Rams rookies have one more chance to show progress Sunday against Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams
Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (89) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 24.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Tyler Higbee heard the play call in the huddle and sensed opportunity.

Early in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss against the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams’ rookie tight end burst off the line of scrimmage, fought through traffic over the middle and caught a short pass from quarterback Jared Goff for his first NFL touchdown.

“It felt good to get into the end zone,” Higbee said this week, “Now it’s time to get a win.”

On Sunday, Higbee and other members of the 2016 draft class will have a final chance to show their progress when the Rams play the Arizona Cardinals at the Coliseum.


Goff, the No. 1 pick in the draft, is still searching for his first NFL win.

He is 0-6 since taking over for Case Keenum, but he helped put the Rams in position to win two games before the defense fell apart against the Miami Dolphins and the 49ers.

Goff has passed for five touchdowns, with seven interceptions.

Higbee, a fourth-round pick from Western Kentucky, showed pass-catching promise during organized team activities and training camp.


But he has only 11 receptions for 85 yards and the lone touchdown.

Receiver Pharoh Cooper, a fourth-round pick from South Carolina, has established himself as a special teams threat but has yet to stand out on offense.

With veteran Benny Cunningham sidelined because of injuries, Cooper has averaged 25 yards per kickoff return. Against the 49ers, he returned one 51 yards to help set up a touchdown.

“I didn’t really play too much offense so I guess I had to take advantage of everything on kick return,” said Cooper, who has 10 receptions for 70 yards.

Tight end Temarrick Hemingway, a sixth-round pick, was regarded as a project after playing in college at South Carolina State. He has played on special teams in several games but has not caught a pass.

Linebacker Josh Forrest, a sixth-round pick from Kentucky, started four games and played on special teams before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 11 against Miami. He made nine tackles.

Receiver Mike Thomas has played well on special teams, especially on coverage units. However, he muffed a kickoff against Atlanta that led to a touchdown and dropped a long pass from Goff against Seattle.

Thomas has averaged 20 yards for nine kickoff returns and has two receptions for 22 yards.


Farewell performance?

The finale against the Cardinals might be the last game in a Rams uniform for several players in the final year of contracts.

Safety T.J. McDonald is completing his fourth season after being selected in the third round of the 2013 draft from USC.

McDonald has 59 tackles, including a sack, and intercepted a Hail Mary pass in the Rams’ 17-13 victory over the Cardinals in Week 4. His future with the Rams could be determined by the scheme favored by a new head coach or defensive coordinator.

“I’m just focused on this next one,” McDonald said of Sunday’s game. “We’ll see what’s in store for me next.”

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson played this season under a one-year franchise-tag contract.

Receiver Kenny Britt, who has a team-best 68 catches for 1,002 yards, suffered a shoulder injury last week and his status for Sunday’s game is uncertain.

Quick hits

The Rams were off Thursday. They resume practice Friday…. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, receiver Larry Fitzgerald and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker, who did not participate in practice Wednesday because of non-injury-related issues, were listed as full participants Thursday.



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