Los Angeles Rams’ head coach Sean McVay hasn’t called upon his starters in the 2018 preseason. Regardless of whether it will ultimately be deemed right or wrong in the eyes of the fans, it’s what he thinks is best – in both the short and long term. And it’s hard to question his approach, considering the amount of injuries piling up for other teams this preseason.
In doing so, it’s also allowed McVay and his staff to get a longer look at some of the young players on the roster; many of whom will be released as they whittle down their roster (to 53) prior to the September 1 deadline.
Extended playing time in the absence of the starters has afforded a few players not only the opportunity to earn themselves a spot on the final roster, but potentially shake up the depth chart.
Here are three players who made their case against the Texans on Saturday:
Kelly received plenty of deserved pre- and post-draft praise for his tough, down-field running style. But 6th round picks aren’t guaranteed roster spots, and it made sense to figure him into a roster battle at RB3 - behind Malcolm Brown - with 2017 undrafted free agent running back Justin Davis.
Kelly looked excellent in action against the Texans on Saturday afternoon, carrying the ball 15 times for 64 yards (4.3 ypc) and a score. He showed great quickness, shiftiness in the open field, and consistently churned out extra yards after contact.
Kelly has been the most impressive running back for the Rams all preseason, and appears to have made a strong case for the Rams to make him Todd Gurley’s primary backup.
Allen looked sharp in limited action on Saturday, and proved especially efficient early in the third quarter. Coming out of the locker room at halftime, Allen lead the team down the field with a 19-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a John Kelly touchdown. He made a great play with his legs late in the drive when, on 3rd and 6, the pocket broke down and he was able to escape for a run of 10 yards. That series took more than 12 minutes off the clock in the 3rd quarter.
Allen’s competition at this point is Rams’ backup QB Sean Mannion, who hasn’t done himself any favors this preseason. After a sluggish start (0-5 with an interception) to yesterday’s game, Mannion settled in a bit, completing 11 of his next 12, finishing the game with 68 yards (4.0 yards per attempt).
It’ll be very interesting to see how this roster battle shakes out, and the coaching staff have one week of preseason play remaining to make the determination on who will ultimately be their QB2. A strong showing from Mannion against the Saints could solidify his role as Goff’s backup. Any struggles could make their decision to move forward with Allen, or other options that may come available, that much easier.
Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp watched the game wearing the exact same thing you did yesterday. There is absolutely nothing that Hodge, or any other Rams’ receiver, can do to threaten their jobs as starters.
Pharoh Cooper is a stud special teams player, so he’s a lock. And Josh Reynolds, a 4th round pick from 2017, is likely to stick.
Hodge scored the Rams’ first touchdown of the preseason (watch). He went up over a defender in last week’s game against Oakland, hauling in a 47 yard reception (watch). He also had this beautiful toe-tap catch against the Raiders (watch). He got the start on Saturday vs. the Texans, and hauled in three catches for 22 yards. He has abs (look!).
He’s really stood out in the receiver group and put together a very strong preseason campaign. He leads all Rams’ receivers through three weeks of play, having caught 7 passes for 93 yards.
He’s a likely practice squad stash, but I’d be curious to know if he’s turned enough heads for consideration as the team’s WR6; which presumably belongs to Mike Thomas.