Josh Palmer may have started the Chargers’ first preseason game with a bang, but it was fellow rookie Larry Rountree that kept the momentum going strong en route to closing out the team’s 13-6 victory over the Rams this past Saturday.
Rountree broke off a 25-yard gain on a play where he only needed one, but fans certainly weren’t going to nitpick on that. On a fourth-and-1 near midfield, Rountree took a handoff and swerved up the left side of the line past left tackle Trey Pipkins who managed to wall off the defender inside. Rountree was greeted with a wide lane to run through and he also managed to snatch an ankle before being brought down.
That play, plus another 24-yard gain in the fourth which iced the the win for the Chargers, helped Rountree finish with an 87.7 overall grade by PFF. That mark was the second-highest among all rookie offensive players during the entire first week of preseason action.
Top-5 @PFF grades for rookies on offense this week:— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) August 16, 2021
1. Titans TE Miller Forristall, 91.1
2. Chargers RB Larry Rountree, 87.7
3. Colts WR Tyler Vaughns, 87.4
4. Patriots RB Dhamondre Stevenson, 86.3
5. Cardinals WR Rondale Moore, 84.0
I’ve said from the beginning that I believe Rountree’s skillset is much more translatable to success in the NFL compared to second-year back Joshua Kelley. While Kelley succeeds as a one-cut, north-south runner, he needs things to play out cleanly at the line to really make something happen. Rountree’s notable balance through contact allows him to churn out YAC as he bangs his way through would-be tacklers. And as we saw in Saturday’s game, he also knows how to make a defender miss if they’re coming in a bit too hot.
With Justin Jackson injured once again, and Kelley failing to impress in game one, I’d expect Rountree to have a much clearer path to playing time as a rookie. Heck, if things continue like they did this past weekend, Rountree may end up being the “thunder” to Austin Ekeler’s “lightning” this season.