Where do the Rams go from here?
Despite the overwhelming data that suggests that the Rams are horrible at special teams, the fix in terms of the coaching staff and the front office is relatively simple in terms of steps to get where the team must be in 2024. The Rams do not need to claim the top spot in terms of special teams performance. In fact, the Rams do not even need to finish among the Top 5 special team groups in the NFL for 2024. But a Top 10 finish would certainly launch the Rams in the right direction for postseason competition next year. So how does the team get there from here?
Step I: Rams need better tacklers and coverage players
The qualities that make a great special teams player is not always the same as the qualities that make up a great starter or rotational player. In offense or defense, players earn playing time by hitting their marks, performing consistently, and remaining disciplined. On special teams, success can often mean flying around, being unpredictable, and making tackles. In many ways, linebackers who may not earn a rotational role on special teams are often ideally suited to flourish in coverage units and make tackles.
Step II: Rams must emphasize blocking kicks and punts
Special teams units simply did not show up on highlight reels for making great plays in 2023. Perhaps the most glaring absence is the fact that the Rams did not block a single kick or punt. While that is not an easy task, it seems that some special teams simply do a better job at blocking opposing field goals or punts than others. Perhaps that should be a focus for the Rams hire of Assistant Special Teams coach this year?
Step I: Rams need to find and use placekicker role far more effectively
The team did sign rookie kicker Tanner Brown to a Reserve/Future contract for 2024. While that may be all the front office does in terms of significant investment into the kicker, the team can take steps to make their starting placekicker more effective in 2024. For example, did you know that the Rams attempted the most field goals of any team in 2023? 43 field goals attempted was the most for any NFL team last season. Of that number, the team made 32 field goals, which was the ninth most made field goals of any team.
Not the worst. The ninth best. And for field goals attempted up to 39 yards distance, the Rams were a perfect 18 of 18. So far, so good. Where the Rams placekicking began to wobble was at distances of 40+ yards. The team was only 14 of 25 from that range. So it was the long-range field goals that proved to be problematic for the team.
Can the team improve that, whether or not the front office can sign a Pro Bowl-caliber kicker? I think it's doable. I may be alone, but I believe that with another training camp, rookie kicker Tanner Brown will be much better at long distance this season. He was one of the Top 5 kickers in the 2023 NFL Draft, despite not hearing his name called out. The Rams passed on rookie P/K Cameron Dicker in 2022, primarily because he competed for the punter role. But he proved to be a phenomenal kicker for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2023.
New year. New opportunities.