The Los Angeles Rams’ starting spots are almost set in stone, but some things might change that. For one, there is still some position competition going on and with injuries rearing their ugly head, some backups might just step into starting roles sooner rather than later.
This Friday, the Rams welcome the Houston Texans to SoFi Stadium, and even though the starters will sit out, there will still be plenty of chances for other Rams to shine and make their case for starting spot consideration.
Take note that a few years ago, the Rams were able to evaluate John Wolford as a solid backup option and Kendall Blanton as an intriguing undrafted tight end during the preseason. Other names who have impressed in previous preseasons to get starter minutes are Greg Gaines, Morgan Fox, Travin Howard, and Taylor Rapp. Head coach Sean McVay gives value to those who play well even in the preseason, and we’ll see who will impress him this week.
Rams fans may also benefit because they’ll get a glimpse of the future during the preseason.
Two individuals, in particular, have improved and might perhaps take the field as starters in the next weeks.
Rams backups who can steal a first-string job in 2022
2. Daniel Hardy
Edge rushers Daniel Hardy lined up on the defensive front and played precisely 33 snaps last week. He was originally vying to replace Chris Garrett, who is injured, as the team’s fourth edge rusher, and he’s probably locked that in.
Moving forward, Hardy might actually move up even more. Recall that Leonard Floyd’s ankle injury has not enabled him to be active in practice, and there are doubts he’ll actually be healthy enough to start when the season begins.
Keep in mind that Floyd underwent offseason surgery on his right ankle, which he initially hurt during training camp the previous offseason but managed to play through. He seems to have aggravated it, and we’ll see how long he’ll need to recover. Of course, Floyd is a crucial component of the Rams’ defense, so it is assumed that they will continue to be cautious with him.
Your first look at former @MSUBobcats Daniel Hardy in a Los Angeles Rams uniform!
🎨: @SondayCreative pic.twitter.com/qnGKNe0GpI
— RambLAng Man (@RambLAngMan) May 23, 2022
This opens the door for energetic rookie edge rusher Daniel Hardy to maybe start.
Remember that the Rams selected Hardy with the 235th overall pick out of Montana State. They chose him to help offset the departure of Von Miller a bit. So far, he has done well, and no less than coach Sean McVay has noticed his potential.
“He’s done a good job. He’s got great effort. You can see the athleticism,” McVay said. “I think he’s getting more and more comfortable with the things that we’re asking him to do snap in and snap out.”
Hardy may very well push himself into a greater role. The Rams will use him to make up for the loss of Miller and Garrett and the injury to Floyd. He already has the ability to get to the quarterback. If he can improve the other facets of his game, the Rams may find themselves with a real treasure.
1. Tutu Atwell
Sophomore wideout Tutu Atwellis focused on having a strong season after a disappointing rookie campaign. Remember that an injury ended the 22-year-old’s rookie year early. The team placed him on injured reserve, and he underwent shoulder surgery that effectively ended his season.
Recall that the Rams used their 57th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to draft Atwell. He impressed the Rams coaches and scouts with his speed, explosiveness, and capacity to convert short throws into significant gains.
↪️ Rams WR Tutu Atwell running a Corner/Post Curl pic.twitter.com/sBGmZpoGOD
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) August 15, 2022
Even with all the hype and great expectations of seeing Atwell take a quick pass to the house right away, it just never happened in the first year. In reality, he only played in eight games during his first season. He also returned just 10 punts for 54 yards and 5 kickoffs for 87 yards.
In 2022, however, Atwell has been one of the more encouraging performers at training camp. On one hand, nobody projected Atwell to start this season. That’s especially with the likes of Allen Robinson and Cooper Kupp ahead of him. On the other hand, Van Jefferson is still recovering from his minor surgery. That opens the door for Atwell to step in and take some starter snaps.
Take note as well that another backup, Brandon Powell, is dealing with a bruised knee. That further increases the odds of having Atwell maybe move up among the first stringers.