XI: The case for Michael Hoecht
While LA Rams OLB Michael Hocht is a veteran NFL player competing in his third NFL season, he is more like a rookie at his current position of outside linebacker, a position that he has competed at for just one NFL season. Rams fans are not very high on Hoecht, but in 11 games, Hoecht has generated 55 tackles, and 4.5 quarterback sacks, and has done all of this on an annual salary of just $940,000.
Rams fans seem to hold a high bar for edge rushers, as even veteran outside linebackers like Leonard Floyd, a player who never had fewer than 9.0 quarterback sacks for the Rams, was considered expendable in the offseason. To date, Floyd has 9.5 quarterback sacks for the Buffalo Bills this season. Hoecht, meanwhile, has recorded 4.5 quarterback sacks for the Rams in his second consecutive season at a fraction of the price that Floyd is being paid by the Buffalo Bills.
Hoecht recorded five tackles and 1.0 quarterback sacks in a Week 12 effort that kept Cardinals QB Kyler Murray scrambling. Hoecht is one of the contributors to a better-than-expected Rams defense. While many have already expressed interest in the Rams parting ways with Hoecht at the end of this season, I hope the Rams extend him for at least 1-2 more years.
X: The case for Tutu Atwell
LA Rams WR Tutu Atwell remains an enigma. Much like Hoecht, he is a veteran NFL player competing in his third NFL season. While he has never been given a great deal of work in the Rams offense, when he does get targeted in the passing game, great things seem to happen for the Rams. Before Week 12, Tutu Atwell had caught 33 of 57 passes thrown his way for 391 yards and three touchdowns. While that is just a catch rate of 57.6 percent, I find myself wondering if the Rams threw more passes his way, would his catch percentage improve as well?
When a receiver catches just three passes, but leads the team with 76 receiving yards, you have to wonder if the Rams left more yards on the field. Atwell caught six of eight passes thrown his way to open the season with 119 receiving yards and one touchdown. Since the return of WR Cooper Kupp, Atwell has been the receiver who gets fewer targets.
It was Atwell's 42 yard reception in the Rams opening offensive drive that truly set the tempo of this game. Unfortunately, Atwell has a niche role in this Rams offense that seldom gets altered. But Atwell caught every pass that the Rams threw at him today.