The Los Angeles Rams made the hard decision during the 2022 free agency period to part ways with a fan favorite and four-time Pro Bowler lauded for his leadership and play, even if it required a swift kick: Johnny Hekker.
The choice to sever ties with Hekker ended a 10 season run with the Rams for the 6-foot-5, 241-pound strong-legged punter — as the Rams were the only franchise he’s ever known before signing with the Carolina Panthers on March 18.
Well, the Rams have found Hekker’s replacement via the NFC East on Tuesday, April 5.
Newcomer Signs One-Year Deal
Per the team’s website, the Super Bowl 56 champions agreed to add Riley Dixon to a one-year deal to fill the needed punter spot vacated by the multiple Pro Bowler and member of the All-Decades Team for the 2010 period.
Dixon, 28, comes to L.A. by way of the New York Giants. Dixon played four seasons with the G-Men. He went on to average 45.2 yards per punt through 279 punts he boomed per Pro Football Reference. His longest? A 71-yarder he sent into the air during the 2020 season.
Last season, while playing for Ex-Giants head coach Joe Judge, who also had a background as a former special teams coordinator, Dixon delivered 74 punts for 3,283 yards and had none of his punts blocked. Additionally, he pinned 24 of his attempts inside the 20-yard line — tying him for 11th best overall in the league.
He also had six punts fall inside the end zone — tying him for sixth-highest in the league for touchbacks.
Before handing fourth down duties for the Giants, he spent his first two seasons with the Denver Broncos in 2016 and 2017. During his rookie season, Dixon tallied his highest yardage total in his career: 4,068 yards off 89 punts. He arrived to the Rocky Mountains as the No. 228 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft (seventh rounder).
In 2017, Dixon saw a dip in his punt yards (3331) and witnessed two of his attempts get blocked. He was eventually traded to the Giants in April 2018.
On two occasions, Dixon traced back to his quarterback roots from his high school years at Christian Brothers Academy in DeWitt, New York. His first lob was during his first season in the NFL:
Plus during a Giants’ scrimmage:
Then he showed his rare dual-threat ability in pulling off this fake punt run during his Giant days:
Signing Reunites Him With his Past Special Teams Coach
Dixon will head to the champs not only looking to replace Hekker. He’ll enter the Rams’ facility with some familiarity of who the special teams coach is.
Rams special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis was in Denver for Dixon’s rookie campaign — having spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Broncos. That was also during a time when both men were in Denver with Von Miller before the All-Pro outside linebacker/edge rusher made his way to L.A. via trade in the middle of the 2021 season.
DeCamillis went on to win Super Bowl 50 with Miller in 2016, then again on February 13, 2021. Now, DeCamillis will reconnect with Dixon.
Hekker becomes the latest prominent Ram to be replaced during the offseason. The champs added wide receiver Allen Robinson via free agency, who ultimately replaced captain Robert Woods. Then, on Monday, the Rams officially finalized the signing of inside linebacker Bobby Wagner, who helps replace Miller from a veteran leadership standpoint while also adding to the Rams’ linebacker unit.