Fourteen members of the Los Angeles Rams will soon take in the Orange County sunshine for the first time in their lives, as they prepare for their first-ever NFL training camp.
Five, however, are worth heavily scrutinizing once the team reconverges on the Crawford Field grass at UC Irvine. Who are the five in order worth watching closely? Oh, while he is on this list, Stetson Bennett isn’t the No. 1 rookie to watch.
No. 5: Steve Avila, Offensive Guard
Going to kick this list off with the Rams’ first pick of the ’23 class.
Can Avila make the push for a starting position once the “Rams House” occupies the bleachers at UCI? The TCU star is a natural guard, but he could be in a competitive room featuring 2022 third rounder Logan Bruss, Coleman Shelton, Tremayne Anchrum even Joe Noteboom — as there was a mention by head coach Sean McVay during minicamp about the left tackle possibly being able to slide inside.
The 6-foot-3, 331-pounder brings power, versatility and quick feet to the line. He’s also a past captain for the Horned Frogs — meaning he could be a future leader down the road.
No. 4: Jason Taylor II, Safety
Going to go with a surprise here. Seventh rounder Taylor is worth watching in the O.C. come July 29.
The former Oklahoma State Cowboy began to win over his Rams defensive teammates with his tracking ability and ability to close in on his angle to the football — leading to the pick six.
What helps the 6-foot, 204-pounder is his long arms — leading to his advantage in snatching the aerial takeaway. But there’s another advantage he has in potentially moving up in the roster: the need to replace Nick Scott and Taylor Rapp in the safety room, plus one other spot open that was vacated by Terrell Burgess.
No. 3: Puka Nacua, Wide Receiver
Nacua, though, is walking into a more wide open wide receiver room outside of Cooper Kupp.
The rookie from Brigham Young could make the bold attempt at becoming WR2 — especially with Allen Robinson gone and 2021 second rounder Tutu Atwell on the hot seat in season three. Nacua has already won over Kupp, McVay and Matthew Stafford with his dynamics during the June sessions. But now he could be involved in a four-way competition for the title of WR2 with veteran Van Jefferson and Super Bowl winning newcomers Tyler Johnson plus Demarcus Robinson.
No. 2: Stetson Bennett, Quarterback
Now we get into Bennett as he enters his first NFL camp.
There will be several watchful eyes on the national champion when he’s behind center. The biggest questions, though, will be how many reps he’ll take over the free agent pickup Brett Rypien…and what kind of rapport Bennett can build with his wideouts.
One thing is certain, the cell phones will come out from fans once Bennett throws his first training camp pass.
No. 1: Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, Cornerback
The No. 1 rookie to watch is probably a surprise choosing. But it’s for good reasoning.
For starters, while McVay likes what he’s seen from the 2023 defensive backs so far, this is still a defense that’ll likely need a third cornerback. Then, the next most integral position to fill on the Rams is the versatile “star” position Jalen Ramsey bequeaths. And that’s where Hodges-Tomlinson could come into play.
Or, he could push for one of the spots currently held by Derion Kendrick or Decobie Durant. But regardless, Hodges-Tomlinson will get his chance to show his TCU scrapper and ball-hawking side to Ram fans — and earn the chance to win them over early in Ramsey’s absence.