The Rams extended their preseason winning streak to two in the 21-20 win over the Houston Texans this past Saturday at the Coliseum. Here is who raised or lowered their stock in this game.
RB John Kelly (15car/64yds/2TDs)
John Kelly has put on a clinic in the preseason. The Rams clearly found a gem in the later portion of the draft. Kelly has shown everything the NFL is looking for in a starting running back. Just think of that statement for a second. “Starting running back” That means the Rams sixth-round pick that will seemingly spell Todd Gurley on third-downs has shown abilities that other teams are looking for out of their go-to back. It’s early and it’s preseason but the way Kelly runs, he should be on another roster starting and that is what makes the Rams roster so special. You find yourself saying that about a lot of the Rams second-stringers. Kelly has risen his stock as high as one can at this point. It’s actually to the point he probably should sit out of game four of the preseason. Besides the two touchdowns Kelly scored, the most impressive stat of the day was his yards after contact which ended up at 52 yards. The former Tennessee Volunteer is in for a great career if he can keep up his consistency and stay healthy.
WR Fred Brown (5rec/35yds)
It’s been an up-and-down preseason for the former Rams practice squad WR Fred Brown. Last week he racked up a total of three drop passes but this week he started with Cooper, Hodge and reeled in five out of six targets. The offense early on had a real hard time getting going but Brown was able to salvage a decent day out of the lack of opportunities. The stock is up for Brown but it’s not up enough to make this roster.
WR Pharoh Cooper (3rec/22yds/TD)
The Rams All-Pro return man had some opportunities placed in front of him this past game on offense. Pharoh Cooper took snaps in the slot and on the outside as a starting wideout opposite KhaDarel Hodge and Fred Brown. Cooper scored on a smooth to the outside left pylon but what was impressive was how quick he looked in space. Cooper does not get the opportunities he likely could on another team when it comes to the offense and that might not change with the addition of Brandin Cooks but Cooper clearly is talented enough to check into the game in the slot. In this contest, Cooper just seemed like a player that knew he belonged on offense and showed off his route running ability in full display. It’s worth mentioning he went up against the Texans first-team defense and had success in doing so.
WR KhaDarel Hodge (3rec/22yds)
Hodge didn’t quite have the game many wanted him to when it comes to the box score but it’s important to keep in mind that Hodge displayed NFL-level route running, route deception, change of direction and of course, hands. He found himself open often but either went undetected by the QB or was a poor throw. Hodge caught three passes on four targets but easily could have had more if Mannion had more time to survey the field earlier in the game. The question’s not: “Is KhaDarel Hodge good enough to make this roster?” The question is: “Can the Rams afford to let go of a recent draft pick in Mike Thomas or even more recent in Josh Reynolds for an impressive UDFA?” it’s hard to imagine the Rams cutting Reynolds or Thomas but sometimes players like Hodge push a team’s hand and force them to make an unexpected move. It happens every year around the league when a player that is expected to make the roster is suddenly cut to everyone’s surprise. Hodge could definitely be the catalyst of a major shakeup in the WR room.
G Aaron Neary
Per Pro Football Focus, Aaron Neary finished with a second-consecutive game over a grade of 80 overall. Neary is scratching and clawing his way onto this roster. It’s uncertain if he’s done enough but he has been able to put together some solid tape. Regardless of whether or not he’s a Ram come week one, he’s done enough to make a 53-man roster in this league. Neary has continued to improve and it showed early on in preseason to now. Neary had allowed one pressure on the QB in the first two games and didn’t allow one in this game.
ILB Micah Kiser (7 tackles/Sack/2 TFL’s/2 PD’s/QB Hit)
The Rams fifth-round selection of Virginia had one of the best games we have seen out of a player all preseason. Micah Kiser put all of the doubters to rest with his performance this week. Kiser did nothing new this week as far as flying all over the field, filling his appropriate gap assignment and putting pressure on the QB with the blitz. However, Kiser’s presence in coverage was felt big time. Kiser registered two pass breakups in this contest and was practically everywhere in this game. This is exactly what you want to see out of your draft picks, this type of game makes you wonder how good this player is going to end up being. Kiser is going to be putting some serious pressure on the Rams front office as to what they do with Mark Barron who signed long-term a couple of off-seasons ago. PFF gave Kiser one of the best grades of the week with a monster 91.5 which included elite 90+ grades in both run defense and coverage.
OLB Ejuan Price (tackle/TFL/QB Hit)
The Rams former seventh-round pick out of Pittsburgh had himself a day and it was one that was imperative for his status on this roster. Ejuan Price was excellent in the pass rushing department. Price had two pressures on the QB including two sacks that did not count. The first sack was nullified by a terrible penalty thrown on Kiser’s shoulder first hit on the QB and the second sack was on a two-point conversion which for some reason does not count in the box score. Price made short work of his assignment LT Roderick Johnson. Price beat Johnson with multiple moves including a nasty spin move and drew multiple holds on Johnson. It’s uncertain if Price has “made” the roster but he certainly helped his stock this week.
