Sean McVay’s preseason priority was keeping starters healthy

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The Rams will head into the regular season with most of their starters having played zero snaps in the preseason. Quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan are among the many key players who haven’t even stepped on the field during the preseason.

McVay said the reason is simple: His priority is keeping the starters healthy, and it’s simply not worth the injury risk to play them in the preseason.

It’s an imperfect deal,” McVay said. “But this is the decision that we felt like we wanted to make.”

There’s something of a domino effect with holding players out in the preseason: Whitworth and Sullivan are aging veterans, which means McVay doesn’t want to wear them out in meaningless games. But they’re also the top two players on the offensive line, which means McVay doesn’t want Goff and Gurley getting drilled if backup offensive linemen miss an assignment. And what would be the point of putting Cooks out there and risking an injury to him when he wouldn’t be getting on the same page with Goff anyway?

McVay’s way of thinking is smart: Yes, there’s some value in using live game action to prepare for the season. But there’s even more value in having your key players healthy. It won’t be surprising if next preseason, more coaches follow McVay’s lead — and NFL preseason games are even worse.

33 responses to “Sean McVay’s preseason priority was keeping starters healthy

  1. And this is exactly whey the NFL needs to eliminate two of the preseason games–or at least stop charging full ticket prices for meaningless exhibitions in which the starters usually don’t play. But that’s not going to happen, because money.

  2. Honestly, I don’t think games would be worse. I think watching guys trying to make the team is fun to watch. And not worrying about losing a key starter is the icing on the cake.

  3. If it’s ‘smart’ as you say, why do you think the Bears’ Matt Nagy is getting smoked for doing it for one game? Too many brainiacs out there ….

  4. Who could possibly be opposed to McVay’s strategy? There is plenty of time in mini-camp and OTAs to “develope chemistry” or get into “football shape”. No need to unnecessarily risk injury.

  5. Ideally, the starters would get reps, but it’s natural to play it safe after a few guys get injured. The fans get annoyed, but who in their right mind would pay for tickets to a preseason game?

    One of the benefits to this approach: the bottom of the roster guys get a ton of reps and therefore you can identify the steals/gems from later rounds a little faster. Javon Wims, for example, looked great in the Bears-Chiefs game… but his position coach thought he was a lost cause after a few practices. An earlier regime in Chicago didn’t recognize Jordan Howard’s greatness until he put pads on. Granted, that was Dowell Loggains… but the broader point still applies.

  6. “Why do you think the Bear’s Matt Nagy is getting smoked for doing it for one game?”

    Because the people “smoking” Nagy are idiots. Do you really think that Trubisky, et. al., will have a better season if they play half of an exhibition game?

  7. I would hesitate to call McVay smarter than almost every other coach.

    At most, this idea is quite untested. I don’t think a judgement can be made frankly. If it proves to be effective, you can bet there will be a lot of coaches that will employ the strategy. There have surely been many many coaches before who have considered doing what McVay is doing- they just decided the risk of injury wasn’t worth holding players out completely.

  8. LVMF he is getting smoked because he is a first year coach installing a new offense on a team that has not had a NFL offense in decades. as a fan I wanted to see some evidence that showed that they were doing something to live up to the hype. would it make a difference in how they played the opening game? you never know but it would not have hurt. now he and Trubisky will be facing more pressure to produce right away and if they do not I for one will not let them off the hook with the well they are still learning excuse. as for worrying about injuries did their #1 pick get hurt in a game?

  9. Preseason games are really unwatchable. I might watch the first couple series if the starters are in but after that it’s not worth the time…

  10. Speaking of overthinking….wow

    This isn’t revolutionary, game changing, or life altering. He just doesn’t want to play his starters. The number of reps these guys gets still doesn’t make week 1 any better, they aren’t seeing real schemes in preseason, and they are playing with 37 people they will likely never see again. Given the rate of injury in this preseason (any preseason) I can’t fault the guy.

  11. Mix it up on defense if you play the Rams early in the season. Bring pressure and I guarantee they won’t be ready to handle it. The speed and intensity on game day…even preseason game day is faster than practice.

  12. Not gonna argue what the coach is doing, but the for God’s sake don’t be charging expensive prices for 2nd teamers. Your ripping off fans at the game.

  13. “cardinealsfan20 says:
    August 27, 2018 at 9:36 am
    Who could possibly be opposed to McVay’s strategy? There is plenty of time in mini-camp and OTAs to “develope chemistry” or get into “football shape”. No need to unnecessarily risk injury.”

    Practice reps and games reps aren’t the same. Practice intensity and game intensity isn’t the same. The flow of practice and the flow of the game isn’t the same. Not to mention the decreased amount of practices available through the most recent CBA. There is going to be some risk to injury at any given time. The balance through OTAs, minicamp, training camp and preseason is the balance of who needs the reps and how much risk is worth it. For a young starter like Goff, I think he needs to continue in game reps, especially with new WRs like Cooks. I’m not going to knock a coach for sitting a guy for one game in the preseason, or only getting them some action for 1 or 2 games, but to suggest anyone opposed to the strategy is crazy is just illogical.

  14. With respect to all the comments regarding charging full ticket prices for preseason games:

    Not a single person expressing this opinion has ever been to a preseason game, much less ever paid any price to attend such a game. If you’re not paying to attend, don’t complain about it. If you are attending and complaining, stop attending.

  15. @cardinealsfan20;

    I had season tickets to the patsies when they stunk, before there were other options on sundays and i attended plenty of pre season games because i couldn’t give them away. Your post was 100% wrong. It’s a total rip off

  16. How did resting starters before the playoffs work out Sean?…If the Patriots play their starters you should too…

  17. This is the kind of mistake a young coach who’s convinced himself he’s smarter than everyone else makes.

    Wonder why so many players get hurt when they have to play an entire game after holding out?

  18. There has been a much greater degree of AWFUL football this preseason than usual – and lots of it had starters in – I don’t blame coaches from pulling back their top level guys, but the start of this season could possibly be the worst week of football we’ve ever seen – no one will be ready.

  19. Everyone is acting like players never get hurt in practice. A lot of OL players have gotten hurt in practice. Hunter Henry tore his ACL in practice. Vikings lost Nick Easton in practice. A few years ago Teddy Bridgewater snapped his leg in half in practice. It’s not only preseason games hurting players.

  20. fballguy says:
    August 27, 2018 at 9:32 am
    Honestly, I don’t think games would be worse. I think watching guys trying to make the team is fun to watch. And not worrying about losing a key starter is the icing on the cake.


    Exactly !!!

  21. Or maybe he realizes that there isn’t much depth behind all those big name starters and he can’t afford to be the guy who got them hurt in a meaningless preseason game…

  22. Where is the fan voice,preseason is fastly becoming a lie and cheat sceanrio.this is going to drive us to only 2 preseason games THAT SHOULD NOT BE CHARGED TO THE FANS

  23. The preseason games are meaningless so they aren’t supported by coaches, players or fans. NFL should make preseason record a primary tiebreaker. There would then be more interest in playing them, winning them and attending them. It would also make it easier for the NFL to replace them with regular season games.

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