Who is most likely to have a breakout year for the LA Rams?
With the departure of key weapons on both sides of the ball, LA Rams fans are anxious to find out who will step up and have a break-out year. After all, head coach Sean McVay has an uncanny knack for unleashing the beast in his players.
Big names like running back Todd Gurley, cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, and wide receiver Brandin Cooks are no longer with the Rams. That means “role player” guys are going to have the opportunity to step into the spotlight and make their own names for the Rams. Who’s it going to be?
Running back Darrell Henderson. This is a guy I wanted to have a stellar rookie season. With his play-style and combine, he reminds me of a lesser Maurice Jones-Drew coming out of Memphis. Drafted with the 2019 70th overall pick, many expected Henderson to make at least somewhat of an impact his rookie year. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The opportunity was there because of Gurley’s struggles last season. It was the perfect path for Henderson to show flashes of what was expected; a running back with exemplary speed. He rarely stepped on the field though. In the early part of the season, McVay opted to rely more on Malcolm Brown. As the season progressed, Henderson fell to injury, derailing his ability to contribute.
This season expects to be a running game by committee, with doses of Brown, and rookie Cam Akers to go along with Henderson. I would think Henderson’s role increases, but he will need a stellar off-season to get consistent regular-season reps, given the Rams used their first draft pick on an electric back like Akers.
A defensive back rises to the challenge
Cornerback David Long. The Rams used the next 2019 draft pick after Henderson to select Long – 79th overall. His play at Michigan was stout, topping it off with an All-Big Ten first-team selection his junior year. Expectations weren’t necessarily high going into his rookie season. I believe it was widely understood that he would mostly sit, being a backup, but could become a starter in the near future.
It looks like his time to see the field more may have come, with the departure of slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. That’s if 2020 third-round pick hybrid safety/cornerback Terrell Burgess out of Utah doesn’t throw a wrench in everything with a stand-out training camp. I expect Long to see his role increase significantly this year. Granted, the DB room will be crowded, with Burgess and former Ohio State Buckeye rookie safety Jordan Fuller looking to make an impact, but Long has had a year to get his feet under him – learning the game on the pro level.
Cleared for take-off
Wide receiver Josh Reynolds is a fourth-round, 117th overall pick out of Texas A&M in 2017. Reynolds is your prototypical possession receiver. With that, he also possesses decent speed for his size, being clocked at 4.52 at the NFL combine. I wasn’t exactly sure how Reynolds would fare in the Rams system, but with Brandon Cooks in Houston now, 2020 could be the year he sees a huge increase in the offense.
Reynolds was a touchdown machine at A&M (at least 12 in two out of three collegiate seasons), and I think McVay is looking for him to have that same kind of role next season. His best NFL season was 2018, mainly due to Cooper Kupp’s knee injury. The Rams coaches know what they can get out of him because he was thrust into a bigger role. This year, with an off-season, to prepare for what’s likely to be the 3rd WR on the depth chart, the sky’s the limit for Reynolds, even with the addition of rookie WR Van Jefferson. Look for Reynolds to have double-digit touchdowns, with plenty of big-time, clutch receptions next year.
Obviously, there are other players who have the potential to be key contributors next season, but this list was based on prior starters in the same positions leaving for other teams.