Did LA Rams DT Michael Hoecht dodge a bullet?
By Bret Stuter
The chances of LA Rams rookie defensive tackle Michael Hoecht are not great. But did he dodge a bullet by returning to the active roster so quickly?
Some say that the LA Rams will need a miracle to return to the NFL Playoffs in 2020. Believe it or not, they may have found one already. Do you believe that a 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive lineman can run a 4.6-second 40-yard dash? Rams rookie defensive lineman Michael Hoecht can, and he was signed by the Rams after the 2020 NFL Draft.
His draft profile set his weight at 290 pounds. But his official LA Rams profile has his weight at 310 pounds. Since he is a workout warrior, I’ll go out on a limb and presume he’s added 20 more pounds of muscle. While Hoecht is a defensive lineman by college football history, there are so many ways the Rams can use a big strong tackler on the roster. But the trick is getting him there, and keeping him there.
COVID-19 reserve list
His hopes to make the Rams roster were nearly dashed when the team announced that he was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list as of July 31, 2020. The COVID-19 reserve list holds a similar status as the team’s injured reserve list with few of the restrictions. Players are assigned to that list if: their COVID-19 test generates a positive indication of the coronavirus or if they have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Players remain on this list until they no longer exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 and have two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests. Thankfully, the team announced that Hoecht was removed from the COVID-19 reserve list, and returned to the active roster. That’s great for Hoecht for several reasons.
Seeing is truly believing
We can talk about this big guy who runs like the wind, but we are all skeptics to some degree. A player like Michael Hoecht may be the smartest guy on the team, but his true value is the ability to move so quickly and deliver such a huge blow. Coaches need to see him do that on the football field.
For Hoecht’s development, all rookies cannot afford to miss any time this training camp. The schedule is ridiculously tight, making it almost impossible for a first-year NFL player to make up ground by working harder. For drafted rookies, NFL teams will still carry them on the roster, and continue to work with their development during the NFL season. But for a player signed after the 2020 NFL Draft like Michael Hoecht? He’s got one shot to pull ahead of others with little time. There is no mulligan in this round.
Special teams’ player
Hoecht special teams’ upside should be special enough to consider him for a roster spot. Special teams coverage units are dominated by linebackers and defensive backs because they are players who can move quickly up and down the field, and make tackles when they get there. But a player like Hoecht who is faster than many linebackers and bigger than tight ends would be a huge asset for the Rams’ special teams.
The Rams could work with Hoecht to fill a versatile DL/LB role of the defense, as well as a FB role on offense. While fast defensive linemen are becoming more and more common, Hoecht’s 40 time rivals the fastest time of any defensive lineman from the 2020 NFL Draft. The true hold-up now is the lack of NFL knowledge of how to make use of the speeding wrecking balls.
On track to be on schedule
Hoecht’s return to the active roster comes just in the nick-of-time to participate in Phase I of training camp. This first week will be strength and conditioning for one hour and another hour of weight-room work. These are crucial activities for rookies to build up strength, endurance, and agility to NFL standards. While groups will be kept to a max of 15 players, positional coaches will finally get to see players and begin to implement plays.
For Hoecht to have any chance of earning a roster spot, the next 30 days are critical. Does he have a chance? By returning to the active roster so quickly, he may have dodged a bullet. Sometimes, those miraculous events have a way of turning into something very special. It may take a miracle for Michael Hoecht to make this Rams team. But then again, it may take a miracle for the LA Rams to return to the NFL Playoffs. Do miracles travel in pairs? Yes, sometimes they do.