Perhaps never in the Sean McVay era have preseason snap count totals been so important. For the last couple of years, you could guarantee that most players on the field were fighting for practice squad opportunities, but in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Chargers, Aaron Donald was the only player in the front-seven to get the night off because of his veteran status.
Other defensive players who didn’t play in Week 1 include Ernest Jones, Cobie Durant, Ahkello Witherspoon, Derion Kendrick (who is hurt), Jordan Fuller, and John Johnson (who just got back to the team).
From the first preseason game’s snap count percentages, courtesy of @RamsBeat on Twitter, everyone else on defense played except Ochaun Mathis and Shaun Jolly (a name the Rams apparently misspelled).
This should give us an idea that Sean McVay is still figuring out who is best suited for his defensive line rotation, who plays next to Ernest Jones, the edge positions, and if there are any hidden gems in the secondary.
Bobby Brown played the fewest amount of snaps among defensive linemen, which is probably a good sign for him. Brown was at 16%, Marquise Copeland at 22%, Jonah Williams and Desjuan Johnson at 25%, Kobie Turner at 28%, T..J. Carter at 33%, Earnest Brown at 34%, and Larrell Murchison at 41%. Of course, when those snaps occurred is just as important.
McVay said in his press conference on Sunday that we could see some of the players who rested in the first preseason game make appearances in the next two games depending on how these next two weeks of practices go. The Rams hold joint practices with the Raiders this week and McVay sees those as better opportunities to play his starters than the preseason.
Still, the fact that McVay would let Murchison play 41% or Earnest Brown play 34% of the snaps in the first preseason game, it is so antithetical to McVay’s known feelings of the preseason that we could assume that at least those names are still fighting their way up the depth chart. Perhaps it is more related to the way the rotation happened to work out that night, but it’s not outlandish to suggest that Bobby Brown III, Copeland, Jonah Williams, and Turner may be the top four options after AD right now.
On the edges, Michael Hoecht played 20% of the snaps, fewest in the group, as expected. Rookie Nick Hampton played 34% and fellow rookie Byron Young played 36%. Daniel Hardy played in 39%, but also 77% of special teams snaps, most of any player on defense. Hardy could secure a spot on the 53-man roster on special teams and still be an option on the edge of the defense.
Keir Thomas played an edge-high 41% of the snaps., while Zach VanValkenburg played 30%.
The linebacker who seemed to go into a camp with a lead, Christian Rozeboom, also played the fewest snaps at 16%. Then there were 45% snaps for Jake Hummel, 41% for Jaiden Woodbey, and 28% for Kelechi Anyalebechi in the second half. Rozeboom seems favored there, but could Raheem Morris perhaps have most single-linebacker plays drawn up this season? Even Ernest Jones was a part-time player next to Bobby Wagner in 2022.
Robert Rochell (45%), Tre Tomlinson (55%), and Jordan Jones (52%) played a lot at cornerback. We may just see that in Week 1, the top three corners are the ones who didn’t play on Saturday.
Despite seemingly going into camp needing to find a safety out of a large group of recently-drafted players, the Rams signed John Johnson and expect Jordan Fuller to retain a key starting role. That means that Quentin Lake (45%), Russ Yeast (25%), and Jason Taylor (42%) must use these opportunities to stand out. Perhaps the most notable standout in this group was Tanner Ingle, who played 19% of the snaps, mostly in the second half.
The most interesting thing about the starting snaps—Stetson Bennett played 84% of the game, so it was basically his show, will Dresser Winn get any preseason snaps?—was seeing Steve Avila and A.J. Jackson get 16% of the snaps before being pulled. But Tremayne Anchrum, who we thought was competing to start at right guard, played in 63% of the snaps. That’s a lot for a McVay player if he’s going to start.
Mike McAllister didn’t miss a snap, he was the only Rams player at 100%, followed by 84% for Logan Bruss, Warren McClendon, and Zach Thomas. One of the standouts was Thomas, who is dealing with what McVay described as a minor injury right now.
That’s basically your offensive line from Saturday, with Rob Havenstein, Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen, Coleman Shelton, and A.J. Arcuri getting the night off.
Every single tight end snap went to Christian Sims or Camren McDonald.
Puka Nacua (45%), Ben Skowronek (45%), Demarcus Robinson (43%), and Tyler Johnson (40%) led the way in veteran snaps at receiver, but Lance McCutcheon (54%) and Austin Trammel (55%) played a lot in the second half. Undrafted free agent Xavier Smith didn’t get any snaps on offense but could compete as a returner.
Royce Freeman had 43% of the snaps at running back, followed by 31% for Zach Evans and 25% for Ronnie Rivers.