CB Sam Shields (INT/PD)
This is the first season since 2016 that Sam Shields has played professional football. Fans alike were excited when he signed a one-year deal with the Rams but they weren’t sure what they were going to get out of someone that came close to calling it quits for good not long ago. Well, the fun continued as Shields performed this preseason and finally had his big moment in which he picked off Brandon Weeden after undercutting WR Sammie Coates on a slant route. Shields looks ready to add a serious element to the Rams scary defense off the bench. Once he had gathered the interception you saw that speed Shields is known for come into full effect as he took it another ten yards down the sideline. If Shields stays healthy he could be the best number four cornerback in football.
The QB Room outside of Jared Goff
It’s getting to be that time of year when the Rams will have to decide who the backup is for Jared Goff. It’s likely going to be Sean Mannion but the overall issue here is how weak the Rams QB room is behind Goff. The Rams have not played Luis Perez in preseason and who knows what he will end up being when he finally plays but make no mistake the Rams could and should definitely look at other options. Brandon Allen seems like the better fit than Mannion but unfortunately, the Rams are only going to be able to keep one and it seems highly unlikely Mannion is who they will move on from. Allen has shown more as far as moving the ball downfield. Mannion did struggle mightily to start the game against the first-team defense and then when they came out he was able to have some success. Perez is the only QB the Rams are able to place on the 10-man practice squad and that might explain why they haven’t trotted out the UDFA in a preseason game yet.
As mentioned in our broadcast this past game, the only team besides the Rams that has seen Perez in camp is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are having a QB controversy in itself right now anyway but if they wanted to they could easily try and steal Perez if they liked what they saw. The best approach might be to just ride with Allen, place Perez on the practice squad and then test the waters on the trade market and monitor the waiver wire. Also as mentioned before, Ravens’ Robert Griffin III, Vikings’ Kyle Sloter and Redskins’ Colt McCoy make the most sense but it remains uncertain if the Rams would even consider trading for any of them or signing one should any of them be placed on waivers.
This is a tad nit-picky however, the Rams racked up ten penalties for 95 total yards. These penalties stalled certain offensive drives in the midst of a score or rather ended them before they started. This is something Sean McVay will surely look to get cleaned up before their week four preseason matchup against the New Orleans Saints and even more importantly before their road opener in Oakland.
TE Temarrick Hemingway (1rec/-2yds)
It’s painful to say this but Temarrick Hemingway who has by all accounts had a nice camp and looked primed to make this roster had himself a game to forget. Granted, Hemingway barely saw targets come his way but dropped two of three and the only other one he caught for a loss of two yards. It’s one of those things where Johnny Mundt could make a run at Hemingway and push him off the roster but it’s important to keep in mind that Hemingway has drawn some praise in camp. Coaches will go over the film and make their determination. With one game left you definitely have to hope Hemingway is able to help the offense in any way. As a receiver he hasn’t had many opportunities due to the poor QB play but surprisingly has had more success as a blocker. Hemingway is not off the roster but it would be helpful if he were to have a solid performance this last week of preseason. It does make you wonder how his production would have looked had he played with the second-team offense orchestrated by Brandon Allen.
CB Troy Hill (tackle)
It’s been a disastrous preseason for the Rams CB who stood out big-time in the playoffs last year. Hill has gone from looking like the best CB on the roster at the end of last year to on the roster bubble. With the way Dominique Hatfield is playing Hill could very well be playing next week to save his spot on the roster. Hatfield looks to have really found his stride and has improved upon an already impressive season last year to even make the 53 to begin with. Hill was beat by WR Braxton Miller for a touchdown in which Hill did not get his head turned and showed little awareness to where the ball was. Week four could be the last game Troy Hill plays in a Los Angeles Rams uniform. We will certainly find out what the team thinks of him moving forward.
CB Taurean Nixon (8 tackles)
Don’t let the box score stats fool you, Taurean Nixon has struggled all preseason as well and this past game was no different. Nixon racked up eight tackles but was dominated all day in coverage. He drew a pass interference which, in his defense, was overblown. Nixon did make a huge tackle on fourth down to seal the game for the Rams in preseason win number two but he consistently beat and with no practice squad eligibility left he figures to be cut and scrambling for an NFL job very soon. He would need a big game this upcoming week but importantly it’s not about the Rams at this point it’s about putting more tape out there for other teams. His stock is down and his chances of making this roster are next to none.