The Los Angeles Rams will be on the road for their remaining preseason games. This week they’ll be playing against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. It may be preseason, but it will be tough on both sides of the ball, so here’s what to lookout for:
It’s likely that Case Keenum will be the Week 1 starter, but that doesn’t mean the competition with rookie Jared Goff and Sean Mannion is over. Thus far Keenum hasn’t played much and will likely have more reps moving forward. Goff did improve last week, completing 8 of 12 passes for 82 yards, one touchdown and two fumbles. He will need to play much better to earn the starting role. Mannion didn’t play against the Kansas City Chiefs, but he should get some snaps against Denver. It’s hard to say if Mannion will contribute much now that the regular season is nearly here.
The Rams need the receiving corps to step up. It’s difficult to blame them this past week since the opportunities weren’t there, but dropped passes will be the death of the offense. The only roster locks appear to be Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin and Pharoh Cooper, which means three spots are available. Undrafted free agent Nelson Spruce played well against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, but was also injured. Other than that, receivers Brian Quick, Duke Williams, Mike Thomas and Bradley Marquez have failed to separate themselves from the pack. This is a key game for these young guys trying to make the roster, and it won’t be an easy task against the Denver defense.
Suppressing the defensive penetration
The offensive line has done a solid job protecting the quarterbacks and creating holes for the running game in the first two games. I blame Goff for the few sacks and fumbles for failing to get rid of the football quickly. There wasn’t much pressure on Keenum or Mannion. The Rams have an extremely young corps of offensive linemen, and have looked like veterans. Guys like Malcolm Brown and Aaron Green have benefitted from them and have received a ton of the credit. The real test will come this Saturday against the Broncos’ elite defensive unit.
Can we get a blitz?
This seems all too familiar in past preseasons. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams almost seems to refuse to reveal his blitz packages, which are his bread and butter. It’s frustrating, because there is almost a sense that the defensive front is holding back. Of course players like defensive end Robert Quinn haven’t played at all, but the defensive front is capable of accomplishing much more than what we have witnessed the past two preseason games. Pressuring Paxton Lynch and Mark Sanchez is a surefire way to win the game. I expect to see a little blitz action against the Broncos, but not as much as I’d like.
Second wind for the secondary?
The biggest concern on the defense is the secondary. The past two weeks the secondary have been torched by the likes of rookie Dak Prescott, Alex Smith and, gulp, Nick Foles. That’s unacceptable as the Rams creep closer to the start of the regular season. E.J. Gaines did return last week against the Chiefs, but he produced mixed results partially due to some rust. Even Trumaine Johnson didn’t play well, which is not something you want to see from your starters. Coty Sensabaugh, Lamarcus Joyner and Marcus Roberson haven’t impressed either. If they continue to provide too much of a cushion, it could be another long game for the defensive unit.