A strong defensive showing by the Los Angeles Chargers and an eight-play, 70-yard drive punctuated by a Darius Bradwell rushing touchdown led to a 13-6 victory over the Los Angeles Rams Saturday night in SoFi Stadium.
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Chargers LBs Finding Their Roles — The hallmark of Brandon Staley’s Rams defense in 2020 was the ability to fit the run with two deep safeties, as that defense led the NFL with 213 rushes defended from two-high structures. He won’t have the destructive force of Aaron Donald to protect this LB corps, but Nick Niemann produced four tackles in 13 run defense snaps while Kyzir White rallied to the check-downs in the pass game with three tackles in coverage near or behind the line of scrimmage.
Justin Lawler’s Big Night — The Rams will need to find respectable production opposite of Leonard Floyd to keep Donald in as many one-on-ones as possible. Lawler showed up tonight, finishing with an impressive two TFLs and three pressures. He’s one of many Rams players looking for a promotion from rotational player to starter.
Keep Cashing Checks, Chase — Chase Daniel, in his sixth stop over his 11-year career, put on a tour de force as a journeyman backup, with 104 yards passing on 25 dropbacks. Staley is clearly borrowing from Sean McVay's philosophy of sitting his starters to open the preseason, so it’s hard to say definitively where this offense is heading under coordinator Joe Lombardi. But the former Saint is pretty clearly on the roster to be Justin Herbert’s after-practice tutor.
Go-Go-Gadget, Tutu Atwell — We got a good idea of how McVay sees Atwell’s role with 14 snaps outside, 11 in the slot, one in the backfield and a couple looks as a returner. With Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and DeSean Jackson filling the traditional roles, Atwell will likely be analogous to what Marquise Goodwin was for Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers offense: A speed guy who comes on the field for manufactured touches, gadget plays and as a decoy.
An Impressive Night for Larry Rountree III — Early preseason action usually means heavy workloads for backup running backs, and Rountree was up to the task. The 2021 sixth-rounder generated just under eight yards per carry on his eight rushes, including a 25-yard rush capped off with a dead leg cut that had Rams rookie Paris Ford eating SoFi Stadium turf.
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What’s The Identity Of Raheem Morris’ Defense? — Though no starters were available for the Rams, it was noteworthy that only two listed linebackers logged any defensive snaps for Morris' defense. Trying to forecast the Rams defense in 2021 is difficult given the route Morris has taken to get here. He’s worked as coordinator or assistant for several different schemes/philosophies: Monte Kiffin (4-3 Tampa 2), Jim Haslett (attacking 3-4), and Dan Quinn (4-3, Cover 3). This much exposure to different defenses can be an asset for the Rams defense, which had a diverse coverage and front portfolio in 2020. Don’t be surprised if he was ultimately brought in to run exactly what Staley did.