Rams Special Teams Proving They’re the Best

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Updated: December 20, 2017

What else can be said about the Rams special teams?  These four players have all made their presence felt this year, not just among the Rams, but among the whole league.  Whether it’s kicking a ton of field goals or blocking punts, the Rams’ special teams unit this season has constantly been proving that they can make big plays when depended upon, and yesterday’s game was just more proof of that.

Greg Zuerlein

Whether he’s being called Greg The Leg, Legatron, or Mr. Automatic, Zuerlein has been on top of it when it comes to kicking this season.  Zuerlein has made 38 of 40 field goal attempts, and is 44 of 46 on extra points.  The impact has been huge, especially in games against bigger opponents.  In a more notable instance, Zuerlein didn’t miss a thing against the Dallas Cowboys earlier this year on his season-high 7 attempts, a performance that earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Week 4.  His expectations are high, but Rams fans know it’s almost a given that he will make a kick every time he steps onto the field.

Johnny Hekker

Punters are people too, right?  Last year, despite the Rams’ offensive struggle, Hekker took the opportunity to prove to the NFL world he could be a weapon on special teams.  Last year he had a career high 4680 punting yards, set records for punts downed inside the 20 yard line, and earned the spot he deserved in the Pro Bowl.  This year, Hekker has a respectable 2572 yards, but it’s a good thing, because he hasn’t needed to appear on the field as often since the Rams have vastly improved maintaining drives.   Yet he still is proving that he can be a weapon, as his season-high 70 yard punt is the second highest of his career.  He may not be needed as often, but when he is, he does his job.

Pharoh Cooper

When the season began, Tavon Austin was returning kicks and punts.  Unfortunately, he seemed to have lost his insane catching ability, as he went on a stretch of muffing 3 of 4 punts during the early part of the year.  That was not a stat that McVay was happy with, so he decided to give Austin more of a running back role while putting Pharoh Cooper in as the kick/punt returner.  The assumption was that Austin would work on returning kicks and punts in practice while Cooper returned them in games until McVay decided Austin was ready again.  However, the way Cooper is playing as a kick/punt returner, Austin may not get to return punts again.  Cooper’s first game as the full-time returner opened with him returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  He has piled up 395 return yards this year, and had probably his best game of the season week 15 against Seattle, which included a return all the way to the 1 yard line(so close!).  The Rams’ average starting field position in that game was their own 47 yard line thanks to his returns.  His strategy of waiting for blockers to get in position before sprinting down the field is working wonders, and he’s executed some nice jukes around defenders as well.

Cory Littleton

Cory Littleton isn’t exactly one of the big name players around the league, but he shouldn’t be left off this list.  Littleton has been responsible for two of the Rams’ three blocked punts this season, more blocked punts than any other team this year.  The Rams are capitalizing on the chances they get from the short field position, and it’s been a huge factor in some of their wins this season.

Most teams in the NFL haven’t had special teams with this big of an impact.  But it’s a turnaround year for the Rams, and the skilled play is spreading to the special teams unit.  It’s probably the biggest proof at how much the Rams have turned around in one season.  The impact it has on the fans is pretty big, too, as Zuerlein, Hekker and Cooper all led positions among NFC players in the Pro Bowl fan vote.

Now someone give John Fassel a raise.

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