INGLEWOOD — Here are some takeaways from the Rams’ 34-17 preseason loss to the Chargers.
With the few defensive backs with actual experience — Jordan Fuller, Cobie Durant, John Johnson III — in street clothes and Derion Kendrick still nursing his hamstring, the Rams instead tested out Tre Tomlinson and Robert Rochell at outside corner, Quentin Lake and Russ Yeast at safety and Jordan Jones at the star spot.
Tomlinson — a sixth-round pick — was the clear standout.
He made a physical play on the receiver to break up a third-down pass on the opening drive, then made a good tackle in the run game the next time on the field. He was physical on a deep pass to former TCU teammate and first-round pick Quentin Johnston, then denied Terrell Bynum on his attempt to run to the corner of the end zone at the end of the second quarter.
Rochell was more inconsistent on the opposite side of the field, but made a good tackle at the point of the catch in the red zone in the second quarter.
The undrafted rookie Jones likewise had an up and down evening. He was beat by tight end Donald Parham on the second drive across the middle of the field, then lost Keelan Doss downfield on the next play. But he had a good open-field tackle of Parham to hold him to a two-yard gain later in the first half and led the Rams with five tackles at halftime.
For all the talk of competition along the offensive front, it was a bit anticlimactic on Saturday.
Joseph Noteboom — competing at both left tackle and right guard — did not play, nor did either of the Rams’ top-two centers, Brian Allen and Coleman Shelton. Alaric Jackson started at left tackle, but left the game after two series.
With starting right tackle Rob Havenstein sitting out the game, backup Logan Bruss struggled in pass protection in his absence. He was beat badly on a third-down passing play, and his man flattened quarterback Brett Rypien. He also was called for a false start in the second half that turned third-and-manageable into 10 yards to gain.
Bennett up and down
Speaking of quarterbacks, Rypien started at quarterback as the Rams searched for Matthew Stafford’s backup. He completed all three of his passes for 11 yards on the first drive, then was sacked on third down and missed his last three attempts.
When he came in for the fourth series, rookie Stetson Bennett IV flirted with disaster. His first pass to Ben Skowronek took too long to get out of his hands and was nearly intercepted with no one between Deane Leonard and the end zone. Bennett nearly threw the ball to the Chargers again on his third pass as he tried to get rid of it rather than take a sack at the end of a scramble.
But Bennett shook off those mistakes, much like he did for much of training camp. He found fellow rookie Nacua on a slant for 17 yards to steady his nerves, then hit Skowronek on an out route for a first down. After a wonky stay in the red zone, Bennett stepped up in the pocket to find Nacua in traffic at the goal line for a touchdown.
Bennett’s fluctuations continued into the third quarter. One play he threw behind Tyler Johnson, then the next drive he hit the same receiver in stride for a 34-yard gain. Bennett finished the game completing 17 of 29 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown.
Not quiet on the defensive front
The defensive line was without the resting Aaron Donald on Saturday, but still gave the Rams reason for pause.
The Chargers were able to run with ease, at one point carrying the ball seven times to start a drive with no resistance from the Rams. The Chargers averaged 5.8 yards per carry in the first half, the longest coming in at 13 yards.
As for a bright spot, it was the play of third-round pick Kobie Turner. Working mostly inside, he created good third-down press to force an incompletion in the first half, then forced a holding call that negated a long touchdown run in the third.
Rookie placekicker Tanner Brown was good on both his PAT attempts, but sailed the ball wide left on a 46-yard field goal in the second half. He recovered to drill a 39-yarder down the middle in the fourth quarter.
Living on the edge
Rookie outside linebacker Byron Young did a nice job shedding his blocker for a third-down sack in the first half, though his overzealousness led to it being overturned by a facemask penalty. Second-year OLB Keir Thomas II bull rushed through the right tackle on a third-quarter play for a sack. Likewise, Daniel Hardy blew past the left tackle for a third-down sack on the next drive.
Thomas was beat badly around the edge to open the fourth quarter as Elijah Dotson ran 37 yards for a touchdown.