In tonight's final preseason game of the 2016 season, the Los Angeles Rams are up north to play the Minnesota Vikings.
If you've been dying to see what the young players look like in an extended role to get a feel of who might make the team and what their role might be, well this is the game for you. Starters are likely to be pulled after one series for those that take the field at all. The vast majority will likely just sit this one out.
Fans shouldn't expect to see QB Case Keenum, RB Todd Gurley or WR Tavon Austin along with a few others, as this will be the time for young guys to make their last plea to make the team.
What they don't tell you is in most cases the coaches have their minds made up as you make the club through performance in practice and not the games. That doesn't mean this is a meaningless game. Players can change the coaches' minds with a standout game performance. So for those last three to five guys vying for either a practice squad spot or an actual roster spot, this is everything. A notable performance can show your coaches you should stay, or at worst puts a positive tape performance out there for the other 31 teams.
So which young guys will step up and make the most of what could very well be their last opportunity to make their dream come true?
- QB Jared Goff will likely play the entire first half. If you've followed Hard Knocks this year, you'll know he still has a lot of work to do. The coaching staff knows this as well. As he was unable to beat out Keenum in camp, the staff will want to get Goff as many reps as possible in this game. I would not be surprised to see him throw the ball 16-20 times in the first half. It wouldn't even shock me to see him steal some reps to start the third. The goal will be get Goff reps. More repetition can only help at this point. How he will perform with those reps is another story. Basing it off of 18 pass attempts, I see Goff completing nine for 98 yards and an interception with most of his yards coming from completions to TE Tyler Higbee.
- RB Malcolm Brown will tear it up, but it will be RB Aaron Green who has the best day for the backs. Both players are going to shine with Brown having about 85 yards and a touchdown. But Green is going to show his skills off as a receiver and runner gaining 132 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
- QB Sean Mannion will continue to put together good tape. It would not be a surprise in the least bit if teams aren't already calling the Rams about his availability, and after the game I would expect that to amplify. Mannion could very well finish with 175 yards on limited attempts (14-16). He's going to tear it up.
- Part of the reason Mannion will tear it up will be the aforementioned play of Green out of the backfield. The other part will be the return of WR Nelson Spruce. He and WR Paul McRoberts are going to both make this team (McRoberts could even replace Brian Quick who will play a lot as he's not a starter and trying to beat out Spruce and McRoberts). And it will be McRoberts who catches a bomb from Mannion in the fourth.
- The Rams will win in large part due to the play of some of the youngsters on defense. CBs Troy Hill and Mike Jordan both will pick off passes. And DE Ian Seau will have a sack and forced fumble which the defense will recover. Three turnovers is hard to overcome. Though the game will be close as the Rams will have two of their own, the aforementioned Goff pick and a fumble lost.