How did the special teams fall so far so quickly?
So here we are, dragging our special team bellies along the bottom of the ocean. The question is: How did the LA Rams roster fall so far so quickly regarding special teams? To understand that, you have to dial back the time machine to the end of the 2022 NFL season. After the 2022 season ended, the front office uniformly agreed to shed payroll expenditures. That meant not only trading or releasing highly-paid players under contract but it also meant shutting the door for the team to extend all but two players - Coleman Shelton and Marquise Brown.
That was incredibly unfortunate for the Rams' special teams because all players who specialized on special teams: K Matt Gay, P Riley Dixon, LS Matthew Orzech, and PR/KR Brandon Powell. While the headlines focused almost entirely on the loss of Gay's phenomenal field goal power and accuracy, the loss of all special team specialists simultaneously created a series of wildfires that were too numerous to address in one training camp.
We covered the likelihood of the Rams to retain ST Coordinator Chase Blackburn, and this is a great time to click on that article to understand why the team kept him for another year. To sum it all up, the team viewed the ST Coordinator role similarly to the way NFL teams afford a beachhead for a new head coach to turn things around.
The team invested the least amount of money into the special teams group in 2023. Is it really a surprise when the group finished last in the NFL in many categories? You get what you pay for, and the team set up special teams to fail in 2023 long before they took the football field.
But there is more afoot than a stingy front office. The team rifled through multiple kicks in 2023, which is never good for the overall performance. The team had to change long snappers mid season, which resulted in some setbacks in terms of special team performances. Two punts were returned for touchdowns against the Rams, which was a significant key to the poor rankings.