INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The Los Angeles Rams held their second and final 2020 preseason scrimmage at SoFi Stadium Saturday afternoon, highlighted by a closer evaluation of the team's three competing kickers and other competitive, situational work. Here are staff writer Stu Jackson's 10 observations from the session:
1) Johnny Hekker did not participate in or attend today's scrimmage, but for a good reason: Head coach Sean McVay said the punter's wife gave birth to the couple's second child today. With Hekker away, placekick holding duties were taken up by wide receiver Cooper Kupp and later quarterback John Wolford. Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu went through the motions of punting of a football, but it was a machine that did the actual "punting."
2) As Voice of the Rams J.B. Long first pointed out during the scrimmage, that context on the holders matters when examining the kicking competition. Longsnapper Jake McQuaide this week detailed how important that operation is to ensuring each kicker is put in the best possible position to succeed, noting how it contributed to a Sam Sloman miss in the first scrimmage in which Sloman wasn't at fault, so it bears noting before presenting the results.
3) One quick note on Kupp – though Kupp left the scrimmage early, McVay said it wasn't due to an injury. "We were just being smart with him," McVay said afterward. "He's feeling fine, he'll be okay."
4) With that detail about the holders in mind, here is how the kickers fared. Austin MacGinnis had the best day of the three, making a late charge to convert six of his eight attempts, while Sloman and Lirim Hajrullahu each finished 5 for 8. Distances increased gradually over the course of the scrimmage, starting with extra point attempts and ending with 53-yard tries.
- Extra point attempts (two per kicker): MacGinnis 1/2, Sloman 2/2, Hajrullahu 2/2
- 43-yard attempts (two per kicker): MacGinnis 2/2, Sloman 1/2, Hajrullahu 2/2
- 48-yard attempts (two per kicker): MacGinnis 1/2, Sloman 0/2, Hajrullahu 0/2
- 53-yard attempts (two per kicker): MacGinnis 2/2, Sloman 2/2, Hajrullahu 1/2
5) Kenny Young started alongside Micah Kiser at the first team defense's other inside linebacker spot. That spot has belonged to Travin Howard for most of camp, but Howard didn't participate in today's scrimmage because of a knee injury, per McVay. Howard is still being evaluated. "(Young) stepped up, he did a nice job today and we're going to continue evaluating that spot," McVay said, later adding that the reason why he likes Young in that spot is because of his "athleticism" and him being an "explosive playmaker."
6) Speaking of Kiser, those instincts that have been brought up before were shown once again during today's scrimmage. During the "Mamba Tourney," what the Rams dubbed their competitive situational period of the scrimmage, he batted a Jared Goff pass into the air near the line of scrimmage, then caught it for an interception. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald said after the scrimmage that Kiser was one of two players who stood out in terms of making plays in the team's two scrimmages.
7) Undrafted rookie free agent running back Xavier Jones had a nice day, highlighted by a six-yard catch on a Wolford pass attempt, a five-yard run during developmental live tackling work and a pair of three-yard runs earlier in the scrimmage. Collectively, his work in both scrimmages made him the other player who stood out to Donald.
8) Finding the endzone. The offense looked much sharper compared to the first scrimmage. Of note, Goff fired touchdown passes of seven yards and one yard to tight end Tyler Higbee, also connecting with wide receiver Robert Woods for a 15-yard catch-and-run score. In redzone work, running back John kelly had a 3-yard rushing touchdown and rookie Cam Akers a five-yard rushing touchdown.
9) Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd excelled at getting pressure early, forcing Goff into a pair of incompletions.
10) Rookie wide receiver Van Jefferson saw work with both the first team and the second team offenses, and continues to get positive reviews from teammates. His work today was highlighted by a 30-yard catch on a Goff pass attempt. "He's awesome," Wolford said of Jefferson after the scrimmage. "I was joking with him today, I was saying, 'I throw a ton of completions to you Van, I don't what I would do if you weren't on the field a lot. So he's been great. He's just going to be a good player for us, and he operates like a pro as a rookie. Just have a lot of respect for how he carries himself as a rookie. He'll be a really good player in this league."