With many starters sitting out in Saturday night's preseason game against the Chargers, the contest offered an important opportunity for those players battling for a roster spot to make an impact.
Among those are two rookies, cornerback Dominique Hatfield and running back Justin Davis — both signed as undrafted free agents after the 2017 NFL Draft. And though the Rams' comeback fell just short, both young players took full advantage of their time on field.
"I felt great, especially being at the Coliseum in my hometown," Hatfield said of his performance. "It felt good, like I'm back where I'm supposed to be."
Hatfield has had an impressive preseason so far, intercepting several passes in practice from quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Dan Orlovsky. Against the Chargers on Saturday, he translated that work into game action, recording the Rams' only interception of the night by ripping the ball away from wide receiver Travis Benjamin.
While the Rams' have some depth at cornerback with veterans like Trumaine Johnson, Kayvon Webster, and Nickell Robey-Coleman, a series of minor injuries has allowed Hatfield to display his talents. And as next week's roster cut looms, Hatfield believes he has left everything out on the field and is hopeful that "after what [he's] done in the preseason, something good is going to happen."
"I was studying my butt off during OTA's…[and] when we went home for that month, I didn't do anything but football. A lot of people probably went on vacation, a lot just worked out, but I studied the game," he said. "I feel like I've showcased everything. I have been doing everything that they ask me to do and I'm willing to do anything that they ask me to do."
Davis, a former star running back at USC, also had an exciting performance on Saturday. With running back Todd Gurley II held out of the contest, Malcom Brown started, leaving Aaron Green and Davis to compete for the rest of the game.
Green had five carries for eight yards, while Davis rushed for 14 yards on five carries with three receptions for 36 yards. He also rushed for 70 yards in his first preseason game at the Coliseum, but fumbled twice.
"On that first game I just had to slow down, it was my first NFL game," Davis said. "Once I kind of slow my mind down, slow everything down, it was just playing in the Coliseum like I've been doing for the last four years and I feel comfortable."
Throughout three games in the preseason and three weeks of camp, Davis has made it a personal goal to prove himself as a versatile running back, one who can line up in the backfield as well as on the line as a receiver. And though he fumbled twice in his NFL debut, he has since stood out for his work ethic, displaying impressive cuts and speed in open space.
But when asked whether he has done enough to earn a spot the final roster, the young player says when he thinks about it he "will never be satisfied."
"I am going to try to make it my responsibility, so it's not a hard decision," Davis said. "I'm just going to do everything they tell me to do day in and day out, come to practice ready, work hard, then it's up to them."
"You just want to be able to get the coach's trust enough so they can put you in the game without a blink," he added. "I'm just coming in making sure I'm on top of my stuff, so they can't [and] won't second guess putting me in."
This year the NFL mandates team rosters to be down to 53 players by Sept. 2. That leaves less than one week for Hatfield and Davis to prove they deserve a spot on the team. Their last game opportunity will come this Thursday, as the Rams travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers.