Bonsignore: Rookie Josh Reynolds another intriguing addition to Rams’ revamped receiving corps
IRVINE — The Rams added a shiny new toy to their offense this week. A big, explosive wide receiver able to stretch a defense, go up in traffic and get the football, or be a Red Zone threat able to turn third-down throws to the corner of the end zone into touchdowns.
And he put a little bit of all of that on display Tuesday when he came up with a handful of big catches that drew “oohs” and “aahs” from fans who made their way to UC Irvine for Rams camp.
Oh wait, you thought we were talking about Sammy Watkins, didn’t you?
Watkins figures to do plenty of that in the weeks ahead as he transitions to the Rams from the Buffalo Bills, who sent him to Los Angeles for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a future second-round pick.
But Tuesday actually belonged to wide receiver Josh Reynolds, the lanky 6-foot-4 playermaker the Rams drafted out of Texas A&M in the fourth round, then waited patiently for the last two weeks for him to finally do his thing.
The delayed reaction was the cause of a nagging quad issue that kept Reynolds on the sideline as the Rams conducted the formative part of training camp. Having to wait out the injury killed him as much as it did his new bosses, who were eager to see their potential new difference-maker work his way into a wide receiver group that has undergone a near-complete makeover from last year.
“Definitely frustration,” Reynolds said of the injury. “But at the end of the day you have to be a professional about it and make sure you’re body is 100 percent before coming back. “Otherwise it can cause major issues.”
That opportunity finally arrived Tuesday, and Reynolds wasted no time making a big impression. And It didn’t take long for people to notice
“He had a great day,” said Rams quarterback Jared Goff. “He made a lot of big plays. Showed some stuff we haven’t seen yet, and it was really good to see. Some stuff downfield – he was obviously fresh – but, good player. Smart. He’s done a good job.”
Reynolds was pleased with his return.
“I felt great,” he said. “Fresh legs, I was moving fast and definitely getting good looks,” he said. “When you’re out, you never feel like you’re getting any better so being able to come back out here and get my techniques is always a great thing.”
And with that, the box into which Goff will reach for tools got even bigger and better. The big get, obviously, is Watkins, who joins rookies Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett, free agent pickup Robert Woods and second-year holdovers Tyler Higbee, Pharoh Cooper, Mike Thomas and Nelson Spruce in a nearly completely redone wide receiver group.
That doesn’t even account for veteran Tavon Austin, for whom new coach Sean McVay is determined to figure out an optimal role.
Now add Reynolds, who brings the element of size and a broad catch ratio, and the entire Rams receiver dynamic has changed dramatically from last season.
“It’s nice when you have a good complementary group and everybody has something unique about their game,” McVay said. “But you have to also be mindful these guys can all do a little bit of everything as well. You don’t want to be predictable, but you want to put guys in position where they’re doing things that they do best but also be mindful of what the defense is doing and what you’re presenting them. The more versatility you can have at the wide receiver position the more beneficial it’s going to be for our group as a whole.”
It remains to be seen how Reynolds figures into things given how crowded the wide receiver room now is, and with Watkins, Woods, Austin and Kupp slated for the bulk of the playing time.
But he was getting work with the first-team offense in situational 11-on-11 plays Wednesday, so it’s obvious Reynolds is working his way onto McVay’s radar.
“Josh is one of those guys that – he’s got a great stride length, consistently made big plays throughout the course of his career in college and he’s kind of one of those guys that’s deceivingly fast,” McVay said. “I think getting him back out there healthy – he’s continuing to grow. It’s funny, right before he got that injury I was just telling him how much improvement he’s made from the offseason program, so it will be good to get Josh back out there and watch him compete against the Raiders on Saturday.”
Those are attributes typically associated more with premium draft picks rather than a guy taken in the fourth round. But in spite of starting three years for the Aggies and never registering fewer than 51 catches and 840 yards — and going beast mode against Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl with 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns last year — Reynolds took a bit of a tumble on draft day.
“You always have higher expectations for yourself, so did I go in the round I wanted to?” Reynolds said. “No.”
That 115 players were taken before him is a slight point of contention, but Reynolds is already over the disappointment.
He’s happy to be in Los Angeles, and even happier to be part of a young wide receiver group some believe will be a catalyst that pulls the Rams offense into the 21st century.
“We have a whole bunch of talent at receiver,” he said. “Lust a bunch of guys who can do a bunch of different things. A Tavon, who is a speed guy. Robert Woods who can do everything. Sammy is a playmaker and Kupp is a great route-runner. It’s all kinds of guys who can bring all sorts of different elements to the position.”
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