NFL teams employ lots of strategies to keep their players healthy during the preseason, but the Rams may take the idea to an unhealthy extreme.
Sean McVay is one of the most progressive coaches in the NFL. It’s no surprise that he is interested in changing the way the Rams approach the preseason. However, he’s seriously considering taking the idea of keeping his star players healthy until the regular season too far.
He admits that both Jared Goff and Todd Gurley want to play in the preseason, but he’s not convinced it’s in either player’s best interest. Instead, McVay insists that his staff is still actively discussing just how much to play his two biggest offensive stars during the Rams’ two remaining preseason games. Specifically, McVay is leaving open the option that neither player will take a single snap before the regular season begins.
It’s easy to see why McVay might be tempted buy this sort of strategy. The Rams have a reasonably deep roster, but losing someone like Goff or Gurley for an extended period of time would be a massive blow to the team. Every time a starter steps onto the field during the preseason their franchise is putting them at risk. It’s natural for a coach to consider eliminating that risk altogether.
That doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. Preseason action is important for players as they try to get ready for the speed of playing the NFL game once again. That’s something that can’t be replicated in practice. Defensive players have an extra edge when they’re hunting down an actual opponent. Holding Goff and Gurley out of all preseason action would increase their possibility of getting hurt once the regular season begins. There’s a tradeoff there that McVay has to consider.
The Rams coaching staff must also carefully consider the competitive aspect of keeping Gurley and Goff on ice. Part of the purpose of having a preseason is to allow offenses to get into a meaningful rhythm before Week 1 arrives. McVay’s offense isn’t going to be firing on all cylinders when the regular season begins if their starting quarterback and running back haven’t been working with the unit in live preseason action. It’s impossible to predict how much that would negatively impact the Rams ability to get off to a hot start, but that’s another thing McVay and company have to consider.
No one can say that holding stars out of all preseason action isn’t the right decision for the Rams, but it’s a massive risk for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. There’s a very thin line between being a trailblazer and a maniac. McVay is straddling it at the moment.