The Los Angeles Rams dropped another close matchup as they lost 19-16 to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. LA didn’t have any Super Bowl magic in this game as they lost yet another tight game against an expected playoff contender.
Los Angeles has displayed remarkable fight each week. They should’ve won if Matthew Stafford didn’t throw the game away (again) and if Sean McVay wasn’t being such a boneheaded play caller. Despite the loss, here is a progress check on some notable first-year players after Week 3.
Turner didn’t have much of a statline at all but that doesn’t mean his presence wasn’t felt. The rookie pass rusher was close to getting to Burrow on a handful of plays. He eventually got to the QB while recording half a sack.
Turner and Donald combined for a 9-yard sack of Burrow. On this particular play, yes it’s easy to be awed (and slightly intimidated) by AD’s powerful pass rushing skills. However, kudos to Turner for following through and finishing off the play. Donald went low trying to grab the signal caller’s leg to bring him down while the Wake Forest product got in Burrow’s face, preventing a miracle escape out of the sack.
Turner has been one of the most impressive rookies on the team who just hasn’t been getting the recognition he deserves thanks to the Puka show taking the NFL by storm. After losing Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson along the defensive line this offseason, there were legitimate questions as to who could possibly replace their production.
Kobie is coming on strong and producing at a high rate even if the box scores don’t necessarily reflect it. He’ll likely see more one-on-one looks from opposing offenses hellbent on preventing AD from causing mayhem. Playing alongside a future Hall of Famer will only help Turner as the season progresses.
Compared to the first two weeks of the season, this was a quiet outing for the rookie darling. Puka was nowhere close to having the 20 targets he had a week ago. Instead, Nacua finished with the second-most targets on the team with seven, just behind Tutu Atwell’s nine.
Nacua still led LA in receptions (5-tied with Tyler Higbee) and yards (72). The BYU product was catching just about everything thrown his way early and then quieted down once the Bengals defense adjusted. His production picked up late in what was basically garbage time for the Rams. Puka had just 35 receiving yards until this 37-yard pass from Stafford:
Either way, it’s been special what Nacua has done this early in his professional career. On the season, he has 30 catches for 338 yards with no scores. Nacua is averaging 10 receptions a game while the 338 yards are the second-most receiving yards through the first three career games in NFL history behind Anquan Boldin.
I know there are some fans out there concerned by Puka’s lack of receiving scores and somehow that takes away from his big play abilities. Personally, I expect things will get easier for the rook once Cooper Kupp returns to the lineup. Defenses will concentrate primarily on Kupp while other playmakers like Nacua and Atwell will have an easier time finding openings and hopefully, the end zone. Don’t worry, the touchdowns will come for Nacua but we might have to wait a bit until the offense gets their heart and soul back on the field.
If the touchdowns don’t come, Puka can function as a run blocker then. He might actually have a future there.
Puka Nacua, catches everything thrown to him and levels dudes in the run game pic.twitter.com/8XRTI2yYKZ— Football (@BostonConnr) September 26, 2023
Similar to Turner, Young is beginning to find his role on the LA defense. Both players have been the most productive pass rushers on the team. For a team lacking depth in that department heading into the season, it was crucial for the Rams to nail these selections. Turns out their investments are paying major dividends.
Young had five total tackles, half a sack and three QB hits in the loss. His speed has the potential to be absolutely devastating for opposing offenses and I’m here for it. The Tennessee product has notched at least half a sack in each of his first three games.
Young became the first Rams player to record a sack in the first two games. He also has at least two QB hits in every game this season, proving he’s been effective at getting to the opposing signal caller through any means necessary.
I felt bad for failing to include Evans in the rookie report last week. My mistake for forgetting that punters are people too. I certainly deserve a powerful kick in the @$$ for refusing to give Evans his due each and every week.
In Cincinnati, Evans punted the ball six times, averaging 51.0 yards per boot. His longest punt of the night went for 58 yards and he even pinned a kick inside the 20. Through three games, Evans is fifth in the NFL in punting average (51.0), sandwiched between A.J Cole of the Raiders and the Vikings’ Ryan Wright (most punter name ever).
It’s never ideal to send out the punter following an unsuccessful offensive drive. Yet, Evans is proof LA was smart about entrusting a rookie with a crucial special teams position. Special teams take a backseat in today’s NFL thanks to the flashy spectacle of modern offenses but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Evans is proof that the Rams made the correct move in that aspect of their special teams this offseason.