Resolution I: Rams special teams are not very special
The LA Rams know that special teams make up a rough third of their overall performance. but the fact that the Rams had invested the least of all 32 NFL teams into their special teams specialists points to the reality that the Rams special teams underperformance is an challenge of their own making.
In 2023, Spotrac.com estimates that the LA Rams have spent approximately $1.4 million on special teams specialists. That is a full $1.1 million less than the next stingiest team on the list. The Kansas City Chiefs are estimated to have committed approximately $9.1 million on special teams this season, nearly seven times more than the Rams. In the end, the Rams have spent the least on special teams in 2023.
Sometimes, you get what you pay for.
So the fury from LA Rams fans over the job done by Special Teams Coordinator Chase Blackburn may be a bit overdone. If you have a water and crackers budget, you really cannot expect a chef to serve up a prize winning filet mignon, can you?
But Rams fans can make a compelling argument that the Rams special teams performance has not improved in pace with the other two phases of the Rams team this season. And in that category, the point is valid.
At midseason, the LA Rams special teams performances had ascended from a preseason ranking of 32 to a modestly better ranking of 23. But after 15 games, the Rams continue to struggle. The Rams field goal accuracy of 74.4 percent is the 29th-ranked success in the NFL. The Rams kickoff return averages just 0.6 yards per return, which is the 31st-ranked performance in the NFL. Even the Rams punting, which has 43.4 yards per punt, good enough to be the 7th-ranked punting unit in the NFL, took a huge hit in Week 17 as the Saints blocked a punt.
And if the Rams opponent can set up for a return, they average 24.7 yards per punt return. That's not good at all.
The thing is, the Rams may get into the playoffs. But to advance in postseason competition, all three phases of the game must be playing well, or at least trending in a positive direction. For the Rams, special teams is not exhibiting any measurable improvement.
The Rams have a lot of things going very well for the team. But there remains a pocket of trouble spots that need to be addressed quickly. And with a new year on the doorstep, now is as good of a time as any.