In his first start since the 2020 wild card win over the Seattle Seahawks, John Wolford handled intense pressure from the Houston Texans with calmness and a little bit of swagger, proving himself to be a quality option behind Matthew Stafford heading into the season. That was the question that maybe the Los Aneles Rams needed an answer for more than they needed to beat the Texans in the second preseason game of the year and Sean McVay should feel comfortable with Wolford as Stafford’s backup.
Also there was a score: Texans 24, Rams 20
Wolford finished 14-of-22 for 142 yards, playing the entire first half and getting sacked five times while being under pressure for many of his pass attempts. His favorite target was tight end Brycen Hopkins, who had a team-high six catches, but Lance McCutcheon starred out again (despite a mistake on the final play of the game) and finished with five catches for 98 yards.
Though the Rams only managed two field goals with Wolford in the first half, L.A. led 6-0 when Wolford’s day was over but then Texans quarterback Davis Mills led a late touchdown drive to give Houston a 7-6 halftime advantage.
The Texans then went up 14-6 on a touchdown throw from Kyle Allen to Teagan Quitoriano, but the Rams cut the lead to 14-13 on a fumble recovery touchdown by tight end Roger Carter, Jr. on a Riley Dixon punt.
Then Bryce Perkins led a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended in a touchdown by running back Trey Ragas to go up 20-17.
But Houston third stringer Jeff Driskel led the Texans on an 82-yard drive to answer, ending in a touchdown pass tight end Mason Schreck to take a 24-20 lead. McCutcheon failed to get out of bounds on the final play and the Rams had no timeouts left, ending the game.
"WE GOT ALL TYPES OF EXCITEMENT HERE AT SOFI!"— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 20, 2022
DC Raheem Morris' real-time reaction to a strip sack. pic.twitter.com/QoqBddTtO4
Among other standouts and storylines, I’ve made a quick list below.
Rams backup offensive line a mess against Texans starting defense
Many of Houston’s starters on Friday night are expected to start during the regular season and it showed against L.A.’s backup offensive line. Wolford was sacked five times on the Rams’ first four drives and under duress on many of his other throws, dropbacks.
Starting OL same as Week 1 for Rams:— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) August 20, 2022
LT AJ Jackson
LG Tremayne Anchrum Jr.
C Jeremiah Kolone
RG Logan Bruss
RT Bobby Evans
A.J. Jackson, Tremayne Anchrum, Jeremiah Kolone, Logan Bruss, and Bobby Evans was the starting five, with much of the pressure coming up the middle. Evans had a penalty and did not appear to make a strong bid to stay on the 53-man roster based on first look. Bruss left with a knee injury and gave up multiple sacks.
Wolford in no danger of losing the backup job
Despite the lack of offense in the first half, most of that can be attributed to the Texans’ defensive line dominating L.A.’s offensive line. Wolford played well, considering, and his talent for making intermediate-to-deep throws was on display. Wolford may not have a future as a starter but he will have a long career as a backup. Why did Wolford play this game? Because he had not played in a long time and there is a chance that the Rams could need him this season.
Bryce Perkins may have played well enough in the second half to earn a third-string role for the second year in a row. He was composed when trailing late in the game and finished with a high efficiency rating.
Lance McCutcheon’s bid to make the team gets a little stronger
McCutcheon led the team with 98 yards on five catches. How does he get onto the 53? That remains to be decided, there are five receivers and one Brandon Powell who don’t look ready to give up their spot and that also leaves Jacob Harris on the outside.
Harris caught the first pass of the game, an 8-yard gain and finished with three catches. Austin Trammell had another good outing, catching four passes for 46 yards and returning two punts. Will another team be interested in picking up Trammell?
Jonah Williams locking into a roster spot again; Keir Thomas and Daniel Hardy not backing down at OLB
In the question of “Who backs up the starting three defensive line?” don’t leave off Jonah Williams. He was dominant during his reps against the Texans and finished with three solo tackles, a sack with a forced fumble, and a TFL.
This is funny hearing Raheem Morris live on air react to the sack fumble by Jonah Williams pic.twitter.com/qXkP5Pq2cZ— Billy M (@BillyM_91) August 20, 2022
Seventh rounder Daniel Hardy also had a sack, making him a clear competitor to push for a place on the roster. Kier Thomas also got some love and added pressure and would be a great player to get onto the practice squad.
Cobie Durant got in on the pass rush too
Andrew Whitworth made a point to say that his former teammates are enamored with the competitive spirit and energy of Decobie Durant. He was referred to as a highly competitive player and he had a strong special teams play and a near interception.
This is why I was a big fan of #Rams DB Decobie Durant pre-draft. Competitiveness at catch point, inside-out ability as well. Does a nice job locating the football and nearly picking this one off. #HOUvsLAR pic.twitter.com/HC5CSoP7lh— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) August 20, 2022
The Rams secondary figures to be deep, especially if David Long, Jr. performs well with his starting role. We haven’t seen any of Long or Troy Hill in the preseason, but we’ve gotten a long look at Robert Rochell, Derion Kendrick, and Cobie Durant and they’ve all had their moments, including on Friday night.
Rochell forced a fumble that was recovered by Kendrick.
First half standouts:— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakDTR) August 20, 2022
1. Lance McCutcheon
2. Jonah Williams
3. Robert Rochell
4. Brycen Hopkins
5. Terrell Burgess
This leaves Russ Yeast with a mountain to climb over to reach the roster but he’s not finished yet either. Yeast had a penalty on a helmet-to-helmet hit but the idea was right.
Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson will be crucial
The play of Raymond Calais and Jake Funk was not outstanding.
Brycen Hopkins making a move, but gets injured late
Kendall Blanton only had his name called out for a penalty. Brycen Hopkins was targeted early and often, catching six passes for 41 yards. But he took a hard hit on the final drive of the game and exited. It’s unclear how serious he is hurt.
Roger Carter Jr., an undrafted free agent, has been making a case in training camp and his argument got stronger when he recovered a fumble for a touchdown on a punt return, as mentioned.