The Rams Wire
Tyler Higbee missed two games during the regular season, yet he still played 81.1% of the snaps on offense. The Rams used a good amount of two-tight end sets when Johnny Mundt was healthy, but after Mundt tore his ACL, Higbee was relied upon even more heavily than he was early in the year. He played every snap in six of his 18 games, including the postseason, and also had eight other games with at least 90% of the snaps played.
That’s why Higbee missing two games in Weeks 14 and 15 due to COVID-19 was initially seen as such a significant blow to the offense, not only because of his value as a receiver and blocker, but because of the lack of depth behind him without Mundt available.
Higbee’s absence in those two games, as well as the Super Bowl, did show that the Rams might be deeper at tight end than first thought. Kendall Blanton and Brycen Hopkins both showed promise to close out the year, combining for nine catches and 104 yards in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LVI when Higbee was out.
Blanton played a big role in the NFC title game with five catches for 57 yards – and he also scored a touchdown the week prior against the Bucs. Hopkins came out of nowhere in the Super Bowl, catching four passes for 47 yards, picking up three first downs.
Heading into the offseason, the Rams should feel pretty good about their tight end room. Higbee will be back next season as the starter, but Blanton and Hopkins both showed promise as backups and are more than capable of stepping up as the No. 2 tight end if Mundt leaves in free agency.
Hopkins, in particular, is an X-factor behind Higbee. He’s got plenty of size at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, but there were concerns about his development after essentially being a healthy scratch for two seasons before getting a bigger opportunity in the Super Bowl.
The Rams have been bringing him along as an all-around tight end after he was previously seen as more of a receiving threat, molding him into a player somewhat similar to Higbee. Blanton has improved as a blocker, too, and with his 6-foot-6 frame, he brings value as a threat down the seam and in the red zone.
Bringing back Mundt on an affordable contract should be a priority for the Rams, but if he opts to sign elsewhere, they should feel confident in Blanton and Hopkins behind Higbee.