Getting through training camp and the preseason can be both exhilarating and exhausting. It feels like breathing again to see the LA Rams back in some action, but perhaps I am just as suffocated by the weight of time. Time between me and the regular season. We just want Week 1 against the Chicago Bears to get here but for now, what have we learned about the Rams through the first two preseason games?
I thought of six things so far.
Bryce Perkins impressed enough to potentially earn a roster spot
Perkins watched from the Rams sideline as Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Nathan Peterman orchestrated an impressive drive down the field during a nationally televised game on a Saturday night. With the game tied 10-10, Peterman launched a beautiful pass down the left sideline to the wide-open Marcell Ateman, who fell into the end zone for six.
It took only three minutes for the Raiders offense to march down the field for the score after a missed field goal by Rams’ kicker Matt Gay, leaving 7:00 on the clock in the fourth quarter.
The final drive of the game may have been one of the most important series to Perkins’ future on the Rams roster. LA would need every second on the clock as Perkins navigated his way down the field showcasing his arm for all to see, but it would be his legs that kept Los Angeles alive for at least a couple more plays—on fourth-and-5, the QB felt the pressure as his pocket enclosed around him and on an off-schedule play Perkins took off to the left and launched himself forward just enough to get the first down . On second-and-Goal, Perkins lofted a pass to the left corner of the end zone and found Jacob Harris for the touchdown.
Though the Rams would fail a two-point conversion for the win, Perkins had undoubtedly showed that he belonged on the team, and with the news of QB Devlin Hodges being waived during this weeks cuts he may have convinced coach Sean McVay to keep three active quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.
Perkins has some development left to do but is in the perfect situation to potentially grow to become a future starter in the league under the tutelage of McVay.
COVID-19 is still very much a thing this season
Los Angeles’ coaching staff will never want to see Gay attempt a punt while he is on the team ever again. Punter Johnny Hekker was diagnosed with Covid-19 ahead of the matchup against Las Vegas and fellow kicker Corey Bojorquez entered close contact protocol which left field goal specialist Gay with punting duties. After Gay’s first punt went for 35 yards, it was apparent he should not quit his day job.
Rams kicker Matt Gay hasn’t punted since high school. He may be needed tonight with both Rams punters on the Covid-19/reserve list. pic.twitter.com/0wW1kVyXcx— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) August 22, 2021
More importantly, though, it was evidence that the league will continue to see Covid-19 cases this season. If there can be any solace taken in this specific situation is that it happened during preseason and fingers-crossed that we do not have to see anyone not named Hekker or Bojorquez punt for LA during meaningful games. As more players get vaccinated and NFL continues to enforce its Covid policies these circumstances will hopefully be few and far between.
Les Snead and McVay are not afraid to take chances on the inexperienced and unproven
Without a first round pick until 2024, Les Snead has had to find hidden gems in the middle to late rounds of the NFL draft. So far he has found the likes of Cooper Kupp in the third round of the 2017 draft, Micah Kiser in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, and Jordan Fuller in the sixth round of the 2020 draft—all of which will play significant roles on the team this season. It is no secret that LA has one of the best coaching staffs in the league year in and year out since McVay’s arrival in 2017 and have seen many of their personnel move on to bigger roles for other teams.
Over the past two years, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay have seen their coaching staffs raided. The NFL has placed a high value their scheme and coaching tree.— Jason B. Hirschhorn (@by_JBH) January 29, 2021
Matt LaFleur, who worked under both Shanahan and McVay, can expect the league to raid his staff soon as well.
After two preseason games it would be hard to say that any player will play a significant role on the team this season, but that does not mean they will not have bigger responsibilities a year from now or even two.
McVay is not afraid of projects like Harris who may have the least amount of experience in football for someone about to make an NFL roster—or recruit out of Division II colleges like the one that Chris Garrett came from. Those two players on Saturday night proved that cultivating talent is the LA’s specialty as Harris caught the potential game winner with 15 seconds left on the clock from a QB that went undrafted, and Garrett showed up big for the defense in critical moments with one and a half sacks, two tipped passes, a QB hit, and a tackle for a loss—in one quarter.
