The fourth and final preseason game used to be a showcase for backups, guys fighting for a spot on the final 53-man roster. Starters scarcely saw a snap. Those days are gone. St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher reserves the right to play his starters into the third quarter of Thursday's preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens.
"In general, yes, a little bit more," Fisher said when asked about plans to play the starters this week. "Possibly even through halftime in the first series of the third quarter."
The Rams have a pretty good idea about which players will make the final cut, but there are still questions about players on the bubble and, more importantly, the order of the depth chart. The later is a key justification for playing the starters. Fisher explained his thinking and what he was looking for from his players in the next game.
"It's how you start," the coach said. "It's the emotion and the intensity in which you start play with. And then it's play hard consistently throughout the game, and then of course it's a little bit of everything. It's evaluate some of the younger guys. It's evaluate your starters from a block and tackling standpoint and probably most important, as everybody would say right now, is get through it healthy."
Fisher will work his players into the mix with the starters, same as last week. Running backs, receivers, defensive tackles, nickel corners, etc. will all be getting a few more turns than they might normally through the first two quarters of the game as the coaching staff makes a determination about the final look and shape of the team.
The Ravens are expected to sit quarterback Joe Flacco and most of their starters after running through an extended dress rehearsal last week.