We have made it to the promised land. No longer will we have to get through the summer with baseball-only highlights and notes from training camp. We are here: the Los Angeles Rams’ first game of the 2017 preseason as they take on the Dallas Cowboys.
Here’s what I’m focusing on tomorrow’s game:
Dallas’ starting offense will test Rams’ defense
Regardless of RB Ezekiel Elliott’s fate, their offense remains talented from top to bottom. Their appearance in Saturday’s game won’t be long, but the starters will provide a measure of where the Los Angeles defense stands under new Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips.
Like a certain rookie WR out of Eastern Washington, WR Dez Bryant’s been catching everything in his line of sight during camp. Against his 1-on-1 battle with CB Orlando Scandrick, Bryant made an unbelievable one-handed, finger-tip grab for a touchdown.
However, I believe a CB Trumaine Johnson punch (The Stockton Steamer) would have stopped that. Whether or not that kind of defense is in the Phillip’s playbook remains to be seen.
How will the first-string defense fare against an offensive power like Dallas?
Goff’s progress (so far)
Everyone is anxious to see Jared Goff Saturday. This offseason he spent the summer with new Head Coach Sean McVay and new Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur, which is a major contrast to last summer when he spent his offseason with a guy who coachspeaks his way to 7-9 every year and a tight ends coach who called plays.
A lot has been said about Goff progressing during the offseason. It’s probably fair to assume we are all hoping the progress rings true.
The expectations are low because it’s the first preseason game, but a drive or two will be a nice sampling of where Goff stands. Look for him to look for favorite target TE Tyler Higbee, along with WRs Cooper Kupp and Pharoh Cooper.
Where have all the d-linemen gone?
The line has lost guys through position changes, contract holdouts and injury, all of which has left the team with a starting line of Michael Brockers, Ethan Westbrooks, and Louis Trinca-Pasat.
So, yeah, there’s that.
Also, in case you didn’t hear, Aaron Donald is not projected to play in this game. He’s still holding out. Be prepared to hear game announcers to name-drop Donald at least throughout the first quarter of the game if not into the second half.
It’s Week One of the preseason, so there’s no need to sweat. But the d-line’s depth will be put to the test against the Cowboys’ deep running game. How will they handle Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, and the Cowboys’ line?
Robert Quinn at OLB
The Rams will trot out a new defensive scheme complete with Quinn at outside linebacker. I don’t expect him to blow the doors off the Cowboys’ starting tackle or guard, but it’s important to see how comfortable he looks and how well he can rush the passer without his hand in the dirt.
Rams’ secondary driving the bus
The corners have been touting themselves as the bus drivers of the team and have accepted the responsibility of setting the team’s tone during competition. Against the S̶a̶n̶ ̶D̶i̶e̶g̶o̶ Los Angeles Chargers, the Rams’ corners had their hands full when they weren’t clenched.
While Johnson and Kayvon Webster rest after their short appearance, E.J. Gaines will take the field at corner, hopefully showing an improvement from last season. Joining Gaines will be a list of depth players looking to prove their worth in this defense.
How will they handle the receiver depth of Cole Beasley, Ryan Switzer, and Noah Brown?