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  • Rams might sit starters for another preseason game

    Rams might sit starters for another preseason game
    Lopsided loss to Ravens isn't likely to change cautious approach to exhibitions
    By RICH HAMMOND | | 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, and getting them into a competitive mindset, before games start to matter. But it’s tough to judge how much that is worth.

    Of the 23 other teams that played preseason games on Thursday, 17 gave at least one series to their starting quarterback. Two of the other six, New England and Philadelphia, took injury precautions.

    Rams starter Jared Goff did not play Thursday and seemingly might not play against the Raiders. Starters almost never play in the fourth and final preseason game, which means that Goff might only get one game – the third week, against Houston – to face a full-speed defense.

    McVay said receiver Josh Reynolds hurt his ankle and cornerback Kevin Peterson hurt his knee during Thursday’s game, and that the severity of both injuries was still being evaluated.

    Players were given Friday off, in large part because the Rams arrived home from Baltimore at approximately 4 a.m. Friday. They will resume training-camp practices at UC Irvine on Saturday at 3 p.m.

    The Rams’ star of Thursday’s mostly dreadful game might have been rookie running back John Kelly, who didn’t play until the third quarter but finished with 77 rushing yards on 13 attempts, and also caught two passes for 14 yards. That’s 91 yards, more than half of the Rams’ team total of 170.

    Kelly, a sixth-round draft pick out of Tennessee, is listed at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, and showed impressive physical running and open-field vision. Late in the third quarter, Kelly had the Rams’ biggest play of the game when he cut across the field for a 40-yard run.

    “The way that we were able to run our offense,” Kelly said, “I felt like I had the opportunity to make some plays. It was a good first game, I would say.”

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  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams veteran lineman Andrew Whitworth says missing preseason games is no big deal
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams veteran lineman Andrew Whitworth says missing preseason games is no big deal

    By Rich Hammond | | Orange County Register
    PUBLISHED: August 27, 2018 at 5:39 pm | UPDATED: August 27, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    THOUSAND OAKS – No preseason? So what? A few years ago, Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth basically climbed off the trainer’s table and walked into regular-season action.

    The Rams decided against playing offensive starters in any of their four preseason games this month. That schedule concludes Thursday at New Orleans, and defensive starters also will sit. Much of that decision was influenced by Whitworth and center John Sullivan, and the Rams’ desire to keep them healthy.

    Whitworth, 36, and Sullivan, 33, are the Rams’ oldest starters, and frequently are rested. The Rams even gave Whitworth the afternoon off as they practiced at Cal Lutheran on Monday. Even though neither Whitworth nor Sullivan missed a game because of injury last season, the Rams remain cautious.

    “I don’t think it bothers me, one way or the other,” Whitworth said of not playing. “For a lineman specifically, there’s really nothing that I’m looking for in a (preseason) game to be ready to play. As long as I’m practicing and feel like I’m getting a lot of competition, I feel great about it.” Because the recent trend, among every NFL team, has been to sit all starters for the final preseason game, all Rams offensive starters will make their 2018 debut during the Sept. 10 season opener at Oakland. That’s a gap of nine months between full-contact games, and while much of the focus has been on the readiness of quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley, the offensive line is just as important.

    Coach Sean McVay has further reason to keep Whitworth and Sullivan upright. Right guard Jamon Brown must serve a two-game suspension to start the season, so an injury to another starting lineman would be disastrous. The Rams already need to call upon their most talented backup, Austin Blythe.

    Blythe, a third-year lineman, remains on track to start at right guard during the first two weeks. McVay said Blythe will not play Thursday, a clear indication that the Rams consider him to be a starter.

    Young players such as Blythe and rookie tackle Joe Noteboom, who also has been taking extensive snaps at guard, can find immense value in the preseason, but for a player such as Whitworth, who is preparing for his 13th NFL season, there isn’t much left to learn.

    “I’ve done everything I need to do, practice-wise,” Whitworth said. “If you’re really looking for situational stuff that comes up, there’s really nothing (in preseason) that I experience that is any kind of situational thing. A couple first downs, a couple third downs, and that’s it.”

    Still, it’s new for two guys with a combined total of 22 years in the NFL. Sullivan never has gone a full preseason...
    -08-29-2018, 04:14 PM
  • Nick
    Rams won't show much in preseason game vs Raiders since teams meet in season opener
    by Nick
    Rams won't show much in next preseason game, against Raiders, since teams meet in season opener
    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
    -08-11-2018, 09:07 AM
  • Nick
    McVay unhappy about Rams practice after preseason opener
    by Nick
    Hopefully the staff can get things back on track and the players respond. Not exactly the type of report you'd like to hear after the preseason opener....
    -08-11-2018, 05:45 PM
  • Nick
    What we learned in the Rams' 33-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens
    by Nick
    What we learned in the Rams' 33-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens
    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, 09:01 AM
  • Nick
    Rams QB Mannion and other reserves struggle in preseason loss to Baltimore Ravens
    by Nick
    Rams QB Sean Mannion and other reserves struggle in preseason loss to Baltimore Ravens
    By RICH HAMMOND | | 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...
    -08-11-2018, 09:02 AM