After more than a week of training camp and the first preseason game of 2016, the Los Angeles Rams' coaching staff finally have game tape on most of their players. With a chance to put early camp hype on game display, which players are climbing the ranks?
Position Battle Updates
Case Keenum got the snaps Head Coach Jeff Fisher said he would. Keenum is still firmly in the driver's seat as the Rams starting QB.
Rookie Jared Goff had a rough debut in the box score but was not as bad as his 4-for-9, one-INT performance suggested. He had a few WRs drop passes that were well placed. The dropped pass by Pharoh Cooper near the end zone was a particularly well thrown ball. Goff's night was cut short due to a sore non-throwing shoulder, but it wasn't a catastrophic debut. Goff still has a lot of work to do to supplant Keenum by week one.
Sean Mannion looked like he had been practicing on this earth in the offseason and led the Rams to a comeback win, scoring 21 unanswered points in the second quarter.
Cunningham was impressive early on and got physical on his 14 yard TD run to open the Rams scoring. If Cunningham carries that display over to the regular season, he should be used as more than a receiving type back.
Malcolm Brown ran with power and ripped off the longest carry of the night with a 39 yarder and Aaron Green looked agile and decisive in his cuts while also being a factor in the passing game. Even Chase Reynolds added a nice receiving TD.
This was a fun group to watch and should continue to be as camp progresses.
Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin are still the Rams top two options. Brian Quick had one 13 yard reception but didn't do much else to change his standing, good or bad. Rookie draft picks Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas both had bad drops on some good thrown balls, but Cooper definitely showed some juice running routes and as a return man.
The most pleasant surprise of the night might have came from Nelson Spruce. He carried the offense on a 4th quarter drive to cut Dallas' lead to 3 when he scored a TD and finished the night with a 6/51/1 stat line on 8 targets. Spruce was head and shoulders the best receiver among the rookies and has a leg up on guys like Duke Williams, who had a quiet night, even as he will be sidelined one to two weeks with a leg injury.
After the camp reports and his showing Saturday night, it has now become a "when" not "if" debate on Tyler Higbee can become the team's number one receiving tight end. The rookie was as advertised early and was even lined up on the outside as a WR. Higbee finished the night catching five of six targets for 49 yards and was not a liability as a blocker either. Lance Kendricks didn't do anything to hurt his stock either in the game and finished catching both of his two targets for 11 yards.
In terms of starters and key backups like Garrett Reynolds and Demetrius Rhaney, there wasn't too much to take away from the game. Greg Robinson was solid and Tim Barnes held up well. Cody Wichmann and Reynolds will be a battle to watch until Rob Havenstein returns to the lineup, sending Rodger Saffold back to LG. Darrell Williams got first look as backup LT while Isaiah Battle didn't register a single snap. The coming weeks will offer more clarity on backup positions.
Younger players are going to have a really hard time earning a roster spot within this group. Veteran newcomers Dominique Easley and Quinton Coples had solid showings and both recorded a tackle for loss. Easley in particular looked extremely explosive off the snap and showed early signs of being a potential impact sub. Cam Thomas looked surprisingly quick for a man the size of a semi truck as he tries to battle Easley at DT. Rookie DE Ian Seau may have been the defensive MVP of the game. Seau recorded a sack and consistently created pressure throughout the second half. He'll have a tough time beating out the Rams vets but put together solid game tape in his first game.
I didn't see too many noteworthy plays from this group, and no players really separated themselves from one another behind starters Ogletree, Ayers and Barron. Bryce Hager got the first look at MLB when Ogletree left the game and struggled at times but the Rams run defense as a whole looked sluggish. Josh Forrest, Brandon Chubb and Cameron Lynch are players to watch vs Kansas City as they battle for depth positions.
On the surface, this group had a rough go early on. Lamarcus Joyner and Coty Sensabaugh both had touchdowns thrown on them playing as outside corners. E.J. Gaines did not play but is expected to suit up this week and have a chance to play with the starters. Maurice Alexander got the nod as the starting FS and lined up deep more often than McDonald. Cody Davis and Christian Bryant failed to really stand out, which isn't exactly a bad thing, and Marcus Roberson got in on the preseason cushion of death as well.
The Rams kept coverage very basic in this game, allowing everything in front of them while trying to take away anything over the top. Its easy to look bad when playing safe like this. On the back end of the depth chart, S Brian Randolph suffered a torn ACL and will be unfortunately miss the season. CBs Troy Hill and Mike Jordan were both active in the second half.