NFL report cards for Rams football alum

Bailey Shepherd

Graphic illustration titled "Trash Talk" for the sports desk depicting different sports equipment
(Graphic illustration by Rachel Macias | The Collegian)

The 2020-21 NFL season posed unique challenges for players and organizations throughout the league. Because of strict COVID-19 protocols, constant rescheduling that gave us some occasional Tuesday Night Football games and crazy roster moves due to inactive players — shout out to Kendall Hinton and the Denver Broncos — this season was one football fans will not soon forget.

Now, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ win in Super Bowl LV, I figured it was only right that we take a look back at the performances of Colorado State football alums this season and do what sportswriters do best: give opinions that nobody really asked for in the first place. So, without further ado, let’s grade these Rams on their performances and see if they’ve remained stalwart in this year’s season.

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Shaquil Barrett: A+

It’s only right that we get this one out of the way early on. After having a career year and leading the NFL in sacks with 19.5 in 2019, there was a lot of buzz around this defensive mastermind coming into 2020 as Tom Brady made his blockbuster move to the Bucs. 

It’s safe to say that this team lived up to the hype, and Barrett helped his team to an 11-5 regular season record, which saw the Bucs lock up a wild card berth in the playoffs. We all know what happened after that.

Barrett played a massive part in helping catapult his team to the biggest stage in football. Most notably, he conquered the formidable Green Bay Packers’ offensive line and sacked Aaron Rodgers not once, not twice but three times in the NFC Championship game. Barrett sacked Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes once in the Super Bowl on his way to collect his second Super Bowl ring. Add his 57 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles in the regular season to that incredible postseason, and there’s no other grade to give this man than an A+.

Rashard Higgins: B-

Another postseason entry for the Rams, the usually injury-ridden Rashard Higgins had his arguably most productive season to date this year, even if he did miss four games. Higgins hauled in four regular-season touchdowns to tie his career-best and was only two receptions away from another individual record.

Higgins proved versatile for a Cleveland Browns receiving corps that was up-and-down for most of the season. He was their best deep-play asset it seemed, as he averaged an impressive 16.2 yards per reception. Higgins helped his team to an 11-5 record, which saw the Browns grace the NFL postseason for the first time since 2002

So you may be wondering, “Why hasn’t Higgins crept up to an A grade?” Well, if you take a look at his performances in the two postseason games he played, it may make it a little more clear.

In the Wild Card Round against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Higgins was targeted seven times and was only able to capitalize on two of those targets for a measly 28 yards. He tried to make up for it in the Divisional Round against the Chiefs, posting 88 yards receiving and five receptions, but a fumble out the back of the end zone near the end of the first half negates these stats. Although the hit on Higgins was a controversial one, that touchdown could have completely changed the game’s outcome. For that, Higgins gets a B-. 

Michael Gallup: A-

Michael Gallup dominated in 2019 after tallying 1,107 yards receiving and six touchdowns off of 66 receptions. Coming into the 2020 season, Gallup had established himself as one of the Dallas Cowboys’ first choices at wide receiver — and for good reason. 

The Cowboys’ defense this season was bad. Like, really bad. That coupled with losing starting quarterback Dak Prescott to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5, and the Cowboys were in really bad shape; well, they would’ve been in bad shape if they played in any other conference than the NFC East, where they were still very much in the race to clinch the division up until the final weeks of the season. That was thanks in large part to Gallup, who turned 59 receptions into 843 yards receiving and five touchdowns, making him one of their most productive receivers on the season.

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It’s hard to slight Gallup, especially when you consider the situation he was in for a majority of the season, so his grade will remain relatively high, all things considered. Arguably, the only thing that brought it down was his own ceiling that he set for himself last season with his incredible performance so, with that in mind, he’ll receive an A-.

Honorable Mentions

There are two Rams I wanted to include in this list, but due to the injury troubles they sustained during the season, I figured it would be unfair to give them a full grade. Those two players are Preston Williams and Ty Sambrailo.

The Miami Dolphins were 5-3 when Williams was active and up until Week 8, the second-year receiver had contributed 288 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Williams sustained an injury following a touchdown catch against the Arizona Cardinals and was forced to miss the remainder of the season as a result.

Ty Sambrailo played two more games than Williams did and helped the Tennessee Titans to a record of 7-3 before getting injured. Sambrailo stepped up in a big way after left tackle Taylor Lewan tore his ACL in Week 6, allowing Sambrailo to step into the position. He contributed admirably to that Titans offensive line that did so well protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the NFL AP offensive player of the year, running back Derrick Henry.

Unfortunately, Sambrailo sustained his own undisclosed season-ending injury that sidelined him as the Titans made the playoffs for the second year in a row.

These Rams all made the CSU community proud this season, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll do next year.

Bailey Shepherd can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @B_Sheps.