Not much buzz surrounded linebacker Natrez Patrick or receiver Nsimba Webster when the preseason began.
The two undrafted free agents, however, are among the Rams players who put themselves in position for possible spots on the roster or practice squad with their performances in the first two games.
By next weekend, coach Sean McVay and his staff will trim the roster from 90 players to 53. That leaves players on the fringe to make the team with two games to show coaches they are worth keeping.
The first comes Saturday at the Coliseum, when the Rams play host to the Denver Broncos. The Rams conclude the preseason Thursday at the Houston Texans.
With McVay holding starters out of preseason games to avoid injuries, rookies and other players got extended auditions against the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys.
Typically, the third preseason game is the last one in which most coaches play starters, but that will not be an issue Saturday for McVay. He once again will keep nearly every projected starter and key rotational player sidelined so they will be physically sound going into the Sept. 8 opener at the Carolina Panthers.
That decision affords unproven players more opportunity to impress the Rams — and 31 other NFL teams.
“The thing that we want to make sure that we’re doing is, if it doesn’t work out with the Rams, we’re helping these guys put good stuff on tape, trying to help put them in positions,” McVay said.
Patrick, who played in college at Georgia, came to the forefront during practice when he seamlessly transitioned from inside linebacker to outside linebacker. Coaches moved him after Justin Lawler suffered a foot injury that required surgery and Trevon Young was sidelined because of an ankle injury.
Patrick made four tackles against the Raiders. He started against the Cowboys, combined with inside linebacker Bryce Hager to sack quarterback Dak Prescott, and finished with three tackles.
“He’s done a great job outside,” McVay said, “He’s really taken advantage of his opportunities.”
The Rams have lost two linebackers for an extended period because of injuries. Lawler is out indefinitely, and so is Micah Kiser, a projected starter at an inside spot who suffered a pectoral injury against the Cowboys. Kiser had surgery last week.
The Rams’ outside linebackers are Clay Matthews, Dante Fowler, Samson Ebukam, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, undrafted free agent Landis Durham and Patrick. The inside linebackers are Cory Littleton, Hager, Travin Howard, Josh Carraway, rookie Dakota Allen and undrafted free agents Troy Reeder and Ketner Kupp.
“Definitely going to be some difficult decisions,” McVay said of impending cuts at linebacker, “but those are champagne problems.”
Webster, who played in college at Eastern Washington, caught three passes and returned kicks against the Raiders. He had four receptions and returned kicks against the Cowboys.
McVay described Webster as a player who might not stand out during practice, but makes his presence felt when the lights come on for games.
“What he’s shown is, he’s a baller,” McVay said.
Former USC and Utah State receiver Jalen Greene also caught four passes against the Cowboys.
“It felt really good,” Greene said. “Made a few catches so I was really comfortable after that.”