LA Rams: 4 training camp battles that could define season

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Who is that second tight end?

LA Rams tight end Tyler Higbee is the uncontested starting tight end. He stands a towering 6-foot-6 and weighs a pretty substantial 255-pounds, both measurements are impressive for a big target. But the Rams love to toss in an occasional 12-personnel package to change things up for opposing defenses and have historically done so about 30 percent of the time.

Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams /

Los Angeles Rams

Although the Rams front office invested in offensive weapons throughout the 2021 NFL Draft, I’m not convinced that rookies will move the needle much for the team’s offensive playbook. Rookies may show up in a cameo role later in the season, but even a player like second-round selected Tutu Atwell will not see much action on the offense this year.

Will Jacob Harris break that historic trend? Well, the young man has everything necessary to do so, and he will have his shots in preseason games. The Rams had a gaping hole for a red-zone target over the past two seasons, and Harris could deliver that if he can earn the trust and respect of head coach Sean McVay. That’s a tall order for any rookie.

Johnny Mundt is back, and he blocks like nobody’s business. That means that he will get his share of the tight-end snaps, which run between 120-190 offensive snaps in a season.  While he lists as a tight end, the Rams creatively use him anywhere and everywhere. He can line tight at the line of scrimmage, in the backfield as a fullback, power back, H-back, or even as a Y-back. He can even line up wide. But if he only sees 10 percent of the offensive snaps, and the Rams use two tight ends 30 percent of the time, who gets the other snaps?

Right now, that looks to be the team’s second-year tight end, Brycen Hopkins. After all, he was drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft with the distinct purpose of filling Gerald Everett’s roster void in 2021, and here we are in 2021. While Hopkins should not enter this training camp presuming that the job is his no matter what, I cannot see anyone drafted usurping his advantage to claiming that spot unless they blow the coaching staff away throughout training camp and preseason games. Hopkins has something to prove to himself and the LA Rams organization this year. Keep him on your radar.