Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Preview: Short and Long Term Expectations For the Rookies

by Blaine Grisak
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The Los Angeles Rams rookies report to camp in precisely one week, and two days later the veterans will report. Les Snead and Co. brought in a strong draft class that will not only look to make an immediate impact but also build the foundation for the future.  Here are the short and long term expectations for the rookies.

S Taylor Rapp

The Los Angeles Rams selected safety Taylor Rapp out of Washington with their first selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Rapp was a versatile starter with the Huskies who played all over the field at a consistently high level. However, with Eric Weddle and John Johnson III as the team’s starting safeties, Rapp will need to find ways to get on the field.

Short Term Expectations

Rapp won’t start for the Rams in year one. However, he excels as a tackler in the box. The Rams let linebacker Mark Barron walk in free agency. Rapp won’t be the team’s new inside linebacker, but Wade Phillips will have packages that allow for Rapp to play down in the box as a third safety/linebacker to help in the run game and cover tight ends. With Weddle being 34 years old, Rapp could also split time at safety next to Johnson.

Long Term Expectations

Rapp and Johnson are primed to be one of the best young safety duos in the NFL.  When Weddle presumably retires after this season, Rapp will become team’s starting safety.

RB Darrell Henderson

The Los Angeles Rams selected running back Darrell Henderson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The selection caught many analysts’ attention as the team has Todd Gurley in place. However, Henderson adds an explosive offensive weapon to Sean McVay‘s arsenal that will help keep Gurley fresh for a postseason run.

Short Term Expectations

If Henderson can split time with Gurley 70-30 and manage 75 carries and  20 receptions in 2019, that should be seen as a success. Henderson isn’t going to take over the starting role, but McVay will have packages for him, and he will see a reasonable amount of time on the field.

Long Term Expectations

This is where things get complicated. If Henderson plays at the level that he’s capable, it’s hard to see the Rams keeping him as a backup. NFL teams can never have too much talent, but when the Rams are paying Gurley like they are but can get that same production from Henderson for cheaper, that might be the future option. Gurley is signed through the 2021 season, but the Rams have an out after next year. It might be then that the Rams transition to Henderson.

CB David Long

The Los Angeles Rams added to their secondary depth when they drafted David Long as their second selection in the third round. This pick came as a mild surprise as other higher-rated cornerbacks were on the board. However, Long projects to be a perfect fit in this scheme as a physical man-corner.

Short Term Expectations

Long won’t start right away with Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib on the roster. However, he will be that first guy off of the bench. If Peters or Talib get hurt or the Rams go to a dime package on defense, Long will get time with  Troy Hill.

Long Term Expectations

The contracts of both Peters and Talib expire after this season. The Rams could bring one back, most likely Peters,  leaving one spot available for Long. Long and Talib play very similarly style-wise.  It’s possible that Long is the team’s No. 2 cornerback headed into 2020.

OT Bobby Evans

The Los Angeles Rams surprised many when they traded back into the third round to draft an offensive lineman. Evans filled in admirably for All-American Orlando Brown at left tackle with the Sooners last season. He has superior upper-body power and solid technique to succeed at the NFL level.

Short Term Expectations

As of now, it is expected that Evans will be a depth piece on the offensive line. However, with Austin Blythe‘s play trailing off at the end of last season, he could get moved to guard and potentially start. The most likely scenario is that he’s a depth piece at tackle.

Long Term Expectations

Like Henderson, Evans is also difficult to project because we don’t know what the plan is. He played left tackle at Oklahoma and could be the heir apparent to Andrew Whitworth. However,  he is more suited for the right side where the Rams have Rob Havenstein locked up through 2023. Evans was a third-round selection and should start sooner rather than later. Whether that’s at left tackle, right tackle or right guard is yet to be seen.

NT Greg Gaines

The Los Angeles Rams again made a surprise selection when they took Greg Gaines in the fourth round.  The team allowed Ndamukong Suh to walk in free agency and will now have a real gap stuffer in the middle of the defensive line.

Short Term Expectations

Gaines may get the most playing time out of any of the rookies this season. Outside of Sebastian Joseph-Day, the Rams don’t have an actual nose tackle. He may play on a rotational basis in his first year, but he’ll have an impact.

Long Term Expectations

Gaines will be the Rams’ nose tackle of the future. The team moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense when Wade Phillips arrived and have been slowly making the transition. While they have played a more untraditional 3-4, Gaines allows them to have an actual nose tackle and space-eater.

OT David Edwards

The Los Angeles Rams may have gotten a steal in the fifth round. Edwards was seen as a potential first-round or second-round pick before his last year at Wisconsin. However, a dip in play due to an injury had him fall to the fifth. Edwards is raw, but he can be a team’s future left tackle.

Short Term Expectations

Unlike with Evans, there isn’t a high chance that Edwards starts this season. He’ll be a depth piece on the offensive line that the team develops throughout the season.

Long Term Expectations

While it could be Evans, I project Edwards as the likely heir to Whitworth. He’s raw right now, but he has the quickness and athleticism to excel as a left tackle. Edwards took snaps at left tackle during OTA’s which might be a hint at how the team sees him as well.

S Nick Scott

A special teams ace at Penn State, the Los Angeles Rams took Nick Scott in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. This is a player that flies on the field on special teams and will be a great fit with coach John Fassell.

Short Term Expectations

Scott will be an immediate contributor on special teams. The Rams have boasted one of the best units in the NFL over the past five years, and Scott will look to continue that.

Long Term Expectations

With Johnson and Rapp in the fold at safety, Scott projects as nothing more than a special teams player. This is somebody that could be a rotational safety and special teams ace that signs a contract elsewhere when his rookie deal expires to become a full-time defensive starter.

LB Dakota Allen

The Los Angeles Rams took Last Chance U star Dakota Allen with their final pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Allen brings depth as an inside linebacker with immediate special teams ability.

Short Term Expectations

Allen will first compete for a spot on the roster which won’t be easy. The Rams have a lot of competition here. The former Texas Tech Raider should bring value on special teams right away with the potential to take the same career path as Cory Littleton.

Long Term Expectations

It’s hard to have long term expectations for a player like Allen. The best-case scenario is that he eventually beats out Micah Kiser and becomes the team’s starting inside linebacker. However, a special teams contributor seems much more likely even long-term.

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