Los Angeles Rams: 10 Takeaways From The Preseason Opener

by Blaine Grisak
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The Los Angeles Rams fell to the Los Angeles Chargers, 13-6 on Saturday evening at SoFi stadium. It was the first time this offseason that we’ve been able to see the players in a live game setting. It was also the first preseason game played in SoFi.

We’ll learn a lot about the Rams over the next three weeks before they play the Chicago Bears. Here are 10 Takeaways from Saturday’s loss.

Justin Lawler is Good

Justin Lawler’s story is really special. The Rams drafted him in the seventh round in 2018 and got minimal playing time as a rookie. The next two years, Lawler spent injured and on the injured reserve list. A lot of fans counted him out heading into 2021. As it stands, he has other plans.

After the game, head coach Sean McVay said, ““You could feel him. It was one of those deals where he was making his presence felt. I thought there were a couple of holding calls he could have drawn as well, early on in the game.”

Lawler was all over the field on Saturday night. A lot of what Lawler did didn’t show up on the stat sheet. He had five tackles and two quarterback hits. However, Lawler was extremely disruptive. With his performance on Saturday, he has likely locked up a roster spot. That will make things very complicated for the Rams when it comes to other places on the roster. 

Running Backs not enough behind Henderson

Some context needs to be added here. Darrell Henderson obviously didn’t play. Matthew Stafford wasn’t dressed either along with the entirety of the starting offensive line. Those elements will all help open things up in the run game. With that said, the running backs that the Rams will be relying on behind Henderson didn’t look that impressive.

Between the two of them, Xavier Jones and Jake Funk combined for 14 carries for 35 yards. That’s 2.5 yards per carry.

“There wasn’t much consistency in the run game, but there were a couple of good looks that we had,” said McVay. ““I thought Jones did a good job. Not a whole lot of looks … And Jake Funk showed really great things. The fourth-down and one run, where he’s hit in the backfield and is able to surge forward and get a yard and a half.”

As McVay said, there weren’t a lot of looks. However, there is something to be said about being able to create on your own when you can as a running back. Raymond Calais showed that a little bit, but the run game was non-existent.

Rams Offensive Line Depth

The fact of the matter is, preseason offensive line play throughout the league is brutal. When you get to second and third string offensive linemen playing together, the result is not going to be pretty, regardless of the team. While some might be concerned with the lack of being able to open up holes in the run game or pass protect consistently, I am not.

The Los Angeles Rams had three penalties, but none of which were offensive holding. That’s a positive.

“It was kind of hit or miss,” said McVay. “There wasn’t much consistency in the run game, but there were a couple of good looks that we had. I thought Coleman (Shelton) and Bobby (Evans) did a nice job.”

If the Rams suffer an injury on the offensive line, it’s obviously less than ideal. However, if someone like Evans has to play, he’ll be playing next to much more experienced players which should help. It’s not likely that we get an entire unit of backups which is what we saw on Saturday night.

Return Game Looked Better

The Rams punt returners looked very good on Saturday night. TuTu Atwell broke a big 20 yard return, but in Tavon Austin fashion, it was called back with a holding penalty. On the very next return, Raymond Calais took a punt 46 yards to set up the touchdown drive.

Otis Anderson also had a 15 yard return.

The Rams returners looked good. After what the team experienced last season on special teams, Saturday was a change of pace and gives a positive outlook for the season. Sean McVay lost some good coaches on his staff over the offseason. Joe DeCamillis might have been a good hire.

Jacob Harris is special and could overtake Brycen Hopkins

Saturday night showed just how the Rams view the tight end room. Jacob Harris led all receivers in the game with four receptions for 43 yards. He was also targeted a game-high seven times. The Rams targeted Harris early and often.

McVay praised Harris after the game, saying, “You can see the catch radius. He had a nice little in-breaking route on the second down and got us about 18 yards. He did a lot of things he can learn from it.”

Meanwhile, Brycen Hopkins had one reception for three yards and has clearly been overtaken by Harris. Hopkins could possibly be competing for a roster spot.

