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Preseason: 3 matchups to watch against Rams

Lots of rookies on display this Saturday

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders
Tre Tucker
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

We’re coming up on crunch time for players to make their cases for playing time as the Las Vegas Raiders are set to take on the Los Angeles Rams in both teams’ second to last preseason game of 2023. The stakes are heightened for everyone on the roster who is competing for positioning on the depth chart as the top three matchups for Saturday’s contest are below.

Tre Tucker vs. Tre Tomlinson

A battle between a couple of undersized rookie Tre’s!

Tre Tucker showed some impressive route-running skills last week as he was able to get open for three targets and had a nice 15-yard catch. However, the problem was he dropped the other two passes—one that should have been an easy catch and another that was more difficult but slipped threw his arms to wipe out a big play down the sideline.

So, this Saturday will be about putting it all together and finishing for Tucker, but he faces some stiff competition in Tre Tomlinson.

Last year at TCU, Tomlinson led all FBS cornerbacks with 21 forced incompletions (FI), according to Pro Football Focus. He has impressive ball skills and those showed up during his preseason NFL debut last week as he was targeted five times and only allowed one completion for eight yards and had two FIs. The latter was tied for the second-most among all cornerbacks.

Both players can fly too, as Tucker runs a 4.4 40-yard dash and Tomlinson was clocked at 4.41 seconds, and both have the versatility to line up inside or outside, so this should be a really fun matchup to watch.

Netane Muti vs. Kobie Turner

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders
Netane Muti
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Netane Muti made the most out of his Raiders debut last Sunday, posting the highest PFF grade among any offensive lineman (regardless of position) with a near-perfect 97.7, which was 3.8 points higher than anyone else. He didn’t allow a single pressure on 12 snaps in pass protection and was a force in the run game with a 94.4 mark in that department.

With Las Vegas’ open competition at right guard, Muti’s brute strength should serve him well in that battle, but he faces a tough test this weekend in rookie defensive tackle Kobie Turner.

As an FCS transfer, Turner was extremely impressive in his lone season at Wake Forest last year. He earned a 92.2 PFF grade that was fourth among defensive tackles and only 0.1 points behind Georgia’s Jalen Carter. The Demon Deacon had 34 pressures and 22 defensive stops as a run defender while making no starts and playing in a rotational role.

However, Turner will be looking to bounce back after he was quiet during his first preseason game outside of drawing a penalty. Still, his quickness could give Muti and Las Vegas’ offensive line trouble as he’s competing for playing time along Los Angeles’ defensive line.

Jakorian Bennett vs. Puka Nacua

Typically, I like to avoid repeating players to watch during the preseason to give you all information on other guys who are fighting for a roster spot. However, even though Jakorian Bennett was brought up ahead of the 49ers game, this matchup between him and Puka Nacua can’t be ignored.

Bennett was solid last week, getting targeted twice and allowing one completion for 17 yards. A performance he can improve on but also still be proud of seeing as it was his first time stepping onto an NFL field for a game. Meanwhile, Nacua looked pretty sharp in his debut.

The BYU product’s stat line wasn’t eye-popping—three catches on four targets for 32 yards and a score—but his touchdown grab came on a nice contested catch seen below and he’s been one of the Rams’ standouts during training camp.

Nacua has also shown off some versatility, taking 17 snaps out wide and 11 in the slot last weekend. That’s where this matchup could get really interesting as Bennett is also expected to be used on the inside and outside. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see a few targets that pit these two against each other and it will be a good measuring still to see how both rookies are progressing.