After the Rams selected him in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft, tight end Gerald Everett confidently said that he and others in his position group would make plays.
It took a bit longer than Everett might have liked, but he is making good on his claim. He has scored three touchdowns in the last two games.
“I just want to be a man of my word and back up what I say,” Everett said this week as the Rams began preparations for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.
The Rams are 10-1 and can clinch their second consecutive NFC West title with a victory at Ford Field. They also would clinch if the Seattle Seahawks lose to the San Francisco 49ers.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Everett has of late played a big role in the Rams’ playoff push.
A shoulder injury suffered during training camp slowed his progress, but he appears to have hit his stride as coach Sean McVay has increased the pass-catching role of tight ends.
“He’s certainly maximized his opportunities,” McVay said.
Everett, 24, began asserting himself in a Week 9 loss at New Orleans, when he had three receptions for 48 yards, and also caught a two-point conversion pass.
In a Week 10 victory over the Seahawks, Everett and fellow tight end Tyler Higbee caught touchdown passes, the first time the tight ends scored in the same game.
Everett took his performance to another level in the Rams’ 54-51 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. He scored with less than 10 minutes left on a seven-yard reception, setting the stage for perhaps the Rams’ biggest offensive play of the season in the final minutes.
Chiefs defensive back Daniel Sorensen pressed him at the line of scrimmage, but Everett made a move to the inside and then bolted past Sorensen down the sideline. Quarterback Jared Goff hit Everett in stride at the five-yard line, and Everett tiptoed to remain in bounds before crossing the goal line for a touchdown.
“What great body control by Gerald … to be able to keep himself inbounds, and make what ended up being the game-winning play,” McVay said.
Said Everett: “It was pretty surreal to see [the ball] in the air at a moment like that. Just glad I could be there.”
It was the kind of play McVay and general manager Les Snead envisioned when — without a first-round pick in the 2017 draft — they selected Everett out of South Alabama with the 44th overall pick.
Everett struggled at times as a rookie, finishing with 16 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns in 2017.
With five games remaining this season, he already has eclipsed his rookie reception total with 18 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s been exciting,” McVay said, “I wouldn’t say surprising.”
Everett’s ascent, along with Higbee’s, has provided McVay and Goff with playmaking targets beyond running back Todd Gurley and receivers Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds.
The Rams rank second in the NFL in offense, averaging 448.6 yards per game, and third in scoring, averaging 35.4 points per game. They are second in rushing (138.5 yards a game), fifth in passing (310.1.).
“Playing in this offense is a dream come true,” Everett said.
Everett is quick to credit Goff, McVay, Higbee and tight ends coach Shane Waldron for his development.
He said he could feel the confidence that they and other Rams teammates have in him as a playmaker.
“Just glad to see it finally come to fruition,” he said.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott moved past Gurley for the NFL lead in yards rushing. Elliott has rushed for 1,074 yards, an average of 97.6 yards per game. Gurley has rushed for 1,043 yards, an average of 94.8 yards a game. Gurley leads the league with 13 rushing touchdowns. He has scored a league-best 17 touchdowns, but is second in scoring. New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz has 109 points, Gurley 108. … The Rams were off Tuesday. They resume practice Wednesday.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein