With the Los Angeles Rams emerging victorious after a Week 1 matchup against the Chicago Bears, fan and foe alike finally got to see how Chicago’s new-look offense would perform opposite the NFLs top defensive squad and reigning DPOY Aaron Donald. While most of the oft-heralded offseason acquisitions and draft choices saw the field of play to some degree, some were not as featured as many of us would like.
With rookie Robert Rochell flashing lock down coverage abilities on fourth down pass attempts, receiver DeSean Jackson opening up routes by taking off the top of opposing defenses, and the untapped potential of Tutu Atwell and Jake Funk, the list of must-see performers is as long as the season is promising.
But in a Week 2 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts looming, there are a few names I’m going to keep a particularly close eye on.
Sony Michel, RB
I’ve been a fan of Sony Michel since his days as a member of the Georgia Bulldogs, where he shared a backfield with former Los Angeles running back Todd Gurley for one glorious season in 2014. Since Gurley is often given credit for being something as a mentor to Michel, the storyline almost becomes a bit too sweet if the latter becomes the heir apparent to the former in head coach Sean McVay’s offensive system.
Drafted by the New England Patriots in 2018, Michel never blossomed as a true RB1 under head coach Bill Belichick. In three years as a Patriot, Michel carried the ball 535 times for an average of 4.3 yards per carry. While not a traditional power back, nor possessing blazing speed, Michel has a shifty running style similar to injured Rams back Cam Akers and could eventually fill that role as the season progresses.
Sony Michel fumbled 3 times in his Patriots career— Ethan Hurwitz (@ethanhurwitzGN) September 12, 2021
The Patriots fumbled 4 times today
Keep telling me we won that trade
Make no mistake, I love Darrell Henderson’s work ethic, patience, and the home run hitting dimension he adds to the game anytime he touches the football. Since Michel was just brought to the Rams’ roster in August, it stands to reason that it will take a few weeks for Sony to be fully immersed with the playbook. After only carrying the ball once for a grand total of two yards in Week 1, I am interested in seeing how Michel’s role within the offense evolves.
It almost feels lazy at this point to bring up the offensive line concerns for Los Angeles. But, wait! What is this? Brian Allen had a solid, if not great, game against the Chicago Bears in Week 1? Surely this can’t be the same position discussed by pundits during the offseason as the crucial weak point in an otherwise highly-regarded unit.
But it is, it was, and Rams fans are downright giddy over the performance Allen showcased, in prime time, under the lights of Sunday Night Football.
Naturally, one would be remiss if not to ask, “Is this a sign of things to come or a one-game aberration in what will end up being a long season?” The answer, obviously, remains to be seen which is why I include him on this list. I want to see what he brings in Week 2. It’s notable that the Rams only ran 52 offensive snaps to the Bears 69, so a larger sample size will go a long way in determining whether Allen is a boom or bust in his second stint as starting center.
Because the Los Angeles attack was less-than-balanced until the fourth quarter, and PFF style grading would be a bit skewed and should be taken with a grain of salt. I am confident in McVay’s ability to assess player talent, however, I would like to see how Allen fares in a rushing attack featured more in the first three quarters.
Justin Hollins showed up and showed out in his first start at OLB. With the majority of the offensive line’s attention being focused on Donald, and Leonard Floyd always being a legitimate threat off the edge, the pressure was on Hollins to make the most of his one-on-one looks and to get to the ball carrier quickly. Not only did he deliver in a dominant performance to the tune of eight tackles, two sacks, one tackle for loss, and one forced fumble, most of his damage was done against the Bears’ Pro Bowl LT, Jason Peters.
As impressive as Hollins’ game was, his 2020 total of three sacks was a career-high and he’s never been a regular starter until this year. While it’s too much to ask any player to match the type of statistical output he enjoyed on Sunday night week in and week out, if Hollins can come close to replicating those numbers on a consistent basis, or at least be a constant threat off the edge opposite Floyd, it will raise the level of play for the entire defense and reestablish the unit as the best in football.
Justin Hollins, waiver wire pickup of the decade https://t.co/ZkaPcCuw87— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) September 14, 2021
Going against an Indianapolis Colts offensive line that gave up three sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and a paltry 3.8 YPC on the ground, Hollins is in good shape to be able to pick up where he left off in Week 1. However, with film on tape for Colts head coach Frank Reich to scheme against, a repeat performance would go a long way in helping determine whether Justin Hollins is truly blossoming in his role as full-time starter, or whether he was a one-night benefactor of the Donald effect.
Read: Q&A with the Colts blog
Who are you looking forward to seeing in Week 2?