There’s no way I was alone in not recognizing some of the names being called during Saturday’s preseason contest between the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers—especially when the Rams’ defense was on the field.
The Rams have underwent a significant youth movement on defense. Gone are household names in Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner, Leonard Floyd, and others. Instead, against the Chargers, players like Tanner Ingle and Taron Vincent were making plays. This is the new normal for Los Angeles—though it’s nice to start learning about who the team should be this year and what they are capable of.
These are a few things I think at the conclusion of Rams-Chargers, what that means for the remainder of the preseason, and how this might shape the regular season roster:
1 - The Rams have a log jam at WR and will face tough decisions
My current best guess at the wide receiver depth chart goes something like this, though there is room for some fluctuation as the regular season approaches. I also don’t have much confidence in Van Jefferson given his often rest days and the emergence of other options:
1 - Cooper Kupp
2 - Tutu Atwell
3 - Van Jefferson
4/5 - Puka Nacua / Demarcus Robinson
6 - Ben Skowronek
7 - Tyler Johnson
8 - Austin Trammell
9 - Lance McCutcheon
I view Trammell ahead of McCutcheon because of his abilities as a returner and the fact he’ll compete on special teams. The bar is so incredibly high in the preseason for McCutcheon based on his performance from a year ago—and he didn’t live up to that expectation against the Chargers. There’s not a spot for the second-year receiver on the roster.
The big question is, do you draw the line after Skowronek or decide to keep seven receivers? Johnson seems too good to let go of, though maybe a WR-needy team could come calling and offer draft capital or defensive reinforcements. If I had to choose an odd man to leave out, my preference might honestly be Jefferson. It doesn’t make sense to have him on this team in a contract year.
Nasty release and route by Puka Nacua pic.twitter.com/OQZhtnmLpt— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) August 13, 2023
2 - Logan Bruss is turning into the new Bobby Evans
Bruss has been abysmal as a pass protector over the last two preseasons, and it may be time to hit the panic button on his career. Already Warren McClendon seems to be the better player. I’d also be in favor of trying Zach Thomas at right tackle after he impressed at left guard, because if he has position flexibility he’s worth keeping over Bruss who is strictly a RT now.
How much confidence would you have if Bruss was thrust into the lineup to protect Matthew Stafford? At this point there’s no reason to be optimistic about the second-year tackle after he was repeatedly beat by a former fourth round pick and reserve Chargers edge rusher in Chris Rumph. Bruss needs to turn things around quickly or he’ll play his way completely off the roster.
3 - Tre Tomlinson should start Week 1
Ahkello Witherspoon has earned one of the starting corner jobs on the outside. Cobie Durant will also be a key player in the secondary and flex inside-outside. Derion Kendrick was the favorite to be the other boundary corner entering camp, but he’s had a soft tissue injury and missed weeks of practice time—I still think on a good team he’s best as a fourth or fifth corrner.
After watching Tomlinson give first round receiver Quentin Johnston problems—despite a significant size disadvantage—I am ready to say that Tomlinson should be on the field over Kendrick when the Rams take the field Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.
4 - Rams are intentionally humbling RB Zach Evans
Cam Akers and Kyren Williams did not dress for the Chargers game. Ronnie Rivers got the start at RB#3. Veteran Royce Freeman played ahead of rookie Zach Evans.
It’s no secret that Evans has maturity issues. That explains his draft position in the sixth round despite being though of as a borderline first rounder this time last year. I think the Rams are keeping Evans on the back of the depth chart to keep him grounded and make him earn every single opportunity, and that is probably a good idea.
Evans’ on-field talent was evident, so how long can they hold him behind Rivers and Freeman? After the way Rivers and Evans played, I don’t think Freeman makes the 53-man roster.
5 - Play Stetson Bennett the rest of the preseason
There is plenty of tape on Brett Rypien, and Bennett has probably already demonstrated that he’s the better player. Given Matthew Stafford’s recent string of injuries, you are probably going to need Bennett at some point this season. Give him the rest of the preseason to make mistakes—and more importantly learn from them. There’s no upside to playing Rypien or even seeing Dresser Winn take the field.