We’re now through three preseason games with just the fourth remaining for the 2019 Los Angeles Rams. The final preseason game is historically used to gauge the talent levels at the very back of the roster.
Recent changes to the roster timeline have rendered the game even less relevant to the proceedings of the following regular season. Prior to the 2017 season, NFL teams used to cut their 90-man roster to a 75-man roster after the third preseason game. Now that the 90-man roster stays in place until the cuts to a 53-man roster after the fourth game, teams have an extra 15 players they can use in the final preseason game who have no chance at making the final roster.
This fits the larger trend of devaluing the four-game preseason, a trend magnified by Rams Head Coach Sean McVay having sat his starters for the last two preseasons (save for some minor exceptions). Whereas teams had been pushed to use the final game with a 75-man roster to play more valuable players for further assessment, the change signified a lack of interest in doing just that.
I say all of that to preface a look at the snap counts from the first three games and what it might mean in terms of roster cuts and the difficult decisions ahead.
2019 Rams PS snap counts - offense
OT Bobby Evans played every snap of the first two games before missing just five snaps in Week 3 against the Denver Broncos. I think overall for the offensive line though, the approach has been to get the top six backups (Evans, David Edwards, Jamil Demby, Chandler Brewer, Jeremiah Kolone and Aaron Neary) as much time as possible. That likely means there’s pretty much no shot for the bottom three on the depth chart in Matt Kaskey, Vitas Hrynkiewicz or Brandon Hitner. Perhaps the surprise then is that Brewer has been the standout among the pack.
At wideout, we can see the staff is interested in evaluating WR KhaDarel Hodge and WR Jalen Greene moreso than the other youth or WR Mike Thomas. While I think that indicates a kind of certainty in the coaches’ evaluation of Thomas (which isn’t surprising Thomas is heading into his fourth season), it likely indicates the opposite for Hodge and Greene. That the uncertainty around the evaluation for those two coincides with high snap counts likely suggests some favor in their direction toward the roster and/or the practice squad.
At tight end, it would seem to be a two-horse race for TE3 between Johnny Mundt and Kendall Blanton.
2019 Rams PS snap counts - defense
This side is much, much harder to parse.
On offense, you had eight players with 50% or more of the snaps and 15 with 30% or more. A pretty clear divide. But here, you have just three defenders with 50% or more and 22 with 30% or more.
Hello, roster battles!
The defensive line snaps have gone by and large to the deepest depth, though it’s worth noting DT Sebastian Joseph-Day didn’t play on Saturday due to a tight hamstring.
The competition at linebacker has been higher, but circumstances have made the snap counts unsteady. ILB Micah Kiser injured his pec in the second game and will miss the regular season. EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo finally got some game experience in the last two preseason games. EDGE Trevon Young has missed the last two games with an ankle injury. Nevertheless, LB Natrez Patrick and LB Dakota Allen have gotten the most time and looked the better along with it.
The Rams’ have one of the best starting secondaries in the NFL, but the depth also might also contend for leaguewide preeminence. While the offense has been poor overall led by the poor play from the line leading to just 23 points in three games, the defense has been conversely stellar allowing just 34 points. A lot of the reason why rests with the secondary. That the three defenders with the most snaps through three games are defensive backs shouldn’t surprise. That likely indicates good things for CB Darious Williams, CB Dominique Hatfield and S Steven Parker, though not necessarily a spot on the 53.
2019 Rams PS snap counts - special teams
Preseason special teams counts are haaaaaaaard to parse.
Some are sincere evaluation snaps. Some are more to just use the backend of the roster to avoid risking injury to more valuable players. It’s still worth it to note that top 10 or 12 or so. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them is a shock add to the 53-man roster because of their teams skills and we can point back to this on Saturday when the 53-man deadline hits.