Stars finally start to shine in Rams’ third preseason game
Here are some takeaways from the Rams’ 27-26 loss to Denver on Saturday night:
Ogletree comes alive
Alec Ogletree, ladies and gentlemen. The rookie buried two less-than-impressive preseason games with a highlight-filled Saturday night that showed why the Rams think the outside linebacker can be something special.
First, with just less than 10 minutes to play in the first quarter, Ogletree not only stripped the football from Denver running back Ronnie Hillman, but managed to take it 13 yards for a touchdown.
He wasn’t done. In the second quarter, Ogletree dropped back on a Peyton Manning pass. The ball was supposed to go to Erick Decker, but Ogletree tipped it with one hand and then corralled the deflection for an interception. It was the first time the ballhawking skills Ogletree had shown in Rams practices had come alive in a game.
Ogletree finished the evening with six tackles, two of which were for a loss.
“It felt great to get out there and play fast and get my first touchdown and first interception,” Ogletree said. “It was a great feeling tonight, so I’m very excited.”
Probably just as excited as those who were starting to wonder about the kid.
Austin is electric
Jeff Fisher said on a radio broadcast before the game that he wanted to see rookie Tavon Austin return some punts. The chances had been limited in the first two preseason games, but Austin got a couple of choice looks Saturday. He made the most of them.
Austin returned Britton Colquitt’s first punt 81 yards, juking and nuking defenders with his speed until he was stopped at Denver’s 3-yard line. That set up the Rams’ first touchdown (more on that below).
In the second quarter, Austin nearly erased another Colquitt punt. He ran the 38-yard kick back 23 yards, and looked to be one good shimmy away from a touchdown.
Cook in the zone
Last week the Rams wasted a key red zone opportunity with two incomplete passes to Austin, a stuffed Isaiah Pead run and Sam Bradford fumble. This week, they immediately targeted the guy who could be a red zone game changer — tight end Jared Cook.
After Austin’s explosive return, Bradford found Cook for six points on the first play. Cook used his 6-foot-5, 248-pound frame and soaring leaping ability to create space, then held onto the grab as he fell into the corner of the end zone. Look for the Rams to continue to take advantage of Cook’s unique skill set in that territory this year.
Saffold gets reps
It looked like the Rams might be in a tough spot when backup tackle Joe Barksdale didn’t make the trip due to an infected cut on his hand. It was unclear heading into the game whether Rodger Saffold, the expected starter at right tackle, would be healed enough from a dislocated shoulder to step onto the field. But Saffold followed through on his plan to play, and looked decent in the spot he is still adjusting to after shifting from the left side. Yes, Saffold got hit with a couple of penalties. And yes, there were blocks that weren’t perfect. But the big man did a decent job battling with Denver linebacker Von Miller and, more important, racked up reps at a spot where he needs all the experience he can get.
Hall of Fame football player turned CBS broadcaster Dan Dierdorf thinks former Miami Hurricane Ray-Ray Armstrong should make the Rams’ roster. Anyone who watched the outside linebacker play Saturday has to agree. He nailed Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler for a 10-yard sack in the third quarter.
Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.