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PFF grades and notes from Rams 2023 preseason opener vs. Chargers

Rookies Tre Tomlinson and Puka Nacua stood out in their first game in Los Angeles

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams fell to the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday evening at SoFi Stadium in their 2023 preseason opener.

The Chargers controlled pretty much the entire game and found a great deal of success on the ground. The Rams have embraced a youth movement on the defensive side of the ball, and individuals that will start on the DL played in this game—which makes the woes in the ground game worrisome. The eye test was not good for this group, and that is backed up by the PFF grades.

Let’s get into some of the top individual performances on each side of the ball and then touch on some important notes and takeaways:

Top five grades on offense:

1 - Tyler Johnson, WR: 82.2

Johnson was LA’s most productive receiver on Saturday night, catching 5 passes for 70 yards (long of 34). Damarcus Robinson was another veteran pass catcher that played, but Johnson didn’t get into the game until Robinson came out.

Does his big performance push him up the depth chart? Do we see him in the game earlier next week? On the flip side, things are getting tougher for those at the bottom of the receiving pecking order. Lance McCutcheon and Austin Trammell may find themselves at the wrong end of a numbers game.

2 - Ronnie Rivers, RB: 78.2

It was an impressive evening for the second-year back, and he created rushing yards that didn’t seem to be there at first. When we saw him last season against the San Francisco 49ers, there was very little room to be had—so it was nice to be able to see Rivers show off his skillset.

Rivers had 6 rushes for 31 yards (5.2 average) and also had a physical touchdown run that was called by for a holding penalty on WR Ben Skowronek.

3 - Tremayne Anchrum, RG: 75.3

Anchrum got the start at right guard while Joe Noteboom was dressed in street clothes, and the former Clemson product played well into the third quarter.

Is this a sign that Anchrum is now a reserve player instead of a starter? He did everything he could to change the coaches’ minds against the Chargers.

4 - Puka Nacua, WR: 70.3

We’ve seen nothing but positive things from Nacua this offseason, so it’s no surprise to see him on this list. What sort of role can he make for himself over the regular season? That’s the only question he has left to answer.

5 - Austin Trammell, WR: 67.6

Trammell usually grades well for the Rams as a solid route runner and good separator. It’s a steep climb to make this roster given the log jam at receiver, but if he can flash ability as a returner he could have a leg up over McCutcheon and others.

Other notes on offense:

Zach Thomas graded well (66.4; 74.3 pass block) at LG once rookie Steve Avila came out. He should have flexibility at both tackle and guard, which could help him stock on the roster. Speaking of Avila, it was a fair debut for him with a 60.0 grade. More impressive was his pass blocking mark of 79.1.

Warren McClendon seemed to draw solid marks from fans Saturday evening, but his PFF grade of 42.7 (23.0 pass block) does not reflect well. Logan Bruss continued his string of abysmal preseason play with a poor grade of 45.6 (18.8 pass blocking) at right tackle.

While Stetson Bennett made several positive plays, he did make a number of poor decisions and throws—the Chargers just weren’t able to convert. PFF will always ding you for turnover worthy plays as they are process-oriented instead of results-driven. Bennett also ran himself into three sacks and generally tried to do a bit too much. His PFF grade was 39.5.

Top five grades on defense:

1 - Tanner Ingle, S: 80.2

Ingle stood out in a big way Saturday night despite only being on the field for 12 snaps. He earned a sack on a blitz and then also had a successful run stop. Does that earn him a longer look later into the preseason? Maybe he could push someone like Jason Taylor off the roster at safety despite Taylor being a draft selection by the team.

2 - Taron Vincent, DT: 77.6

3 - DeAndre Square, LB: 77.3

I didn’t know who Vincent or Square were entering this game, but I will be keeping more of an eye on them moving forward. Vincent played eight snaps (all runs) and Square played 14 (13 were runs).

Given the struggles of the defensive line in the run game, perhaps it’s worth giving Vincent more run and see what he has to prove.

4 - Tre Tomlinson, CB: 75.7

Tomlinson had a number of passes his direction that were intended for Chargers first-round receiver Quentin Johnston, and Tomlinson forced two incompletions—including a big stop on third and long.

Derion Kenrick has not been practicing because of a soft tissue injury, which has created an opening for Tomlinson and Robert Rochell. Tomlinson has taken advantage and looks ready to start, at least so far.

5 - Larrell Murchison, DT: 73.7

The Rams claimed Murchison off waivers from the Tennessee Titans mid-season last year and he had two sacks in his first game. He’s had few opportunities since, but he continues to play well when he gets a chance. There’s playing time up for grabs on this defensive line.

Other notes on defense:

Robert Rochell played 29 snaps and earned a good pass coverage grade of 69.0, but missed one of his three tackle opportunities—resulting in a tackling grade of just 29.2. It’s an extremely small sample size, but that is something a corner with his larger frame should excel at.

Bryon Young earned a mark of 35.2 in his first game as a Ram. If you’re looking for a silver lining, he graded 61.0 in the pass rush department, and that’s the skillset LA expects him to bring to the table. Fellow rookie Kobie Turner played 18 snaps and earned an overall defensive grade of 39.3. It wasn’t a great night for the Rams’ third round draft picks.