Rams’ Jared Goff and Aaron Donald remain focus for Colts ahead of season opener
Two Rams players are receiving plenty of attention for possible roles in the game plan for Sunday’s season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
One of them, quarterback Jared Goff, is actually on the roster and set to play.
Defensive lineman Aaron Donald remained a no-show Wednesday because of a contract dispute, but Rams coach Sean McVay declined to officially rule him out of the game at the Coliseum.
And Colts coach Chuck Pagano said his staff was preparing for the possibility that Donald would play.
“Obviously, paying close attention to it,” Pagano said during a teleconference. “We’re preparing for him to be there and if he’s not, he’s not.
“It would be foolish on our part not to study and get our guys prepared for that scenario. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but we’re going to prepare accordingly.”
Donald, due to earn $1.8 million this season, has not been seen at the Rams’ Thousand Oaks’ practice facility since June, when he attended a mandatory minicamp but did not participate in team drills.
With only two practices remaining before the game, it seems unthinkable that the Rams would play the three-time Pro Bowl selection even if he did report to collect a near $106,000 game check.
Ethan Westbrooks and rookie Tanzel Smart are on track to play in Donald’s place. After Wednesday’s practice, McVay also said Tyrunn Walker and Morgan Fox have benefited from added reps.
“It’s allowed us to develop some depth that maybe we didn’t realize we had,” McVay said.
Much of McVay’s focus has been devoted to Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft who will start his first season opener.
Goff, winless in seven late-season starts as a rookie, acknowledged Wednesday that “there is always a lot of jitters and a lot of excitement” the first game of a season.
“Yeah, there will be some of that,” he said, “but I’ve never really had many issues with being able to stay calm, so I’ll just continue to do what I do.”
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, will not play Sunday because he is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Scott Tolzien will start in his place.
Pagano and his staff have studied film of Goff from last season and this preseason. He anticipates that Goff will be improved, especially recognizing coverages and blitzes.
“Having gone through it a couple years ago with Andrew, you typically see a big jump from any quarterback from Year 1 to Year 2,” Pagano said, adding Goff was a “big, talented guy, good manager of the offense, making good decisions, got arm talent, can make all the throws.
“All of the same things that we saw when he was coming out, the reason they took him where they took him.”
No preseason reps, no problem.
The Rams kept linebacker Mark Barron sidelined for the entire offseason and preseason so that his shoulder would be sound for Sunday’s game.
“Of course you want to be able to get a whole offseason in and get all those reps,” Barron said, “but I had to make sure I felt good for Week 1, so I’m going to make it work.”
Barron was not the only defensive starter who did not take a preseason snap. The Rams also held out linebacker Robert Quinn and cornerback Kayvon Webster.
The absence of those players during the preseason — along with Donald’s holdout — means Rams starters will play the Colts without any collective game reps in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defensive scheme.
Barron is not concerned, noting that all of the players no longer sidelined are veterans.
“We’ve all played ball before and we know how to prepare for games, and we know how to get ready for whatever we need to get ready for,” he said. “So I really don’t think it will be a problem.”
The Rams listed no players on the injury report. Along with Luck, the Colts listed center Ryan Kelly (foot), receiver Chester Rogers (hamstring), guard Ian Silberman (lumbar) and cornerback Vontae Davis (groin). ... The Rams announced that owner Stan Kroenke’s family has donated $1 million to Red Cross relief efforts in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey. … Linebacker Connor Barwin, who played four seasons in Houston, started a “Tackles for Houston” campaign to raise funds to aid flood victims. Tackle Michael Brockers and running back Malcolm Brown, both Texas natives, started fundraising efforts in the aftermath of the storm.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
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