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Los Angeles Rams vs. Oakland Raiders: The Professor’s Preview

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Looking for better results, the Professor dives into the Rams’ backups and what to look for on Saturday.

RAIDERS AT RAMS

The debacle in Baltimore

Last week’s game between the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Ravens can be compared to waiting six months to get a reservation at a gourmet restaurant. Everyone tells you that they have the best food. The best menu. You order something that your really not sure about, but you trust the reviews and your friends. Then the waiter serves you SPAM on a cracker.

Diehards can fall back on the fact that NOTHING in preseason means a thing. When you sit 20 of your starters in favor of backups on both sides of the ball going against the opposition’s starters, good plays are going to sporadic.

But that misses the point. Having waited so long for football, the first preseason does mean something to us football-starved fans. Its okay to lose, but playing crummy and looking as bad as we did doing it, we have only one fall back to take.

“It’s only the preseason.”

In comes the Oakland Raiders to LA for another evaluation contest, but remember...

“It’s only the preseason.”

What went wrong

There is no doubt that we lack a quality backup quarterback. It certainly looks like it could be our Achilles heel.

QB Sean Mannion looked terrible. He’s been in this league for three years and looked like QB Jared Goff in his rookie year. If Mannion doesn’t step up his play, he might not even make the roster.

This raises a bigger issue: What do the Rams do, if Goff gets injured?

The answer is simple—If Goff goes down for an extended period of time, the Rams are done for the year, pack it in for 2018.

The Rams are not immune from this dilemma amongst the elite quarterbacks in this league. If New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers or Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson go down, the chances of those teams making the Super Bowl evaporate.

Every Ram fan thought the moment that Carson Wentz went down, the notion that Nick Foles would lead the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl was laughable. It can happen, but not with the kinda of play demonstrated by the Rams backup quarterbacks last week.

What to look for

If Head Coach Sean McVay once again decides to sit his starters, its imperative that Sean Mannion or Brandon Allen step up their play. They need to demonstrate that in the event Goff does go down for series or two, they can step in and lead the Rams offense.

From what I observed of the rest of offense, the offensive line and especially the rookies got their first taste of NFL football and for the most part were okay to good. Clearly running behind that line are some quality backup running backs. RB Justin Davis looked good and he held onto the ball, and rookie RB John Kelly was clearly raising eyebrows with play. One has to take into account that when Kelly was running the ball, the Ravens were playing their backups as well. Still, I was impressed. I’m eager to see more of this combo against the Raiders.

As far as the backup wide receivers, WR Josh Reynolds had some drops, but for the most part it wasn’t the receivers fault, but rather bad passes negating any real evaluation of their play. WR Khadarel Hodge had a good game and since I’ve never heard of him, I want to see more.

I love this kid JoJo Natson. He’s really fast and would be a real compliment to the Rams receiving corps, as well as special teams. I think based on what I’ve seen at OTAs and training camp, he’s gonna make the squad.

The defense

I was impressed with speed of the Rams’ linebackers. As a group, they show immense promise. The rookies and vets, once they settled into the game, were getting the job done. Sure there were breakdowns now and again, but this is what preseason is for.

My only angst was with CB Troy Hill. For the life of me, I don’t understand how he can play so badly in the preseason but when called upon to spot a starter now and again in the regular season he ups his game, as he did against the San Francisco 49ers last year.

I feel comfortable in saying the defense is gonna be fine this year once DT Aaron Donald shows up. The truth is Aaron doesn’t like Irvine, but he loves Thousand Oaks. If the rumors are true, looking forward to seeing him signed to a multi-million dollar deal soon.

Analysis of the game

This is a weird preseason matchup between two teams who open the regular season against each other in just less than a month. I don’t expect much from either squad although new Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden is expected to have the Raiders ready to play. The Raiders need to buy into his “Chucky” persona, so I expect regardless of the vanillaness of the game, Gruden will remain intense.

This will be the first time the Raiders have returned to the Southern California area since their own departure back in 1993. There remain an awful lot of Raiders fans in Los Angeles. I expect the “Black Hole” to pack the house which is the only reason I cringe at the thought of having to deal with crazies.

It’s probably going to be a boring game, and it really doesn’t matter who win or loses since the one that counts on Monday Night in Week 1 is rapidly approaching. The start time is 1:00 pm, and I can’t remember ever attending a preseason during the afternoon. I remember the Rams home exhibition games being played at night.

Nevertheless, football is back and I’m looking forward to seeing my Rams at the Coliseum. I’m going on 59 years of Rams football and my family legacy of being a season ticket holder dates back to the Rams first season in Los Angeles back in 1946.

Everytime I walk the tunnel of the Coliseum for the first time in a preseason game and approach the field, I get chills up my spine.

I missed my Rams. Now its time to recharge my batteries for the season ahead.

Even if it is only the preseason.