Time to get in the install for the starters.
Tonight, the Los Angeles Rams take on the Los Angeles Chargers in the #FightForLA in the third game of the 2017 preseason. After a very inspiring performance from the early work from QB Jared Goff and the starting offense, they’ll be looking for a repeat performance against the Bolts.
So to get a better understanding of what we’re up against tonight, I linked up with Richard Wade from Bolts from the Blue, the SB Nation community for Chargers fans.
1.) It's been seven months since you guys relocated to LA. How is the "settling in" period going for the team? How have fans responded since training camp opened?
There is still quite a bit of uncertainty among the fan base. It's hard to really know how you'll feel when the real games start happening in a couple weeks. Obviously, the low turnout for preseason home games has been well documented nationally, so the overall level of excitement isn't exactly on par with the return of the Rams to Los Angeles. Some people are clearly just as excited as ever for the season to kick off, but there is a palpable tentativeness and it will be very interesting to see how people react.
For now, it's all very much a wait and see approach.
2.) Offensively, you guys have a ton of talent. Is there anything keeping you guys from putting up a top unit this year on the offensive side of the ball?
There is a lot of talent at the skill positions on offense. TEs Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry are as good of a tight end tandem as you will find in the NFL. RB Melvin Gordon is a legitimate bell cow running back. WR Keenan Allen is always open. WR Tyrell Williams showed that he can be a team's #1 option in the passing game last year.
The offensive line is still a work in progress if not the mess it was in the past few years, though. If the line can't keep QB Philip Rivers upright and open up holes for Gordon, it won't matter how talented the skill position players are.
3.) As for defense...well, there are questions. Yall were 29th in points allowed last year. Without any top draft talent injected into the side, how is the defense shaping up this year?
The Chargers may have been 29th in points allowed last year, but that was more about the offense and special teams being lackluster. The defense was actually 7th in the NFL on a per play basis (per DVOA).
The only reason to worry about the defense not being one of the league's best this season is that they will be guided by a new coordinator in Gus Bradley and Bradley brings with him a different philosophy and base formation than the outgoing John Pagano had in place. DEs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are one of the best pass rushing duos in the league. CBs Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward are both at worst top-15 cornerbacks. If the defense can learn how to play under Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley and not get caught thinking about their new roles/responsibilities they should be excellent again this year.
4.) Speaking of the draft class, how have the rookies looked? Obviously, without Mike Williams going, it lacks that headliner right now on the field. But how is the rest of the class faring?
Mike Williams was already bad pick when his name was called on draft night. Losing him for what will most likely be the whole season is unfortunate but not the worst thing that could have happened. Losing second-round pick OG Forrest Lamp for the season, however, was borderline tragic. He was supposed to be the focal point of the newly rebuilt offensive line and he will be badly, badly missed. Third-rounder OG Dan Feeney is competing for a starting spot and looks like he can hold his own already. Fourth-round pick S Rayshawn Jenkins should be able to contribute as a role player on a team with poor depth at safety. DB Desmond King, who somehow lasted to the fifth round, already looks like a quality starter as the nickel back. The fan base is already getting excited about him. Sixth-round pick OT Sam Tevi might hang on at the end of the roster if there are injuries but is most likely fighting for a practice squad spot. And finally seventh-rounder DE Isaac Rochell has a chance of making the final 53-man roster since one of the guys ahead of him on the depth chart will start the season suspended, but he is most likely a practice squad candidate at this point.
5.) Which roster bubble guys have impressed in camp and through the two preseason games? Who should Rams fans be prepared to take note of from the second half this weekend?
The main one is #40, DE Chris McCain. He was definitely on the outside looking in coming into training camp, but has been one of the best players in each of the Chargers first two preseason games, and he's now in with a chance of taking the backup LEO job from the perpetually injured Jerry Attaochu. McCain is hard to miss, both because he's 6'5 and because he'll be sitting on top of your QB at some point on Saturday. #80 Sean Culkin came into camp very much an underdog, but he's made some nice plays at TE and could do the same again on Saturday. #71 Damion Square has done a nice job on the DL and won't make life easy for the Rams backup OL, and #89 Isaiah Burse has looked competent as a returner as well as a receiver, albeit with limited targets.
Thanks to Richard for the time.