Los Angeles Rams: 10 Takeaways From Preseason Game Two vs. Raiders

by Jake Ellenbogen
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The Los Angeles Rams fell to the Las Vegas Raiders, 17-16 on Saturday evening at SoFi stadium. It came down to the final play of the game following a Bryce Perkins two-yard strike to Jacob Harris. The Rams went back to Harris for the win but Perkins sailed it over his head dropping the Rams to 0-2 on the year.

Although the Rams took a loss at SoFi, Perkins showed out and there were plenty of things to take away from the game. Here are 10 Takeaways from Saturday’s loss.

Chris Garrett is past the point of making the roster and could have an actual role with the Rams in 2021

Chris Garrett is a player I absolutely loved the Los Angeles Rams selecting late in the 2021 draft. I didn’t know a ton about him but anytime you got out and select a player that dominates division two and has serious upside over taking a kicker who may not make the roster? I’m all for it. All jokes aside the rookie out of Concordia St. Paul was the star of the show Saturday night.

Garrett after an impressive showing in the first preseason game and the Cowboys joint practice followed it up by notching four tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for a loss, three quarterback hits, a forced fumble and two pass breakups, one of which turned into a J.R. Reed interception. Garrett was all over the backfield and answered the bell. The question with him had always been just how impressive was his production in division two? Was he just more physically gifted than everyone else or was it more than that? Well, this Saturday night Garrett answered the question against a nine-year pro Patrick Omameh as he beat Omameh so badly, the Raiders were forced to start having their tight end chip him in which he still blew by the double team.

Garrett if it wasn’t obvious before is making the 53 man roster. However, now the talk is how big of a role will he have this year? With Terrell Lewis‘ knee issues and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo‘s injury history, it’s safe to say the Los Angeles Rams have to feel good about having Garrett heading into the season.

Bryce Perkins is QB3 and may force the Rams to keep three QBs

The Los Angeles Rams weren’t expecting to role with Bryce Perkins the whole game but the way he impressed coaches and mainly Sean McVay, it was a no-brainer. Perkins took everything he showed last week and added to it while throwing for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 26 pass completion out of 39 attempts. Perkins did have an interception while trying to test the defense deep downfield in triple coverage to TuTu Atwell. He also added 41 yards on nine carries including some clutch runs that extended drives and most notably the game on a tough fourth down in the red zone late in the fourth quarter.

Perkins has delivered after not getting any preseason time last year due to the COVID-19 cancellation of preseason. Despite that in two games he’s given the Rams something to think about, so much so, they didn’t even put their other quarterback Devlin Hodges into the game who started week one of the preseason. The thing that stands out the most about Perkins is how calm, cool and collected he is. The offensive line did him no favors and while the running game as a whole went over 120 yards, it’s not like everything opened up. Perkins because of this was forced to fit the ball into tight windows which he did confidently on tough fourth down conversions leading the Rams to a crazy successful four of five fourth-down conversions.

The big thing with Perkins is the fact the Rams need to figure out what to do. For the first time in a while there is a quarterback the Rams have developed and/or are still developing that has promise and in my mind you can’t afford to let that go by the wayside. While it’s hard to cut the roster down to 53 and keep three quarterbacks, the Rams will have to make a decision whether they value Perkins enough to stash him on the 53 or let him go.

After the last two weeks Perkins has already made enough noise to not survive a waiver-wire placement in hopes of a practice squad. With Seattle employing former Rams offensive coaches Shane Waldron and Andy Dickerson now, it’s extremely likely the Seahawks would look to add Perkins while hurting their division rival. Their backup quarterback is Geno Smith while their third-string quarterback is Alex McGough who threw two interceptions on Saturday. There’s a real concern Perkins would be the Seahawks go-to pickup should he become available.

This is a tough call for the Rams but with John Wolford set to become a restricted free agent next year and potentially opt to try and find a starting opportunity somewhere, it might make the most sense to hold onto your asset as long as you can. We will find out sooner than later how much the Rams covet Perkins but starting him the whole game was certainly telling.

Jake Funk and Xavier Jones deserve a shot to backup Darrell Henderson

This should be obvious but the Los Angeles Rams need to give their backups a shot to backup Darrell Henderson. I’ve been a fan of the idea of grabbing Todd Gurley for a reunion or even Adrian Peterson but I’ve recently gone back on that due to the fact I like the young talent in the backfield. Jake Funk exploded on a 19-yard run and was the leading rusher going for 56 yards on seven carries while Xavier Jones showed some ability going for 29 yards on seven carries and potentially catching a touchdown pass that got called back due to a hold. They both are plenty behind Henderson.

If we are seeing this type of production behind the backup offensive line just imagine if either of these two were forced in with the starters. Funk is a great special teamer but he is turning heads in not only camp but in preseason too. The injury to running back Raymond Calais is unfortunate but it more so hurts the kick returner role than it does the running back room. The Rams do not need to add a veteran.

Bobby Evans hits a new low and struggles against the 3rd team defense

This one was a rude awakening. I could see it coming but I didn’t think it would happen this soon. Bobby Evans has reached bust waters and the former third-round pick in 2019 is on the verge of not making the roster in 2021. It may sound crazy but Evans has gone from being the mini-camp starting right guard to now playing against third-stringers late in the fourth quarter and getting mauled by them.

I wrote about five players who needed to play well Saturday night and Bobby Evans was on that list. He did the exact opposite of play well. It somehow got even worse once right tackle Tremayne Anchrum went down with an injury and Chandler Brewer filled in. The Bobby Evans experiment is not worth losing a player like Perkins, Reed, Hughes or Koski over and that’s what it would take. I’m truly out on Evans. We’ll see if the Los Angeles Rams follow suit.

