The 2018 NFL preseason is officially over. Is there anyone out there as happy as me to get this show on the road? Regular season football, here we come!
But first, let's look at the ten things I took away from the preseason. The good, the bad, the ugly...I want to bare it all.
- The Los Angeles Rams backups are terrible. There needs to be quite a few moves made in the coming days. The Rams should be one of the most active teams on the waiver wire — addressing areas such as quarterback, offensive line, outside linebacker, and safety.
- Speaking of backups, it's time the Rams move on from QB Sean Mannion. 3k has mentioned this before, but the backup job needs to be addressed. Mannion was terrible. If starting QB Jared Goff misses anytime, then that's all she wrote folks! Backups I would look into include (but are not limited to), Indianapolis Colts QB Phillip Walker, Seattle Seahawks QB Austin Davis, Los Angeles Chargers QB Geno Smith, or Pittsburgh Steelers QB Landry Jones.
- The Rams were forcing the ball to WR Freddie Brown all preseason. He led the team in targets by a wide margin seeing 23 targets in 11 quarters of football. That's a little over seven targets a game. He didn't do much with it, catching 13 passes for 90 scoreless yards and five drops. Why is this interesting you ask? Well two reasons. What did he show in practice to warrant so much attention (more than WR KhaDarel Hodge). Secondarily, he played the same position/role as Robert Woods. Could this be a sign for a huge target year for Woods? The attack was very balanced last year but could lean a little more on Woods with Brandin Cooks in town. His threat should open things up.
- I stated as much on Turf Show Radio a few weeks ago, but I believe it would not be a shock to see WR Josh Reynolds get the boot. A fourth round draft pick is far from a lock to make the roster in year one. It's even further from a lock in year two when you didn't really do much in year one. So when you're hurt, the saying goes: "you can't make the club in the tub". Hodge could sneak in and steal the sixth receiver spot.
- The Rams defense is for real. In the one instance where we saw the starting unit hit the field for an extended look against the Oakland Raiders starting unit, they were absolutely dominant. And this was without DE Aaron Donald and LB Mark Barron. This tells me they can be even better. If you’re an opposing offense on the schedule this season, the Rams have to be circled on your schedule.
- Speaking of seeing starters, it is unbelievably rare to see your healthy starting quarterback not see any reps in the preseason. I mean incredibly rare. It almost never happens. The reason is because it's such a rhythm position. You want to get him those reps as preparation. I can't help but wonder what the hell kind of voodoo mojo HC Sean McVay has worked in the genes of Goff to feel there won't be any rust in Week 1 against the Raiders. Sitting your running back, not so rare. Actually sitting any position outside of QB, not so rare. It's slightly rare to not let your starting line gel, but still not as rare as the QB. I'm interested in seeing how this turns out.
- Rams TE Tyler Higbee could be a featured weapon on third down and in the red zone. I saw a lot of designed routes to hit the TE from inline in those situations this preseason. Actually more than I saw all of last year under McVay. The quarterback and line play was not the greatest so most of them failed to work, but they were there. It's a big year for Higbee as he enters year three which is a prime year for tight ends. He played really well last year. Some will get too caught up in the numbers but they're failing to realize how many mouths are to be fed in this offense. The tight end is typically the fourth option at best. I'm wondering if McVay and Goff will be feeding him a little more.
- Sean McVay can't hold his water. He got a little bit of good news on DE Aaron Donald and turned into a 13 year old boy with a crush. I’ve never seen him so giddy before. When asked for an update on Donald, he blushed and let it all out. Even telling Rams Senior Director of Communications Artis Twyman to fall back when he tried to intervene, as he felt McVay was giving too much info. But who could blame him? It's been a long 15 months of negotiating. The coach is ready to see his best player get back once and for all. But man was his reaction so much different from the times when he had absolutely no firm updates other than "we're communicating". Be proud and be happy McVay. I get it, however, we all now know to never share a secret with you.
- Two linebackers stood out to me like a sore thumb this preseason, and one doesn't play for the Rams. The first is ILB Micah Kiser. Go back to my scouting report and you will see I loved this kid coming out of college. In fact there was only one LB I loved more and he is the other linebacker that stood out to me. In my opinion Kiser was the best non-starting linebacker for the entire NFL this preseason. He finished with 26 tackles, three deflections, a sack, couple tackles for loss and some great pressures in nine quarters played (basically two games). The other LB was Seahawks stud, and fifth round pick, Shaquem Griffin. I ramped and raved about him hard during the scouting season. Most disagreed telling me he's just a good story. But as I said repeatedly, his story is secondary to his level of play if he had both hands he would have been a first round draft pick. And he's off to a good start. He also had 26 tackles, a couple for loss, and some nice pressures. He was all over the field and always around the ball. I wanted the Rams to draft him and most around here did not. Now buckle up, this kid will be a pain in the Rams ass for a long time.
- Running back Todd Gurley hates the preseason. He was overjoyed to hear he would not play, which is fine. As mentioned above it's not unheard of for the RB to miss the entire exhibition portion of a season. In fact it's most common with their position. But I was not a fan of downplaying of these vital four games leading into the season. I hate with a passion when players who have it made diss the preseason. Yes, it's nothing to you, but it's also not for you. I hate the talk of shortening it, as well. These games are huge for coaches, and really for most teams the determine about 10-15 spots on average for the 32 different 53-man rosters across the league. We will go with the median and say 13. That's over 400 jobs. Without the preseason we don't have players like RB Terrell Davis, QB’s Kurt Warner and Tom Brady, TE’s Shannon Sharpe and Antonio Gates, WR Antonio Brown, DE Jared Allen, etc... Of this group listed only Jared Allen was at least a fourth round pick. Everyone else was sixth round to undrafted. Without the preseason we would not have seen dozens and dozens of hall of fame players. Lay off the preseason, it's a good thing.
Hope for underdogs: There are more undrafted free agents on NFL rosters today (481) than 1st- and 2nd-round picks combined (480), per Elias.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 5, 2016
The 2018 NFL season is upon us. Enjoy folks, because believe me when I tell you, it will be Super Bowl time in no time at all...