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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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  • Nick
    What we learned in the Rams' 33-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens
    Nick
    What we learned in the Rams' 33-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens
    By GARY KLEIN
    AUG 10, 2018 | 7:25 AM

    Here are the takeaways from the Rams’ preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, a 33-7 loss.

    Sean McVay is not taking chances with injuries

    Kicker Greg Zuerlein’s back injury notwithstanding, the Rams got through the 2017 season without many key starters suffering major injuries.

    Offensive linemen no doubt played through any number of issues, but none sat out games because of them, enabling running back Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff to flourish.

    So McVay is accustomed to working with a healthy roster. He needs one if the Rams are to live up to their lofty expectations.

    The Rams appeared to have emerged without any significant injuries after practicing twice with the Ravens. McVay said he had planned all along to rest his starters in the preseason opener.

    He stuck to his plan and kept 22 on the sideline.

    Sean Mannion needs a fair shot with front-line players

    The backup quarterback struggled against the Ravens, completing only three of 13 passes for 16 yards, with an interception. He was sacked twice, and the Ravens deflected several passes at the line of scrimmage.

    It was Mannion’s first game since his start against the San Francisco 49ers in the regular-season finale. With starters sitting out to avoid injuries before the playoffs, Mannion completed 20 of 34 passes for 169 yards and was sacked three times in a 34-13 defeat.

    Goff, the Rams’ starter, is a rising star coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. There is no quarterback competition. This certainly is not a call for one.

    But if McVay truly wants to assess Mannion’s ability to lead in the event of a Goff injury, let him play behind a line anchored by left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Let him hand the ball off and throw screen passes to Gurley. Let’s see if he can accurately deliver the ball to receivers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks.

    Mannion, in the final year of his contract, might struggle in those scenarios as well. But his chances for success — and a realistic evaluation of his capability — are exponentially greater playing with the proven starters.

    Offensive line depth could be an issue

    Guard Jamon Brown, suspended for the first two regular-season games but eligible to play during the preseason, was the only starter who played on offense.

    With Whitworth and starting right tackle Rob Havenstein on the sideline, Darrell Williams and Cornelius Lucas were listed as starters. And the Ravens got constant pressure off the edges.

    Rookie Joseph Noteboom said he played a series at right guard but also played tackle. He needs time to mature. He might have to do it quickly.

    Adjustment to new rules will take time

    Rams players...
    -08-11-2018, 10:01 AM
  • Nick
    Rams might sit starters for another preseason game
    Nick
    Rams might sit starters for another preseason game
    Lopsided loss to Ravens isn't likely to change cautious approach to exhibitions
    By RICH HAMMOND | rhammond@scng.com | Orange County Register
    PUBLISHED: August 10, 2018 at 6:30 pm | UPDATED: August 10, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    The game is football, but there’s some poker involved. Rams coach Sean McVay doesn’t want to tip his hand in the preseason, and he also wants to weigh the odds that, for some teams, end in disaster.

    The Rams lost 33-7 to Baltimore in Thursday’s exhibition, a score of no consequence. The preseason is about examining young players and giving starters just enough work to get in game shape. Given the injury risk and intensity of training camp, it’s fair to ask whether veterans need the preseason at all.

    McVay said he hasn’t yet considered nixing the entire preseason for his starters. Emphasis should be placed on the word “yet.”

    “It’s a really delicate balance,” McVay said in a Friday conference call with reporters, “of measuring the value of getting some experience before that game, but also making sure that you don’t put guys in harm’s way and add the risk of losing them for the season. We don’t ever want to play scared, but you want to balance. How can you do it in a smart way and get guys ready to go?”

    It’s clear that McVay is leaning toward pragmatism in the preseason, and not just because of injuries, but if he needed a reminder, Washington running back Derrius Guice tore an ACL in a game Thursday.

    Meanwhile, Rams star back Todd Gurley stood on the sideline in casual wear, knee ligaments intact. The Rams chose to keep all but two of their regular starters out of the game, and it showed in the results, as the Rams’ backups got throttled in the first quarter, when the Ravens gave their starters some work.