Jacob Harris and Kendall Blanton catch TDs but Brycen Hopkins flashes a tad as well

Many were curious as to why Jacob Harris wasn’t used as much as he could been in this game. While I think the Los Angeles Rams want to get him reps, I do think they are in a tough spot knowing they want to use him this year and give him a role but also don’t want to tip their hand on how they will implement him. He did get some action towards the end of the game though which including the touchdown in the final seconds.

Kendall Blanton who spent some time on the practice squad last year found the end zone and has made a few highlight reel plays in camp. He was held out of preseason last week so tonight was a good showing, I still don’t think he makes the team and is likely brought back on the practice squad.

That leaves Brycen Hopkins who caught two passes for 31 yards including a long of 18 yards and truly flashed a little bit of what he’s capable of. While Hopkins missed a block on a TuTu Atwell bubble screen, all in all he had a pretty solid performance considering.

I can’t bring myself to say the Rams will cut Hopkins outright and so I’ll stay by what I’ve been saying, the team will likely keep Hopkins and try to develop him alongside Jacob Harris for the future. We will see how next week fairs but Hopkins needed a glimmer of hope and I think he did get that tonight.

J.R. Reed and JuJu Hughes continue to impress on defense

The safety tandem last week had some of the best grades Pro Football Focus gave out to players in preseason last week and I imagine it will be more of the same. JuJu Hughes and J.R. Reed were once again outstanding on Saturday night. Hughes made a few huge plays including one in which he tried jumping the route and picking off a Nathan Peterman pass. Reed actually snagged an interception coming off the tip from Garrett at the line of scrimmage. Reed came away with four tackles, two pass breakups and the interception while Hughes added three tackles and a pass breakup. Both have shown the range in coverage and pop behind their pads to make an impact in the back end of the secondary.

It’s going to be so very difficult to keep two more safeties as the Los Angeles Rams already have four starting-caliber safeties but dare I say they might have six now with Reed and Hughes. I don’t really see how either of those two will make it through waivers without being claimed. The argument that could be made to keep both of them is simple, all four of the top safeties have had issues with health early on and the two guys we are talking about provide special teams ability to go with their defensive prowess. If they keep pressing the way they are the Rams’ decision is going to be next to impossible to make.

Landen Akers and JJ Koski put pressure on injured Trishton Jackson with solid performances

Perkins was sharp tonight in his second preseason game and first-ever start but a lot of that came from the help of Landen Akers and JJ Koski. The two receivers brought in a total of 13 balls for a combined 120 yards on 18 targets. Akers showed impressive ability fighting for extra yards after the catch that actually got him the first down and moved the chains. Where as Koski caught the longest ball of the night on the final drive that set them up near the red zone in which he found the soft spot in the zone and sat underneath for a 19 yard gain.

Both receivers are battling each-other but with Trishton Jackson unable to suit up tonight because of a knee injury and Ben Skowronek out of commission due to a fractured forearm, both players have an opening. Koski was in the building last year but Akers while he’s a UDFA this year, he is playing in the same amount of preseason games as Koski. It’s uncertain if the Rams would keep either over Jackson but it’s worth mentioning both were important for tonight’s game and Perkins’ performance.

Akers seems like a likely practice squad candidate while Koski could be on the 53-man roster or claimed off waivers. We will see but being nine receivers deep like the Los Angeles Rams arguably are is certainly a good problem to have.

Special teams struggles and Rams lose their kick returner

The Rams force five punts on the Raiders and only one of them was returnable by TuTu Atwell due to the lack of blocking by the hands team, Atwell had to throw up the fair catch signal almost every time. Matt Gay due to COVID-19 affecting Johnny Hekker and Corey Bojorquez, had to come in and punt and he did a pretty decent job all thing’s considered. In the kick return game on two returns Otis Anderson took them back for 36 yards. It wasn’t the best special teams performance overall as the Raiders between two different punt returners amassed 43 yards on four returns.

Rams penalties kill an otherwise dominant performance

Penalties are part of the game whether we like them or not but on Saturday night officials threw a total of 14 flags for well over 100-plus yards including a bevy of Rams offensive holding penalties. While I understand why they need to be called, it was still incredibly irritating to have all the stoppages of play. The Rams had 10 penalties and multiple came from the offensive line who didn’t appear at all disciplined.

The penalties ultimately were too much to overcome as the Rams despite leading in time of possession, total yardage and dominating on fourth-down conversions as well as first-downs ended up falling short 17-16. Even though they lost, the Rams, I felt dominated the game. They created two turnovers not including almost a third with the Garrett strip sack and on top of that commanded the game in time of possession. The Rams had a great preseason game plan that allowed them to see fully what Perkins could do on a bigger stage. It’s a shame that the penalties in the end which negated a touchdown and stalled drives were what ended up being too much to overcome.

Tutu Atwell’s durability comes into question

The Rams got their rookie wideout out of Louisville plenty of opportunities as TuTu Atwell came down with 8 catches on 13 targets for 46 yards. Atwell displayed wide receiver ability in the slot and on the outside while having no issue creating separation. The issue was not that though, the issue was Atwell’s alarming injury frequency in this game. While Atwell at no point left the game for good, fans were left panicking and questioning how long a tiny built player will truly last in the rough tough NFL game.

Atwell found himself on the sidelines twice. At one point went from limping off the field on his own power to then seeing him getting knocked to the ground and rolling in pain. It’s not really a joke as much as some may want to make it out to be. Atwell’s injury concern is real and while he came out okay with extra tape around the ankle, the next time might not be so friendly. Can Atwell last in the NFL for the next five to ten years? That’s a legitimate question.

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