More and more, NFL teams are following in Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay’s steps.
Last week, several coaches sat their starters while teams like the Carolina Panthers paid a hefty price with injuries to star players such as QB Cam Newton. That led Riley McAtee (editor’s note: no relation to TST Managing Editor Joe McAtee aka 3k) to declare over at the Ringer that Sean McVay has ruined the preseason and it’s now time to cut it.
That’s high praise for those like me who find the preseason a big frustrating waste of time.
The obvious reason for sitting players in preseason games and in practice is to prevent them from getting hurt. Makes sense. Football is a violent game, and an injury can strike at any moment, so it makes sense to be safe, right? Just this weekend, the Rams lost EDGE Josh Carraway and OL Aaron Neary to injuries. However, McVay’s trend of sitting players isn’t just injury prevention — he’s giving his depth players valuable reps that wouldn’t happen in traditional scenarios.
Let’s take a look at last season with the Rams aging offensive line.
The Rams had two significant departures in the offseason: C John Sullivan and RT Rodger Saffold III, but there hasn’t been too much panic in the Ramily. Rookie linemen Joseph Noteboom and C Brian Allen were basically redshirt guys in 2018 not seeing the field much.
How do we know that Noteboom and Allen are ready for such a promotion? Practice.
In at least one of the three practices during each week last season, LT Andrew Whitworth and C John Sullivan sat out, allowing Allen and Noteboom to take their reps. What was great about this move last season was that it allowed two linemen, both in their 30s, to take a rest during the week, but also gave the opportunity for the young guys to get a feel for the offense. In nearly every case, Whitworth and Saffold weren’t hurt. They just didn’t want to push it.
That’s the revolutionary idea that McVay is bringing to the NFL — “Don’t push it.” It seems contrary to natural instincts of football coaches which is usually a strategy that’s more along the lines of pushing a player so hard that they break down. The problem with that case is that you never know when it will happen.
Instead, the Rams prepared for the transition on the offensive line. That’s most likely why the LA Rams are feeling confident about Noteboom and Allen fitting into the O-line this season. So much so, that they are being treated like veterans.
Now in 2019, newly-drafted offensive linemen like OL David Edwards and OL Bobby Evans are getting their reps in preseason games which will come in handy later in the season if any injuries happen but likely pay the real dividends in the future with further attrition on the line.
Is McVay playing things too safe? Will the starters be rusty in week 1?
But you know what? At least they’ll healthy and well-rested.
And the future will look brighter for it.