One of the lingering sub-plots from the Super Bowl is what’s going to happen with Odell Beckham Jr. It seemed inevitable that he’d be back on the Rams in December just in time for Christmas or “Avatar 2”. There’ve been rumors of the Packers, Colts, etc. kicking Beckham’s tires but it seems like it’s always the Rams and YET…each day that goes by there is a sense that the Rams might not get him if another team with more money and even more desperation makes a case that moves him…TO A BIGGER HOUSE.
Things got further complicated and advantageous for Beckham is the recent injury to Van Jefferson. Jefferson will miss a few weeks following knee surgery to correct an issue that’s been lingering for him dating back to last year. The Rams suddenly find themselves without a solid third option at receiver and while Van will be back his knee is something to monitor.
This void has now created extra angst in not just fans but Sean McVay who has openly lobbied for Beckham to rejoin the team. Every day that Odell isn’t under contract Sean McVay and the fans are progressively turning into Chris Farley in the “Herlihy Boy” sketch screaming “Sweet mother of God WHAT IS THE HOLDUP?! BRING BACK ODELL BECKHAM! YOU VICIOUS BASTARDS!”. While waiting for Odell to show up to Irvine to sign a deal and hang out on the sidelines, the Rams do need to figure out a Van Jefferson plan B.
Waiting for Beckham: The Young Guns
The Rams have several in-house options that can fill the Van void and while it helps that any of the options gets to play alongside Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson there’s still a lot of pressure in being the guy to keep the pressure off those two. The most likely option is surprisingly Brandon Powell. That’s right, the man who single-handedly saved the Rams’ special teams could also be the guy to fortify the third receiver spot.
The Rams are giving Powell first-team reps and he’s got plenty of speed and it isn’t clear how he is as a route runner but he could be a younger, cheaper, version of the burner the Rams had hoped DeSean Jackson would be (Sorry Mrs. Jackson).
Another version of that idea might come in the form of beleaguered 2nd-round pick and now swole-round pick Tutu Atwell. Yes, the guy who anytime his name is uttered someone has to say “CREED HUMPHREY” immediately after. He’s turned heads at camp and has allegedly spent a lot of time with Kupp (smart). Atwell was drafted to be DeSean insurance and while that didn’t pan out because nobody saw Odell coming, that was the plan.
Atwell had very limited snaps in his rookie year and he missed most of the season. This is essentially a fresh start for him and even if he’s just there to go vertical there’s a chance he can get out of Creed’s shadow.
The other main option is Ben Skowronek and even though he was put into a borderline impossible situation late last season, his alligator arms in the playoffs have left a SOUR taste in everyone’s mouths. He could get better, after all, he was a seventh-round rookie last year, he’d have to REALLY turn heads to get the job. The dark horse pick would be Jacob Harris but he still might be too green BUT he could be an option for plan C. Harris is a physical specimen and makes incredible catches look routine, but receivers need to block and he still needs to hone that skill.
Waiting for Beckham: It Takes a Village
The other idea is that instead of trying to replace a weapon they simply utilize their other weapons. Kupp and Robinson can be the primary receivers but the offense can involve Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Cam Akers, etc. Akers and Darrell Henderson were in various stages of injury (Akers more so obviously) so they couldn’t really have an offense that threw to their backs.
The addition of Kyren Williams will also give them three backs that can catch the ball. Henderson proved he can make catches when asked as evidenced by the Super Bowl. Akers should get the lion’s share of the workload but having a King Ghidorah running back room where any three could make plays in the passing game should help out a lot.
This also might temporarily force the Rams to run more 12-personnel and utilize Higbee and Hopkins. Hopkins has finally come into his own per training camp reports so he could be the game-breaking tight end the Rams have been seeking. They can also interchangeably use Hopkins and Harris with Higbee and go with a lineup that features a ton of size and speed.
Van Jefferson being on the shelf for a while isn’t ideal (he’s supposedly coming back for the opener) nor is waiting for Beckham, who won’t be available until November. However, this does offer Sean McVay and Liam Coen an opportunity to experiment a little more. The Rams have an abundance of riches and diamonds in the rough to play around with and that’s a scary prospect.
Last year, one of the complaints about the offense was that it got too one-dimensional so this could be a blessing in disguise in the sense that they can keep defenses on their toes. Should Beckham actually come back they will have a ton of lineups they can throw out while he eases back into things.
While the angst is high there’s no reason to panic. The Rams don’t need to poke around the bargain bin for a TY Hilton or Emmanuel Sanders they’ll be fine. In the meantime, it will be exciting to see who steps up in camp and the preseason, although not nearly as exciting as the first moment Stafford hits Beckham in the endzone.