The Los Angeles Rams came out on top of the battle for LA, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 29-22.
Just as the Rams have always done under Sean McVay, the starters and key contributors remained on the sidelines. Bryce Perkins and other second and third stringers had the time to shine - building their case to make the initial 53-man roster as LA prepares to take on the Buffalo Bills on September 8th.
While most of these individuals aren’t household names, they made an effort to separate themselves from the pack on Saturday night.
Lance McCutcheon, WR
McCutcheon was unstoppable against the Chargers - he finished the game with 5 receptions on 6 targets for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns.
His most impressive play was a 60-yard catch and run where he won a jump ball at the catch point and then out-muscled defenders on his way to the end zone. Two key plays that also don’t show up on the box score - McCutcheon caught a 2-point conversion and drew a defensive pass interference penalty on the goal line to set up a Rams touchdown.
The top five receivers are set: Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, and Ben Skowronek. Jacob Harris is talented but rehabbing another injury - is two years too early to give up on a fourth round draft selection?
Can McCutcheon make a compelling argument that he should be retained as number six or seven? The answer is “yes” tonight, but there are still two preseason games to go.
Crazy play. Lance McCutcheon is going to be hard to sneak onto the practice squad pic.twitter.com/dDYhoR17rQ— DOWNTOWN RAMS [DTR] (@DowntownRams) August 14, 2022
Lance McCutcheon have a night!— NFL (@NFL) August 14, 2022
He's been putting his skillset on full display. @mccutcheonlance
: Stream #LARvsLAC on NFL+ https://t.co/uWNvagtj6A pic.twitter.com/e7JlmE0fnY
Bryce Perkins, QB
Perkins simply refused to quit, and his ability to extend plays frustrated the Chargers defense. The third-year quarterback evaded at least double-digit tackle attempts and kept the chains moving consistently on third down, which was a big driver for the Rams scoring 29 points.
If you nitpick his performance in the preseason last year and on Saturday night, there are still questions about his ability to push the ball down the field. McCutcheon deserves a good portion of credit for winning contested catches on two downfield attempts, but this is already an improvement from Perkins’ deep passing from a year ago.
With two games left, can Perkins build on this progress or will this criticism continue to follow him around?
Bryce Perkins simply refused to go down. @TDN_Perk— NFL (@NFL) August 14, 2022
: Stream #LARvsLAC on NFL+ https://t.co/uWNvagtj6A pic.twitter.com/aGoJY4ero1
Bobby Brown, DT
After making a few splash plays in the preseason last year, Brown once again showed his high level of athleticism in his sack against Chase Daniel. He was also very active in the running game and notched at least one tackle for loss.
Brown left the game in the second half but was able to limp off the field without putting any weight on his leg. He’s suspended for the first six weeks of the season, but he still figured to be an important player for the Rams in his second year - both the suspension and injury cloud his future.
Great to see from Bobby Brown III pic.twitter.com/I2j9QYYuK0— DOWNTOWN RAMS [DTR] (@DowntownRams) August 14, 2022
AJ Rose, RB
Jake Funk started the game at running back and is likely inked-in as the primary backup to co-starters Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson. Funk played well in limited action despite struggles on the inside offensive line - he rushed for 16 yards and took one catch on a screen play 10 yards.
But the offensive line started to open up holes towards the end of the first half and into the second, and perhaps the biggest beneficiary of that was running back AJ Rose. Rose may have been the team’s best back against the Chargers, though the 2.4 yards per carry on the box score doesn’t do his effort justice.
Rose ran well through contact and was an effective player in the passing game. He may be able to pass Raymond Calais on the depth chart by the end of the preseason.
.@ajrose_10 out there running with AUTHORITY!— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 14, 2022
@ABC7 | https://t.co/4beUdmlymgpic.twitter.com/jbBUm9rv2z
Tutu Atwell, WR
Sean McVay mentioned earlier in the week that Atwell would have opportunities in the preseason to show that his success in training camp practices could translate versus live competition - but the speedy receiver never took the field with the offense. This suggests that the Rams have seen all they need to from him during practices, and that he will play an important part in filling the WR#3 role in Van Jefferson’s potential absence.
I would be pretty, pretty, pretty surprised if we don’t see him at all in the preseason, might be worth noting the Rams do run a very different offense with Perkins at QB but we’ll see if he gets any run the next couple weeks like McVay said a couple times he wanted to see https://t.co/kqXUVYa8bQ— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) August 14, 2022
Logan Bruss, OG
Rookie offensive guard Logan Bruss was playing well into the fourth quarter, which is yet another sign that Coleman Shelton has a seemingly firm grasp on the starting job at RG.
That’s not to say that Bruss won’t have a role on the 2022 Rams should the team call his number, but it does mean he’s falling short of truly competing for the first position atop the depth chart.
Looks like Logan Bruss is at RG with Jeremiah Kolone at center— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) August 14, 2022
If Coleman Shelton doesn't play tonight, probably an indication he'll be the starting RG
Reserve TE’s - Roger Carter, Jamal Pettigrew
The top three spots seem to be pretty set for LA - Tyler Higbee is the starter, Kendall Blanton is in the two slot, and third-year Brycen Hopkins is also a near sure thing to make the team.
But the Rams could reasonably keep four tight ends - if one of the reserve players could make a compelling argument.
Aside from Roger Carter’s block to seal the edge on Perkins’ touchdown run to the left side, both he and Jamal Pettigrew were relatively quiet on Saturday night.
I’m not saying they didn’t play well, but there was a lot more to be gained if they could have stood out. With that said, if either player can’t carve out a spot on the 53-man roster there is still a good chance at least one ends up on the practice squad.
Los Angeles may be without Bobby Brown due to an injury he suffered in this game.
The New York Jets just were on pins and needles for 24 hours while they awaited test results on Zach Wilson’s knee injury. The Atlanta Falcons also saw their first round receiver, Drake London, leave their preseason game with injury - though all indications is that he will be alright.
On a 90-man roster it’s almost impossible to protect all players that will play meaningful minutes for you during the regular season, but it’s difficult to watch players go down in meaningless games.
The preseason has continued to lose relevancy each year since Sean McVay began resting his starters in 2018.