Rams head coach Sean McVay has long been known for getting the most out of the tight end position. While an offensive coordinator for Washington under head coach Jay Gruden, McVay helped develop Jordan Reed into one of the better young TEs in the league.
And as he took over the L.A. offense heading into the 2017 season, much of the same was expected of the Rams tight ends — specifically Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, and Temarrick Hemingway.
The group, however, was slow to get involved in the offense, catching a combined 49 passes and just three
touchdowns throughout the regular season.
But as the club gears up for Year 2 under McVay, tight ends coach and pass game coordinator Shane Waldron expressed confidence in his room and their ability to produce on field.
“I think similar to a lot of young guys on the team, [in] Year 2 in this system, these guys have really taken that next step of ownership of our offensive system as a whole,” Waldron said Tuesday.
And that experience is particularly important for the tight end position with players who often find themselves taking on a wide variety of roles at the professional level.
“I think those guys are asked to do a lot of different nuances within the system and so in our system it’s about finding what that best fit is,” Waldron explained. “You really use the guys — the first-year players — in whatever they fit in to help the team. That’s kind of the way we approached it last year.”
Heading into the 2018 season, the Rams tight ends room is filled with youth. The oldest player in the group, Henry Krieger-Coble, is just 26-years old. And Higbee, who has the most experience, is entering just his third NFL season.
Despite their ages, Waldron believes there is a good mix of competition within the position group. And throughout OTAs, he has seen strides from each of the Rams three main tight ends.
“I think with Higbee going into his third year, he’s got a really good grasp, has had a good offseason and worked
hard like he always does,” Waldron said. “He’s really bought in and is doing everything the right way all the time — provides a good option as a tight end in all three phases of the game, whether the run game, the pass game, and in the pass protection.”
Everett has also shown tremendous growth. While he was used mainly as a receiving tight end last season, the South Alabama product hopes to take on a larger role in Year 2. Based on his strong offseason, Waldron said Everett is in the position to do just that.
“I think he’s got some dynamic ball skills and as he grows in this league he’ll push all the other guys more and more. I hope to see, like every Year 2 player, a great jump when it comes to training camp with him,” Waldron said.
And then there’s Hemingway, who suffered a season-ending leg injury during the preseason that kept him off the field for the entirety of 2017. As he returns this season, Hemingway has been easing into the offense once again, looking to get back to 100 percent in all aspects.
“I can’t say enough about a guy that had a pretty catastrophic injury last year and came in at the beginning of this OTA time, kinda getting his feet wet again and then the next thing you know these last couple of days he has really hit his stride,” Waldron said. “[He’s] catching the ball well and we know he is a big physical presence on the line of scrimmage.”
Like Waldron, McVay also expressed a similar confidence in the team’s top three tight ends.And as both coaches look toward training camp and the regular season, they believe the room’s depth and competition will serve them well.
“I think in terms of how we utilize our personnel whether your in some of those three-receiver sets, two tight ends, three tight end sets, that’s all going to be predicated on the opponent and what we feel is the best way to attack a defense that week,” McVay said. “But you’d like to be able to have that flexibility and we think with those guys and the other players in that group, we’ll have that this year.”