It’s clear that the Rams have a plan for Jacob Harris. However, it remains unclear just what his role will be once the regular season begins. Tyler Higbee didn’t dress and neither did Johnny Mundt. Harris is likely still behind both of those players, but could become someone that the Rams use situationally.

Kickers Bring Back Bad Memories

Last season, the kickers didn’t give Los Angeles Rams fans anything to be confident about. The Samuel Sloman experiment was a total disaster. Finally, late in the season, the Rams found some consistency with Matt Gay. The Rams are rolling with Matt Gay again this season.

With that said, Saturday brought back some bad memories from last season. Gay missed an extra point after it was pushed back due to a delay of game. Still, it was a very makable kick and one he should make. Later in the game, Austin MacGinnis missed a 40-yard field goal.

The Rams lost Saturday’s game by seven points. A made extra point and made field goal make it a three point game late. Instead of having to go for it on fourth down late in the fourth quarter, the Rams would have been able to tie things up with a field goal.

In a season in which the Rams have a lot riding, they can’t afford to be held back by the kicking game.

Bryce Perkins Shows Off Athleticism

It’s going to be very difficult for the Rams to keep three quarterbacks. In fact, it’s very unlikely and if the Rams do cut Perkins, it would not be surprising to see another team sign him. Duck Hodges had his moments, but Perkins was the better out of the two. Calais’ return certainly helped the touchdown drive led by Perkins, but the second year quarterback also played well.

Perkins earned some praise from Sean McVay, “I thought he did a nice job. I was real pleased with him. You could see he had a couple of great off-schedule plays tonight. That third-down and nine, that’s definitely on SportsCenter tonight.”

“I was just trying to keep the chains moving,” said Perkins. “Plays like those are just reactionary. You never really think that you’re going to do it coming up but it just happened and just try to give my team another set of downs.”

Perkins completed just seven of ten passes from 42 yards, but it was his four rushes for 23 yards that were impressive as well as his touchdown pass to Trishton Jackson.

Trishton Jackson Has Earned A Roster Spot

Jackson scored the Los Angeles Rams’ lone touchdown of the night which validates what many have said. The 2020 undrafted free agent has had a good camp and will have a say whether or not he makes the roster.

Up until this point, the issue has been that the Rams selected Ben Skowronek in the NFL Draft in April. However, last night, it was made known that Skowronek has a fractured forearm and his timetable for return is unknown.

Injuries are never a good thing, especially for a rookie like Skowronek. It’s likely that he spends his rookie season on injured reserve and Trishton Jackson makes the final 53-man roster.

Sean McVay Has His Priorities Straight

When it comes to the preseason, NFL teams just hope to stay healthy. However, most coaches still play a lot of their first team players and risk injury. Not a single starter dressed for the Rams on Saturday. Unless something happens in a controlled practice environment, the Rams will go into Week 1 fully healthy.

However, McVay also made a decision late in the game as well to put am emphasis on staying healthy. The Rams could have called timeouts late in order to get the ball back and go down and try to tie the game. Instead, McVay did not use his timeouts and the Chargers ran out the clock.

While fans always like to see their team come out with a win, in the preseason, staying healthy is much more important that winning a meaningless game.

Fans Were Back

Fans were back in the stands for the Los Angeles Rams. Some stadiums allowed fans last season, but SoFi was not one of them. This was the first time in which fans were able to experience a game inside SoFi stadium. Fans were loud and brought a lot of energy to a preseason game. Week 1 is going to be even better.

“It was outstanding, really,” said McVay. “You just realized how much the fans create that energy, that atmosphere that makes this game so special. And being here last year in the absence of fans, you really appreciate it even that much more. It gives you that perspective.”

A fight late in the game put a blemish on fans being back in the stands. This stuff isn’t necessary, especially when it’s Rams fans fighting Rams fans. It was nice to have fans back, but let’s try to be smarter and paint Rams fans in a better light.

 

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