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Rams position battle update: A look at every position heading into preseason finale

Who’s leading the Rams’ position battles heading into the final preseason game?

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NFL: Preseason-Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams will play their final preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Saturday. OTAs, training camp, and the preseason has been filled with competition all over the Rams roster. On Tuesday, the Rams will be forced to cut down their roster to 53 and at that point have a good idea on what the team will look like heading into Week 1. Let’s take one final look at all of the position battles and where they currently stand.


Will the Rams keep two or three quarterbacks heading into Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks? If last week against the Las Vegas Raiders was any indication, the Rams want to do whatever it takes to get Stetson Bennett ready and for him to be the backup quarterback.

After splitting time in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Rams played their fourth-round pick for three quarters against the Raiders. In the opening game, Brett Rypien played the first half and Bennett played the second. That was not the case in Week 2.

The Rams could opt to keep Rypien as someone who knows the system and has experience as a backup quarterback. That may be beneficial for Bennett. At the same time, the Rams may look to use that roster spot elsewhere. Much of what decision the Rams make could come down to this final preseason game against the Broncos and how both quarterbacks perform.

Running Back

Second-year player Kyren Williams is someone who was seemingly written off after the Rams drafted Zach Evans in the sixth-round. The same can be said about Ronnie Rivers. However, heading into the final preseason game, it looks as if Williams will be the second running back behind Akers and Rivers may be ahead of Evans right now on the depth chart.

Williams may have a larger role than some expect in 2023, especially as a pass-catcher. In joint practices against the Broncos, the Rams’ Stu Jackson described a nice play from Williams in the passing game.

“Just like he did throughout training camp, Williams made a play as a pass-catcher. On Thursday, it was on a deep pass from Stafford, and making a contested catch over the defensive back in coverage for the touchdown.”

The real competition here is between Rivers and Evans. In the preseason opener, the two players split carries. Evans averaged 4.2 yards per carry on eight carries while Rivers averaged 5.2 yards on six attempts. Rivers continued that efficiency last week against the Raiders when he carried the ball nine times for 4.7 yards per carry. Evans meanwhile had eight carries, averaging just 2.5 yards.

Ideally, the Rams would have liked Evans to take the third running back role from Rivers. That just hasn’t happened up to this point. The Rams also like Rivers and he adds some value as a returner on special teams. Right now, it seems entirely possible that the Rams keep four running backs.

Wide Receiver

The Rams have a couple of competitions going on at wide receiver. They have a competition for the third wide receiver behind Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson. After that, there is a competition for the sixth wide receiver spot on the depth chart and seven if the Rams decide to keep that many. The question here is how many wide receivers will the Rams keep? Last year they kept seven as Lance McCutcheon had a great preseason. That may not be the case this year. Here’s what McVay had to say,

“A lot of times my mindset goes to, what does the 48 look like on game day? And there’s different ways you can get to that. I would say that probably would be anywhere between five and six, if I was going to guess who I anticipate being active on game day.”

By the sounds of it, the Rams may end up keeping the standard six wide receivers. The active game day roster would likely be Kupp, Jefferson, TuTu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, and then a sixth wide receiver. With Skowronek potentially adding versatility as a tight end, the Rams will need a sixth wide receiver.

That player right now looks like it’s going to be Demarcus Robinson. Robinson has impressed all camp. He’s likely competing with Tyler Johnson for the final wide receiver spot, but given the overall body of work, Robinson should come out on top.

At the third wide receiver is where things get really interesting. Early in the offseason, Skowronek was thought to be in this conversation. As we head into the final week of the preseason, this looks like a battle between Atwell and Nacua. Most likely we won’t see a true third wide receiver on the offense. Of course, one player will have more snaps than the other, but both will play situationally. Atwell and Nacua have performed well all training camp, but they also do completely different things.

