For most teams, the third preseason game is the biggest for the starters and the smallest for everyone else. However, for the Los Angeles Rams, it is just another week for the backups and bubble players to take the stage. For those who have already put up good tape (the “winners”), this means more time to stumble and put up bad tape. On the other hand, the extra time means that those who have stumbled early have a better chance to rebound. Here are three winners and one loser coming into Week 3 of the Rams preseason.
3 Winners, 1 Loser Going Into Week 3 Of The Rams Preseason
Bryce Hager: Winner
Bryce Hager has been locked into a competitive battle with Micah Kiser for the starting inside linebacker position for much longer than many thought. Now, with Kiser sidelined due to a pectoral injury that appears to require surgery, the starting job is now Hager’s to lose. It goes without saying that it is unfortunate that the competition had to end this way but that is how it goes in the NFL.
Going into Week 3 of the preseason, Hager needs to prove to the Rams organization that they do not need to look into what’s left of the free agency market pool. Assuming he can do that, the starting job will be Hager’s this season. This will be a good test for him, as he will be matched up against a Kevin Hogan-led offense who will likely be leaning on the run in order to speed up the game and minimize the chance of even more injuries occurring for the already alarmingly wounded roster.
Nsimba Webster: Winner
Wide receiver Nsimba Webster is an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Washington University who played in the FCS on the same team as Cooper Kupp. He dominated in his senior season, despite a quarterback change partway through the year and a nagging foot injury. Webster finished the season with 84 receptions for 1,379 yards, 11 touchdowns, and an FCS national championship appearance.
In juxtaposition to his time at Eastern Washington as the leading playmaker, he started his time in the NFL at the bottom of the roster, getting the last bread crumbs of playtime in Week 1 where he caught three balls for 27 yards against fourth-stringers. In Week 2, Webster played much more and caught four receptions on four targets for 38 yards. Most importantly for the young rookie, he outshined JoJo Natson as a returner since Natson lost a fumble on a return during the game. Thus, Webster seems to be in the lead to make the roster as a return man first, wide receiver second. However, if Webster were to be able to keep pace when on offense, he could find his way onto the field during the regular season as a receiver. Of course, as an undrafted free agent, Webster could see his gains evaporate if he has one or two bad plays considering how cutthroat the NFL can be when it comes to undrafted players.
Blake Bortles: Winner
While Week 1 left room for improvement for the ex-Jaguar-turned-backup Blake Bortles after finishing with a 59.4 rating and a three-for-eight and fifty-yard stat line, Week 2 saw growth as he finished going seven-for-eleven for 62 yards, a touchdown, and a 108.9 rating. Of course, Bortles is under contract and a lock to make this team almost regardless of how he does this preseason. Mainly, he’s playing for next year when his contract expires.
The ex-Jaguar is at a tipping point: is this just a temporary setback in his career or his future in this league? His performance against the Denver Broncos will be telling. If he can have a solid game with two or more touchdowns, it would go a long way towards proving to NFL teams that he can lead another team to a deep playoff run as he did just a few years ago.
Brandon Allen: Loser
Brandon Allen is the current third-string quarterback locked in a battle with John Wolford (of AAF Fame) for a practice squad spot. Allen struggled in Week 1, completing six of twelve passes for 34 yards. Week 2 was almost as mediocre, as he completed 14 of 21 passes for 115 yards and an interception. With the ex-Hotshot Wolford nipping at his heels, Allen needs to have his best game yet in Week 3. Meaning, at least, Allen has to avoid an interception and lead a drive or two that ends in points — preferably a touchdown — to avoid the possibility of being usurped by Wolford in the final preseason game.