    McVay had no regrets. After the game, he indicated that he might again hold out starters for the Aug. 18 game against Oakland. One with an ear for coach-speak might think the decision already has been made.

    “There’s definitely going to be good dialogue between our coaching staff,” McVay said, “with regard to how we want to handle this next week.”

    There’s another tricky thing. Two of the Rams’ three final preseason opponents – Oakland and New Orleans – also are regular-season opponents. The gap between the two games against the Raiders is only 23 days, which makes one wonder what the league office was thinking.

    Why should McVay – or Oakland coach Jon Gruden – show anything to a soon-to-be opponent? McVay’s play-calling against the Ravens on Thursday was very bland, no doubt by design, and he certainly won’t be apt to open things up against the Raiders.

    There is a flip side. While teams practice on a near-daily basis during training camp, most – like the Rams – do not tackle. There is some value in getting players that contact,...
    -08-11-2018, 10:05 AM
  • Nick
    Rams rest most of their starters in preseason loss to Chargers
    Nick
    Rams rest most of their starters in preseason loss to Chargers
    Alden Gonzalez
    ESPN Staff Writer

    LOS ANGELES -- Turns out the "Fight For L.A." wasn't nearly as important as the fight for good health.

    The Los Angeles Rams sat the majority of their starters in their highly anticipated matchup against the neighboring Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night, for a third preseason game that is traditionally treated as a regular-season dress rehearsal.

    Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum hosted an announced crowd of 58,561, though a rough guess at the number who actually showed up was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000. And the Rams suffered their first preseason loss by a 21-19 score. Backup kicker Travis Coons, who earlier hit from 53 yards, missed what would've been the go-ahead 33-yard field goal, and Dan Orlovsky, the third-string quarterback, couldn't stage a winning drive while backed up deep in his own territory.

    Below is a look at what stood out.

    QB depth chart: Jared Goff made a couple of key mistakes and thus ended his preseason on a sour note. On his first drive, Goff -- trying to build on a very encouraging performance seven days earlier in Oakland -- was stripped by Joey Bosa at the Chargers' 24-yard line, allowing Melvin Ingram to scoop up the football and return it 76 yards for a touchdown. On his second pass after that play, he threw his first preseason interception while overthrowing Sammy Watkins by a wide margin. Goff finished 5-of-8 for 56 yards. He made some impressive plays early, making a 16-yard connection with Robert Woods and showing great pocket awareness to find an open Malcolm Brown for what became a 22-yard gain. But Goff wasn't consistent, and that's what the Rams' coaches need to see from him. Backup Sean Mannion had another solid game, going 16-of-29 for 214 yards and a touchdown.

    When it was starters vs. starters, the Rams looked ...: Sluggish. But very few of their starters actually suited up, particularly on defense. The only solidified defensive starters on the field were cornerback Trumaine Johnson and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. On the Chargers' first series, the Rams allowed Travis Benjamin to beat them badly over the top for a 45-yard touchdown. On the Chargers' second offensive series, after Goff's interception, they gained 54 yards on nine plays, finishing their drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon. Woods had the most productive day for the Rams' first-team offense, with a couple of catches for 23 yards. The offensive line allowed a lot of pressure on Goff, but veterans Andrew Whitworth, Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan played only the first two series.

    One reason to be concerned: First-year Rams coach Sean McVay chose to sit most of his starters, and now you have to wonder if they've built enough continuity for when games start to count. Nine starters were kept out, including...
    -08-27-2017, 08:09 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Mannion starts again and aims for huge improvement as Rams continue to sit starters
    r8rh8rmike
    Mannion starts again and aims for huge improvement as Rams continue to sit most starters

    By Gary Klein
    Aug 16, 2018 | 4:25 PM


    The preparation, the approach and the attitude would be the same had he played great in the Rams’ first preseason game.

    That quarterback Sean Mannion struggled mightily against the Baltimore Ravens did not change his outlook or routine as he got ready for Saturday’s start against the Oakland Raiders at the Coliseum.

    “Good game or bad game you can’t totally alter the way you prepare, the way you study, the way you go from week to week based on your performance,” Mannion said. “That has to be steady.”

    Jared Goff and other starters are expected to sit out again, so Mannion has another opportunity to show coaches and fans that he can be a viable backup if injury or other circumstances befall Goff.

