Why the arrival of TE Hunter Long may give the Rams offense a spark in Week 11

Los Angeles Rams Offseason Workout, Hunter Long, Van Jefferson, Zach Thomas, Ben Skowronek, Tremayne Anchrum Jr, Alaric Jackson
Los Angeles Rams Offseason Workout, Hunter Long, Van Jefferson, Zach Thomas, Ben Skowronek, Tremayne Anchrum Jr, Alaric Jackson / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

When the LA Rams traded All-Pro defensive back Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins, the Rams were willing to settle for a third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and a young blocking tight end named Hunter Long. That pick in Round 3 was the 77th overall pick, and allowed the Rams to add a very impressive rookie pass rusher, Byron Young, to the roster.

Byron Long is working out pretty well so far. In fact, I believe that he could be the steal of the 2023 NFL Draft. He is outclassing all other rookie pass rushers in 2023 and is putting up the type of numbers that some of the top-rated pass rushers have in the past seven NFL drafts.

So far, the exchange seems to have worked out for both teams. But now the LA Rams will finally have the opportunity to determine whether tight end Hunter Long will be worth the effort to acquire him. The Rams have announced that he has been activated from IR to return to the active 53-man Rams roster:

Now the question is, what can fans expect from him? Well, his return certainly lessens the likelihood that the Rams will make any type of offer to extend veteran tight end Brycen Hopkins. Hopkins is in the last year of his current contract, and has had only a minor role in the Rams offense over the past four seasons. Even if Hunter Long is no more active in the Rams offense, he is under contract through 2024, and will likely be given a shot to see how well he can play for the Rams as a result.

Option III: Johnny Mundt role

As soon as the news broke that the Rams were adding Hunter Long, we examined what type of role he may fill for the Rams in 2023 and 2024. While he was not very active in the Dolphins' offense as a pass receiver, there are many examples of his ability to block very well as a second tight end. That is certainly a role that the Rams would love to replicate, as the team would be well served to add an extra blocker to ensure that veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford remains healthy for the duration of the 2023 NFL season.

Option II: More 12-personnel packages

The LA Rams have gone primarily with 11-personnel, and that has placed the burden of both pass catching and blocking on veteran tight end Tyler Higbee. Unfortunately, Higbee has been rather ineffective at times as a blocker this season.

Option I: Rams have a player that no team has seen before in this offense

One of the drawbacks to the LA Rams offense is the way that it has become, predictable, at times. Whethat that pattern has included a pass-centric offense after the Rams fall behind by as little as three points on the scoreboard, or the Rams focus the offensive plays on just one or two key players, defenses seem to have little to no trouble countering what the Rams attempt to do on offense.

Nobody outside of the Rams organization has any clue what the Rams intend to do with Hunter Long. That could be leveraged into a distinct advantage for the Rams beginning in Week 11. Even if the Rams target him four or five times, and deploy him as a blocker for about 20-30 percent of the offensive snaps, that strategy would throw a new wrinkle into the defense's face.

Not every change has to be monumental. Sometimes a subtle shift can be just as effective. The LA Rams have waited 11 weeks to make use of Hunter Long in this offense. Let's hope that it was time well spent.