Todd Gurley will not play during the preseason. Jared Goff is on the same trajectory.
Rams coach Sean McVay made that clear Thursday, saying he would hold out his star running back from Saturday’s game against the Houston Texans at the Coliseum, and indicating that his star quarterback almost certainly would not play.
NFL starters rarely participate in the final preseason game. That means the Rams’ two most prominent players on offense could go into the Sept. 10 opener against the Oakland Raiders without a preseason snap.
Gurley, the reigning NFL offensive player of the year, scored a league-leading 19 touchdowns last season and amassed more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 343 touches. McVay wants him fresh for a season that comes with big expectations for a team in the Super Bowl conversation.
“There’s nothing like truly playing football,” McVay said. “I totally agree and understand that, but that was kind of what we felt like — all things being considered — was going to be the best approach with him.”
In 2017, Gurley had 12 preseason carries for 40 yards. He acknowledged that McVay’s decision to sit him out until this season’s opener is “definitely going to save me just a little bit.”
So Gurley, who signed a $60-million extension before training camp, is fine with the decision. Actually, more than fine.
“That is everyone’s dream,” he said, “to not play in the preseason.”
Gurley added that preseason games were good for players who want to experience game conditions before the 16-game season begins.
“But not this guy,” he said.
The collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season. Gurley is in favor of shortening the preseason.
A good number of games?
“Zero,” he said laughing.
Earlier this week, McVay said he was leaning toward playing all starters with the exception of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan.
The pronouncement raised eyebrows because that meant rookie left tackle Joseph Noteboom would be responsible for protecting Goff’s blind side. Noteboom has played well in the first two preseason games, and McVay had expressed confidence in his ability to handle a starting role in a preseason game.
But right tackle Rob Havenstein suffered an ankle injury this week, McVay said. That made the second-year coach reconsider putting Goff in harm’s way.
“We’ll find out,” McVay said when asked whether Goff would play. “There’s a lot of things going into it.”
Said Goff: “Whatever they decide to do, I’m on board with.”
After two joint practices with the Baltimore Ravens, nearly all Rams starters were held out of the first preseason game, a 33-7 loss at Baltimore.
The day after the game, McVay was asked about the possibility that Goff, Gurley and other starters would sit out the entire preseason.
“I wouldn’t go that far, yet,” McVay said.
Starters for both teams sat out last week in a victory over the Oakland Raiders because McVay and Raiders coach Jon Gruden did not want to show anything that might put them at a disadvantage in the regular-season opener.
If Goff does not play against the Texans, that will affect other starters getting their first — and only — preseason action.
Receiver Robert Woods, for example, said this week that he was looking forward to establishing timing with Goff in a game setting and speed against the Texans.
But the prospect of Goff, without both starting tackles, going against a Texans defense that includes J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney forced McVay to pause.
“That definitely potentially alters it,” he said.
Preseason snaps would afford Goff an opportunity to gain more experience and perhaps get into a rhythm, but “there’s times where it doesn’t matter as much as you may think,” Goff said, noting the work done in practice.
Goff played in three preseason games last season, and then went on to pass for 28 touchdowns, with seven interceptions, while leading the Rams to the NFC West title.
He did not sound concerned about the possibility of going into this season without a preseason snap.
“We’ve gotten plenty of work,” he said.
McVay would no doubt like to see his first-team offense run a few plays in a game before the “Monday Night Football” appearance in Oakland against the Raiders.
If Goff sits out the entire preseason, might he start slower than expected?
“You’ve got to weigh a lot of different things,” McVay said, when asked whether he was concerned about that.