After a long wait through free agency and training camp, the defending Super Bowl champion the Los Angeles Rams finally hit the field for their first taste of preseason action against their SoFi Stadium co-tenants the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night.
The Rams have been busy incorporating new pieces on the roster, though their starters and key rotation guys will sit out until the 2022 season officially begins. This has been par for the course since head coach Sean McVay took over the team in 2017, but there will still be things to watch out for when they play the chargers.
Rams Offense vs. Chargers Defense
Matthew Stafford won’t play as he and the team manage his elbow pain, and the rest of the key offensive pieces like Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson will also not see any snaps. Instead, McVay should use this time to get a better look at players like Tutu Atwell and Ben Skowronek, who could form a committee for the No. 3 receiver spot with Van Jefferson nursing a knee injury. Undrafted free agent Lance McCutcheon has also been drawing rave reviews during training camp and figures to get the bulk of targets from John Wolford and Bryce Perkins.
Former Rams defensive coordinator and now Chargers head coach Brandon Staley will be taking a similar approach by resting his regulars. Without new additions Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson taking the field, the Rams should find success moving the ball though the scheme is likely to be pretty vanilla.
Rams Defense vs. Chargers Offense
With no Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd rushing the quarterback, the Chargers should have opportunities to throw the ball, which could lead to opportunities for rookie defensive backs Derion Kendrick and Decobie Durant to prove themselves in coverage. Both rookies have had strong camps and they’ll have chances to push for regular snaps come Week 1.
Meanwhile, Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones will sit meaning there will be extended looks for Christian Rozeboom and Jake Hummel. Both inside linebackers project to play mostly on special teams, though they could be valuable depth pieces if they show out well.
Keys To Victory
1. Establish the running game
The Chargers were great at defending the pass last season but struggled against the run. With their regulars sitting, the Rams should go back and try to exploit this weakness with the backs expected to play. Even without Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, backs like Jake Funk should be able to find gaps up front and burst for good yardage.
2. Force the Chargers into passing down situations
Preseason is messy and unorganized and the lack of time to fully install schemes and concepts should work in the favor of defenses. Without Justin Herbert dropping back to pass, the Rams’ secondary should be able to hold its own against the Chargers’ passing game if they’re able to get them into third-and-long situations.