The surprise addition to the Rams offense got somewhat lost among Todd Gurley’s rushing touchdowns, Jared Goff’s long pass to Brandin Cooks, and a trio of two-point conversions in Sunday’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
But a team that is averaging nearly 34 points per game will go into Sunday’s game against the Chargers with a legitimate extra weapon: Pass-catching tight ends.
On a Sean McVay-coached team, that should not rate as a surprise. McVay built his reputation as a burgeoning offensive savant by maximizing tight-end production as offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins.
Rams tight ends, however, underachieved in 2017, and got zero targets in the season-opening victory over the Oakland Raiders.
But against the Cardinals, Tyler Higbee caught a touchdown pass and Gerald Everett turned a short pass into a 17-yard gain. Johnny Mundt played on special teams.
“There’s a lot of dogs on this team — a lot of people are going to eat,” Higbee said Wednesday of an offense that features Gurley, Cooks and receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. “Whenever it’s my time, you try to make the most of it.”
The Rams offense is one of the most dynamic in the NFL.
The flow of the game — not a conscious effort to target a specific player or position group — dictates who touches the ball, McVay and Goff said.
“It is important for us to spread the ball around and get everybody involved, but that wasn’t something that you’re thinking like, ‘Oh, we haven't gotten them involved, so we have to do that at this point,’ ” McVay said of the tight ends.
Goff said he simply goes through progressions. If the ball goes to a tight end, so be it.
“It’s all based on the play,” Goff said. “We want to continue to involve them, but in my head, I’m not thinking about that.”
Shane Waldron, the tight ends coach and passing-game coordinator, said the mood in the tight ends’ meeting room remains the same regardless of how involved they are as receivers each week.
Higbee, in his third season, has improved as a blocker and showed against the Cardinals that he can find the end zone.
Everett, a second-year pro, was sidelined during training camp because of a shoulder injury. Against the Cardinals, however, he exhibited the catch-and-run ability that convinced the Rams to choose him in the second round of the 2017 draft.
“He did look nice and twitchy on the catch,” Waldron said, adding, “Feel good about how he handled being injured as a younger player, and then having to step back up early in the season and work your way back into the system.”
Back in line
Offensive lineman Jamon Brown practiced for the first time since returning from a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
“Definitely a weight off my shoulders,” Brown said. “Now I can feel like I can really put it behind me and be able to move forward and do what we’re trying to do — and that’s chase a Super Bowl.”
Brown started the last two seasons at right guard, but Austin Blythe has performed well in his absence and is on track to remain the starter.
“He played well the first two weeks and I think he earned and deserved every right to continue to keep that up,” Brown said. “I’ll do whatever I can as far as still preparing and still practicing how I need to.”
Sam Ficken was driving Sunday when his phone started ringing.
The Rams were calling the free-agent kicker shortly after learning that Greg Zuerlein had suffered a groin injury during pregame warmups.
The Rams re-signed Ficken, who replaced Zuerlein last season after the Pro Bowl kicker suffered a back injury.
“You hate to see that, obviously, happen to Greg — the kicker that he is and the person that he is — but excited to be back and fill in and do my job,” Ficken said.