Most of the starting positions for the Los Angeles Rams are already solidified going into 2019, especially on offense. On the other hand, there are plenty of backup roles that could see new faces this season. Specifically, the roles of fourth wide receiver, third and fourth running back, starting tight end, and starting free safety are some of the more intriguing positions to watch in Rams Training Camp this year.
Rams Training Camp: Five Position Battles To Watch
1). Tight End: Tyler Higbee Vs Gerald Everett
Tyler Higbee comes into 2019 as the incumbent who has been the starter since 2017. He hasn’t impressed in his term, failing to earn more than 300 yards in a single season since being drafted in 2016.
Higbee’s challenger, Gerald Everett, is a third-year player who was drafted by the Rams in the second round in 2017. He actually outperformed Higbee in 2018, earning 320 yards and three touchdowns. If Everett is ever going to take Higbee’s job, it will probably happen during the preseason or early in the regular season.
2). Third Running Back: Malcolm Brown Vs John Kelly And Justin Davis
The Rams have an as talented and deep roster at running back as any team in the NFL. Malcolm Brown was resigned after the Rams matched his offer sheet from the Detroit Lions. His 2-year extension worth $3.3 million should justify him being the backup behind Gurley, however, the Rams selected Darrell Henderson in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. While this draft position doesn’t necessarily lock Henderson into the number two spot, his running style, production in college, and overall buzz behind his addition certainly give him a slight edge, thus moving Brown to the 3rd spot.
Considering Brown was solid enough to be the second back last year, he is in the lead for the third running back position this year. However, he is not completely safe as John Kelly and Justin Davis could possibly be in striking distance if they have taken a step forward this year.
3). Fourth Running Back: Justin Davis Vs John Kelly Vs Matt Colburn
With Brown in the driver’s seat for the third running back position, that leaves the other three in contention for the last spot that will likely see snaps during the season. Davis and Kelly are the main competitors with Matt Colburn thrown in as a wild card. Kelly seems to be in the lead considering he was utilized the most during last season, compiling 74 yards on 27 rushes. However, as all three of these players are very young with the oldest being 23, it’ll be a question of who takes that next step first.
4). Fourth Wide Receiver: Josh Reynolds Vs Nsimba Webster
Josh Reynolds is the favorite to secure the role in 2019 as he just wrapped up a season that saw him catch 29 balls for 402 yards and five touchdowns. He also stepped in as a marginally useful backup for Cooper Kupp after he went down with a torn ACL later in the season.
Of course, proving that one can play as a third receiver should mean that he should be quite safe as a fourth receiver. However, Reynolds could be facing fierce competition from little-known unsigned rookie free-agent Nsimba Webster out of Eastern Washington University.
Webster is from the same school as Kupp and effectively served as his successor in college. He didn’t quite hit the record-breaking level of Kupp during his time there, but he did play in the 2018 championship (a feat that Kupp never accomplished). Webster finished his college career strong with 1,379 yards and 11 touchdowns despite a lingering foot injury and a quarterback change halfway through the season.
However, he comes from the FCS, seen by many as a step below the FBS. That being said, Cooper Kupp became an FCS success story so there’s pretty high expectations for Webster in spite of his draft position or lack thereof. If he plays to his potential, he should be a lock to make the team. Since this is the case, the next step would be to move up the depth chart. Since there is no chance that Webster can replace Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, or Brandin Cooks, his goal should be to challenge Reynolds for his job. Of course, the job is Reynolds’ to lose but Webster should be able to give him an intriguing run for his money.
5) Free Safety: Eric Weddle Vs Taylor Rapp
The Rams signed Weddle in March to replace LaMarcus Joyner, who the Rams were unable to work out a deal with. Weddle’s contract runs through 2020 and is valued at about ten million dollars. The 34-year-old veteran seemed to be an insurance signing for the Rams in case they couldn’t get the safety they wanted but just one month later, the Rams drafted Taylor Rapp in the second round and seemingly getting one of the top guys they wanted.
With both players now on the roster, the Rams seem to be in a position similar to the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles just before the emergence of Baker Mayfield and Carson Wentz. Just like those teams with their quarterbacks, the Rams have an older veteran and a talented but raw player at safety. It seems that, just like the Browns and Eagles, the Rams will keep the veteran Weddle in the starting role until the young gun Rapp shows that he is either ready to take over or the veteran becomes a liability on the field. Just like with the Browns and the Eagles back then, it seems to be only a matter of time until the rookie takes over. That leaves the possibility of the change happening during training camp, but, fairly unlikely.
That being said, Weddle was outright released by the Ravens after last season after failing to get an interception for the first time since 2015 and logged just three pass breakups all season long. If Weddle is indeed sliding and it shows in training camp, there is a real possibility of Rapp taking over before Week One. Will that be the case? One can only wait and see.