The 2021 Los Angeles Rams will have a new quarterback under center in Matthew Stafford. With the losses of Gerald Everett and Josh Reynolds in free agency, they will also have some new receivers that will need to step up. While neither were major pieces in the Rams offense, both were role players who contributed to the team.
Everett and Reynold combined for 140+ targets, 90+ catches, 1000+ receiving yards, and three touchdowns must now be redistributed. Fans are no stranger of the Rams’ pass catchers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee. However, the Rams’ successes will come down to the team’s ability to spread the ball and keep NFL defenses off track.
Sophomore wide receiver Van Jefferson, sophomore tight end Brycen Hopkins, and veteran free agent DeSean Jackson are three role players that Stafford and the Rams’ offense will need to depend on. As Jackson, Jefferson, and Hopkins find their roles and become productive, defenses will have to give players like Copper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Tyler Higbee more attention. This should better coverage opportunities and passing lanes for Stafford to have the high flying offensive style that he loves.
Jackson, a Southern California Native, is finally returning home at age 34. Jackson is a veteran receiver who has had an excited and productive NFL career. However, the past few seasons have been filled with injury, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost his speed. Jackson still has the ability to get deep. His lone touchdown last season was an 81-yard reception from Jalen Hurts. He also still averaged 16.9 yards per reception.
At 34, Jackson’s role could be minimal. This doesn’t mean that Jackson does not have a very important role with the Los Angeles Rams. It just means that the Rams’ should not expect the production from his prime. Jackson will be used as a playmaker downfield, a decoy, and a mentor to some of the younger ball catchers in Los Angeles.
Van Jefferson was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. This year Jefferson will have a full offseason to work out with the team, which COVID stole from Jefferson and other rookies last year. This should be a big deal for Jefferson, who ended the 2020 campaign with 19 catches, 220 yards, and a touchdown.
Jefferson is a player who has speed, hands, and route running ability. This skillset should continue to improve as Jefferson should get more time in the rotation this year. With Reynolds gone, Jefferson will need to step up and show McVay and Stafford that he can be a trusted ball catcher.
The Rams will look to use Jefferson and Jackson’s speed and ability to catch the ball down field to spread the field. This will allow Stafford to have better opportunities in the deep-field passing game as well as open up the mid-field and short-field passing games.
Brycen Hopkins was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. As a prospect, Hopkins was considered one of, if not the best, pure ball catchers in the tight end group. Hopkins was not apart of the offense in his rookie year, but is expected to back up Higbee this year.
Hopkins is 6’4” and around 250 pounds. That frame, combined with his ability to find the ball and bring it down, makes for massive big play potential. Hopkins, as a role player, could become a safety net for Stafford when on the field. The former Purdue tight end is likely to see the field on passing downs with multiple other receivers. This could result in Hopkins getting a favorable matchup against a linebacker who can not keep up with Hopkins speed.
There is no secret that the Rams, and many other offenses, like to rely on their tight ends. This is why both Higbee and Everett have been productive in the past. While Higbee is set to me the primary tight end for 2021, Hopkins should see the field often and could become an important role player for the Rams offense.