On Atwell, McVay said during joint practices with the Raiders,

“He made a lot of plays and that’s been consistent from the spring and it’s one day, but what I love about Tutu is the work that he’s put in is paying off. That doesn’t mean that if you have a setback one day, but it’s just continue to have a process that guides your everyday approach, he’s done that. He’s super smart. He can play all over the formation in our offense. I think he’s playing physical at the catchpoint too.”

Even JB Long from the team has said, “If training camp is any indication, it’s clicked for Atwell and the Rams. He’s becoming a more complete threat.” This is obviously a big year for Atwell, but he’s put in the work this offseason that should give him the best chance to succeed. Atwell hasn’t played at all this preseason, while Nacua played the opener, but did not participate against the Raiders.

Nacua has also been a bright spot in OTAs, training camp, and the preseason. As a rookie though and with Atwell allegedly taking a leap, he may end up being the WR3b. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. McVay had this to say on Nacua,

“I’ve been really pleased with him, very mature rookie. He’s a guy that can kind of play in all phases. He’s tough, he’s physical, he’s great at the catchpoint. I think the aggressive hands, the fearlessness...he’s just got some natural play strength that just kind of shows up and he’s got a great feel for how to be able to work edges on people at some of those break points and we’ve been really pleased with him.”

At this point, the Rams likely have their top three or four wide receivers figured out. On Saturday, it will be about solidifying the back of the depth chart.

Tight End

The tight end competition was one of the more anticipated competitions heading into the offseason. With four tight ends that consisted of Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Davis Allen, and Hunter Long, there was a lot of uncertainty on if the Rams would keep three or four tight ends.

Flash forward to now and Long has been hurt most of camp and hasn’t played in the preseason. Allen was hurt, but finally got action last week. There is now speculation that Long could start the season on PUP.

Allen impressed in his debut as he caught all eight of his targets, including an incredible contested catch down the seam of the defense. It was nice to see some production out of the Rams’ fifth-round pick. After his performance, it’s hard not to see him on the roster. Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur praised Allen after his performance against the Raiders, saying,

“He has, however you want to put it, soft hands. When you watch him catch the ball, it’s effortless and there’s just certain guys that when that ball hits their gloves, it just sounds right and he has very confident hands, soft hands. He’s obviously a big guy, but he’s also got some range when that ball is not necessarily on his body....Obviously, he’s missed a considerable amount of time, but he’s got something to him. He’s got an edge to him too, which is nice.”

A player who has separated themselves here is Brycen Hopkins as the clear number two option behind Tyler Higbee. Hopkins hasn't gotten a lot of opportunity since being draft, but in the opportunities that he had gotten, he’s taken advantage of them. McVay noted Hopkins as a player that has been a bright spot of camp.

“I feel great about Brycen Hopkins. I think he’s had an excellent camp. If you said what’s one of the bright spots of training camp, Brycen Hopkins is one of the guys that comes to mind right away for me.”

Right now at the tight end position, the Rams are looking at Higbee as the number one guy with Hopkins behind him and Allen as the third tight end who could see some red zone work. Long likely starts the season on the PUP list and Skowronek is used as a de-facto tight end in 11 personnel.

Left Tackle

Early in the offseason, the Rams had a competition at left tackle between Alaric Jackson and Joe Noteboom. Last week, Noteboom was moved to a competition at right guard, presumably giving Jackson the nod at left tackle. At this point, it seems as if Jackson will be the Rams’ starting left tackle heading into Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.


This is a position that the Rams haven’t given a lot information about one way or the other. All we know is that this is a competition between Brian Allen and Coleman Shelton and neither have played in the preseason.

The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue had this to say about the Rams starting offensive line,

“After all, McVay has emphasized, and re-emphasized the importance of getting the Rams’ “best five” offensive linemen consistent snaps with each other, and with quarterback Matthew Stafford...And while I think I know what the line will look like into the regular season — Alaric Jackson, Steve Avila, Coleman Shelton, Noteboom, Rob Havenstein — I haven’t seen that group get any consistent competitive work together.”

