When Sean McVay took over as head coach in 2017, it took a few weeks for the team to really find its groove offensively. But once the Rams figured out that the best way to score efficiently was to stick in 11 personnel — one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers — the club rarely deviated from that group.
As NFL Next Gen stats pointed out last week, the Rams have — by far — used the fewest personnel groupings over the last two years with five. The Chiefs are No. 31 on the list with 12.
And that meant most of the offensive starters were on the field for the vast majority of snaps. That was especially true in the early going of the 2018 season, when the offensive substitutions were mainly limited to Gerald Everett at tight end for certain known-passing situations, and Malcolm Brown at running back on the rare occasions Todd Gurley got a blow.
That meant starters at wideout Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp were also on the field for nearly 100 percent of the offensive snaps.
Those numbers changed a bit after Kupp went down with a season-ending ACL tear, particularly in the last few weeks of the season as the Rams employed more 12 personnel — one running back, two tight ends, and two wide receivers.
But if there was a silver lining in Kupp’s injury, it was that wide receiver Josh Reynolds got to see the field as a full-time starter down the stretch and all throughout the postseason. He caught 29 passes for 402 yards with five touchdowns in the regular season, and made eight receptions for 121 yards in the playoffs — displaying he has the ability to be a full-time starter.
Earlier in the offseason, McVay said part of the reason the club wanted to draft running back Darrell Henderson was to get another explosive playmaker in the building that could also allow some of the club’s offensive skill players the luxury of not having to play almost every single snap.
But with the club also anticipating having a healthy Kupp in Week 1, the Rams could have a surplus of weapons. And that’s a positive problem to have according to passing game coordinator Shane Waldron, who said he can see a scenario where Los Angeles rotates its wide receivers more in 2019.
“Sure, it’s great to have all those guys back and I don’t think Jared [Goff] would ever complain about having too many options,” Waldron said. “So it’d just be a balancing act when that time comes and home how to utilize each guy and maximize their skillset when that time comes. And that really goes for all the positions, because a lot of guys have had a great offseason and guys have continued to improve when they were asked in different areas.”
Exactly how Los Angeles could rotate its wideouts remains to be seen. But it will certainly be one factor to monitor throughout training camp and in Los Angeles’ joint practices.