    It won’t take much to rank as improvement.

    Mannion, a fourth-year pro in the final year of his contract, completed only three of 13 passes for 16 yards with an interception against the Ravens. Several passes were deflected at the line of scrimmage. He was sacked twice.

    The Rams had only 45 yards and three first downs in the first half.

    “Good or bad, you want to look at it, evaluate yourself and see what you did well and see some things that you can do better,” he said. “And then just take the coaching points from it and move on.”

    Brandon Allen played the second half against the Ravens and completed 10 of 15 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.

    But Mannion continued to take second-team reps during practice this week, and he looked sharp Thursday in the Rams’ final training-camp workout at UC Irvine.

    Coach Sean McVay expects Mannion to be on point against the Raiders.

    “You just want to see more sharp, crisp execution, doing a good job recognizing what they’re doing and then just being able to play sound football,” McVay said.

    Veteran’s view

    Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, the longest-tenured Rams player, completed his ninth training camp with the team that selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft.

    Saffold, the starting left guard, said he was ready to play in the Sept. 10 season opener against the Raiders “right now.”

    Saffold, 30, has a salary-cap number of nearly $8 million this season in the final year of his contract. He will not let his contract status distract him, he said.

    “Everybody knows I love this team and I love to play for this team,” he said, “so just put that on the agents and front office people and let them handle it.”

    Saffold is one of three starting offensive linemen in the final year of their contract. Right tackle Rob Havenstein and right guard Jamon Brown are the others.

    Saffold is well aware that the market for interior offensive lineman...
    -08-17-2018, 11:12 AM
  • Nick
    Rams won't show much in preseason game vs Raiders since teams meet in season opener
    Nick
    Rams won't show much in next preseason game, against Raiders, since teams meet in season opener
    By GARY KLEIN
    AUG 10, 2018 | 8:30 PM

    The Rams play host to the Oakland Raiders next week, so fans finally will get a chance to see new and returning Rams star players in action at the Coliseum.

    Not so fast.

    Only two of the Rams’ projected 22 starters played in Thursday night’s defeat by the Baltimore Ravens.

    In light of several serious injuries suffered by NFL players in preseason openers, Rams coach Sean McVay was asked Friday if there was a possible scenario in which stars such as quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh would not play a preseason snap.

    “I wouldn’t go that far, yet,” McVay said during a teleconference with reporters, adding, “It’s not, certainly, out of the question how we would approach the Oakland game.”

    The Rams participated in two joint practices with the Ravens before McVay held out nearly all starters during the 33-7 defeat at M&T Bank Stadium. McVay said after the game that had been the plan all along.

    He also indicated that he might deploy a similar strategy against the Raiders, especially with his team playing at Oakland in a Sept. 10 season opener on “Monday Night Football.”

    If McVay had any doubts, they probably were confirmed by news out of San Francisco and Washington.

    Tight end George Kittle and running back Matt Breida suffered shoulder injuries in the 49ers’ preseason opener. Redskins running back Derrius Guice suffered a season-ending knee injury.

    Guice, a rookie, had six carries for 19 yards when he was injured.

    “It’s a really delicate balance of measuring the importance of getting some experience” before the regular-season opener, McVay said, “but then also making sure that you don’t put guys in harm’s way and at the risk of losing them for the season.”

    In a rush
    Samson Ebukam came off the left edge and chased Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco as he scrambled to the right. The second-year linebacker was bearing down on his target when Flacco dropped to the ground in a slide.

    “He was a little bit faster than I thought,” Ebukam said after the game. “It’s a good thing I didn’t dive or I would have looked really slow.”

    Ebukam and offensive lineman Jamon Brown were the only starters who played against the Ravens, and McVay said Friday that Ebukam was among the players that performed especially well.

    Ebukam said the game action was a welcome change from practices that do not include live tackling.

    “I’m always getting next to the quarterback and I’m always having to slow down,” he said. “It felt good just to be able to pull the trigger.

    “I got to work out all the kinks and come back next week strong.”

    Another test passed
    Cornerback...
    -08-11-2018, 10:07 AM
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