How do you assess the preseason?
Is it an opportunity to gauge the readiness of your starters and primary depth, especially those without much NFL experience? Is it a chance to begin to install the massive playbook on offense and the schematic blueprint on D? Is it just a practice with pressure?
Tonight, the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys, both who left key starters on the sidelines, played a game that was either marked by strong defensive play or by underwhelming offensive play. Or both. But not neither.
Without some key Rams, lineups on both sides of the ball were...unusual. No WR Sammy Watkins, no WR Tavon Austin, no OLB Robert Quinn, no DE Aaron Donald...suffice to say, the small sample size from the starters was hardly representative.
On offense though, the approach was restrained. QB Jared Goff was offered a conservative playcall sheet and along with it, a run game that was blocked poorly. On defense, Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips managed his rotation with aplomb as the Cowboys sat both QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott.
As the game developed, fumbles on offense opened a crack in the tempo. RB Justin Davis looked a bit of former RB Daryl Richardson - direct, aggressive and predictable, but in a good way. The passing game fluttered throughout, though largely remained restrained.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys offense...woof. Suffice to say, it looked an offense puffed up on depth without top experience.
And with that...the Sean McVay era begins. The 2017 Los Angeles Rams season is underway. Four practices in training camp this week. The Rams’ second game of the preseason next weekend against the Oakland Raiders.
Expect practices this week to include some drills on holding on to the ball. As for next Saturday? To be determined.