Sean McVay remains confident about keeping Rams stars out of preseason games

Rams quarterback Jared Goff throws before the start of a preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Aug. 24.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff throws before Saturday’s game against the Broncos. He hasn’t played in the preseason.
(Associated Press)

Keep established starters safely on the sideline.

That has been coach Sean McVay’s preseason philosophy since 2018, and it worked well for Rams team that won a second consecutive NFC West title and advanced to the Super Bowl last season.

But in what is usually a copycat league, McVay’s decision to again hold out quarterback Jared Goff and most other starters and key players from preseason games has not been universally adopted by other NFL coaches.

That’s fine with McVay. To each his own.

“We feel confident and comfortable with the approach we’re taking, and we understand that it might not be for everybody,” McVay said Sunday during a teleconference with reporters.


The pitfalls of playing a starting quarterback during preseason games could have a direct — and possibly beneficial — impact on the Rams in their Sept. 8 season opener at the Carolina Panthers.

Quarterback John Wolford is a long shot to make the Los Angeles Rams’ roster, but he put in a solid performance in a 10-6 preseason win over the Broncos.

Aug. 24, 2019

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton suffered a foot injury Thursday against the New England Patriots. He has not been ruled out for the opener, but the injury illustrates what McVay has described as the “risk-reward” when deciding whether to play starters.

“You never want to see your main guys that you’re counting on get injured, especially in games where it’s really just tuneups for the regular season,” he said, adding, “Anytime you see great players like Cam or anybody else get injured, you always hate that. That’s always the most unfortunate part of the game.

“Whether it’s our guys or somebody else, you never want to see that.”

Kyle Allen, rookie Will Grier and Taylor Heinicke are other Panthers quarterbacks.

After the Rams conclude the preseason Thursday at the Houston Texans, McVay and his staff will no doubt game-plan for a Panthers team that will feature Newton.

And barring a mishap during practices, the Rams will do so with a starting offense and defense nearly devoid of injuries.

Linebacker Bryce Hager dives into a tackling dummy during special teams drills at Rams training camp at UC Irvine in July.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Inside linebacker Micah Kiser, a second-year pro, was on track to start before he suffered a pectoral injury in the second preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. He will be sidelined indefinitely. Bryce Hager will start at that spot.

Before the Rams’ 10-6 victory over the Denver Broncos on Saturday night, McVay had said that Kiser’s situation would not affect his approach to playing projected starters and key contributors such as defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day.

And Joseph-Day said in the days leading up to the game that, “I need all the reps I can get.”

But Joseph-Day experienced hamstring tightness, and he was held out against the Broncos as a precautionary measure, McVay said after the game.

Joseph-Day and players such as safeties Taylor Rapp and Marqui Christian are not expected to play against the Texans.


“With those guys that you know are going to be here in some form or fashion, that potentially have carved out a role for themselves, situationally or in certain packages, I would think that we’ll probably hold them out,” McVay said.

Ceding control

McVay has allowed pass-game coordinator Shane Waldron to call plays during preseason games, and that will continue against the Texans.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to it in Carolina,” McVay said, “and hopefully I’m not rusty.”

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck says an unrelenting cycle of injuries spurred his decision to retire from football at age 29.

Aug. 24, 2019

Could that really be a problem?

McVay said practice situations, including joint practices with the Chargers and Oakland Raiders, have prepared him for the season.

“There will be no excuses coming from me if I’m not ready to go,” he said.


Linebacker Josh Carraway suffered a torn Achilles and offensive lineman Aaron Neary suffered an ankle fracture against the Broncos, McVay said. ... Offensive lineman Bobby Evans suffered a bone bruise. ... The Rams will practice Monday and Tuesday and then have a walk-through Wednesday before departing for Houston. The Rams left nearly all established starters at home for their second preseason game against the Cowboys in Hawaii, but that will not be the case when the team travels to Houston, McVay said. ... Rams wide receiver Jalen Greene caught a short touchdown pass from quarterback John Wolford against the Broncos. “I love John,” Greene said. “I love him even more now that he threw me a touchdown.”