National Football League
Odell Beckham Jr.’s absence looms large at Rams training camp
National Football League

Odell Beckham Jr.’s absence looms large at Rams training camp

Updated Aug. 11, 2022 7:19 p.m. ET

By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFC West Writer

IRVINE, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams potentially have one of the best receiver duos in the NFL, with All-Pro and triple crown winner Cooper Kupp lined up on one side and new addition Allen Robinson on the other.

However, there's a significant drop-off on the depth chart in both experience and talent after those two, which is why Rams coach Sean McVay is leaving the door wide open for what he hopes is the return of Odell Beckham Jr. 

"We'll continue to see if we can figure out when Odell will come back at some point as well," McVay quipped when asked if he has concerns about the depth at receiver.


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Of course, Beckham won't be healthy enough to hit the field any time soon. He's still recovering from the ACL surgery he had in February after reinjuring his left knee during the Super Bowl. 

Beckham signed with the Rams midway through last season and totaled 27 receptions for 305 receiving yards and five scores in eight games. He was even better in the postseason, finishing with 21 receptions for 288 receiving yards and two scores. That total includes two critical catches — including one for a score — in L.A.'s Super Bowl win, as he appeared on his way to winning MVP honors. 

Then, in the second quarter, Beckham suffered the noncontact knee injury. 

The hope right now is that the LSU product will be healthy enough to help the Rams — or some other receiver-needy team — in the second half of this season. In an Instagram response to former L.A. teammate Von Miller, Beckham hinted that he might be interested in joining the Buffalo Bills in free agency.

The Rams just need to bide their time until Beckham is healthy enough to return. L.A. moved on from one of the team's most reliable receivers this offseason, trading Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans

The team's projected No. 3 receiver heading into training camp was Van Jefferson. However, the Florida product had surgery to address a lingering knee issue earlier this month, putting his availability for the season opener against the Bills in doubt. 

That leaves second-year receiver Ben Skowronek, 2021 second-round pick Tutu Atwell and return man Brandon Powell as the next men up. Those three have a combined 44 career receptions and two touchdowns in the NFL — not exactly what you want when your team is chasing another Super Bowl ring.

"It's really about guys just maximizing and playing to the best of their ability," McVay said about young receivers stepping into larger roles. "Ben's very comfortable playing in multiple positions. Tutu is getting more comfortable. And Brandon Powell is … a great competitor, a good football player that we've seen really positive things from him in the slot." 

McVay will get a chance to evaluate all three when the Rams face the L.A. Chargers in the first preseason game for both teams on Saturday at SoFi Stadium. 

The diminutive Atwell (5-foot-9, 165 pounds) has been the most impressive in camp. After a rookie season lost to injury, he appears to be improving, making some big plays while competing with the starters. But as Allen Iverson would say, "We're talking about practice, not a game." 

"He has matured in the right way," McVay said about Atwell. "He's really taken positive steps. And I think like anything else, when you're able to make plays, confidence comes with that." 

Despite the nail-biting over the status of quarterback Matthew Stafford's ailing right elbow, the 34-year-old quarterback says he'll be ready to go for the team's season opener. 

"The most important thing for him is feeling good and healthy on Sept. 8," McVay said. "We could certainly push, and he could grind through this, but that's not the goal with somebody like him. It's not something that we're concerned about, but we just want to be really smart with somebody that's as important as our quarterback is." 

Perhaps a more pressing issue for the Rams is finding a few more reliable targets for Stafford to throw to. The Rams certainly could lean on the tight end position more, where Brycen Hopkins and Kendall Blanton have developed into contributors and starter Tyler Higbee returns from injury as one of the mainstays in this offense.

Maybe it makes sense to bring back L.A. native DeSean Jackson? Or perhaps the Rams look to add a receiver or two during final roster cuts? Whatever player acquisition method general manager Les Snead chooses, the Rams need more juice at receiver.

In the end, that could come in the eventual return of the player who helped them earn a Super Bowl ring. 

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.


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