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The five things to watch in Los Angeles Rams vs. Oakland Raiders

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Here’s the important stuff.

Los Angeles Rams CB Marcus Peters dives into the endzone to cap off a pick six in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders, Sep. 10, 2018.
Los Angeles Rams CB Marcus Peters dives into the endzone to cap off a pick six in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders, Sep. 10, 2018.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

As the Los Angeles Rams get set to open their preseason campaign against the Oakland Raiders tonight, here are the major things I’m looking for:

1.) First-string playing time

A year ago, the Rams went into the preseason knowing Head Coach Sean McVay was going to rest nearly every starting player. In the 2018 preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens, just two Rams played in that game and started the Week 1 regular season opener against the Raiders: OL Austin Blythe and EDGE Samson Ebukam.

This year though, there’s a transition to a younger starting roster on both sides of the ball that will see starting candidates involved early.

LG Joseph Noteboom and C Brian Allen are tabbed to take over the starting offensive line duties with LG Rodger Saffold III and C John Sullivan having departed. DL Sebastian Joseph-Day sounds like the early pick to fill in for DL Ndamukong Suh on the defensive line. And ILB Micah Kiser is the likely first nod in the stead of ILB Mark Barron. All four second-year players will likely see time tonight.

Should this be the beginning of a positive preseason stretch, we’ll likely see them start in Week 1 of the regular season against the Carolina Panthers.

2.) Drafted rookies

The Rams delayed their entry in the 2019 NFL Draft on the back of three trades, but the class they did bring in is set to prove themselves this preseason.

The additions in the secondary of S Taylor Rapp and CB David Long, Jr., will have plenty of attention tonight. The offensive line depth in OL Bobby Evans and OT David Edwards will have a chance to boost their resumes going into what will be designed redshirt seasons like Noteboom and Allen a year ago.

But there’s one rookie who will have a starring role tonight...

3.) Hendo

The Rams traded up in the third round of the 2019 draft to take RB Darrell Henderson, Jr. The likeliest candidate to shoulder the load of the Rams’ plan to take the load off of RB Todd Gurley, Hendo is going to be a focal point for tonight.

4.) RB depth

Beyond Henderson is some confusion.

Is RB Malcolm Brown still in the mix as a running back or is his role being relegated to special teams only? And what of RB John Kelly and RB Justin Davis? With Henderson now set to support Gurley, how long does the running back depth chart need to be?

I had Kelly in as the RB4 in my latest 53-man roster prediction, but I think there’s an opportunity throughout the preseason (in games and in practice) to modify the depth chart.

5.) Pass rushing

It’s my biggest concern heading into the season.

Who’s going to get to the QB in clear pass rushing situations?

While the veteran starters in LB Clay Matthews and EDGE Dante Fowler Jr. (and perhaps Ebukam), aren’t likely to play tonight, plenty of the depth chart should be in action.

Could EDGE Trevon Young or EDGE Justin Lawler factor? Will EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo ever see the field? Will uncover a diamond in the rough in the second half to polish?