LA Rams Brycen Hopkins is at his hour of reckoning
By Bret Stuter
The LA Rams know that the starting tight end role this season belongs to Tyler Higbee. Every tight end on the roster pretty much is aware of that fact as well. So in terms of training camp competition, the fact is that the top spot is already sewn up. Still, there is plenty of competition lining up at the position for the 2022 training camp.
You see, the Rams run a 12-personnel sub package, and the second tight end for this offense is wide open. How can that be? The LA Rams lost backup tight end, Johnny Mundt, early in the 2021 NFL season, and after that, the competition over the backup tight end spot was never truly settled.
The Rams hoped that the role might be won by former Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins, but that has yet to take place. In his rookie season, he was buried on the depth chart behind Higbee, Gerald Everett, and Mundt. But after Everett left for greener pastures in 2021, the belief was that Hopkins would move up on the depth chart. And when Mundt fell to injuries, the opportunity for Hopkins to show his true quality seemed to arrive.
Rams roster: Hopkins now or never
But Kendall Blanton, another tight end, leapfrogged over Hopkins and took over the TE2 spot. That is the way the LA Rams depth chart would have remained if not for a playoff injury to Higbee, and then an early shoulder injury to Blanton. As a result, Hopkins was one of the Rams’ heroes of Super Bowl LVI, catching four of four passes thrown his way for 47 yards, and three crucial first downs.
That performance occurred on the greatest stage of the NFL. It also marked the first game with Hopkins actively involved in the offense. So now the question we are all asking is whether that was just a one-hit-wonder out of Hopkins, or a foreshadowing of what lies ahead?
Perhaps no one is more interested to learn the answer than Hopkins himself.
Of course, the key to success in the LA Rams’ passing game is earning the trust of quarterback Matthew Stafford. Right now, that appears to be exactly what Hopkins is doing:
Of course, there is far more to the position than catching passes from QB Matthew Stafford. The tight end is an integral part of the team’s blocking schemes as well, and that seems to be part of the challenge to Hopkin’s ability to find steady play.
Can Hopkins find his path to playing time this year? He should not be short of confidence after how he ended last season. And with Higbee rehabbing, Hopkins should be setting the pace for tight ends in shorts and tee shirts. The true hour of reckoning arrives when the pads go on, and Hopkins must not only make circus catches but hit his blocks as well.
Until then, I expect that Hopkins will shine. But his hour of reckoning, performing in pads, is coming. Let’s hope he shines when that moment arrives as well.