For the next nine months, there may not be a more integral assistant coach in the Los Angeles Rams facility than Chase Blackburn.
As the roster trends younger in 2023, the Rams need to find competitive advantages on special teams, and they'll likely have to do so with less established contributors.
Gone is Pro Bowl placekicker Matt Gay. Last year's starters at long-snapper and punter are currently free agents.
Next, the franchise heads into the NFL Draft with 11 selections (none in the first round, as you're undoubtedly aware). As a result, of the 90-man roster that will be assembled for the offseason program, a plurality figure to be Day Two or Day Three selections as well as undrafted free agents, all looking to win roster spots and carve out roles on the 2023 team.
Blackburn, the new special teams coordinator, will interface with each of them – and his own career journey leaves him uniquely equipped to mentor them.
"As an undrafted free agent, I have a soft spot in my heart for those guys, and I'm really going to pour into them," Blackburn said on this week's Rams Revealed.
"I think it'll help us, honestly, in the post-draft stuff – later in the free agent market," the 39-year-old added regarding the Rams roster vacancies. "Guys will want to come here because they can sense that there's a role for them to be made on this team if they can hash it out and do it the right way. There's opportunities here."
After playing collegiately at Akron, Blackburn was considering arena football and preparing for a teaching career after his name was not called in the 2005 Draft. Instead, the New York Giants brought him in for training camp and Blackburn would log 10 seasons in the NFL, winning two Super Bowls, and leading his franchise in special teams tackles for his first six years.
What better voice for the emerging Rams to hear as they attempt to prove themselves in the kicking game while developing within their position groups?
"I have the perspective of it. I can offer them some things outside of just coach speak," Blackburn said. "There's some immediate trust level that maybe you get when you're coming into a situation that you've done what you're asking them to do.
The Los Angeles Rams coaching staff has been finalized for the 2023 season. Look through photos to meet the coaches!
"I don't want any of them to have to say, 'I'm a special teams player only.' It's great to start that way, but it's great to have goals and go forward, be on offense and defense."
Blackburn's own career accomplishments went well beyond the kicking game. He started 45 games on defense for the Giants and Carolina Panthers and even picked off Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI.
He now comes to the Rams after spending 2022 as the assistant special teams coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. Previously, he spent six seasons with Carolina serving as a special teams assistant from 2016-17 and special teams coordinator from 2018-21.
"I thoroughly enjoy special teams. I get to coach the whole team. I really got a hand in everybody, a voice to every person on our roster, which is something that I can't state enough how enjoyable that is," Blackburn told us. "You have an impact on everybody."
With the new league year underway, we kick off the 2023 NFL season on Rams Revealed, available now on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. And since our conversation with Blackburn goes down as Episode No. 100, a huge thank you to those who've supported the show. Here's to the next 100!