Quarterback Jared Goff and fellow Rams starters on offense will go into the season opener with zero preseason snaps. The defensive starters will have played a grand total of seven.
That’s apparently no problem for coach Sean McVay and his players.
McVay sat the offense and gave the defense two series in Saturday’s 21-20 victory over the Houston Texans at the Coliseum. The Rams conclude the preseason Thursday night at New Orleans — where no starters will play — and then begin readying for their Sept. 10 opener against the Oakland Raiders on “Monday Night Football.”
“It might not be for everybody,” McVay said of holding players out the entire preseason. “There might be disagreement, but this is what we talked about as a coaching staff and this is the decision we made.”
McVay sat starters at Baltimore because the Rams had already practiced against the Ravens. He held them out against the Raiders because he did not want to give coach Jon Gruden any strategic clues only a few weeks before playing again in the opener.
He kept Goff and the rest of the offense safely on the sideline against the Texans because left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan were not going to be active and right tackle Rob Havenstein was nursing an ankle injury. He also reasoned that the offense returns from 2017 almost completely intact, save for the addition of receiver Brandin Cooks.
But he does have a young quarterback.
Goff, 23, is entering his third NFL season. McVay acknowledged “there’s nothing quite like playing” in games to gain experience and absorb a hit.
“It’s an imperfect deal,” he said, “but this is the decision we felt like we wanted to make.”
Goff said he and the offense would be fine.
“I’m good,” he said, adding, “Coming back with the same offense as last year, having the same guys, outside of Brandin Cooks, makes that not too much of a hurdle for us.”
The remade Rams defense looks ready if not tested.
The Rams forced the Texans to go three and out in the first series. In the second, new tackle Ndamukong Suh hit quarterback Deshaun Watson, which led to a Lamarcus Joyner interception and the defense called it a day.
“Definitely enjoyable,” Suh said, smiling, “but for sure too short.”
Defensive lineman Michael Brockers also would have been happy to play more. Seven snaps will have to suffice.
“Got your feet wet a little bit,” he said.
New cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, acquired in offseason trades, enjoyed their first time on the field, even if was brief.
“It was a beautiful day,” Peters said. “We got to go play football.”
Said Talib: “It felt good to get some live action, communicate with our safeties and linebackers and get some full-speed reps.”
Enough reps to start the season?
“I’ve been in the NFL 10 years so far,” Talib said, “so I got a lot of play.
But what of less-experienced players?
Safety John Johnson played in every preseason game as a rookie last year. He moved into the starting lineup in Week 5.
So this season has a different feel.
“I’m only Year 2 and I’ve played seven snaps in the whole preseason,” he said. “It’s a little different.”
But Johnson said he and the defense are ready for the opener.
“We’re pros,” he said. “We practice against probably the best offense in the league.”
Linebacker Samson Ebukam, the only defensive starter to play in every game, thinks the same way. Ebukam was on the field for the first time with veterans such as Suh, Peters and Talib.
“We’re good,” he said, “as you can see what happened out there.”
Still, it was only seven snaps.
“A small sample size,” McVay said.
Whether that is enough preparation for a team in the Super Bowl conversation remains to be seen.
But McVay appears to have achieved his overarching preseason goal.