3 ways to fix the LA Rams return game for 2021
By Bret Stuter
The LA Rams certainly had the right idea for their special teams in 2021. It began as though the team planned to reshuffle everything on special teams with the exception of punter Johnny Hekker. After all, the Rams were falling in the rankings against other teams.
It wasn’t one thing, but rather the cumulative effect of many things. The Rams field goal distance and accuracy were sub-par. The Rams could not return either punts or kickoffs particularly well. The Rams even struggled on covering kicks and punts. While that may not seem like much to worry about, it truly is.
In any exchange of possession, the defense is on the field for three plays, the offense is on the field for three plays, and a special teams’ unit takes the field for two plays. Of course, if the offense moves the chains or the defense cannot stop the offense, the ratio skews. But the impact of special teams can determine 25 percent of a game’s outcome. Some teams argue that the impact of special teams is a full 33 percent of the team’s success.
So when the decision to feature 2019 return specialist Nsimba Webster as the team’s 2020 returner, there was a bit of confusion. He runs a 4.54-second 40-yard time, and that’s certainly fast enough. But he never seemed to flash the brilliance of a returner who could take it to the house. Of course, he was a better option than WR Cooper Kupp on punt returns. And he eventually began to sizzle a bit on kick returns.
But for a team seeking to improve at special teams, recasting the same players seemed like a surrender. Who would have been better return options for special teams in 2020, and therefore better options for 2021? Well, we can think of three off the top of our heads.