Most Rams starters are happy not to be playing in the final exhibition game, against the Houston Texans.
Nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day is not among them.
The second-year pro seeks as much opportunity as possible.
“I feel like you can never get enough reps,” Joseph-Day said this week. “There’s not enough reps in the world.”
Despite Joseph-Day’s enthusiasm for more experience, coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips won’t risk injury to a player who will play an important role when they open the season Sept. 8 against the Carolina Panthers.
“He’s kind of established himself as somebody that we’re counting on,” McVay said Tuesday.
The Rams selected Joseph-Day in the sixth round of the 2018 draft after he played at Rutgers.
Last season, on a team that featured veteran tackle Ndamukong Suh, Joseph-Day was not active for any games.
The Rams, who paid Suh nearly $15 million in salary and incentives, gave up 122.3 yards rushing per game, which ranked 23rd among 32 teams. They let Suh become a free agent and watched as the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Joseph-Day made big strides during offseason workouts.
The Rams selected tackle Greg Gaines in the fourth round of April’s draft, but Joseph-Day’s performance during training camp put him atop the depth chart to line up between Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers in a 3-4 scheme.
“He picks things up really fast, he’s very intelligent,” Brockers, a seven-year veteran, said of Joseph-Day. “He’s still young, so there’s some stuff he has to learn, just about the nuances of the game.
“But as far as knowing where he’s supposed to be … the guy is a great athlete and, like I said, very smart.”
One of the most important aspects of playing nose tackle, Brockers said, is understanding that it is not typically a high-profile position.
“People will be calling for you to get more sacks and stuff like that when you’re getting double-teamed,” he said. “You have to understand what comes with that position, and he has that mind-set.”
Joseph-Day chuckled as he explained the life of a nose tackle.
“If they’re running the ball, you know, you get all the blame,” he said. “If they’re not running the ball, you get all the glory. Everyone’s like, ‘What in the world? Look at the nose tackle.’”
Joseph-Day performed well during joint practices with the Chargers and Oakland Raiders. He played 14 snaps on defense and one on special teams in the exhibition opener against the Raiders, and 11 snaps on defense and one on special teams against the Dallas Cowboys.
Last week, he was scheduled to start against the Denver Broncos, but he experienced hamstring tightness, and McVay said Joseph-Day was held out for precautionary reasons.
So the opener against the Panthers will be the first time Joseph-Day lines up in a game between Donald, the two-time NFL defensive player of the year, and Brockers.
Joseph-Day said he was not yet looking ahead to the opener.
“This game is very humbling,” he said, “and when you look too far ahead, that’s when you get humbled.”
McVay said the Rams went through a situational scrimmage that included elements of what the Panthers might present in the opener. Running back Todd Gurley did not participate. McVay said Gurley did individual work and “stuck right with the schedule that we’ve kind of had for him.” ... Donald was given the day off. “Really just based on feeling like, ‘Hey, he probably earned the day off,’ and he would never ask for that,” McVay said. “Just the sense we got, let’s make sure that we’re as fresh as possible for Carolina.” ... Quarterback Jared Goff said he was beginning to look ahead to the opener against the Panthers but had not completely dived in. “I don’t know if you want to overanalyze,” he said. ... Panthers Coach Ron Rivera told reporters in Charlotte, N.C., “there is no doubt in my mind” that quarterback Cam Newton would be ready to play against the Rams. Newton suffered a left foot injury Thursday against the New England Patriots. ... On Wednesday, the Rams will have a walkthrough, attend a charity luncheon at a downtown Los Angeles hotel and then depart for Houston.