Perhaps one of the areas of greatest concern for the LA Rams roster heading into the 2023 NFL season is the quality and preparedness of the special teams. That is the NFL's category of miscellaneous or all other, as it covers everything that is not offense or defense. What falls into this category? Punts, punt coverage, kickoffs, kickoff coverage, and field goals, and field goal defense units.
Why would that be a concern? Special teams are as much of a part of collegiate football as professional football, and the LA Rams can simply play the same special teams players from a year ago, right? Um, not exactly. The Rams roster purged all veteran special team specialists in the offseason, which means that the team is truly starting over from scratch:
So who do the Rams have on special teams right now?
Long snapper Alex Ward
The LA Rams are almost certainly adding long-snapper Alex Ward to the team's 53-man roster. By default, as he is the only long-snapper on the LA Rams roster right now, which pretty much ensures that its either Ward or back to the drawing board. Will Ward pan out?
Well, the LA Rams would be incredibly hard pressed to find a rookie long-snapper with more accolades. He may not be a player you immediately recognize, and that is just how he likes it. In fact, he was quoted as saying: 'Unless I mess up, you shouldn't know me.'
Long snapper is this young man's full-time job, and he has the sense of humor that reflects that. I like this young man already.
Punter Ethan Evans
The LA Rams will have no worries when it comes to booming punts off the foot of Wingate punter Ethan Evans. Evans was the only special teams specialist drafted by the LA Rams, and he was a clear favorite target for Rams Special Teams Coordinator Chase Blackburn.
While he is known for his powerful punts, he is not exactly a punter who cannot pin the opponents deep in their own territory. In fact, he punted 84 times for 3,443 yards, which averages out to a per punt rate of just under 41.0 yards. Of those 84 punts. 22 (26.2 percent) resulted in fair catches, and 35 (nearly 42 percent) resulted in the opposing offense taking over inside their own 20 yard line.
Kicker competition: Tanner Brown vs Christopher Dunn
Oklahoma State kicker Tanner Brown may be the least familiar name to LA Rams fans in this article, but I don't think that will remain the case for much longer. He may be the 'other guy,' for now, but he has the accuracy that the LA Rams demand from the position. He made 95 percent of his field goals in 2022, with the longest being a 52-yard field goal.
He did not get a lot of kickoff experience at Oklahoma State, kicking off in just four games. But he did come in as the fourth-best college kicker in the embedded video above.
The inside track to earn the starting job is North Carolina State Christopher Dunn. He is rated as the number one kicker in the video, not only possessing incredible accuracy (96.6 percent accuracy). but having the ice cold confidence necessary to play the part in the NFL. He struggled a bit in 2021, but bounced back in a big way in 2022.
The LA Rams focused on accuracy in their kicker additions, as neither Brown nor Dunn has extensive work on kicking off. As the competition for placekicker heats up, it could very likely be kicking off that will prove to be the tie-breaker for the team.
While OTAs are underway, the competition for kicker is the only real role that is undecided. And that is likely to be the case until the end of preseason, as kicking competition is about large sample sizes. The Rams, while starting from a clean slate, certainly seem to know what they are doing in who they added to the roster. The real test will occur in 2023, when we all get to see how well the LA Rams front office has chosen.