The passes were crisp, the routes precise and the catches resulted in numerous trips to the end zone.
Quarterback Jared Goff connected with receiver Robert Woods on a sideline pattern, Sammy Watkins over the middle. Tavon Austin and other Rams receivers also burned beleaguered defensive backs for big yardage and touchdowns.
It was several hours before the Rams’ preseason finale Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers, and Sean McVay was putting his skill-position starters through a fast-paced workout at empty Lambeau Field — with the rookie coach playing defensive back.
When it was over, the starters retired to the locker room and later emerged in sweatshirts for the game, watching and encouraging Rams reserves in a 24-10 defeat.
The Rams can now prepare for their regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
“We just want to be mindful of making sure we capitalize on every single opportunity, especially moving toward that Sept. 10 date,” McVay said of the starters’ pregame activities, adding, “I thought we got some excellent work in.
“And I got a little workout in myself.”
The opener against the Colts has been McVay’s focus from the moment the Rams opened training camp in late July.
It continued through the preseason and was reflected in McVay’s decision to sideline players such as linebackers Robert Quinn and Mark Barron and cornerback Kayvon Webster until the games count.
On Thursday, it wasn’t only projected starters that were held out. Backup quarterback Sean Mannion did not play, giving veteran Dan Orlovsky a chance to play every snap.
Receivers Pharoh Cooper and Josh Reynolds, who back up Woods, Watkins and Cooper Kupp, also sat out.
In the next two days, McVay and general manager Les Snead will trim the roster from 90 players to 53.
“Anytime that you’re going to have to let 37 guys go, that’s never a fun decision, but that’s part of this business,” McVay said. “But there’s still a human element that you never lose sight of and that’s never fun when you’re in this situation.”
Former USC running back Justin Davis made a final bid for a roster spot by rushing for 55 yards in 17 carries. He also caught two passes for 21 yards. Davis overcame two fumbles in the first preseason game and in four games ran for 147 yards in 36 carries.
“I just came in with the mindset just to leave everything on the field, leave no doubts because that’s the only thing I can do at this point,” Davis said of his performance Thursday. “It’s up to the coaches’ hands at this point so I just wanted to leave it all out there.”
Along with roster cuts, the major issue for the Rams over the next few days will be whether defensive lineman Aaron Donald ends his holdout and reports, with or without a new contract.
Perhaps the most disruptive defensive force in the NFL, Donald has two years remaining on his rookie contract. He is due to earn $1.8 million this season and $6.9 million in 2018.
The three-time Pro Bowl pick is believed to be seeking a deal that would make him the league’s highest-paid defensive player, and possibly more.
According to McVay and Rams players, Donald has been working out in Pittsburgh for the last six weeks. But Donald would probably have to report this week to be ready in time to play in the opener.
McVay said “we know there’s progress to be made” in discussions with Donald’s representatives, but he was optimistic that Donald would report. McVay, however, would not give a specific date as a deadline for Donald’s arrival to play against the Colts.
“Every single day is so vital and important,” McVay said. “Obviously, the closer you get the higher the level of urgency there is.
“But that urgency has always been high for us, but I think the feeling right now is definitely optimistic.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein