Rams rookies Pharoh Cooper, Tyler Higbee still waiting

LOS ANGELES -- Despite showing varying degrees of promise throughout OTAs and in training camp, the Los Angeles Rams' rookie class has been virtually invisible through the first six weeks.

And it isn't just Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick who has been relegated to backup duty.

It's Pharoh Cooper, who seemed solidified as the No. 3 receiver but has barely even been active. It's Tyler Higbee, the dynamic tight end who figured to be a major part of the passing game but has only been used as a decoy. And it's Nelson Spruce, the undrafted free agent who turned heads as a valuable possession receiver early in camp but has yet to even suit up.

Most of the action has been absorbed by a couple of sixth-round picks, receiver Michael Thomas and linebacker Josh Forrest. Thomas has carved out a role on special teams. Forrest, who became the No. 3 linebacker once Akeem Ayers was cut, has seen his playing time increase over the last two weeks. Forrest played in a season-high 44 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 5 and got 26 percent of the snaps in Week 6, a 31-28 loss to the Detroit Lions that saw him record two tackles for loss.

Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said late last week that Forrest has "adjusted very well."

"He’s been in my doghouse since the very first snap that he played, but all rookies are in my doghouse," Williams added. "All rookies have to understand there’s lots of people that have played this game way before them and we’re not playing it for a scholarship anymore, we’re not playing it for intramurals anymore. We’re playing it for real."

By choice, the Rams have yet to receive production from their first three selections from the 2016 draft. It includes Goff, and it includes their two fourth-round picks, Higbee and Cooper, who have yielded targets and time to the more experienced Lance Kendricks and Brian Quick, respectively. Higbee, listed at 6-foot-4 and 243 pounds, has received the second-most snaps at tight end, ahead of fixture Cory Harkey. But he has been targeted only six times through the first six games.

"As a former tight end coach, the success of a tight end is not always based on receptions," Rams offensive coordinator Rob Boras said when asked of Higbee recently. "There’s a lot of other things that we ask him to do."

Cooper -- like Spruce -- missed the first three weeks because of injury, then was inactive in Week 4, got seven offensive snaps in Week 5 and was inactive again in Week 6, largely because the Rams needed reinforcements for a shorthanded defensive line.

"It's nothing that he's done or hasn't done," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said of Cooper. "It's just hard to keep getting all those guys up. Coop's done well."

Not well enough to actually carve out a role, which tends to fall in line with Fisher's methodical approach for rookies. The most notable, of course, is Steve McNair, the No. 3 overall pick who didn't become his starting quarterback with the Tennessee Titans (then the Oilers) until his third NFL season.

But that approach has applied with the Rams, too.

Zac Stacy was clearly one of the Rams' best running backs heading into the 2013 season, but he wasn't really used until Week 5. The following year, Tre Mason was noticeably better, but he didn't receive a significant amount of carries until Week 7. That same year the Rams drafted left tackle Greg Robinson second overall and defensive tackle Aaron Donald 13th. Neither really carved out a spot in the starting lineup until Week 5.

Perhaps that means Cooper and Higbee will get their chance soon.

ESPN 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner contributed to this report.