Football is officially back. The Los Angeles Rams fell to the Oakland Raiders in their preseason debut, and the premium starters didn’t play. However, there were still plenty of takeaways to be had.
Preseason football isn’t necessarily about the results, but rather how individual depth players perform. Below we’ll go over who’s stock rose, who’s fell, and what this could mean going forward into the preseason.
Stock Up – Safety Steven Parker
In the second quarter, with the Raiders driving to a potential score, Steven Parker let it be known than cutting him from the final 53-man roster won’t be an easy decision. The second-year safety intercepted quarterback Mike Glennon near the goal line and went on to finish his day with five tackles.
The Rams currently have a top-four at the safety position with Eric Weddle, John Johnson, Taylor Rapp, and Marqui Christian head and shoulders above the rest of the safeties. After that, it gets murky with Nick Scott, the favorite, subsequent to the team drafting him in the seventh round. Both Scott (46) and Parker (48) played comparable snaps and will be something to keep an eye on as the preseason progresses.
Parker spent last season on the Rams’ practice squad and could be a prime candidate to return. On the other hand, if he keeps performing as he did against the Raiders, he could earn a full roster spot.
Stock Up – Quarterback John Wolford
Stock Down – Quarterback Brandon Allen
Brandon Allen was not good in the first preseason game. Of the 92 quarterbacks that played in Week 1, Allen ranked 86th according to Pro Football Focus. The fourth-year quarterback completed 6-of-12 passes and averaged 2.8 yards per attempt.
Meanwhile, AAF star John Wolford completed 6-of-8 passes for 54 yards and seemed to show more poise and control.
It’s uncertain whether or not the Rams will keep a third quarterback. It is unlikely given that Blake Bortles signed this offseason to backup Jared Goff. However, Wolford would be practice squad eligible and would be someone who could compete for a backup role next year after Bortles’ one-year contract expires.
Stock Up – Wide Receiver KhaDarel Hodge
Hodge seems to have the fifth wide receiver spot locked up. The second-year wide receiver caught three passes for 48 yards and was by far the team’s most productive receiver. With a top-four of Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Josh Reynolds pretty much set in place, there isn’t a ton of room for Hodge to sneak into the starting lineup. However, he has put a gap between him and the other receivers looking to make the roster.
Stock Up – Safety Taylor Rapp
It was pretty obvious why the Rams took Washington safety Taylor Rapp with their first pick in the 2019 NFL draft. The former Husky flew around the field against the Raiders. He was the 14th best safety last week according to Pro Football Focus as he recorded two tackles and a pass breakup on a third down.
He played all of his snaps on the first drive in the box, which could mean that the team foresees him playing a Mark Barron-esque role. The Rams are going to have packages for him despite having Weddle and Johnson in place as starters.
Stock Up – Running Back John Kelly
Stock Down – Running Back Darrell Henderson
Kelly received a lot of first and second-team reps in training camp practices leading up to the game, and that continued against the Raiders as he got the start. Kelly only ran three times for 10 yards, but it’s the fact that he started that is the most eye-opening.
Henderson comes in off of a low note, but it’s not because I don’t think he’s going to be a good player. I think his role in the offense could be different than many expected.
The team brought back Malcolm Brown for a reason and rested him in the first preseason game. Meanwhile, Henderson, who many would have considered the third guy, didn’t start. Henderson recorded six carries for 13 yards and will be much closer to a Chris Thompson in the Rams offense than an Alvin Kamara during his rookie year with the Saints, or even Tevin Coleman when he backed up Devonta Freeman.
Henderson will have packages in place for him on offense and may still see 1-3 carries per game to go along with 2-3 catches out of the backfield. With a Rams backfield that’s as deep as it is, that’s a fair expectation. He’s not going to be the bell cow or hand-cuff to Gurley. This is another offensive weapon that McVay will be able to design plays for and be used in specific packages.
Stock Up – Linebacker Landis Durham
Stock Down – Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
It seems as if Ogbonnia Okoronkwo’s time with the Rams may be coming to a close. The Rams drafted the linebacker out of Oklahoma last season in the fifth round, and he has struggled not just to stay healthy, but get healthy. He missed the first preseason game with a hamstring issue after not seeing the field last season.
The best-case scenario for Okoronkwo might be for the Rams to put him on Injured Reserve. That way he’s able to stay around the team, but can get healthy and compete for a roster spot next year.
The Rams, however, got a spark off of the edge elsewhere with Landis Durham. Durham had a sack, six tackles, a quarterback hit, and a tackle for loss. If he can keep that up over the next three weeks, he could very well earn a spot in the pass-rushing rotation.
Stock Down – Backup Offensive Line
The worst part about the preseason is watching the backup offensive line. Surprisingly, there was some optimism with the Rams’ backup unit after they drafted David Edwards and Bobby Evans. Later, Jamil Demby seemed to have a good camp.
Unfortunately, Edwards and Demby each had two penalties and Evans recorded a porous 44 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. The Rams have been lucky and been able to stay healthy upfront the last two years. Based on Saturday against the Raiders, hopefully, that remains the case.