contributors.
The Rams have a crowded tight end room even with the departure of Gerald Everett, and Brycen Hopkins will have a lot to prove this season. The Rams took Hopkins 136 overall in 2020 from Purdue and played only fifty snaps on special teams and two on offense. Looking at the Rams current draft class, two of their new receivers, Ben Skowronek and Jacob Harris, could move into the tight end conversation. Hopkins’ roles is even more in threat due to Harris college experience and dominance on special teams.
Hopkins will go under the radar this season as Johnny Mundt didn’t get much action last season. He only took 11% of offensive snaps but played the majority of his snaps on special teams. The Rams are looking for someone to replace Everett, and they could work both Mundt and Hopkins in on two-tight end sets.
Hopkins had a great career at Purdue, averaging 486.25 yards per season and four touchdowns. In his senior year, he racked up 830 yards on 61 receptions — good enough for 13.6 yards per game — and seven touchdowns.
The Rams not taking an outside linebacker until the ninth round bodes well for Terell Lewis. ESPN currently has him listed on the strong side behind Leonard Floyd and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. However, Lewis could make the switch to the weak side.
Lewis only played in eight games and recorded five total tackles and two sacks on 124 defensive snaps. He’ll have a lot to prove, including moving beyond a knee injury.
It’s only a matter of time before the Rams figure out what to do with Terrell Burgess. He’s a versatile player who can play all over the Rams secondary. With Troy Hill and John Johnson leaving in free agency, Burgess is due for a bigger role.
Burgess could take over for Hill at Nickel, or he can jump in on three high sets. Before a season-ending injury against the Miami Dolphins, Burgess got eight total tackles and a pass deflection on 49 defensive snaps. If he can come back healthy, it’s really his decision on where he plays.
I’ve been high on Van Jefferson since he’s been draft, but he is probably the most interesting one to watch this pre-season.
The Rams wide receiver room is extremely crowded after the draft. Before the draft, the Rams added a veteran deep threat receiver in DeSean Jackson. Then they added another serious threat in Tutu Atwell along with Skowronek and Harris in the draft. Sean McVay might have other plans for Skowronek and Harris, but Atwell could definitely see the field this season.
Jackson is as injury-prone as they come. He missed significant chunks in the last two seasons, and Atwell is an insurance policy in the eventuality he does go down. Jefferson looked decent every time he stepped on the field, but he’ll need to prove he’s worthy of a spot on the game roster. He caught 61% of his targets last season and a touchdown adding a second one in the playoffs.
Jefferson is a great asset for the Rams and one to watch through training camp. We’ll have to wait and see if he can emerge through the noise and win a bigger role in the offense.
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