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How did Rams rookies fare in Week 5 against Eagles?

Byron Young flashes athleticism; Puka Nacua can continue his dominance playing opposite Cooper Kupp

Philadelphia Eagles v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams failed to upset one of the NFC’s most elite teams following a 23-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, dropping their record to 2-3. Despite the loss, LA has finished their opening gauntlet of four playoff teams from 2022 in their first five games and have the Arizona Cardinals on deck.

Los Angeles needs plenty of help from all over the roster and hopefully their rookie class will help the team in figuring out how to close out games as the year goes on. Here is a progress check on some notable first-year players after Week 5.

Byron Young

Through five games, it’s painfully clear that LA has a pass rushing problem on their hands. I’m not squarely blaming the lack of production in that department on Young. The Tennessee product is doing the best he possibly can. With the way the roster was constructed heading in the season, a struggle with the pass rush was expected so it’s not entirely fair to expect a rookie to carry the load.

However, the pure athleticism Young has flashed so early into his career has been promising. The rookie recorded two tackles and had yet another QB hit in the loss. Heading into the Eagles game, Young had eight QB hits. While he only has a pair of sacks through five games, he’s creating pressure and that’s merely the first step towards getting to the quarterback.

Remember how some fans were freaking out a little because Puka Nacua was getting all these receptions and not scoring? I said to be patient and the scores will come. All of a sudden in the last two games, Nacua has snagged two touchdowns. What exactly does this have to do with Young? Well, the same logic applies: Be patient and the sacks will come.

One play from early in the second quarter has me convinced it’ll happen. On this particular play, Jalen Hurts rolled out to his left to escape pressure. Young saw Hurts looking to make a play and used his elite closing speed to force the Eagles’ quarterback to throw the ball away.

Young has proven that he has been one of the top defensive rookies in the league this season and for good reason. You can talk stats or lack thereof all you want but there will come a time when the rook puts it all together. I have a hunch it’ll be coming sooner rather than later.

Puka Nacua

Much of the discussion in the lead-up to the Philly game was what kind of role would the record-setting rookie have with All-Pro Cooper Kupp back in the fold? When Kupp is healthy, the offense goes through him. There is zero debating that.

Either way, Puka has earned enough of Matthew Stafford’s trust and that means the world for the fifth-rounder. No quarterback throws a pass like this to a player they don’t trust:

That was Stafford saying, “Go get it rook, make a play,” and Nacua delivered as he always does. It’s still early but no defense has figured out how to slow Puka down. Nacua has three 100-yard games and has amassed at least 70 receiving yards and five receptions in every game.

He finished second on the Rams behind Kupp in receptions (7), yards (71) and targets (11). Through five games, the BYU product has 46 catches for 572 yards and two touchdowns. Nacua tied another record (shocker) that hasn’t been seen from a Rams wideout since the initial year of the Greatest Show on Turf.

The combination of Nacua and Kupp makes the Rams’ passing attack more dangerous than anyone anticipated. Assuming both remain healthy, defenses will be picking their poison when they play LA because there’s little chance of stopping both players at once.

Ethan Evans

Is it really a bad thing when a punter stands out in a game? Typically the only time punters are highlighted is when they make a big play or a boo-boo. Luckily with Evans, his booming leg is a big play in the making every time he kicks the ball.

Evans had four punts against Philadelphia for 215 yards, good for an average of 53.8 yards with two kicks pinned inside the 20-yard line. Oh, and don’t forget his 65-yard boot:

Next time Sean McVay fails to learn from his mistakes, I vote Evans gets to give him a swift kick in the ass. Remember that the next time you decide to get all conservative McVay. You’ve been warned.

Other Notes

  • In Week 5 against the Eagles, Kobie Turner set a career high in total tackles with five. The rookie pass rusher was expected to help Aaron Donald on the defensive line and he has quietly delivered. Turner has played well while being overlooked by fellow first-year players gaining national attention, like Jalen Carter on the opposing sideline over the weekend for instance.

Last week I highlighted a couple rookie errors that Turner made in hopes that he would learn from them moving forward. Turns out he must’ve been paying attention and didn’t make the same mistakes twice. Much like Byron Young, I’m waiting for Kobie to have his breakout game. The tools are very clearly there but as I said with Young, patience is the key here.