Departure of Rams KR/PR Creates Speculation On Who Could Return Kicks

Nsimba Webster

Getty Nsimba Webster was waived by the Los Angeles Rams on Tuesday, creating an open spot on the special teams side.

Though not necessarily considered a significant roster loss, the Los Angeles Rams do have a spot to fill in one area of the field heading into next week’s training camp: The return ace.

Return man and wide receiver Nsimba Webster was waived on Tuesday. Webster, who signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2019 out of Eastern Washington, got lost in the wide receiver shuffle but found his way onto the field through special teams. Webster has since been claimed off waivers by NFC West rival San Francisco, with the 49ers adding him on Wednesday afternoon.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Webster only saw action in 21 of 34 games, but again was primarily limited to return and special teams duty. He has no recorded NFL receptions and in 2020, lost three fumbles. He does leave behind this highlight-reel moment against the New York Jets from last year.

 

His departure for the Rams, though, creates this speculation: Will we see Tutu Atwell field punts and kicks after all? Could there also be a DeSean Jackson sighting on special teams as well?


Why Atwell Makes Sense

The rookie and No. 57 overall selection in the 2021 draft first revealed on May 26 that his plan was to retrieve punts and put good use of his reported 4.32 40-yard dash time.

Atwell then later shared with reporters during that May 26 video conference interview “It’ll actually help me. It would be a great spot for the team. I’m just excited and ready to take over the job and do what I have to do. It’ll be a nice (demonstration of my) skill set to get back there and do what I do best.”

His head coach Sean McVay, however, said two days later that he hadn’t fully committed to the former Louisville Cardinal taking return duties full time.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are potential candidates to be punt returners for us and we’ve got a long time to figure that out, but been pleased with Tutu so far, for sure,” McVay said back on May 28.

But with that kind of speed, plus averaging 21 yards on punt returns in 2019, it’ll be hard for the Rams to ignore putting Atwell on returns.


Why “D-Jax” Could Wake Up the Return Game

Joe DeCamillis was brought along to the staff to re-establish the Rams’ return game – a position unit that didn’t have a single returner surpass an average of 22 yards per kickoff in 2020 and, more startling, hasn’t had a return man score from a kickoff since Pharoh Cooper in 2017, which last occurred in October against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“D-Jax” only had one punt return for two yards with the Eagles last year. Yet, the NFL world has seen what he’s capable of before when he gets the chance to touch a punt.

Jackson hasn’t scored off of a punt since 2010. But, if the Rams are serious about getting back into the end zone on special teams, Jackson has plenty of experience there.


Who Else Could Help?

The Rams don’t necessarily need to look at the WR room for someone who could ignite the specialist side. There’s options from the running back realm too.

Raymond Calais has a background in taking kickoffs to the end zone, which once got the NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks to excitedly say “He’s got action.”

He also did this during a regular season game against the New York Giants.

Undrafted rookie Otis Anderson has potential to be another option, plus earn a roster spot with Webster’s departure. Here’s a sample of what he’s done on PR’s.

One last possibility? Seventh rounder Jake Funk, who is already projecting to become a special teams contributor while also trying to add to the Rams’ RB depth chart.

In conclusion, Webster isn’t considered a major loss. Yet his departure now gives L.A. a new chance to find someone who can breathe new life to a dormant return game.


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