On Monday, both Matthews and Raji applied the word “tenacity” to what they’ve seen from this year’s defense in the preseason. The first unit has only been on the field for a handful of game series so far, but that limited action has provided legitimate building blocks. The rest is up to them.
“I always have a positive outlook on our defense, but this year, especially when you look around at the guys, they exude a certain type of energy and a certain prowess about them,” Matthews said, referring to newcomers
“Everyone up and down the board, it just seems like a team that’s been together for a while, who really has something to prove, and I think you’re going to see that. I’m excited about that. I’m excited every year, but it’s about proving it.”
The Rams did score a touchdown on their second drive, with the help of a third-down pass interference penalty that moved the ball into the red zone. But overall Matthews liked the “continuity” he’s sensing from the unit, which is largely a function of few injuries. Raji also threw out the words “mentality” and “pursuit.”
“Thus far we’ve shown that we have those things, but we have to keep improving because our competition is going to get much stiffer,” Raji said.
“It’s starting to slow down a lot,” he said of the speed of the game. “I’m starting to be a lot more consistent, just flying around the ball and having fun. It felt great to actually touch the ball again after a while.”
Combined with key moments in each of the two preseason games – a pass breakup deep down the middle in Tennessee and then a sack on a blitz in St. Louis – Clinton-Dix’s progress has been evident, though not flawless.
“He’s doing a good job of learning from his mistakes and moving on,” fellow safety
How the competition ultimately shakes out between Hyde and Clinton-Dix for the starting job opposite veteran
“He’ll draw up some stuff to get guys on the field and get guys in position to make plays,” Hyde said of Capers. “We know that. We’re going to keep competing, trying to get on the field.”
The rest of the preseason will also be about players fighting to make the team, and undrafted rookie
“That was just crazy,” Elliott said. “A lot of people started calling me by my name instead of my jersey number. It was a great moment out there.”
The little-known Toledo product said he’s rarely gotten more than a few reps in a row during camp, but perhaps now he’s earned some more.
“I heard he’s starting this weekend in front of me,” Matthews joked. “It’s good to see. I’ll be rooting for him. I’ll be rooting for all of (the young guys) moving forward.”