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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cameron DaSilva

8 position battles to watch in Rams’ preseason game vs. Raiders

The Los Angeles Rams’ depth chart is beginning to take shape as the regular season approaches, and we’ll get even more clarity on Saturday night when they host the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2 of the preseason.

There are still several position battles that need to be sorted out before Week 1, including cornerback, wide receiver, outside linebacker and nose tackle. The offensive line is sorting itself out across the board, and with both Brian Allen and Coleman Shelton likely to sit out this second preseason game, we won’t gain any more insight at center.

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Here are eight position battles to monitor when the Rams face the Raiders.

Outside linebacker

(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong) 

The edge rushers were not particularly impressive in the Rams’ preseason opener, especially in the first half. Michael Hoecht and Byron Young struggled to generate pressure, and though Keir Thomas got home a couple of times, the Rams didn’t collapse the pocket enough against the Chargers.

Young, Hoecht, Thomas, Nick Hampton and others are all competing for snaps at outside linebacker this season, which makes these preseason games critical for them. It’s their best opportunity to prove themselves to the coaching staff, with Saturday against the Raiders being even more important than the last game.


(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) 

Quentin Lake and Russ Yeast both played in the opener, as did Jason Taylor II, Tanner Ingle and Rashad Torrence II. They’re all battling for playing time this season behind Jordan Fuller and John Johnson II, which is an important role considering how often the Rams use three-safety sets.

Lake and Yeast definitely have the lead in this competition, but don’t rule out Ingle making the 53-man roster. He had two tackles for a loss in the first preseason game despite only playing limited snaps. He could pull ahead of Taylor if he keeps playing well in these exhibition games.

Wide receiver

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Tutu Atwell didn’t play in the first game so he probably won’t suit up against the Raiders, either. If he’s close to locking down the No. 3 receiver spot, Ben Skowronek, Puka Nacua and Demarcus Robinson will all be competing for the WR4 role.

Tyler Johnson, however, played the best of the bunch last week, leading the team with five catches for 70 yards. He could pull ahead of Skowronek on the depth chart soon if he keeps performing well, but Nacua and Robinson are absolutely making the case for playing time early on, too. Suffice to say, it’s a crowded receiver group in Los Angeles.

No. 3 RB

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Ronnie Rivers is inching closer to locking up a roster spot after playing well in the first preseason game, averaging 5.2 yards per carry with a long rush of 15 yards. Zach Evans led the team with 34 yards but that was on eight attempts, though he did have a nice run of 9 yards. Royce Freeman scored the only rushing touchdown but as he has been throughout his career, he wasn’t very efficient (3.7 YPC).

It’s safe to assume the Rams will keep at least four running backs, which means two of Rivers, Evans and Freeman will make it. If they keep five, all of them will stick on the 53-man roster. Right now, Rivers and Evans are the favorites to make the cut.

Backup QB

(AP Photo/Ryan Sun) 

Did the Rams give Stetson Bennett most of the snaps because he’s the favorite to back up Matthew Stafford or did they feel he needed more work than Brett Rypien? That split will be something to watch this weekend, as will the performance of each player.

We know Bennett won’t be cut this year but if he doesn’t play well enough leading into the season, the Rams could be forced to keep both quarterbacks behind Stafford. Either way, this is a competition to monitor closely as the season approaches.

Nose tackle

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) 

Kobie Turner and Bobby Brown III are competing to be the starting nose tackle this season but neither played a ton in the first preseason game; 18 snaps for Turner and 10 for Brown. The run defense was abysmal, particularly when the Chargers went off-tackle, but both Turner and Brown need to be better.

The Rams could just choose to rotate both players when the season begins, depending on the situation. Brown is a bigger defender against the run, while Turner is likely to offer more as a pass rusher.

Defensive end

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) 

Like nose tackle, the defensive end spot is wide open. Marquise Copeland and Earnest Brown IV are battling there, with no clear indication of one being ahead of the other. The defensive line as a whole is shaky outside of Aaron Donald, so the Rams need someone – or several players – to step up.

Brown has had a solid offseason and continues to progress as a defender, while Copeland is the more proven player of the two, someone the Rams seem to like a lot.


(AP Photo/Ryan Sun) 

Tre Tomlinson and Jordan Jones both made a strong impression in the preseason opener, standing out as two of the Rams’ better defenders in that game. Shaun Jolly was unexpectedly absent, but assuming he’s recovered from whatever injury he was dealing with, he should be on the field this weekend. Robert Rochell is also competing for meaningful snaps in the secondary.

Behind Cobie Durant, Ahkello Witherspoon and likely Derion Kendrick, there are a lot of spots and snaps up for grabs. We’ll see which cornerbacks rise to the occasion against the Raiders on Saturday night.

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