The Los Angeles Rams finally played their defensive starters during their 21-20 victory over the Houston Texans on Saturday, August 25. Here is a look at some key observations from the game:
Defense looks great
Defensive lineman Aaron Donald still isn’t with the team, but the remaining starting unit quickly served notice that it shouldn’t be disregarded. The first team defense dominated the Texans’ starters under returning quarterback Deshaun Watson. He completed only 3 of 6 passes for 15 yards and an interception in the game. Watson also took a brutal hit from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in the first quarter.
The rest of the starting defense simply overpowered the Houston offense. There was little to no room in the secondary, and the Rams’ front seven hit gaps efficiently to stuff the running game. If this is what defensive coordinator Wade Phillips sends onto the field in Week 1, 2018 will be a great year for the Rams.
Mannion isn’t silencing doubters
Rams head coach Sean McVay continues to employ simplified offensive gameplans, which makes it more difficult to properly evaluate quarterback Sean Mannion. The fourth year quarterback has also yet to take the field with the first team offense. However, there are still several warning signs that show Mannion’s not prepared to step in for Goff. He makes too many mistakes and struggles to read coverage. His passes get batted down at the line of scrimmage at an unacceptable rate for a 6’6 quarterback. I’m not saying he will not be a successful backup in the NFL. Instead, I’m arguing that he’s done nothing to show that he can do well.
John Kelly makes his case
Running back Malcolm Brown proved himself worthy of the Rams’ backup role behind Todd Gurley in the last two years. I never believed that John Kelly or any of the other running backs would supplant him from that role. Well, I was wrong. Kelly’s performance this summer has moved him in position to take over the No. 2 running back slot, and it’s not even close. Kelly registered 15 carries for 64 yards and two touchdowns, including a bruising 15-yard scoring run. The former Tennessee standout has done more than earn a spot on this team. Kelly has staked his claim to Brown’s spot in resounding fashion.
Micah Kiser is a steal
We’ve been all over linebacker Micah Kiser since before the draft. The man is a tackling machine, who should earn a starting job sooner rather than later. Don’t believe me? Check out what Pro Football Focus had to say about Kiser in their newsletter released today:
“Rookie linebacker Micah Kiser put together his best game of the preseason with his 91.5 overall grade against the Texans. He earned elite grades (90.0+) for both his run defense and coverage with his 90.0 and 90.4, respectively. All five of his tackles were defensive stops, while he was able to force two incompletions in his coverage on four targets as well.”
The big knock on Kiser entering the draft was his coverage skills. However, he’s continued to show improvement in that area ever since the Rams drafted him. Los Angeles took him in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Considering his development and his future on this roster, it’s safe to say the Rams got a steal in Kiser.
Derek Ciapala is the co-founder and managing editor of Rams Talk. He has been published on Yahoo! Sports, Sports Out West and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or Twitter @dciapala.