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How will the Broncos’ and Rams’ backups fare against each other?

Previewing the Denver Broncos’ next preseason opponent. We talked to Los Angeles Rams blogger Joe McAtee for the inside look.

Los Angeles Rams Training Camp
Gurley won’t play but there’s plenty to watch for in L.A.
Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

We’ve officially reached that point in the preseason where I’m studying Raiders tape, Broncos Country. Even still, the Rams are up next. In order to get a little insight into the defending NFC Champions, I spoke with Turf Show Time’s Joe McAtee.

Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

1st and 10

I’m sure fans of the Rams have gotten tired of questions about Todd Gurley’s knee, so instead of bugging you about that I’m curious if any of the backups have impressed you so far? Any word on if McVay has adjusted his wide zone for Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown or any of the other backs?

Henderson hasn’t “impressed” with his outputs, but a lot of that has been poor line play. He’s gotten in early with the Rams’ second string playing opposing starting defenses. That’s a tough matchup for any team. His athleticism and acceleration is obvious, though it was from his tape at Memphis. There hasn’t been much tactical adjustments yet. McVay has kept the play calling very flat, though there was a wrinkle on a wheel route to Henderson last week that I thought was more about McVay trying to scheme up a first down. The Rams didn’t get nearly as much work for their offense in the first preseason game and he opened a couple route combos in Week 2 just to make sure we moved the chains more since we only had 10 first downs in the opener (had 14 last week).

The bigger issue over the first two games has been the offensive line. All five starters are being rested, so it’s been backups only...but they just haven’t had a good showing. They really need to improve to give the running backs some more room to work and give backup QBs Brandon Allen and John Wolford more time to operate.

2nd and 8

Beyond the backfield, what positions have caught your attention so far this preseason? Any breakout players or position groups that aren’t getting enough buzz?

As for other backups that have impressed, there are plenty ESPECIALLY on defense. S Taylor Rapp, the Rams’ first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, looks very good. LB Natrez Patrick might be the surprise of the preseason having moved from inside linebacker which he played at Georgia to the outside. And the Rams look very deep at cornerback with plenty of good options there having stepped up the last two weeks. And OLB Landis Durham has had some nice reps from the deep depth.

LA Rams preseason week two: Stock up, stock down - Turf Show Times

This Rapp kid is pretty good, huh? Another game, another active contest for the second-round pick from Washington. Rapp is the perfect defender for today’s NFL, and he’s only beginning to prove it as he continues to stack one solid performance after the next. Rapp was credited for three tackles in the game, though he was pulled rather quickly.

3rd and 3

Are there any areas of the team that concern you going into week 3?

Not so much, because we’re talking about players 95% or so of whom won’t play a single snap on the offense or defense. Having lost ILB Micah Kiser to a season-ending injury last week, the only players we’ll see on Saturday that are likely to get action early on in the regular season are Henderson, Rapp, Kiser’s replacement in ILB Bryce Hager and some defensive linemen like Joseph Franklin-Myers or Sebastian Joseph-Day or perhaps rookie Greg Gaines. So it’s hard to be “concerned” about guys that aren’t going to play in the regular season or even make the 53-man roster.

If I were to have a concern, it’s getting the offense more work. Last week was slightly better, but between the O-line play and 3rd down inefficiency (just 7 for 29 in the two games combined) the Rams could use some more snaps on that side of the ball.

4th and inches

Any fantasy sleepers you think Broncos Country should keep an eye out for this year?

Not really. The Rams have a first-world problem with all of their weapons, but in terms of fantasy that can cannibalize their value. Gurley’s going to have a reduced role, but not sure by how much. He could still be a top 10 RB in fantasy if his touchdowns stay up, but I’d expect a healthy decline in carries. I have seen some fantasy rankings that I think are a bit too low on QB Jared Goff, but those things can be volatile in terms of weekly fluctuation given opponent and game plan. And with Henderson on board, I could see the Rams pounding 2nd halves more.

But hey, I’ll go with K Greg Zuerlein! That’s a fantasy sleeper, right? I’ve long been a fan of GZ. He’s got a tremendous leg and is very accurate for that length. His 2015 season was disappointing, but he bounced back just fine and has been tremendous each of the last two seasons.