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5 Rams on either side of the ball to watch this Saturday against the Chargers

Will Tutu Atwell’s practice success translate to live action?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams kickoff the preseason against their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Chargers, Saturday evening at 7pm PT.

These two teams will also face off in Week 17 of the regular season, and that matchup will almost certainly have more at stake; however, it’s still important for the defending Super Bowl champions to defend their home turf at SoFi Stadium.

Both the Rams and Chargers have deep rosters and are expected to compete among the best teams in their respective conferences - there will be no shortage of talent on the field Saturday night even if most starters remain on the sidelines.

Here are 5 offensive and 5 defensive players to keep your eye on for the Rams:

5 on offense:

1 - Tutu Atwell, WR

While Atwell has impressed in his second training camp, Sean McVay has indicated that the speedy receiver “still is a young player that probably falls in line with playing in the preseason”.

He’ll most likely have to make an impression without the quarterback he seems to have developed strong chemistry with in practice, John Wolford, and would instead be catching passes from Bryce Perkins.

Atwell was one of the most targeted receivers in the preseason last year, and the coaching staff will probably plan for him to get opportunities to show that he can translate practice production to success against another team.

2 - Ben Skowronek, WR

Skowronek is another player who needs to prove in the preseason that he’s ready to help replace the injured Van Jefferson.

It’s possible that the preseason, and the vanilla schemes that teams typically deploy, won’t make the most of Skowronek’s swiss army knife skillset - but this is an opportunity to show he’s developed as a pass catcher. You might not see him lined up in the backfield or as an H-back, though that might not be the case in Week 1 when the Rams take on the Buffalo Bills.

3 - Jake Funk, RB

With their troubled injury history, it’s probably safe to assume that both Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson will sit out the preseason - and that creates an opportunity for second-year back Jake Funk to shine.

Funk has impressive speed and burst, though he’s battled his fair share of injuries as well. Can he establish himself as a receiving threat, and possibly impress coaches to the extent he pushes Akers or Henderson for playing time down the road?

Rookie running back Kyren Williams has worked his way back to practice after breaking his foot this offseason, but he might not be ready for preseason action at this point.

4 - Logan Bruss, OG

Coleman Shelton seems to be on his way to winning the starting role at right guard, and that leaves Logan Bruss relegated to backup duty. In a way, this might be a positive for the rookie as the Rams could play him either on the left or right side without having to solely prepare him for RG.

I’d expect Bruss to be solid right out of the gate, though it’s common for rookie offensive linemen to take time to adapt to the speed and physicality of the NFL.

5 - Bryce Perkins, QB

Bryce Perkins earned a regular season roster spot as the third quarterback after an impressive preseason in 2021, but the NFL has a short-term memory and he needs to re-establish himself once again in order to stay on the team.

Perkins played the vast majority of the preseason reps last year, which means he didn’t have much in the way of competition. That’s not the case this year, as the team brought back Luis Perez.

Perkins will need to be head and shoulders better than Perez in order to keep his spot on the 53-man roster.

5 on defense:

1 - Decobie Durant, CB

2 - Derion Kendrick, CB

Both Durant and Kendrick have impressed at training camp, and it seems they are transitioning well to the pro game while Jalen Ramsey rehabs his shoulder injury.

Durant is a premium athlete and has good ball skills, though at 5-11, 181 lbs. he could have trouble holding his own against bigger receivers.

The concerns with Kendrick coming out of the draft was that he didn’t have the speed to keep up with NFL receivers down the field, but he seems to have done a fine job hanging with Atwell and Allen Robinson during training camp practices. Sometimes rookies immediately outplay their draft position, and Kendrick is potentially on pace for that to be the case - the preseason represents his first real test.

3 - Bobby Brown, DT

If it weren’t for his 6-game suspension to start the 2022 season, Bobby Brown’s development in year two would be garnering much more attention than it has so far. Brown impressed last preseason, but received a redshirt year once the games started to count.

With both Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson in contract years, can the Rams count on Brown taking a step forward in 2022 and beyond?

4 - Terrell Burgess, DB

Terrell Burgess impressed during his rookie season in 2020, but he suffered a season-ending injury and just hasn’t earned the trust of the coaching staff.

If Burgess plays often during the preseason, it likely means that he is on the fringe of the roster - passed up by those he once sat atop on the depth chart: Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott, and perhaps even rookie Russ Yeast.

5 - Jake Hummel, MLB

Undrafted rookie linebacker Jake Hummel seems to be a favorite of special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, though he needs to show he’s a capable defensive player in order to earn a spot on the initial 53-man roster.

Hummel could end up being one of the more important special teams players on the Rams along with Skowronek, Funk, Jacob Harris, and Michael Hoecht.