The Los Angeles Rams held a scrimmage against the Los Angeles Chargers on a sweltering day in Irvine, California on August 3, 2019. It seemed like gameday at University of California, Irvine with fans packing the stands. One thing is certain, both the Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers treated it like gameday.
The offense moved in a fluid motion, toward the end of the scrimmage. They appeared comfortable alternating between passing and the ground game. The Chargers starting defense didn’t have many answers for wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp and tight end Gerald Everett. Meanwhile, the offensive line wasn’t perfect, but it gave quarterback Jared Goff enough room to get passes off. The offense’s success rate is encouraging considering the talent on the Chargers defense. It’s important to note that it’s only a scrimmage, but it’s a good unit to test some of the unproven offensive linemen.
That said, this occurred mostly in the latter half of practice. The first half didn’t look promising at all, with too many penalties, including one that brought back a huge gain. Goff also threw an interception when pressure came full force. Head coach Sean McVay noted during the presser that the offense “finished strong,” but are in no way “close to good enough.”
The second-string offense played similarly to the first unit, but it did exhibit some flashes. The Chargers pressured quarterback Blake Bortles often and would have suffered several brutal sacks if it were a real game. The biggest takeaways from the second stringers are that Tyler Higbee and Michael Thomas stood out among the crowd. McVay mentioned his approval of Thomas during the press conference.
“… You see, he’s made some plays over the last couple days,” McVay said. “He’s got great explosiveness, he’s catching the ball really well. He’s obviously been a great contributor for ‘Bones’ (Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel), had his opportunities when he’s been healthy. He’s got great speed down the field, he’s a physical football player and he’s really been a guy – I’m sure you ask because you’ve seen it – he’s done a really nice job and we’ve been really pleased with Mike over the last couple days.”
Thomas entered this training camp with several questions about his future with the Rams. He may be playing himself into another year on the roster.
The secondary’s dominant performance became the Rams’ story of the day. Phillip Rivers managed to sneak in a few passes, but overall, he struggled throwing the ball downfield. Defensive backs Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and John Johnson did an excellent job maintaining deep coverage. Truthfully, the secondary shined.
That said, the middle of the field did not shine much at all. The front seven made some plays, including the likes of Bryce Hager getting to ball carriers and disrupting passes. Hager starting over second-year linebacker Micah Kiser stood out. Early expectations were that Kiser had the inside track to starting at middle linebacker. Meanwhile second-year defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day made some stops. Clay Matthews played like a young man out there as well. He would have crushed Rivers on one play if it wasn’t a scrimmage.
Other than that, the Chargers exposed the Rams’ middle too many times. Rivers shouldn’t be able to waltz into the end zone untouched. Rivers and Tyrod Taylor often attacked the center of the Rams’ front seven by shifting plays inside. Slants, screens and quarterback sneaks worked often against the defense. The Rams locked down the outside, but they had no answers in the inside. Defensive lineman Michael Brockers proved unable to get much penetration. It was definitely noticeable when Aaron Donald on the field. That’s a little unsettling should an injury arise.
- Safety Jake Gervase had an interception for touchdown in front of him, but he dropped the ball.
- Defensive back Darious Williams made an electric pick-six that truly ignited the crowd.
- Both Dante Fowler and Cory Littleton made some nice hits and deflected several passes.
- Linebacker Travin Howard deflected a pass, which led to a Dont’e Deayon interception.
- Wide receiver Jojo Natson provided some impressive jukes to avoid being touched by defenders.
- A slight altercation took place between Rams wide receiver Johnathan Lloyd and Chargers wide receiver Artavis Scott in special teams coverage.
- Running back Todd Gurley participated. His backup Malcolm Brown often took Gurley’s spot on the first team offense when it came time for a rest.
- Chargers linebacker Kyle Wilson absolutely trucked Rams wide receiver Josh Reynolds, who still held on to the ball.
- John Kelly benefited from a pointless pass interference call on a previous fourth down and later scored on a 1st and goal.