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Rams QB Mannion and other reserves struggle in preseason loss to Baltimore Ravens

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  • Rams QB Mannion and other reserves struggle in preseason loss to Baltimore Ravens

    Rams QB Sean Mannion and other reserves struggle in preseason loss to Baltimore Ravens
    By RICH HAMMOND | rhammond@scng.com | Orange County Register
    PUBLISHED: August 9, 2018 at 8:09 pm | UPDATED: August 9, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    BALTIMORE – Perhaps one of these days, Rams quarterback Sean Mannion will get a chance to show his skills with a bonafide NFL offense. Whether that is a good idea remains debatable.

    Mannion’s role is well defined, as Jared Goff’s backup. He’s here to eat up practice reps, occasionally play in the fourth quarter and hope, like everyone else, that Goff remains healthy. Thursday’s preseason opened against the Baltimore Ravens did little to change that assessment, and might have harmed it.

    The Rams, their active roster severely weakened by choice, suffered a decisive 33-7 loss to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. As he did at the end of last season, Mannion struggled, and didn’t get much help.

    Mannion played the first half and completed 3 of 13 attempts for 16 yards with zero touchdowns and one bad-looking interception. After a solid start, with two consecutive completions, Mannion missed on five straight attempts, beset by dropped passes, poor blocking and his own mistakes.

    “I certainly don’t want this performance tonight to be indicative of the type of camp he has had,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “It’s such a small sample size. Some of the situations he was put in were really just tough spots.”

    Really, anything else would have been surprising. The Ravens already had played one preseason game and used most of their starters in Thursday’s first quarter, while the Rams took zero chances and dressed only two regular starters, guard Jamon Brown and linebacker Samson Ebukam.

    That left Mannion to mingle with his own kind, the Rams’ backups. By the start of the second quarter, Mannion was being protected by three rookie offensive linemen. How, then, to judge his effort?

    Take away others’ miscues, and Mannion still did little to inspire confidence. He overthrew two targets by a notable margin and, late in the second quarter, Mannion attempted a deep throw to Michael Thomas. The pass, slightly underthrown, was easily read and intercepted by the Ravens’ Maurice Canaday.

    “It’s certainly not my best performance,” Mannion said. “I really wasn’t able to get into a rhythm early. So obviously I was disappointed with how the whole game went. You obviously want to win and I obviously want to play better than I did, but there’s some stuff to learn off, for sure.”

    Brandon Allen took over at quarterback to start the third quarter and fared slightly better. He suffered a sack-fumble midway through the third quarter, after poor blocking by tackle Darrell Williams, and Allen finished 10 of 15 for 73 yards, one touchdowns and zero interceptions.

    So maybe Mannion doesn’t deserve all the blame. His game was somewhat reminiscent of his previous appearance, in last year’s regular-season finale against San Francisco, when the Rams also rested starters. Mannion went 20 of 34 for 169 yards and was sacked three times in that game.

    The Rams decided to stay with Mannion as their backup during the offseason, and recently in training camp, McVay had high praise for Mannion’s development.

    That wasn’t evident Thursday, although the outcome of the game – completely unimportant – had been determined before the sun set on a muggy evening. By late in the first quarter, the Rams trailed 17-0 and their offense – with some play-calling that was deliberately vanilla – had totaled minus-2 yards.

    The Rams actually improved slightly after the first quarter, particularly on defense, when the Ravens went to their backups, but at halftime, the Rams trailed 23-0 and had totaled 45 yards compared to 72 penalty yards. Even all-world punter Johnny Hekker shanked an attempt that traveled eight yards.
    Positives? Defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks, who has been getting first-teams reps in training camp because of the absence of Aaron Donald, recorded two sacks. Former USC running back Justin Davis (41 yards on seven carries) and rookie John Kelly (77 yards on 13 carries) had strong moments.

    The Rams used a heavy rotation on defense and, perhaps not surprisingly, generated little pass rush early, other than Westbrooks’ effort. On the back end, Troy Hill, one of the Rams’ more experienced cornerbacks, struggled with coverage and tackling and committed a penalty in the first quarter.

    For the most part, the Rams dealt well with the NFL’s new rule that prohibits leading with the helmet when tackling. Defensive backs Marqui Christian and Blake Countess got 15-yard penalties for that infraction on consecutive first-quarter plays, but the Rams otherwise avoided that penalty.

    The Rams return to practice Saturday in Irvine in advance of next Saturday’s preseason game against Oakland. McVay wouldn’t commit to playing starters in that game, either, and noted that the Raiders also are the Rams’ first-week opponent in the regular season, on Sept. 10.

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