What to Look Out For in the Next L.A. Rams Preseason Game

Raymond Calais

Getty Raymond Calais returns a kick for the Los Angeles Rams in Saturday's 13-6 preseason loss to the L.A. Chargers.

How will things flow between the Los Angeles Rams and Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday night?

Last week in SoFi Stadium we witnessed the following: A hurdle, an inefficient running attack, an emotional defensive display and samples of explosiveness from two rookie receiving targets.

Of course, this week we’ve seen shoves and punches between the two clubs.

We’ll see how the emotions play out this time when both teams hit the field at 7 p.m. PT for kickoff. But emotions isn’t the only thing we should scrutinize in the Rams’ second preseason contest. What else will be worth keeping an eye on? Here’s a dive:

Offense: Speed and Lane Openings a Must

There were flashes of explosiveness of offense last week: Tutu Atwell’s 20-yard catch, Jacob Harris and his 20-yard gain (despite a fumble he eventually pounced on) and of course Bryce Perkins scaling over a Chargers defender for the first down.

But with 197 total yards, the unit underwhelmed. Now, where should the Rams go from here? Especially as they continue to figure out their roster with the 80-player August 24 deadline on the horizon?

Here’s a look at some matchups worth watching.

Rookie versus Rookie: It’s going to be fun to see if Atwell and Raiders rookie safety Nate Hobbs go at it. We’ve gotten a small taste of what Atwell can do. And, according to Next Gen Stats, Atwell can go past 20 miles per hour.

But here’s a sample of what Hobbs is capable of:

Both run a 40-yard dash time below 4.39 (Hobbs was timed at 4.38). It’s also too be determined if new Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will deploy Hobbs on blitzes, like he did against the Seattle Seahawks. But with Hobbs coming in as a nickel cornerback and the Rams moving Atwell around, the feeling is the ex-Illinois star Hobbs will be assigned to the former Louisville Cardinal when they’re on the field.

Speed on speed. Got to love it.

Rams trench reserves versus Raiders front line: One clear reason why the Raiders brought in Bradley was to make the defense faster off the ball, especially up front.

Last week – even with Jordan Meredith becoming the highest graded Ram on offense and head coach Sean McVay saying Coleman Shelton and Bobby Evans played well – the offensive line underwhelmed. And Bradley is likely to turn his trench men loose to test these guys.

The guards Meredith and Evans will likely encounter 27-year-old NFL veteran defensive tackle Darius Philon, who had three tackles and three quarterback hurries on 17 snaps and graded out at 88.7 after the Seahawks game by PFF. Weakside linebacker Javin White will be another Raider to account for, following his five-tackle evening while taking a team-high 38 defensive snaps last Saturday.

More ground production: If running lanes do open, it’s a great chance to see how aggressive the likes of Xavier Jones, Jake Funk and Raymond Calais attacks the openings. It’s more than just the front line. These guys have to improve their numbers from last week to show Ram fans they are valuable options outside of Darrell Henderson. The longest run a Rams RB had against the Chargers? An 8-yard gain by Jones.

Defense: Applying Pressure and Containing the Run

Justin Lawler was among the best stories on the Ram defense last Saturday, with a high-energy and inspiring four tackle, two QB hit evening…all after coming back from three foot surgeries.

Meanwhile, undrafted safeties J.R. Reed and JuJu Hughes combined for 13 tackles – often crashing down and filling running lanes near the line of scrimmage to get on the tackle sheet.

Lawler will likely be asked to turn up the heat. I wouldn’t rule out rookies Chris Garrett and Ernest Jones attacking gaps on blitzes either, as the Rams still will probably want to see their blitzing ability in an NFL game.

Now, with the trio of Derek Carr, Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs likely watching from the sidelines, the Ram defenders who take the field still need to account for one area of L.V.:

The ground game: Last week, Trey Ragas and B.J. Emmons averaged 4.8 and five yards a carry, respectively. According to PFF, the Raiders had 12 of their linemen, tight ends and receivers zone block between 11 to 20 plays – meaning L.V. will likely throw some zone running schemes at the Rams.

The 5-foot-10, 230-pound Ragas (who was college teammates at Louisiana with Raymond Calais) will be the most physical challenge. Of his 62 rushing yards, 44 of it came after contact. For any Ram defender looking to show their tackling ability to stay on the roster come Tuesday, staying low and gang tackling Ragas to limit his yardage after the hands and pads contact is a great way to win over the coaches.

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