The starting five not working consistently together is a conversation for another day. However, Rodrigue predicts Shelton as the starting center. That’s all we really have to go off of at this point. Mike McAllister is the only Rams center to play this preseason and will be a practice squad candidate.

Right Guard

Prior to last week it seemed as if Tremayne Anchrum was going to be the starting right guard. He was performing better than Logan Bruss who got moved to right tackle and Shelton was working at center.

However, then Noteboom entered the conversation. This was a result of one of three things. Either the Rams truly see Noteboom as one of their five best offensive linemen. McVay said this week,

“I think he’s played that way during camp, again the interesting thing is to get better at football, you have to be able to play football. And so we want to be able to find that five and the way that it fits together and it’s hard to be able to see that if we don’t have people out here. And so all we can do is continue to work with the guys that are available.”

The second option is that the Rams are doing whatever they can to get Noteboom and his contract to contribute on the field. Finally, they could also be holding him out and talking him up in hopes to trade him closer to roster cutdowns. Noteboom hasn’t been practicing and the Rams haven’t been clear as to the why.

Anchrum has played well at right guard throughout the preseason and has taken the majority of the snaps at that position all offseason. He hasn’t allowed a single pressure in the preseason and has earned the opportunity.

Nothing is clear here. However, it does seem like the Rams may favor Noteboom. While he doesn’t have any significant playing time at right guard, if the Rams see him as one of their best five, that’s where he may end up playing.


As I stated earlier this week, the Rams have an edge rusher problem. Only Keir Thomas currently has more than one pressure among any Rams edge rusher this preseason. Byron Young missed the Raiders game as he was being “rested”. McVay said about Young,

“I think just a consistency. It’s consistent get off, being aligned right, getting in the proper stance to then be able to execute your technique within the framework of the call based on the situations. I think he’s had a really good couple days, seemed like he showed up a handful of times today and he did a great job.”

As it stands, Young and Michael Hoecht are the likely starters. Said Rodrigue of The Athletic,

“McVay mentioned after the game that Young was “a little sore” after so heavy a workload in practice and so he made the call to rest him, but this additionally indicates to me that Young is, as of now, penciled in as one of the starting outside linebackers.”

Behind them, Nick Hampton should have a spot locked up. This comes down to whether or not the Rams keep four or five edge rushers. Thomas has performed well, but also lost edge contain against the run in the Chargers game. Hardy adds special teams value, but missed a crucial tackle on a punt return in Week 1 of the preseason.

Ochaun Mathis will probably begin the season on IR or on the PUP list. That final edge rusher spot will come to the final preseason game against the Broncos. Zach VanValkenburg has had some flashes, but may be better suited for the practice squad.

Going back to Young. The rookie edge rusher has begun to get more comfortable in practice. During joint-practices with the Broncos, Jackson wrote,

“The 4.43-second 40-time by the former Tennessee standout at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine was on display throughout Thursday’s practice. Young used that speed to stop Broncos running back Javonte Williams in the flat after Williams caught a pass from Denver quarterback Russell Wilson...I just know a couple days ago he had another good practice and so want to just keep stacking blocks and you’re starting to see his work pay off...A few plays after that stop, Young used that speed to bring pressure on Wilson that forced him to get the ball out quickly on a short pass to Williams.

The Rams are going to be a work in progress at the edge rusher positions. That’s simply a matter of fact. It’s going to take time for these young guys to get worked in and find their identity as pass-rushers.

Defensive Line

Much like the edge rusher position, the Rams are extremely young and raw on the defensive line. Aaron Donald is the only sure thing on the defensive line. Bobby Brown III and Earnest Brown IV have been mentioned a few times. Jonah Williams and Marquise Copeland are names to watch as well. Rookie Kobie Turner is also looking to have a role in the defensive line rotation.

Throughout the preseason, Larrell Murchison has played the most defensive snaps among any defensive lineman with 46. Desjuan Johnson is right behind him at 42. It’s possible that those two players are competing for a final spot on the roster. Murchison does add size at 6’2, 297-pounds which Johnson does not. That may give him the overall edge while Johnson lands on the practice squad.


