III: Surprisingly struggles to block or catch passes
The LA Rams have seen a great deal of turnover at the tight end position, but veteran tight end Tyler Higbee has been the Steady Freddie of the Rams tight end room. He had the unique combination that the Rams prize at the position. He can block well enough to become an additional offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage when the Rams need extra oomph to seal off the end.
Before the beginning of the 2023 NFL season, I expected Higbee to have a career season this year. The Rams offense was loaded with young players, and Higbee had just come off a 2022 season in which he was targeted 104 times, catching 72 passes for 620 yards and three touchdowns. With a returning and healthy Matthew Stafford, he would easily surpass those totals, right?
Unfortunately, that has not been the way the 2023 NFL season has worked out for the LA Rams. In 10 games this year, Higbee caught 27 of 46 passes thrown his way for 303 yards and no touchdowns. And it just so happens that Higbee is 30 years old, and closer to 31 than 30 now.
Rams need to plan for a TE successor
While Higbee remains the top tight end option for the Rams, he is absolutely showing signs of having lost a step this season. On more than one occasion, the Rams have schemed Higbee into motion to put a wham block on the pass rusher, but Higbee has only come up with air.
Combining those missed blocks with his catch rate of 58.7 percent, his lowest catch rate since 2017, and you have enough evidence to conclude that a veteran player on the Rams roster is beginning to feel the effects of getting older.
While the Rams have a host of other tight end options, the Rams have done next to nothing to develop those other players in terms of offensive snaps. TE Brycen Hopkins has played 69 offensive snaps this year but is in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. TE Hunter Long was acquired from the Miami Dolphins in the offseason, but he has yet to play an offensive snap. Rookie TE Davis Allen has played 30 offensive snaps this season but has yet to be targeted. The Rams even have TE Miller Fornstall and TE Nikola Kalinic on the practice squad.
Unfortunately, the Rams seem to struggle to develop viable replacements on the roster to take over for aging veterans. Right now, the Rams appear to need a young tight end to assume some of the workload. Unfortunately, none are getting a chance to become an option.