The Los Angeles Rams will take on the Denver Broncos in the preseason finale on Saturday night. In the first two preseason games, the Rams have ended up on the losing end, 34-17. However, the preseason more about process than it is about results. That’s what makes it so important to see improvement week-to-week as the regular season approaches. Here are five keys to the game in Week 3 against the Broncos.
1. Continue to Show Improvement
This is the last game of the preseason and will be the final live-game action prior to the regular season. These live-game reps are extremely important for a young team like the Rams. Sure, players can work on things in practice to get better and apply teaching points during drills. However, this is the final opportunity to apply those teaching points in an actual game scenario.
Following the Los Angeles Chargers game, the Rams did better at containing the edges and the pass protection on the offensive line was pretty good. However, the Rams still need to do a better job and filling their gaps in the run game on the defensive line and rushing the passer. With a young team, it’s important just to see improvement and that they are absorbing information week over week.
2. Someone Outside of Keir Thomas to Apply Pressure on the Edge
It will be interesting to see if Byron Young plays against the Broncos as the Rams rested the rookie against the Raiders. However, even if Young doesn’t play, it’s going to be important for someone outside of Keir Thomas to get pressure on the quarterback. Thomas is the o ly Rams edge rusher with more than one pressure this preseason.
At this spot, I’m looking at Daniel Hardy and Nick Hampton specifically. Hardy is potentially battling for a roster spot. With a good game and showing he can get to the quarterback, he may earn a spot on the final-53. Hampton is going to take some time to develop, but he needs to show more than what he’s put on tape so far.
3. Better Execution on the Punt Team
Multiple things can be true at the same time when it comes to the punt coverage team as the punter and coverage unit are directly connected. Yes, the punt coverage unit must be better. Also, Evans needs to be more consistent at getting angles on his kicks and getting more hang time.
Evans currently ranks second in yards per attempt at 53.5 yards, but is in the bottom-5 in net yards per attempt. His average hang time is just 4.43 seconds. Punting the ball far does not make you a good punter. Most players struggled to run a 4.4 second 40-yard dash in short at the NFL combine, let alone in pads. The punt coverage unit needs to make tackles, but Evans also needs to give them a chance.
4. An improved performance from Stetson Bennett
The best case scenario for the Rams is that they are able to keep just two quarterbacks on the roster. Following the game against the Chargers, you would have confidently said that Bennett could handle backup duties. That wasn’t the case against the Raiders.
Bennett finished strong with a touchdown drive, but he needs to carry that momentum into this week. The Rams need to see a confident Bennett if they are to keep just two quarterbacks. If not, they may need to keep Brett Rypien for the time being.
5. Stay Healthy
As per usual, the most important thing will be for the Rams to stay healthy. They’ve avoided any serious injury at this point in the preseason. Logan Bruss twisting his ankle was their biggest scare last week. You absolutely do not want a player to suffer an injury in the final preseason game.
After playing some starters in the opening game, many of those same players didn’t see the field against the Raiders. The preseason finale should mostly be left to players who are still fighting for a roster spot.