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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cameron DaSilva

8 questions the Rams must answer this summer

As valuable as the offseason program was for the Rams this spring, there’s still so much to sort out on the roster. The depth chart is far from set, nor do the Rams know which 53 players will even make the team.

Training camp and the preseason will help answer a lot of questions for Los Angeles, from the starting center to the No. 3 receiver. And might the Rams bring in a veteran free agent on special teams?

Here are eight questions the Rams must answer this summer during camp and the preseason.

Who will be the No. 3 receiver?

Cooper Kupp is going to be the No. 1 target in this offense again. Van Jefferson will most likely be the No. 2 receiver following the departure of Allen Robinson. Who the No. 3 option will be is completely up in the air and will likely be one of the following: Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell or Puka Nacua.

It’s possible Demarcus Robinson or Tyler Johnson could emerge as the Rams’ choice, but our best guess is it’ll be one of the aforementioned three receivers. In years past, the Rams have had a clear-cut receiver trio, but with so much competition for the WR3 role, it’s unlikely they’ll have a true No. 3 wideout. Still, they have to figure out who will best complement Kupp and Jefferson.

Is Joe Noteboom the best option at left tackle?

Left tackle is one of the most important positions on offense and the Rams don’t yet know who their starter will be. It could be Noteboom, who’s returning from a torn Achilles. It could also be Alaric Jackson, who has played well when given the opportunity.

These two will battle it out in training camp and the preseason this summer, with the loser potentially competing for playing time at guard. Noteboom was a disappointment last year before getting hurt so the Rams must decide whether he’s still the guy for the job at left tackle or if Jackson gives them a better chance to win.

Does the OLB group need a proven veteran?

The Rams are on track to go into the season with Michael Hoecht, Byron Young, Daniel Hardy, Keir Thomas and Nick Hampton as their top edge rushers. That’s not a proven group, nor one with a lot of upside.

Los Angeles has added veterans at wide receiver and cornerback, but the edge rushers could use some help in the form of an experienced veteran. They don’t need a 15-sack player and they won’t find one at this point in the offseason. However, someone such as Justin Houston or Melvin Ingram could really help the pass rush, even in a part-time role. Keep an eye on their interest veteran edge rushers.

Will an all-rookie specialist group work?

The Rams have one punter, one kicker and one long snapper on the roster. All three are undrafted rookies. It’s a massive risk for the Rams to go into the season with such an inexperienced specialist group, but they seem confident in the rookies they signed to play special teams.

After cutting kicker Christopher Dunn, they’re left with Tanner Brown as their primary kicker. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to sign a veteran to compete with Brown in camp and the preseason, even if it’s partly just to give him a break, too. Los Angeles has to decide if an all-rookie trio of specialists is the best route.

Who will back up Tyler Higbee?

Hunter Long, Brycen Hopkins and Davis Allen will all compete to be the No. 2 tight end, which there’s a role for in this offense. Hopkins has the most experience in Sean McVay’s system, but Long was part of the haul Los Angeles got for Jalen Ramsey and Allen is a promising veteran with a wide catch radius.

Higbee should still be the starter and will continue to play most of the snaps, but if the Rams want to keep him healthy all year, having a No. 2 tight end they can rely on will go a long way.

How will the defensive line rotation look?

There’s Aaron Donald, and then there’s everyone else. Bobby Brown III looks like the starter at nose tackle, simply based on the fact that he’s the team’s biggest defensive lineman. And Marquise Copeland appears on track to start at defensive end. But beyond that, we don’t know much about the Rams’ defensive line plans.

They don’t exactly have a backup nose tackle on the roster and even at defensive end, they’re lacking depth behind Copeland. This competition will be an important one to watch because of how many options the Rams have along the defensive line, from Kobie Turner to Earnest Brown IV.

Will it be Coleman Shelton or Brian Allen at center?

Shelton and Allen both got first-team reps during OTAs and minicamp, so this will most likely be an open competition in camp. Shelton brings more size to the position, while Allen is more experienced and has a higher salary. Neither player has been particularly durable in their careers but the Rams can’t base their decision on durability.

If Allen wins the starting job, Shelton will also compete for reps at guard. But if Shelton wins out, Allen will have no choice but to be the backup center – or potentially get cut by the Rams before the season begins.

Who will be the starting cornerbacks outside?

Cobie Durant is the top choice to replace Jalen Ramsey in the slot, leaving Derion Kendrick and one other player to start outside. Robert Rochell looked like the best choice before the team signed Ahkello Witherspoon, but the veteran corner could make a strong case on the boundary to supplant Rochell.

The Rams will move their cornerbacks around, but neither Rochell nor Witherspoon have much experience playing the slot. So if they do want Durant on the outside, they might need Shaun Jolly to step up in the slot.

Essentially, there’s a lot to be sorted out at cornerback this summer.

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