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Countdown to Camp: Special Teams

Posted Jul 21, 2015

With training camp set to begin in just 10 days, team insider Myles Simmons takes a look at each position group and answers your questions, starting with Special Teams.

With training camp set to begin in 10 days, team insider Myles Simmons will take a look at each position group and answer your questions.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Newcomers: Michael Palardy (P/K), Tyler Ott (LS)

If there’s any position that’s fairly settled with the Rams, it’s the group who makes up St. Louis’ special teams unit. Led by coordinator John Fassel, punter Johnny Hekker, kicker Greg Zuerlein, and long snapper Jake McQuaide have all firmly established their standing as key contributors.

Named to the Pro Bowl in 2013, Hekker had a strong 2014, finishing the year No. 4 in net average at 42.3 yards per punt. His 33 punts downed inside the 20-yard line were eclipsed by only the Eagles’ Donnie Jones and the Cardinals’ Drew Butler, who both tallied 34.

Of course, Hekker also continued to make a name for himself with his arm, converting two fake punts and a fake extra-point attempt for a two-point conversion last year.

Proving punters can get paid like people, too, Hekker signed a six-year contract extension in December. Additionally, he was named an AP second-team All-Pro for his 2014 performance.

Zuerlein converted 24-of-30 field-goal attempts last year, including a long of 56 yards. The kicker tied for fourth in the league with five field goals from 50-plus yards out.

A 27-year-old out of Ohio State, McQuaide enters his fifth season as the Rams’ long snapper.

The two newcomers for this year’s camp are punter/kicker Michael Palardy and long snapper Tyler Ott. Palardy spent last summer with the Raiders, but the Tennessee product was waived prior to the start of the season. Ott is an Ivy League product, having attended Harvard, and spent last summer with the Patriots. While he was waived in the early rounds of cuts, he re-signed with New England in March of 2015, only to be waived again in May. He signed with the Rams after spending the month’s rookie orientation with the team on a tryout basis.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

In each installment of Countdown to Camp, we’ll answer one of your questions on the position group from Twitter. The first comes from @seattlerams.

I intentionally shied away from guys like Daren Bates and Chase Reynolds in the above portion of the post, mainly because they’re listed at other positions. That said, Bates and Reynolds are certainly core special teams players. In the past, Fassel has pointed out safety Maurice Alexander as a significant special teams contributor as well. While this is really material later, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams also mentioned during OTAs that Alexander, a St. Louis native, had a great spring.

But often when you look at the edges of the 53-man roster, that’s where you’ll find guys who may have been drafted in later rounds, or came in undrafted, and end up making the team because of their special teams prowess. Running back Trey Watts is a good example from last year of an undrafted rookie who contributed heavily on special teams in the preseason and earned a spot.

Without having seen the players go full speed in pads, it’s a little tough to make this kind of conjecture. But based on their positions, I’d say linebacker Bryce Hager, linebacker Cameron Lynch, safety Jacob Hagen, and running back Malcolm Brown are a few rookies who could make an impact on special teams.

Next up in our Countdown to Camp series will be linebackers. If you’ve got a question about the Rams’ LBs, send it over to @MylesASimmons on Twitter and it could be featured right here on stlouisrams.com.