We have made it past the Los Angeles Rams’ preseason week three. Like every week so far, I’m going to be telling you who made an impact, who disappointed, and who gave themselves a real shot to make the Rams’ final roster. This is stock up, stock down for the Los Angeles Rams in preseason week three versus the Denver Broncos.
A Break to Acknowledge Andrew Luck
This week’s preseason games were put on hold to talk about Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement. It’s important to put the lives of current and past NFL players, and how the game has affected their health. Luck is a perfect example of how sports can dehumanize players and throw them into a position where they feel they are stuck. So good on Andrew Luck, one of the smartest guys in the league makes the smart move for himself. Don’t hate it, celebrate it. Now to the game.
David Long Jr. Cornerback
David Long Jr’s name hasn’t come up in recent weeks as much as I’d hoped. Is that a good or a bad thing? With physical, man-to-man corners like Long, hearing their name could mean one of two things: a big play given up, or a big play made. For Long, he hasn’t been bad, he hasn’t been incredibly good either. Against the Denver Broncos, David Long Jr. had a couple of good plays and he showed his ability to do a lot of different things on the field. Tracking down the ball and some good tackling, and some solid all-around coverage, Long played well on Saturday night. With a locked roster spot set for him, this preseason is just about the experience for David Long Jr. The more the better for the rook.
KhaDarel Hodge, Wide Receiver
In the race between KhaDarel Hodge and Michael Thomas for the fifth wide receiver spot, I’d have to say Hodge has the edge so far. Hodge’s run-after-catch ability has been evident and abundant through the first couple games of the preseason. Hodge did suit up in Super Bowl 53 and during last season. He stepped in once Cooper Kupp went out with a torn ACL late in the season. The Rams will want to keep Thomas around, especially after his performance this week. Hodge will make it hard on the organization to turn him down.
Michael Thomas, Wide Receiver
The Los Angeles Rams are just too deep at the wide receiver position. Michael Thomas is a player who has just stuck on the edge of the Rams’ roster, but can he this season? Both KhaDarel Hodge and Nsimba Webster are both newer to the Rams, but they have both shown more on the field through the first two games of the preseason. In the third preseason game versus the Broncos, Thomas showed out. A big-time catch and thrown from Brandon Allen in the first quarter, and a number of other quality receptions helped his case. Thomas should need another great performance in the fourth preseason game to keep his roster spot, but his third game should help him tremendously.
Travin Howard, Inside Linebacker
The opposite of the wide receiver group, the linebacking core has some of the worst depth on the team. After Micah Kiser’s potentially season-ending pectoral injury, there are a few names to consider getting bumped-up in the rotation. Dakota Allen, Natrez Patrick, and Travin Howard. Howard showed his full arsenal of athletic abilities in the game versus the Broncos. In Saturday’s game, Howard had a couple of “wow” tackles and some explosive plays from the middle. He popped off of the screen, and that’s what you want from a potential second-string inside linebacker.
Aaron Neary and Jamil Demby, Interior Offensive Linemen
Jamil Demby and Aaron Neary weren’t good. Again. The key cogs of the preseason interior offensive line were horrific to watch in the run game; they made it tough on Darrell Henderson Jr. Neary didn’t play as much as he or the Rams wanted him to due to that leg injury in the first half. In the time that he did play, he was horrible. It is important to note that Neary won’t be playing the first four games of the season because of his suspension. That takes his bad play and minimizes it a bit.
For Jamil Demby, his play is only getting magnified at this point. The big-time expectations have really destroyed Demby and his play hasn’t helped. In the first game, he had noticeable bad plays, back-to-back-to-back, and in the two games since it hasn’t gotten better. No penalties in the game versus the Broncos helps Demby’s case, but he just can’t seem to figure out how to run block. He is a lock for the 53-man roster, but Demby needs to put in some serious work with Aaron Kromer this offseason, or his career with the Rams could be in danger.
Dominique Hatfield, Cornerback
Dominique Hatfield is a longshot to make the Los Angeles Rams’ final roster this season. With his fellow corners such as Kevin Peterson and Steven Parker playing great, Hatfield already faced an uphill battle. He hasn’t exactly helped himself much either. Getting beat downfield in this week’s game became normal for Hatfield, and with a penalty as well, he crumbled with the pressure on. When he got starter reps with the Rams he didn’t play good but this preseason has been a far cry from average for the soon-to-be free agent corner. He needs to turn it around or hope one of his peers in the secondary starts to crumble too, or Hatfield’s time with the Rams is over.
Austin Proehl, Wide Receiver
Austin Proehl may be a son of a Rams receiving legend, but the legendary hands haven’t shown up in the Rams’ 2019 preseason. Proehl has a mountain range to climb over with the current wide receivers group. We have already seen three receivers outperform him so far this preseason. Michael Thomas, Nsimba Webster, and KhaDarel Hodge have all done their part in making the receiving corps watchable. Proehl has been one of the odd men out. Putting him on the stock-down list is more attributed to his lack of play than his actual play. Against Denver, Proehl was targeted a few times, overthrown once, and he didn’t make a difference. If he isn’t picked up on the market I could see Proehl making his way back to Los Angeles on the practice squad.
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