The Los Angeles Rams remain winless in preseason action after losing to the Las Vegas Raiders 34-17. LA remained competitive as expected but couldn’t overcome several self-inflicted wounds committed by their young players.
Let’s dive into a progress check of notable first-year players from Week 2 of preseason action.
A week after Puka Nacua put on a show in his preseason debut, tight end Davis Allen did the same, and in all honesty did it way better. Due to injury, Allen didn’t play in the preseason opener last weekend against the Chargers. The Clemson product appeared to make up for lost time and then some as he led the team with eight receptions for 53 yards.
While he failed to score, Allen made perhaps the catch of the game with a Raiders defender draped all over him.
Projected to be on the roster bubble, this was the exact performance the rookie needed to have. There’s no guarantee as to how many tight ends the Rams will carry on the roster this season. Davis had previously failed to make any noise in OTAs and training camp due to various injuries.
He’ll need a strong finish in Denver to prove that he earns a spot on the final depth chart alongside Tyler Higbee and Brycen Hopkins. Sean McVay spoke highly of Allen’s debut in postgame which bides fairly well for his chances of making the 53-man roster.
“Targeted eight times, makes eight catches… but I thought he competed well without the ball also. It was an awesome debut for him.”— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 20, 2023
️Coach McVay on Davis Allen’s performance pic.twitter.com/Q78IexLQSF
It was bound to happen eventually and it finally did in Week 2. Stetson Bennett was lucky to avoid turnovers in the opener but didn’t fare as well this time around. His interception was ugly to say the least as he clearly wasn’t on the same page as his receiver.
EX USC TROJAN WITH THE PICK 6 ON FORMER GEORGIA QB STETSON BENNETT pic.twitter.com/hOqSuraaEn— USC J (@USCJ32) August 20, 2023
Down 10 early in the second half, Bennett and the offense failed to come out of the break with any points as they were forced to punt. Vegas responded with a touchdown drive to put LA in a deeper hole. Instead of rolling over to die, the Georgia great put together quite the response.
Bennett came back after a bad start to Q3 with an 11-play, 75-yard TD drive, and ran the score in himself. Highlights were a good ball and stellar catch by rookie WR Xavier Smith, and a Higbee-esque catch-and-rumble for 7 yards) by rookie TE Davis Allen. https://t.co/C45UrAFLYT— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) August 20, 2023
Here is the touchdown run that Bennett scored on to bring the deficit back to 10:
Stetson Bennett rushes for six. pic.twitter.com/1GuKQcZspc— Lance McCurley (@lancemccurley) August 20, 2023
Stets finished the evening 15-of-24 for 142 yards, ending with a 61.4 passer rating. It wasn’t the type of showing that fans wanted to see but he gained additional experience with the start and that will trump everything else. The Rams are going to have to live with all the highs and lows as the rook develops. Regardless of the up and down play by Bennett on Saturday, he easily remains the best option under center behind Matthew Stafford.
There’s zero debating that Tomlinson has rightfully earned a roster spot. He’s already a top corner on the team and could end up being a Tariq Woolen level steal similar to what Seattle got in the draft last year.
Tomlinson locked down fellow rookie and former TCU teammate Quentin Johnson in the opener and picked up right where he left off as he broke up a pass intended for Phillip Dorsett.
How in the hell did this kid get selected so late? Assuming this production carries over into the regular season and I fully expect it will, Tomlinson will become an instant star and thrive in this defense. Better late than never I suppose.
#Rams projected starting defense now?— JAKE ELLENBOGEN (@JKBOGEN) August 20, 2023
DL Aaron Donald
NT Bobby Brown III
DL Kobie Turner
OLB Byron Young
ILB Ernest Jones
OLB Michael Hoecht
CB Decobie Durant
CB Ahkello Witherspoon
CB Tre'Vius Tomlinson
SAF Jordan Fuller
SAF John Johnson III/Russ Yeast pic.twitter.com/fynRhXT8tu
- Zach Evans continues to lose ground to Ronnie Rivers who had yet another stellar game. Rivers led LA in rushing with 42 yards off nine carries while Evans was second with a distant 20 on eight touches. Neither player saw much action in the passing game aside from a seven-yard reception for Evans. That is one area where Rivers holds a slight edge on Evans which could bury the rookie on the depth chart.
- Undrafted wide receiver Xavier Smith out of Florida A&M was utilized all over the field Saturday, seeing reps in the return game and one as a rusher. Smith caught a 25-yard pass off a perfect throw from Bennett for his only reception of the game. As a returner, Smith ran back three kicks for a total of 47 yards, including a long of 18.
- It was another tough game for rookie pass rushers. Expected starters Byron Young and Kobie Turner were pretty much nonexistent in rushing the Raiders’ signal callers. Although Turner did record a QB hit at one point.