What can Rams fans expect from special teams this season?

Los Angeles Rams Offseason Workout Puka Nacua
Los Angeles Rams Offseason Workout Puka Nacua / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

If you think the initial LA Rams depth chart is the end-all, you may have another thing coming. While I would not expect wholesale changes over the course of the 2023 NFL season, I do believe that there are a number of positions where the battle for starting roles is not over. Perhaps one of the areas that are still contested is the Rams return specialists.

For now, the Rams have pencilled in wide receiver Puka Nacua as the starting punt returner, and running back Kyren Williams as the starting kickoff returner. But will that last?

To be honest, I'm not so sure. You see, the LA Rams have retained both WR Austin Trammell and WR Xavier Smith on the team's practice squad, and they were very much in the running for return specialist roles throughout training camp and preseason games:

And so, look for the competition to continue should one of the Rams starting return specialists falter:

And the Rams returners are?

The latest information that is available on the LA Rams website in the unofficial depth chart reveals the following information:

  • Position - | - Starter - | - Primary backup
  • Punt returner | Puka Nacua | Kyren Williams
  • Kick returner | Kyren Williams | Ronnie Rivers

Of course, in this configuration, the Rams have at least one receiver and two running backs committed to returning the football on either punts or kickoffs. The practice squad has another set of spares in the form of WR Austin Trammel and WR Xavier Smith. If nothing else, the number of players who can be thrown into the mix is significant.

That suggests that the Rams remains remains open to tweaking and restacking to give this team the best chances of breaking a punt or kickoff return to the the house.

Just kicking around some other ST facts

It was clear that Rams punter Ethan Evans should be on the shortlist for Pro Bowl punter. He kicks the leather off a football, and as the season goes he will become even more powerful and accurate. The key will be ensuring that the Rams punt coverage is far more rigid than what we witnessed in preseason games.

So what of the kicking game?

That's a head-scratcher. It's clear that the Rams are not sold on a long-term relationship with veteran kicker Brett Maher. The Rams front office did not sign him to a standard contract but opted to sign him to their practice squad. This is an unusual decision and one that invites an unwarranted risk of another team poaching him from the Rams roster if left unresolved.

Of course, the only logical explanation for the decision not to sign a kicker to the 53-man Rams roster lies in the belief that the Rams are not sold on Maher (he was signed after the Rams cut their second and final rookie kicker Tanner Brown). With Maher on the teams practice squad, the Rams can elevate him to gameday eligibility three times without penalty

From that point in time forward, he must either be signed to a standard contract to take over a slot on the 53-man Rams roster, or be released, clear NFL Waivers, and then signed back to the practice squad.

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I don't think anyone wants it to get that drastic.