Commentary

2019 Rookie Grades: Los Angeles Rams Rookies Filled in Gaps Nicely

Several Los Angeles Rams rookies contributed on all phases of the ball this year. Some had a chance to start in several games and replaced injured starters. Others were able to contribute in small portions or make big plays on the special teams squad. We will grade all the rookies of 2019 and see what potential they may have for next season.

Taylor Rapp (S) – Grade A

Rapp shined greater than most rookies this season. He filled in nicely as the replacement for starting safety John Johnson. Johnson sustained a season-ending shoulder injury and Rapp took over the role for the remaining 10 games. He started the season as a situational hybrid linebacker to replace an injured Bryce Hager. Rapp totaled 100 tackles (including three for a loss), one quarterback hit, a fumble recovery, and two interceptions. One of those picks, was a 31-yard interception return against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13. Rapp went beyond all expectations this year, but the Rams knew with his acquisition they had talent and potential. He will most likely start at strong safety next season alongside Johnson, especially since Eric Weddle recently announced his retirement.

Darrell Henderson (RB/KR) – Grade C+

Henderson filled in nicely as a returner and had a reserved running back role behind Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown. Although his opportunities were limited, he had 39 carries for 147 yards as well as four catches for 37 yards. His longest run was for 22 yards in the Rams’ Week 6 loss against the San Francisco 49ers. Henderson has speed and agility, but did not have a spectacular showing this season. To be fair, he played third string on the depth-chart and the running game struggled as a whole. The Rams gave Henderson the opportunity to return kicks after starting kick returner JoJo Natson was sidelined by injury. He had three returns for 58 yards with a long of 23.

Henderson came to the Rams after a successful collegiate career at the University of Memphis. The Rams still see great potential in him. The young running back will also be a strong replacement for Gurley or Brown should either leave the team. In the meantime, expect the Rams to work with him in the offseason to further calculate his role with the offense. They may also continue to utilize him on special teams.

David Long, Jr. (C) – Grade B

Long did not get on the field much this season, but he may see more action in 2020. His coverage ability is on point and he had the chance to show that in a few games. He played in eight games and had nine tackles and two pass deflections. Both deflections were against Arizona in both meetings.

Long will continue to backup starting cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Troy Hill. He has great potential and may see more playing time next season.

Bobby Evans (RT) – Grade B+

Evans stepped into the right tackle role nicely as a replacement for the injured Rob Havenstein. He played for most of the latter half of the season and was one of two rookies to start on the offensive line. Evans had a good year despite not expecting to play much behind Havenstein.

Evans performed better than expected in his new role. He played 100 percent of all snaps in six out of the last seven games of 2019. He also cross-trained with the Rams in different offensive line positions. He had already played both guard and tackle in college at the University of Oklahoma.

Evans may continue to play behind Havenstein if he comes back healthy, but he will be an excellent backup. He also performed well against tough defensive edge rushers like the Chicago Bears’ Khalil Mack. Evans did get help from tight ends, but held his own on the line when needed. He also had no penalties against him during the season.

Greg Gaines (NT) – Grade C-

Gaines did not have a great season, but did produce a few stats. He only played in 10 games in 2019, backing up starting nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day. Gaines has not shown that he can be a starter yet, but he will continue to be a strong backup. He is a true nose tackle and played the position well at the University of Washington.

Gaines’s best performance this year was against the Ravens. He earned half a sack, four tackles and one quarterback hit. He saw the most playing time in a game against the Cardinals. He also had two solo tackles in that matchup. He will likely struggle to see more playing time, but still has great potential.

David Edwards (RG) – Grade B-

Edwards also stepped into a starting role on the offensive line after Joseph Noteboom went out with a season-ending knee injury. He took on the difficult role of left guard, especially after preseason worries of a weakened middle in the offensive line. The departures of Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan left big holes to fill. The young rookie filled the position nicely along with Austin Blythe moving from right guard to center. Edwards was also behind Jamil Demby earlier in the season, but Demby proved to be the inferior lineman in that position. Edwards took over in the Week 7 win against the Atlanta Falcons and continued to play 100 percent of all snaps in the final 10 games.

Edwards did get penalized quite a bit this season with five holds and two false starts. The Rams will most likely bring him back to start at the right guard position, even if Noteboom is healthy next season.

