The Las Vegas Raiders are set to take on the Los Angeles Rams during Week 2 of the preseason, and Evan Craig of Turf Show Times was kind enough to answer a few questions for Raider Nation to give a quick preview of the game.
MH: Outside of Aaron Donald and Jordan Fuller, I feel like there aren’t a whole lot of names people will recognize on the Rams’ defense. Who are a few defenders who you think could make an impact on Saturday?
EC: Tre Tomlinson had a stellar game Saturday. He played against college teammate and fellow rookie Quentin Johnson and made his life a living hell, deflecting most passes that went his way. Out of any first-year defender, he’s an easy lock to make the final roster.
Other notable defenders would be third-rounders Kobie Turner and Bryon Young. Both players had quiet games against the Chargers but McVay was very happy with the effort they had shown. Whether that will translate to the stat sheet this weekend is anyone’s guess. Either way, LA will be counting on them a lot this year so they have plenty of chances to shine in the lineup.
MH: Building on that, it looks like the Rams have a ton of rookies to fill out their depth chart. Are there any in particular that you’re going to be keeping an eye on?
EC: Wide receiver Puka Nacua is one rookie in particular that I’m excited about. I’ll talk about him more later but believe me when I say that practically everyone on this team is thrilled about what all he can bring to the table. His potential is immense.
Sticking with the offense, I’m also going to say running back Zach Evans. He’s not going to threaten Cam Akers, not right away. Evans might not be a polished route runner or much of a threat in the passing game, but he has quite a bit of burst and speed which I know McVay loves.
MH: Stetson Bennett was kind of a surprise fourth-round pick last April. How has he looked so far, and do you think he could be the heir apparent to Matthew Stafford?
EC: Bennett put together a solid outing last week against the Chargers. He had some expected early jitters which he got out of the way in a hurry. The offense was moving the ball well once he entered the game and I have to believe he’ll be the backup to Mattew Stafford this season. I would be very shocked if he isn’t named QB2. Considering who the Rams had behind Stafford last year I’d happily take Bennett as he’ll be a massive upgrade.
I could absolutely see him becoming the heir apparent to Stafford. In my personal opinion which never amounts to much, I don’t believe LA will be as bad as analysts are projecting which is why I don’t envision them being in a position to select one of the top quarterbacks in next year’s draft like Caleb Williams or Drake Maye.
I’d say if that ends up being the case, why not give Bennett a chance? He’s (relatively) young, hungry and intelligent. Assuming he can limit bad turnovers, he’ll win games and be a solid signal caller for a long time in the NFL even if things don’t work out in Los Angeles.
MH: I feel like the Rams have an open competition for their WR2 role behind Cooper Kupp. Has anyone stood out from the pack?
EC: A lot of big things are expected from Nacua who has been deemed by many across the media as the steal of the draft. Nacua will likely be the slot guy until a greater role is carved out for him. McVay has piled on the workload ever since the start of camp and the rook has handled it very well.
Other options include veteran wideout Demarcus Robinson who has enough experience to make a sizable impact in LA’s offense. Then there’s Tutu Atwell who is supposedly going to be given more opportunities. I’ve been hearing that talk for the last two offseasons so I’ll believe it when I see it.
The best thing about having a young receiving room is that any of these guys can fill the void at WR2. There’s so much potential and I’m very excited to see who steps into the role since it won’t be resolved heading into the regular season.
MH: The last two seasons couldn’t have been more different for the Rams, so what are your expectations heading into 2023?
EC: I clearly don’t expect this team to compete for a Lombardi unless something drastic happens between now and February, but I don’t think competing for a playoff spot is out of the question. There is enough talent on this roster yet there are quite a few sizable holes that need to be filled at some point.
LA is fortunate they play in a weak conference which means they could reasonably be in playoff contention past Thanksgiving. Assuming they can survive a brutal opening five games, that’s not an unrealistic scenario. Overall, I want the Rams to develop their rookies and second-year players and if the younglings show enough promise throughout the year, the season will be worth it even if LA suffers through another losing campaign.