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Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints: The Professor’s preview

Finally...the preseason comes to an end.

Houston Texans v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Recapping the Preseason

The only concern Los Angeles Rams fans should have regarding the preseason is how the starters on offense, who haven’t played a down (and aren’t going to play in this game against the New Orleans Saints) perform when the regular season starts.

In today’s environment, protecting key players from injury during the preseason leads to success in the regular season. The Rams are leaders of this theory and have chosen not to play their offensive stars for a single down in preseason.

Should Ram fans be concerned?

The answer will have to wait until the 2018 Rams debut against the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football in Week 1.

So this game winds up being the last chance the coaches have to evaluate players on the bubble for the 53-man roster. These players are apt to see extended playing time in a meaningless game and given one last long look.

Thus far, from what we’ve seen the Rams have a solid roster. The more they played their rookie offensive lineman, edge rushers, linebackers, wide receivers and cornerbacks the better they got. It’s going to be tough on some of the non-starters to fulfill their dream of becoming a NFL player with the Rams roster having only so few spots to fill.

Still the biggest concern coming out of the preseason is DL Aaron Donald not being signed at this point.

That and figuring out things at backup QB.

QB Sean Mannion has been better since his game against the Baltimore Ravens in week one of the preseason, but still leaves a lot to be desired. QB3 Brandon Allen has also shown improvement, but he’s not that much better Mannion—just more mobile.

Hopefully, the Rams won’t have to worry about losing QB Jared Goff for any extended period of time during the regular season.

This could be the Rams year, but they have to prove it.

“Preseason doesn’t count, but it does matter.”

If the Rams come out smoking on MNF, fans can safely say that “preseason is not about winning.” If they stumble out the of the gate, fans will be shaking their head, “Why didn’t the offensive starters get at least a series or two in the preseason?”

Until then, we’ve got to close the preseason out.

What to look for

One should just enjoy this game for what it is—the last preseason game.

Since the Rams and Saints will play in the Superdome later this year in the regular season, both Sean McVay and Sean Payton will be handing out the Vanilla ice cream to the fans, like it or not.

Observations on the 53-man roster

From what Rams fans have observed thus far, RB John Kelly was a sleeper draft pick—he makes the squad and could see considerable playing time in the Rams offense during the regular season.

WR KhaDarel Hodge should make the squad—he’s caught every pass thrown to him and ranks as the biggest surprise of the preseason.

Depending on how many wide receivers the Rams go with, WR Fred Brown and WR JoJo Natson could make the squad and match them with Pharoh Cooper as back-ups. Natson also return punts and kicks, so he becomes a double threat as the backup to Cooper.

The Rams’ edge rushers are fast, but their tackling at times leave a lot to be desired, but that will come with more playing time. One should expect ILB Micah Kiser to make the squad to back up ILB Ramik Wilson (a perfect first name for a Ram player) who has been impressive when he was out there. If the Rams decide to keep Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, he’ll start on the PUP list and therefore won’t be able to see action until Week 7.

The Rams are loaded at cornerback. CB Sam Shields has been on fire throughout training camp and the preseason. Rams fans should feel good about having him and CB Nickell Robey-Coleman as our nickel guys. We should just leave it up to Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips to choose his back-up corners but acknowledge that guys who can play in man coverage are coveted over zone players since the 3-4 requires a lot man-to-man coverage.

How to watch the game

Unless something dramatic happens like an unbelievable performance by a bubble player, the coaches have a pretty good idea on who they want on the 53-man roster even though they won’t say it publicly.

So get your pencil and paper ready to see if you guessed right.

Ram fans know who 22 of the players are going to be. Add P Johnny Hekker and PK Greg Zuerlein, QB Sean Mannion and Brandon Allen (one of whom will be on practice squad) and your down to around 28 to 27 spots to fill out.

Even if you get a few wrong, one of your picks might still be picked up by another team, as the Rams appear to have a loaded roster this year which will keep your dream of being a NFL scout, General Manager of Head Coach alive for another season.

Then get ready for a season, the likes of which Los Angeles Rams haven’t seen since 1951.