Nick Scott (S) – Grade B

Scott had an incredible play against the Falcons while on the special teams. It was a fake punt pass by Johnny Hekker to Scott and he converted on fourth down. Scott came to the Rams specifically to be a strong specialist, but he is also a true free safety. While at Penn State, Scott was a running back, returner, cornerback and safety. He has incredible potential on either side of the ball, but the Rams benefit most with him on the special teams squad.

Kendall Blanton (TE) – Grade INCOMPLETE

Blanton did not see any snaps this season, but did have a touchdown against the Houston Texans in the preseason. In December, they activated him to the 53-man roster. Blanton is a good-sized back up to the talented corps of tight ends. At 6’6”, 262 pounds, the Rams may keep him on the roster as a younger backup to Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett or Johnny Mundt.

Marquise Copeland (DL) – Grade INCOMPLETE

Copeland went undrafted out of the University of Cincinnati where he was a two-time All-American Athletic Conference honoree. The Rams signed him to their practice squad this year and seem confident in his abilities. At 6’2,” 287 pounds, Copeland is a strong young backup for the defensive line.

Chandler Brewer (G) – Grade INCOMPLETE

Brewer was signed to the Rams’ practice squad after going undrafted this year. He was later promoted to the active roster later in the season. Coming out of Middle Tennessee State, Brewer has incredible size for the offensive line position. He is 6’6,” 320 pounds and was playing behind left tackle Andrew Whitworth this year. He may get some playing time in 2020 since the offensive line is still in flux.

Greg Dortch (WR) – Grade B

Dortch was signed to the Rams’ practice squad in December. He previously played on the Carolina Panthers’ special teams squad where he compiled five kick returns for 119 yards with a long of 32. He also had four punt returns for 28 yards. Although none of these stats were with the Rams, it shows that there is strong potential on the Rams’ special teams squad. With Dortch’s addition, the Rams will be positioned nicely to have another backup receiver and stellar specialist. He will likely compete for a roster spot or place on the practice squad in 2020.

Jake Gervase (S) – Grade B-

The Rams brought Gervase in as an undrafted free agent. He impressed the Rams in training camp and the preseason, but was a surprise cut from the roster before the season. The Rams brought him back to the practice squad and then promoted him to the active roster midseason. He played mainly on the special teams squad.

Jachai Polite (LB) – Grade INCOMPLETE

Polite’s size is impressive enough for the linebacker position. At 6’2,” 242 pounds, he will make a great backup. Polite dropped almost 30 pounds after his collegiate career with the University of Florida. Polite had a whirlwind 2019 season where he was originally drafted by the New York Jets and then cut. The Seattle Seahawks picked him up on their practice squad, but he was cut two weeks later. That’s when the Rams signed him to their practice squad and he remained there most of the season. The Rams have a talented young player in development who may get some playing time next season.

Natrez Patrick (LB) – Grade C

Patrick was not able to get on the field much this year, but he did have two solo tackles against the Falcons and the Niners. He had a strong preseason showing and made a good impression on coaches during training camp. Patrick can play either inside or outside linebacker. The Rams signed him as an undrafted free agent and he had a ton of competition for the linebacker position. He still has a chance to play for a few more snaps next season.

Troy Reeder (LB) – Grade A-

Reeder initially signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent. He was a special teams contributor but became a starting linebacker after Bryce Hager went out with a season-ending injury. Reeder started in eight games. For the season, he earned 58 tackles (36 solo) and two forced fumbles. One fumble was recovered in the end zone by Darious Williams for a touchdown against the Falcons. His best game was against the Seahawks where he tallied 13 tackles.

Reeder may compete for a starting role with Micah Kiser next year. Kiser was out for the season with an injury as well. Either way, Reeder has a lot of competition, but he has earned the right to see the field more next season.

Nate Trewyn (C) – Grade INCOMPLETE

Trewyn was added to the Rams’practice squad late in the 2019 season. At 6’4,” 315 pounds, he will be a nice backup at center. The depth chart is still deep, so he may have trouble seeing the field next season. His competition on the roster may be tough behind Blythe (considering he returns), Coleman Shelton and a healthy Brian Allen.

Nsimba Webster (WR/KR/PR) – Grade B

Webster impressed the Rams during the preseason and had an opportunity to shine on special teams as a returner. He had two kick returns for 57 yards and seven punt returns for 18 yards. He filled in nicely off the practice squad when Natson got injured. Webster has great potential for the Rams as a versatile returner and receiver.

References: ESPN.com, Pro-football-reference.com, Therams.com

You can follow Erik Ho on Twitter @EHoinSDLVLA. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

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