The Los Angeles Rams will be relying on a bevy of unproven talent to help them spark a resurgence at SoFi Stadium in the 2020 NFL season after experiencing some major turnover to both their roster and coaching staff following a disappointing 9-7 finish.
Fortunately, there is good reason to be confident in the young core of players that head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead have assembled in recent years. Although the Rams have been without a first-round pick since they moved up to take quarterback Jared Goff, they managed to alleviate it by striking gold in the second and third rounds to secure quality talent at key positions.
The restrictions placed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have been hardly ideal for rookies trying to get accustomed to life in the NFL. With training camp in full swing, here are the rookies that have the biggest breakout potential this season:
Defensive Back Terrell Burgess
Snead and McVay have an affinity for securing versatile players in the secondary and they were able to strike gold in the early-to-mid rounds of the draft as evidenced by the emergence of John Johnson III and Taylor Rapp in recent years. Defensive back Terrell Burgess has the potential to become the latest rendition of a playmaker on multiple levels of the defense.
Burgess finished his senior season at Utah with 81 tackles that included 7.5 for loss, one interception and five pass breakups en route to all-Pac-12 honorable mention honors. He followed it up with an impressive showing at the NFL Combine by posting a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, 20 reps in the bench press, 33.5-inch vertical, and a 122-inch broad jump.
Burgess’ hybrid skill set will give defensive coordinator Brandon Staley some flexibility in any personnel packages that call for a viable defender in the passing game without sacrificing run defense. With Johnson and Rapp poised to start as the new tandem over the top, he could take on a similar role they did as rookies at the nickel position defending slot receivers and tight ends, helping get over the loss of Nickell Robey-Coleman.
Edge Rusher Terrell Lewis
One of the biggest concerns for Los Angeles heading into the 2020 campaign will be which players can take advantage of the attention that defensive Aaron Donald garners in the passing game. With edge rushers Dante Fowler Jr. and Clay Matthews gone, there is perhaps no group with more unproven talent being tasked with filling a crucial void.
There is plenty of young talent hoping to establish themselves on the edge between Leonard Floyd, Samson Ebukam and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Meanwhile, Terrell Lewis’ bid has gotten off to a rocky start after he was placed on the COVID/reserve list to begin training camp.
Lewis produced a small sample size while at Alabama after registering 58 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and three pass breakups in just 14 games. Injuries may have derailed his first-round prospects, however, his prototypical size and speed could make him quite a steal so long as he stays healthy.
Running Back Cam Akers
The decision to part ways with running back Todd Gurley was easily the most defining move of the offseason. The Rams wasted no time in alleviating his departure by using their first pick in this year’s draft to take running back Cam Akers out of Florida State.
Although the Rams have indicated their plans to usher in a committee in the backfield, there is good reason to believe Akers can quickly emerge atop the pecking order that will include Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown. Given Gurley’s previous role as the centerpiece of the offense, there should bet more than enough carries to go around for the rookie to work his way up the depth chart.
Akers is fully accustomed to taking full advantage of his opportunities after averaging 5.0 yards per carry at Florida State behind one of the worst offensive lines in college football. He may initially have to make his bones as a flex option on third downs before taking on an increased role.