Rams rookie Chris Garrett (252 overall out of Concordia) with a 2Q to remember:— J.B. Long (@JB_Long) August 22, 2021
2 tipped passes - 1 leading to an INT
1 strip sack
1 shared sack
1 additional QB hit
As @DMarcoFarr1 pointed out, noteworthy that he did it from the right edge (opposite Leonard Floyd's side). pic.twitter.com/bC42WRO40J
Though the football field was barren from Los Angeles’ stars, what unfolded on Saturday was the potential future of the Rams organization as some of their young players stole the spotlight for at least one game—even if it was just the preseason.
Sean McVay has high expectations for his players this year
McVay is entering his fifth year as an NFL head coach this season and can officially be labeled a veteran of his craft, which means he knows what he has and he knows what he wants. After Tuesday’s practice, McVay did not like what he got out of his player’s on the field.
(01:27) “It felt a little flat. We can’t afford to have that. The sense of urgency has got to go up. We are going to be here before you know it on September 12th. The guys always respond, sometimes its hard to get a gauge [after] a couple days off. Either way I expect to have a little more sense of urgency from our group... Just more crisp... good teams don’t beat themselves and we had too many self-inflicted wounds... Sometimes just the overall energy, just want to feel a little bit more,” elaborated McVay.
After trading away Jared Goff and two first round picks this offseason, McVay has a quarterback who he truly believes can take his team to the championship and is currently in possession of the number one overall defense from last year. LA’s roster is championship caliber on paper and McVay knows it. Seeing him get seemingly upset at a practice is a good sign that there is little tolerance for anything but perfection.
There is an injury bug going round LA’s facility
LA’s Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance Reggie Scott has had his hands full so far with numerous player injuries before the beginning of the regular season.
Defensive tackle Bobby Brown III and corner back Robert Rochell both required surgery, wide receiver Ben Skowronek suffered a broken forearm and will be out four-six weeks, running back Raymond Calais suffered a broken foot and will miss four-six months, and Cam Akers was lost for the season due to a ruptured achilleas.
There was the Matthew Stafford injury scare that occurred when his thumb came in contact with a teammate’s helmet and most recently the report of Darrell Henderson’s sprained thumb, however both players continue to practice and it does not appear their injuries will interfere with the season opener against the Chicago Bears.
Rams injury updates: Ben Skowronek expected to miss 4-6 weeks, plus more on Leonard Floyd, Nick Scott, Darious Williams https://t.co/9r0q5y4vSL— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) August 18, 2021
Despite the Rams taking multiple precautions this season to ensure they stay healthy, such as veteran days off and excluding most of their starters from dressing for the preseason games, there seems to be an injury bug making its way through LA’s facility. Though injuries in the NFL are inevitable, here’s to hoping for at least 19 injury-free days.
Raheem Morris plans on unleashing Jalon Ramsey’s true potential
Jalon Ramsey was all smiles when NFL announcer and former Rams player Aqib Talib mentioned Ramsey’s role in Morris’ defense this year during a broadcasted interview in the course of Saturday’s game. During a press conference on Tuesday, Morris shared his own thoughts on Ramsey’s potential this season and may have given some clues of what to expect from him this season,
(12:26) “He’s one of those guys that can go anywhere—outside, inside, outside linebacker. You can put him almost anywhere. It would not shock me if he could play snapper three technique the way he’s going. He’s just that type of special player. He wants to be in the action. A lot of times when you’re the shutdown corner you've been a shut down corner for so long, people have ways of getting away from you until its the critical moments and he’s obviously stood up in those critical moments and made big plays and that’s why he is who he is. Every once in awhile you want to get in the mix, get a little dirty, get your hands in there and be able to do some good things.”
LA’s opponents this year may find themselves playing against a Ramsey they’ve never experienced in game or on film before as Morris eludes to his plans on using the shutdown cornerback anywhere and everywhere on the field to keep teams guessing. Teams typically do not challenge Ramsey, but they may not have a choice depending on where Morris lines up Ramsey on the field.