As far as preseason games go, it could have been worse for the Los Angeles Rams.
Future members of the Houston Texans practice squad and cuts beat future members of the Rams practice squad and cuts (in fact, the Rams already made cuts) 24-20 Friday night in SoFi Stadium in Week 2 of the NFL’s preseason.
For the Rams, the game was marred by the season-ending injury to third-round pick Logan Bruss. Bruss was leg whipped trying to recover on a pass rush and his knee did that thing where it bent in ways it’s not supposed to bend.
It’s a loss to the Rams depth on the offensive line. Bruss didn’t look like a starter in his two pre-season games, but a raw prospect. Now he sits until 2023.
The Rams continue to rest most of their starters in the pre-season. Cooper Kupp did an in-game interview, instead of catch passes, Matthew Stafford wore a ball cap, Aaron Donald did a video on the big screen.
Here’s what we learned about the Rams who played Friday night.
Wolford Not Better, But Better Fit?
What is an NFL team looking for in a backup quarterback? If you’re the Rams, you want Stafford redux, right? Someone with a live arm, good pocket presence, athletic enough to scramble a bit.
John Wolford got the start Friday night sparking a debate about whether the back-up spot behind Stafford is now a battle between him and Bryce Perkins.
Wolford was not brilliant, but he was Ok. The Rams offensive line was bad, but when he had the time, Wolford’s throws were accurate and sharp. He was 14-22 and sacked five times.
Perkins is more mobile and has a live arm. He demonstrated freak athletic ability – his 2-point conversion run was awesome – but in the preseason games, he’s usually forced to run around because the offensive line isn’t great.
From the pocket, Perkins doesn’t seem as accurate, and he still seems a bit too eager to run. So I think he’s fools gold. Perkins makes plays in the preseason that wouldn’t be there in the regular season. That’s why Wolford is the better fit as Rams second string QB for now.
The DBs Do It
You can never have enough guys in the NFL who can cover. The best thing to come out for the Rams Friday night was the play of some of their young defensive backs. I was all set to praise DeCobie Durant for his play on special teams, but he was active on the field too. He’s got a little bit of Tyrann Mathieu in him. He’s not that big, but the ball just sort of finds him.
Coaches call that instincts. I call it fearlessness.
The other Rams defensive back who stood out was Robert Rochell. He forced a fumble and was around the ball the whole second half.
The OL Does Not
Preseason games are weird, because teams have different things they want to accomplish. The Texans were one of the worst teams in the NFL last year, and they have a new coach in Lovie Smith. They’ve said they want to run the ball…I love when NFL teams say that, because, like, is there a team in the NFL who ever says they don’t? They played starters, like, full-on starters for part of the game, because they’re trying to win an establish a winning culture.
The Rams offensive line was – in a word – bad. But it wasn’t the full go unit, and in the second half when the Rams rallied, it did better because it was 2s on 2s.
The Rams have the luxury of using preseason games as a test run for a lot of guys, and a lot of guys playing Friday night aren’t going to be on the team come Sept. 8.
Speaking of Cuts
The Rams had to get their roster down to 80 players by Tuesday and made cuts Saturday. The biggest surprise was TE Kendall Blanton, a hero in the playoffs. He was cut meaning Brycen Hopkins is now the Rams No. 2 tight end. My guess is the Rams wanted to give Blanton a chance to catch on somewhere else.
The other cuts were no surprise: DB Jairon McVea, WR JJ Koski, and running backs AJ Rose and Raymond Calais. I kind of liked AJ Rose last week against the Chargers, but what this means is the Rams expect some of the injured running backs to come back soon. Maybe we see rookie Kyren Williams this Saturday in Cincinnati.
Did You Notice?
Rams wide receiver Lance McCutcheon made big plays for a second week in a row and led the team with five catches for 96 yards. I don’t fault him for not running out of bounds on the last play, with the Rams down 24-20. Two Texans collided and I think he saw the end zone there for a minute. McCutcheon might make this team with another good show Saturday.
The NFL has gone XFL, at least in the pre-season. They’ll never admit it – never – but the idea of interviewing coaches mid-game comes right out of the XFL playbook. And the interviews are actually good! Sean McVay talking about the play coming up and Raheem Morris’ sagging after a Texans sack was cool. Also, color commentator Andrew Whitworth divulging that he called McVay “Angry Shark” was a hoot.
Speaking of hair, the Lovie Smith bald/bushy beard combo is a sight to behold.
Who knew Rex Burkhead was still in the NFL? Jeez, that guy has been around forever.
A lot of penalties on special teams, why? Because those are really the guys on the fringe of the fringe, trying so hard to make a play.
How did the refs not see the helmet-to-helmet hit on Rams wide receiver Austin Trammell by Jalen Reeves-Maybin in the second quarter?
Controversy at the end of the first half. Houston wide receiver Phillip Dorsett made a sensational catch on the sidelines and was popped by Russ Yeast. Refs originally called Yeast for a dangerous hit (bogus) and that the pass was incomplete. Actually on review, Dorsett made the catch and absorbed the hit.
Here’s the other thing that drives NFL coaches batty about the refs. Last week, remember we had all those pass interference calls. This week, Rams DB Duron Lowe breaks up a Texans pass in the end zone late in the game, never turned around, just stuck his hands in. No flag. Last week, everyone would have said he needed to turn around to play the ball. Different officiating crews call pass interference differently.