Tutu Atwell has been under scrutiny since last spring’s NFL draft, and not just because he’s an amoeba alongside other Rams players.
The 5-foot-9, maybe 165-pound second-round pick has cast off any doubts about his professional football potential and wants to secure a role as a wide receiver and punt returner before the Rams list from 80 to 53 will be cut Tuesday.
Atwell does that like many Rams reserves and rookies who go into the last preseason game at 6:05 pm. Saturday against the Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.
“I watched him closely in the game (last Saturday),” said non-preseason quarterback Matthew Stafford of Atwell’s eight-catch, 46-yard performance against the Raiders. “I thought he did some really nice things, threatened some people with his speed.
“It is developing right now. He’s another guy (to whom) every opportunity he gets will be a huge plus for him to make sure he learns from it. ”
Atwell, who played 92% of the offensive downs while first string wide receivers failed Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson and Van Jefferson, answered common questions about his ability to show up after hard hits.
“It comes from the heart. You have to have heart where I come from. That’s what I grew up with,” he says. “Get up again, no matter what.”
Atwell worked with Trishton Jackson, Landon Akers, and J.J. Koski for reps in the preseason on the wide receiver. But he looks like the Rams’ first punt returner, with rookie returning Jake Funk and giving kickoffs back. These competitions changed after Raymond Calais’ foot injury receded.
“I have a feeling. It’s a lot of fun, ”Atwell said of the return of punts, something he barely had a chance to do in college in Miami.
Coach Sean McVay held about three dozen Rams first and second stringers from the Rams 13-6 loss to the Chargers and the 17-16 loss to the Raiders at SoFi Stadium.
This Saturday, too, the focus is on the battles for places in the 53-man squad of the regular season and the 48-man squad on match days for the kick-off on September 12 against the Bears in the SoFi stadium as well the pecking order for positions and specials teams.
The most prominent question is whether the Rams will drop 10th year old Johnny Hekker and go with the cheaper Corey Bojorquez. Both missed the game on Saturday after Hekker tested positive for COVID-19 and identified Bojorquez as a close contact. Hekker remained on the NFL’s COVID-19 reserve list on Friday.
Otherwise, the positions of the first unit appear to be fixed, starting with the quarterback, where Stafford is assisted by John Wolford, with the Rams hoping that Bryce Perkins can delete waivers and land on their practice team.
This week’s deal for Sony Michel cemented a running back group of Darrell Henderson, Jake Funk and Xavier Jones.
In the end, behind Tyler Higbee and Johnny Mundt, McVay said it was still a competition between rookie Jacob Harris and Kendall Blanton and Brycen Hopkins.
The battle for the final backup roles on the offensive has resulted in Bobby Evans, Chandler Brewer, Alaric Jackson and Tremayne Anchrum playing 100% of the snapshots in one or both exhibitions.
On defense, defensive lineman Bobby Brown III, outside linebackers Justin Lawler and Chris Garrett, inside linebackers Ernest Jones and Safeties JR Reed and Brontae Harris were among the players who scored big plays against the Chargers and Raiders and were hoping to get in Denver to make a good third impression.
McVay said he was “feeling pretty good” about the opportunities for the 53-man roster, and now it’s about “how guys are shaping this role for themselves” and which players who may be circumcised Teams can show that they could take waivers.
“There are still a lot of things to clear up,” said McVay.
General Manager Les Snead said the most important decisions are about roles in the 48-person matchday list.
“They may not be fighting for, let’s call it a 53rd or 53rd place as we call it, (but) they could fight for a helmet, jersey and shoulder pads on match day,” said Snead. “There are definitely still some jobs left. Things will change in some way in Denver. ”
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The Broncos are 2-0, outnumbering the Vikings and Seahawks with 63-9, Teddy Bridgewater completes 16 of 19 passes and Denver brings out three backup quarterbacks.
If the Rams lose, it will be their first winless preseason since 0-4 in 2015, their last season in St. Louis.
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