The secondary and especially the cornerback position may be the most interesting when it comes to position battles. At cornerback, the Rams have Cobie Durant and Ahkello Witherspoon as the only true locks on the roster. Meanwhile, the star of the preseason has been Tre Tomlinson who has almost certainly earned a role come Week 1 against the Seahawks. Said Raheem Morris on Tomlinson,

“I was really impressed with the way he was able to bounce up and make some of the correctable mistakes from practice and apply them into the game and that’s generally what you wish a lot of people can do. Now everybody doesn’t get the opportunities he gets in practice, right? He’s been out there with the ones, he’s been out there primarily with the twos, he missed a bunch of time in the offseason with the little setback, but being out there getting that experience, that’s huge.”

Derion Kendrick hasn’t played at all in the preseason as he deals an injury. That has given opportunities to players like Cameron McCutcheon, Jordan Jones, and Robert Rochell. Rochell is someone who has had a pretty good preseason. He has a pass breakup and has allowed just one reception on two targets. Rochell has been very good in coverage.

That continued into joint-practices with the Broncos, Said Jackson of the Rams,

“Defensive back Robert Rochell had a well-timed pass breakup during 11-on-11 on an attempted short touchdown pass by Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson intended for wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr.”

It’s going to be interesting to see how many cornerbacks the Rams keep. Durant and Witherspoon are locks, followed by Tomlinson and Rochell. It’s hard not to throw Kendrick in that same group as the Rams have only had positive things to say about the second-year cornerback.

Those on the outside looking in are Shaun Jolly, Jordan Jones, and Cameron McCutcheon. Jones and McCutcheon will certainly be options for the practice squad. Tyon Davis, Timarcus Davis, and Vincent Gray may be looking to find a spot on other teams.


The last position on defense here is safety. Added to this group in the preseason was John Johnson III. While he hasn’t played a lot, he did play around 20 snaps against the Raiders and looked good. However, Quentin Lake has garnered a lot of attention lately as someone who adds versatility to the safety. Said McVay,

“Quentin Lake is a guy that didn’t get a whole lot of opportunities last year. He did get some time late in the season, but the more he plays, the more comfortable he has gotten. I like the physicality that I’ve seen from him, particularly in some of those coverage units each of the last couple weeks.”

Lake is a player who could be in for a larger role in 2023 next to Jordan Fuller or in dime packages that allow him to play in the box as the “money” linebacker. He’s been active against the Broncos this week in joint-practices. Jackson of the Rams noted,

“A tipped pass by defensive back Russ Yeast in the endzone was corralled by defensive back Quentin Lake for the heads-up interception...Lake was active again in Wednesday’s joint practice. During 11-on-11 work, he had a nice pass breakup on a Wilson pass over the middle intended for tight end Adam Trautman.”

Outside of Lake, the Rams do have Yeast. Between Fuller, Johnson III, Yeast, and Lake, the Rams have four safeties that look to be locks for the roster. The backend of the depth chart is where this gets fun.

The Rams drafted Jason Taylor II, but Tanner Ingle and Quindell Johnson have each performed well in the preseason. It seems likely that one of these players will make the roster while two end up on the practice squad. Taylor has the advantage of being a draft pick, but he was only taken in the seventh-round. If one of these three players has a good game against the Broncos and stands out, they may earn a roster spot.

Punt/Kick Returner

There isn’t a lot to go off of for the returners. However, it is worth noting that Puka Nacua returned a punt in his lone game against the Chargers. Nacua looks to be the starting punt returner.

On kickoff, the Rams haven’t shown a lot of consistency here. Xavier Smith has three returns, but won’t make the roster. Ronnie Rivers has three returns and will be candidate. Demarcus Robinson has a return as well. Kyren Williams was a returner last year, but the Rams may keep him off of that unit to avoid an injury.