Preseason Week 3 continues with the Los Angeles Chargers at the Los Angeles Rams. The third week of the preseason is generally considered a “dress rehearsal” for the NFL season, and starting positions and important roles can be won and lost this week. PFF’s analysts have all the important position battles and players to watch for each team below:
Coverage by: Andrew Fleischer
Position Battle: Chris McCain/Tenny Palepoi, ED
- Chris McCain has seen plenty of time as a pass rusher this preseason, with 35 of his 62 snaps spent rushing the quarterback. His cumulative 88.5 pass rush grade from the first two preseason games is the seventh highest mark out of 162 edge defenders to play at least 24 snaps this preaseason.
- Tenny Palepoi has also seen the majority of his playing time as a pass rusher, rushing the quarterback on 28 of his 42 preseason snaps. His pass-rushing grade for the first two preseason games stands at 76.6, tied for the 91st best mark out of 162 eligible defenders.
Players to Watch:
- Desmond King, S – King just keeps making plays in his rookie preseason, and his 84.9 overall grade in two games is the sixth highest out of 172 safeties to play at least 24 snaps. King made the switch to safety after playing cornerback at Iowa, where his 18.3 cover snaps per reception was tied for the 23rd highest mark among 460 college safeties to play at least 137 snaps.
- Keenan Allen, WR – He’ll look to improve upon his 57.9 overall PFF grade from his 43 snaps in last week’s preseason game against New Orleans. Allen posted an 82.1 overall PFF grade in the first eight games of 2015 before a kidney injury cost him the second half of the season, and he missed the entire 2016 season after tearing his ACL in Week 1.
- Adrian Phillips, S – Phillips has impressed in the preseason so far, earning an 84.2 overall PFF grade on 37 snaps. He’ll need to continue to do so to secure his usage in the regular season, especially facing strong competition from King and others in the Chargers’ free safety group. The 2014 UDFA posted a 46.3 overall grade last season when filling in for an injured Eric Weddle.
Coverage by: Mike Cahill
Position Battle: Justin Davis/Malcolm Brown, HB
- With offseason acquisition Lance Dunbar likely to start the year on the PUP list, second-year running back Malcolm Brown and rookie Justin Davis will be looking to earn the backup role to Todd Gurley. In their previous preseason matchup against the Raiders, Davis earned an overall PFF grade of 51.2 and Brown earned an overall grade of 54.6, which ranked 50th and 43rd among other halfbacks, respectively.
- Davis’ two runs of 15 or more yards on 14 total attempts has yielded 48 of his 78 total yards for a breakaway percentage of 61.5, whereas, Brown has yet to have one of his 14 attempts go for 15 or more yards and has 38 total rushing yards.
Players to Watch:
- Offensive Line– The Rams offensive line has been a sieve for quite some time, but with some new coaching and free agent additions, the Rams offensive line sits at second in pass-blocking efficiency through the preseason with an 87.8. Their 12 quarterback pressures allowed are tied for third fewest and are six fewer than they had given up through two games of the 2016 preseason, not to mention they’ve seen 16 more pass blocking opportunities.
- Blake Countess, S– Second-year safety Blake Countess was the highest graded Rams player in week three of the preseason and fourth highest graded safety of the week with an overall grade of 88.1. His coverage grade was even more impressive with an 89.5, which he earned by allowing only two receptions on his four targets for 11 yards and two passes defended for a passer rating of 56.3 when throwing into his coverage.
- Omarius Bryant, DI– Bryant’s 80.7 pass rush grade was the highest by a Rams defender in their game against the Raiders. Through two preseason games, Bryant has generated three quarterback hits and one quarterback hurry on 13 pass rushing snaps. His three quarterback hits are second most among interior defenders this preseason and is tied with fellow rookie Tanzel Smart for the team lead in quarterback pressures this preseason.