Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay continued to follow a familiar pattern from seasons past, as none of the planned starters saw the field in the 17-12 final loss to the Denver Broncos.
Hours before kickoff, Rams special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis was put into COVID-19 protocol and missed the show.
The Rams didn’t return to the end zone until the Week 1 opener against the Chicago Bears, but they still had a handful of things to take away from players and coaches to learn from.
With roster cuts looming, Saturday’s game against the Broncos marked the last time the roster hopefuls had the opportunity to show up in a live game before Tuesday’s deadline. That Rams will have to cut 27 players.
Here are the top five observations of the Rams’ preseason loss to the Broncos:
Quarterback Bryce Perkins did enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster
Perkins has been a pleasant surprise for the Rams throughout training camp and preseason. It offers the possibility of defeating opposing defenses in two ways: with its arm and its rapid mobility.
But arguably Perkins’ most impressive trait comes from his pocket-sized composure. Regardless of the defenses thrown at him during the preseason, Perkins showed no sign of shaking.
Perkins put the final cachet on his preseason resume, going 23 of 42 with 201 yards. He also saved time with his legs and rushed for a top 50 yards on nine carries.
Quarterback’s Matthew Stafford and John Wolford haven’t taken a snapshot for the entire preseason. While it was initially thought that Perkins could be a placed quarterback on the practice squad, his performance this preseason should be enough to make it to the 53-man roster. Otherwise, he would likely be claimed by another team. Rams front office staff now have the difficult choice of how many quarterbacks to keep on the 53-player roster.
Rams comeback game stays hot
Last season, the Rams’ return game struggled to put the offensive in a positive field position. It was quite the opposite this preseason.
Second-round pick Tutu Atwell again had plenty of looks, getting four punt returns with a 17-yard yardage. The Rams turned to Jeremiah Haydel for kicking returns. Raymond Calais suffered a foot injury and was lifted.
Hydel started a practice with a 40-yard return, which ended with a short 23-yard field goal from kicker Matt Gay. Hydel demonstrated a great gust and an ability to change direction without decelerating. Hydel has an uphill battle to make it into the roster, but an average of 26.7 yards per kick return on Saturday helps his case.
WR Tutu Atwell remains active in receiving game
Atwell was not only his back on the punters, but he was extremely active in the receiving game. Atwell caught eight assists, a team-high, for 62 yards.
Atwell has been the focal point of the preseason, seeing a heavy dose of targets from Perkins. As the season approaches, he and veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson will likely be deployed as the team’s deep threat option. Atwell ran a 4.32 dash 40 yards out of college and the speed in the game appears to be comparable.
McVay used capital from the first draft to select Atwell in the 2021 NFL Draft, which means he has big plans for the new speedster. After seeing how elusive Atwell is in the open field, he’ll likely line up in a variety of ways. The main thing with Atwell is to make his 165 pound thin frame can gilded. From the way he fared against the Broncos, McVay doesn’t seem worried about giving Atwell a heavy workload.
RB Xavier Jones carries the load without Jake Funk
In the first two preseason games, Xavier Jones and Jake Funk shared reserve options behind running back Darrell Henderson. The Rams traded for Sony Michel of the New England Patriots during the week, which calls into question the future of Jones and Funk.
Jones handled every transfer, recording 13 carries for 44 yards. It was his best game of the preseason, and he hopes it will leave the staff fond memories as they finalize the 53 finals.
As for Funk, he didn’t get into the action. No door, no outlets. This doesn’t mean Funk is the Weird Man, but rather it could be a sign that McVay is already sold on the rookie rusher. There is no concrete answer at the moment, but it is something to watch out for. Perhaps the Rams could keep four running backs: Henderson, Michel, Funk and Jones.
Corey Bojorquez pleads his case for boat work
Evaluating bettors might not be the most exciting thing about training camp, but the Rams have a real battle of position on their hands. Longtime punter Johnny Hekker is on the books to be the highest paid player at his job. Bojorquez not only led the league in yards by punt last season, he was also impressive in the preseason.
With 4:20 left in the second quarter, the Rams were pulled back inside their own 20-yard line and Bojorquez fired a missile into the field for 67 yards, knocking the pitch down. Bojorquez then continued with a stunning 70-yard punt, putting the Broncos on their own 1-yard line. He finished the night showing his big leg on five attempts and averaging 55.4 yards per punt.
If the Rams choose Bojorquez as their bettor, they will save $ 3.75 million. Hekker has been a Rams staple for over a decade, but the writing could be on the wall regarding his future with the team.
Nick Cothrel is the editor of Ram Digest. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel.