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Rams-Texans: 5 players to watch on offense and defense

Logan Bruss and the offensive line struggled last week - can they bounce back versus Houston?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams will host the Houston Texans at SoFi Stadium Friday evening at 7:00pm PT. This will be LA’s second preseason contest after staving off a comeback attempt last week from Easton Stick and the LA Chargers.

Davis Mills is entrenched as the starting quarterback for Houston in his second season, but he attempted only three passes in their first preseason matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Will head coach Lovie Smith want to see more from Mills and the first-string offense on Friday night? It would certainly put the Rams’ young players in the secondary to the test.

Here are five players on each side of the ball to watch in the second preseason game for Los Angeles:

5 on offense:

1 - Lance McCutcheon, WR

McCutcheon stole the show in the first preseason game - racking up 5 receptions for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns. Both of his scores came in contested catch situations where he was aggressive and outfought defenders for the ball.

It’s probably unfair to expect McCutcheon to produce at the same level, but he’s making a strong push to be included on the initial 53-man regular season roster.

2 - Bryce Perkins, QB

The Rams released fourth-string QB Luis Perez this week, so the remainder of the preseason is now Perkins’ opportunity to show out. He recorded an elite 90.0 rushing grade against the Chargers, but earned only a 64.6 mark as a passer.

With the two remaining exhibition games, it’d be encouraging to see Perkins hit receivers in stride and provide them opportunities to create yards after the catch. In four career preseason starts he has not yet shown that ability on a consistent basis.

3 - Logan Bruss, OG

Logan Bruss had a rough start last week, especially in pass protection; however, it seemed the rookie got better as the game went out.

It doesn’t seem the Rams are planning to cross-train Bruss - he’s preparing for a role at RG. Likely he will be the primary backup to Coleman Shelton this season, but he might not be as pro-ready as originally thought.

4 - AJ Jackson, OL

Juxtaposed to Bruss, AJ Jackson is being cross-training as the team’s swing tackle and potentially the backup LG. This gives the teams options should one of the starting linemen go down with injury.

As it current sits, if Coleman Shelton misses time Bruss would come in at RG. If Brian Allen were injured, Shelton would shift to center and Bruss would play RG. If either Joseph Noteboom (LT), Rob Havenstein (RT), or David Edwards (LG) is hurt, Jackson could fill in.

This potentially allows the Rams to only keep 7 linemen active on gameday, which could provide flexibility at more deep positions such as the secondary or receiving corps.

5 - AJ Rose, RB

Co-starters Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson are dealing with soft tissue injuries and not participating in practice until they are 100% healthy. Jake Funk and Kyren Williams handed the bulk of the running back duties during LA’s intra-squad scrimmage on Tuesday, so it’s not clear if either will play in Friday night’s game. William is also working his way back from a broken foot he suffered in offseason team workouts.

This could mean plenty of looks at running back for Raymond Calais and AJ Rose. The offensive line struggled to create much running room last week, but Rose was physical and created yards after first contact.

There may not be room for Rose on the regular season roster, but he should be someone the Rams consider for the practice squad - especially considering the injury history of the first four backs on the depth chart.

5 on defense:

1 - Robert Rochell, Derion Kendrick, Decobie Durant; CB

This promising cornerback trip played sparingly in the first exhibition game. Rochell was in for 15 snaps while Kendrick and Durant played 16. With their stellar performance in training camp, it’s unlikely that we will see them for an extended period in this game as well.

But if Mills plays for the Texans, it would be difficult to pass up the opportunity to give these young secondary players time against a starting NFL quarterback - and this would be a good way to gauge their development so far.

2 - Terrell Burgess, DB

Burgess was credited for allowing a 41-yard touchdown catch to Joe Reed, and he received the lowest PFF grade on the defense as a result.

Burgess has seemingly fallen out of favor with the coaching staff, but with the starters sitting out of the preseason he has two remaining games to make a statement. He might be auditioning for another team in his third year, or he could be on a path towards redemption in Los Angeles.

3 - Jonah Williams, IDL

Jonah Williams was disruptive as a pass rusher against the Chargers but he seemed to have a harder time stopping the run. He’s been an important depth piece and special teams player for LA in recent seasons, so can he strike a better balance against Houston?

4 - Jake Hummel, MLB

After reportedly mixing in with the first-string special teams unit, undrafted rookie Jake Hummel also showed promise on defense a week ago. He played a whopping 58 defensive snaps against the Chargers and recorded 10 total tackles - showing a nose for the football.

Hummel probably has the best chance to make the 53-man roster among all the 2022 UDFA’s.

5 - Keir Thomas, EDGE

While all eyes were on seventh draft choice Daniel Hardy, Keir Thomas was the team’s best edge defender last Saturday night. Thomas recorded 4 total pressures on just 15 pass rushing snaps, which is fairly impressive albeit a very small sample size.

Can he have a repeat performance versus the Texans?

Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images