As NFL teams attempt to strike the balance between exposing starters to injury in the preseason and preparing them for the regular season, some performances in Week One helped make the case that more caution needs to be thrown to the wind. One of the last performances of the weekend pushes the needle the other way.
The Rams, whose key players were kept in bubble wrap for the entire preseason, still managed to slice and dice the Silver and Black to the tune of a 33-13 season-opening win.
Of course, it’s possible the Rams would have won the game even bigger, or perhaps put the Raiders away much earlier, if the starters were ready to roll. The Raiders held the lead after the first half, even though the Rams are the more talented team.
“I think to be able to go through some adversity, I think says a lot about our football team,” Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters on Tuesday. “Really hadn’t had anything like that occur, obviously, just with it being the first game. But I think when you take into account the elements, the atmosphere, some of the unknown with what they presented offensively, even some different things defensively — the way that the half ended, they had a lot of momentum. I thought our guys just kind of really embodied that attitude of ‘never flinch and never blink’ and then they came out and they did an excellent job in the second half. I thought the coaches made some good adjustments as well.”
Even though the Rams’ slow start may have been due to the decision to keep players on ice in August, the trend is moving away from playing starters in the preseason and protecting them instead. As that continues, the preseason will become less and less compelling, making it harder and harder for the league to keep playing four preseason games.