The Los Angeles Charges bested the Los Angeles Rams 13-6 in Saturday night’s preseason contest and the first game at SoFi Stadium in front of fans. Leading up to the game, Head Coach Sean McVay indicated around 35 players would not participate. With that said, only around 18 players that were on the field Saturday night will make the final 53 roster - others will have the opportunity to earn a spot on the practice squad.
There were some promising contributors in the battle for LA and others that did not perform up to expectations. Here are four winners from the first preseason contest against the Chargers, plus three players or positions that aren’t feeling as hot right now.
Justin Lawler, EDGE
A former 2018 seventh-round draft choice from SMU, Justin Lawler was the star of the evening and may have solidified his place on the Rams final 53-man roster. Lawler appeared in every game during his rookie season, though his role was mostly limited to special teams. Unfortunately, injuries kept him off the field during 2019 and 2020. It’s encouraging to see Lawler persevere and overcome injuries to become a preseason standout.
On just the first series of the game Lawler recorded multiple pressures and a hit on Chargers veteran quarterback Chase Daniel, one of these pressures forcing an incompletion on the goal line and a field goal attempt. On the second series the outside linebacker made a tackle for loss in the run game. All in all, it was an impressive night from the fourth year player who now projects to be the primary backup to EDGE Leonard Floyd.
Jacob Harris, TE
Rookie Jacob Harris showed flashes of promise and elite athletic ability during offseason activities and training camp, and it’s good to see this carryover to the preseason as well. At times, Harris seemed raw, fumbling after a long catch and run sequence and then being unable to stay in-bounds for what would have been a spectacular touchdown grab. It is not reasonable to expect Harris to be a staple of the 2021 Rams offense in his first year, but McVay can provide opportunities - either schematically or situationally - that are advantageous with the rookie’s unique skill set.
Bryce Perkins, QB
Bryce Perkins’ rookie preseason campaign never took place due to COVID-19 restrictions, so this was the first time we’ve seen him live in a Rams uniform. The depth on the offensive line did not have a strong outing on Saturday night, but Perkins was better equipped to handle pressure and off-schedule plays than fellow backup Devlin “Duck” Hodges. Perkins finished 7 of 10 for 42 yards as a passer and recorded 4 attempts for 23 yards on the ground.
The second-year signal caller figures to split playing time with Hodges for the remaining two preseason games, so the pecking order could easily change; however, it is fair to question whether the Rams will be able to stash Perkins on the practice squad this season or if he must be carried on the 53-man roster. One benefit of Perkins sticking around is that he can run the scout team and help the first team defense prepare for mobile quarterbacks.
In what may have been the most positive development of the evening, the Rams seem to be improving in the kick/punt return game.
Rookie Tutu Atwell earned the first opportunity to handle punts and ripped off a 20-yard return that was called back due to penalty. While this may or may not be notable normally, Atwell looked faster than anyone else on the field at times. The speedster also caught 2 passes for 21 yards, with the longest reception being a 19-yard catch and run.
Running back Raymond Calais handled kick return duties at times as a rookie, but has added punt returns to his repertoire this season. Calais returned a punt for 46-yards and kickoff for 29-yards, flashing impressive speed and vision on both returns. The second-year runner also had a share of carries on offense, but was unable to separate himself much.
Who had the best night in the first preseason game against the Chargers?
This poll is closed
Other - tell us in the comments
Offensive Line Depth
The offensive line seemed to be dominated by the Chargers defensive front for most of the night, especially in the running game. An important note in this is that backup left tackle Joseph Noteboom was on the sidelines with the starters and other key players. Another exception is that second-year right tackle Tremayne Anchrum seemed to play well, so really the concern lies on the interior of the OL.
LA’s quarterbacks were consistently under duress, though Perkins was able to navigate the pressure and make plays with his legs. Hodges, a more traditional pocket passer, was a sitting “duck” for most of the night.
The woes on the offensive line also prevented a real look at any of the reserve running backs battling for playing time behind lead back Darrell Henderson. Xavier Jones had 7 carries for 21 yards, Jake Funk 5 for 12 yards, and Calais 7 for 14 yards, an overall average of less than 2.5 yards per attempt.
Starter Matt Gay, who was fairly reliable last season, missed an extra point that was moved back due to a false start penalty. Reserve kicker Austin MacGinnis also recorded a miss on a field goal attempt. While Gay’s miss isn’t overly concerning, it will be something to keep an eye on moving forward. Reports from training camp indicated both Gay and MacGinnis were consistently accurate during practice, so time will tell if this was really just an off-night.
Rookie seventh-rounder Ben Skowronek seemed to be trending towards a spot on the roster as a key special teams player and a possible situational receiver role. The Rams announced the rookie suffered a broken forearm during the game and will undergo surgery. It is not yet known how long Skowronek will be out,
Ben Skowronek sustains a fractured forearm and will undergo surgery on Monday.— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 15, 2021