And then there was 1. LA Rams TE Brycen Hopkins suspended

Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

So much for any visions of the LA Rams running their 12-personnel package, at least for now. The LA Rams and the Rams fans learned today that tight end Brycen Hopkins was found to be in violation of the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse. That will bring an immediate three-game suspension into effect, and the LA Rams roster is suddenly down to one tight end on the team’s 53-man active roster.

TE Tyler Higbee stands alone.

When a suspension goes into effect, that player is prohibited from participating in any team activities for the duration of that suspension. With the suspension going into effect today, the LA Rams will be without Hopkins to face the Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Dallas Cowboys. The earliest he can play is in Week 6 when the LA Rams host the Carolina Panthers.

Then, the LA Rams will have an early Week 7 BYE week.

The Rams have not used Hopkins much this season so far, playing him for just four offensive snaps in each of the past two weeks. But there are signs that the team’s primary tight end, Tyler Higbee, is struggling with so much attention in the offense so far this season. In two games, Higbee has been targetted 20 times, a much higher rate than his average of 40-70 targets per season.

As a result of so many passes going his way, Higbee has only been catching passes at an alarmingly low 60 percent catch rate, much lower than his typical 70-80 percent catch rate.

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LA Rams roster decisions, decisions

With Hopkins out, the Rams must make a quick decision as to who to promote, or sign, to the active roster for Week 3 and face the Arizona Cardinals. The two main options for the LA Rams are either TE Roger Carter, who is a rather versatile but raw rookie tight end, or TE Jared Pinkney, a player who has a wee bit more NFL experience, but who is still rather raw in terms of familiarity with the LA Rams offensive playbook.

Of course, a third but unlikely option would be for the Rams to sign backup TE/WR Jacob Harris to the active roster to cover for the next three weeks. But that has a double-edged sword with it. If he is promoted and does not perform well, then the LA Rams will be discouraged in his progress. If he is promoted and does well, the Rams will need to make room for him on the 53-man roster when Hopkins’ suspension expires, because NFL teams will be more than happy to sign him away to their roster.

The Rams could negate any player on the practice squad and simply sign tight end Kendall Blanton off the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad. After all, why not return the favor? That option holds some value as Blanton played for the LA Rams in 2021, and he was neck and neck with Hopkins throughout training camp.

What will the Rams do? Stay tuned . . .

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