clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rams vs. Chargers preview: 3 storylines heading into the first preseason game

Which players can make the most of their opportunities at SoFi on Saturday night?

NFL: JAN 01 Rams at Chargers Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers will meet at Sofi Stadium, the place both teams call home, on Saturday evening. It will be the third time in the last year that the two teams will meet, with the Rams winning the preseason opener last season but losing a Week 17 matchup against the team formerly from San Diego.

Unlike the last few seasons, head coach Sean McVay will need to play some of his starters, which was also confirmed by GM Les Snead recently:

It will not be like year’s past but it will be like year’s past. And I know (McVay) had some names you know, like, because we do have players like Rob Havenstein, Tyler Higbee, some players that have been here since our first Super Bowl into the second Super Bowl. So the team does have some core veterans that will, uh, let’s call it the “non-preseason-play treatment”. But there is an element of trying to engineer as competent a collective as possible and because we mentioned we’re gonna—Let’s talk the defensive side of the ball: There’s a lot of players on their rookie contracts on that side of the ball, other than Aaron Donald, and so we’re gonna need those guys to gel during the preseason.”

The preseason is a time for young players and veterans on the bubble to prove why they deserve a job on the 53 man roster or practice squad. With so much new talent in LA, here are three things to focus on when watching Chargers vs. Rams this Saturday.

Joe Noteboom’s position

NFL: OCT 31 Rams at Texans Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Joe Noteboom has been relatively disappointing since signing a big money extension in the 2022 offseason. Viewed as the replacement for potential Hall of Famer Andrew Whitworth, Noteboom has looked like a bust, giving up five sacks in just six games last year, before ending his season early due to an Achilles injury.

If training camp is any indication, right now the left tackle position looks to be Alaric Jackson’s to lose. The third year player has looked much more steady than Noteboom and has been running with the first team thus far.

However, this may play in Noteboom’s favor, as it has forced him to play some right guard in training camp. The guard position is where Noteboom made his start in the NFL, so his move to the interior seems like a natural fit. There would be less pressure on Noteboom inside, and with former 7th round pick Tremayne Achrum currently slated to start, Noteboom would bring more experience to the position while making some kind of use of his inflated contract.

It will be interesting to see if Noteboom lines up at left tackle, right guard, or both through the game.

Do the Rams have enough pass rush help?

NFL: DEC 25 Broncos at Rams Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michael Hoecht came on strong for LA at the end of the year last season, totaling 4.5 sacks in the last six games. The Rams are banking that Hoecht can continue to grow on his late season success and he should start at outside linebacker, backed up by Daniel Hardy. In addition to Hoecht, rookie Byron Young look to be slated to start at the opposite outside linebacker positions, with only rookie Nick Hampton as competition.

Los Angeles begins looking a tad thin after Hoecht and Young though, with Marquise Copeland and Earnest Brown IV battling for the defensive end position, while Bobby Brown and rookie Kobie Turner duke it out for nose tackle.

It’s a group of unproven names, however, LA superstar Aaron Donald had some positive reviews of his co-defensive linemen saying:

“There are a lot of guys that are doing work,” Donald said. “Obviously, it’s a process. Everybody’s getting good reps. Earnest Brown IV (and) Bobby Brown (have been) looking good, Kobie (Turner) is having his flashes, Cope (Marquise Copeland). All those guys are doing good and a good rotation right now and just trying to get a feel playing with each other.

It will remain to be seen if this crew can get the job done on their own or if the Rams will feel they need to bring in some pass rush help after the preseason is said and done.

Will Puka Nacua live up to the training camp hype?

Los Angeles Rams Offseason Workout Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Puka Nacua has been dubbed the “Lance McCutcheon” of the 2023 offseason. After exploding in the preseason last year, many started to view McCutcheon as a potential diamond in the rough for Los Angeles. Unfortunately, McCutcheon went on to be a non-contributor during the regular season and Nacua seems to have a similar type hype without ever playing a meaningful snap in the NFL.

It’s hard to argue with the excitement though, the videos coming out of camp have been impressive, with Nacua consistently making contested catches and scoring touchdowns.

The current depth chart lists Tutu Atwell as the third starting receiver, however with a monster preseason, it’s possible Nacua could jump Atwell. Atwell has been mostly disappointing through his first two years, but did have a few flashes last season on some deep routes. It remains to be seen if Atwell’s speed is a one trick pony of sorts, especially with Nacua already showing above average route running and an ability to play inside and outside receiver.

Demarcus Robinson will also bring some intrigue in the preseason as he too has been hyped up quite a bit this offseason. Robinson is a journeyman wide receiver, with the Rams being his fourth team in three years, however Robinson has already proven to be a capable player in the league, leading all Baltimore Ravens receivers in yards and receptions just last season.

The Rams actually look surprisingly deep at wide receiver behind Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson, neither of who should be playing on Saturday. This will give us an extended look at Nacua, Atwell, Robinson and Ben Skowronek who are all in a very real competition to start. Hopefully someone is ready to stamp their name on the position.