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Defensive Starters Show Promise in Limited Work

Seven snaps.

That's all Los Angeles' starting defense played during Saturday's preseason victory over Houston, and barring something completely unforeseen, it'll be the only work the unit gets until Sept. 10 when the Rams take on the Raiders.

But even in that short time, the defense lived up to expectations by delivering pressure on the quarterback with tough coverage on receivers.

Houston's first offensive possession ended in a three-and-out, with slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman breaking up a short pass over the middle on 3rd-and-4. And then the newest star of Los Angeles' defensive line, Ndamukong Suh, delivered a blow to quarterback Deshaun Watson that sent an errant pass deep down the field into the hands of safety Lamarcus Joyner.

At that point, coordinator Wade Phillips had seen enough.

"Lamarcus came off and coach Wade told him we were done," safety John Johnson relayed postgame, adding Joyner replied to Phillips by saying, "'Another day in the office.'"

As athletic as Joyner's interception was, Suh's hit on Watson was just as much a key part of the play.

"I had an opportunity to play off [Dominique] Easley, I saw the quarterback — he was getting ready to step up and throw the ball. I saw the opportunity to hit him cleanly and he put it up in the air and we went and got it," Suh said.

The veteran defensive lineman had mentioned during the week how much he was looking forward to being able to hit a quarterback, since that's off-limits during practice.

That came through pretty clear.

"For sure it feels good," Suh said. "I mean we can't hit '16' [Jared Goff] or even get near him in practice let, alone all the other guys so it feels good to hit a quarterback especially with the new rules and all that stuff. Overall, it was a decent showing."

Head coach Sean McVay said the plan going into Saturday was to give the starters pretty limited playing time.

"Yeah, it was going to be two or three [series]," McVay said. "I think the fact that they got a turnover ended up making us feel good about it."

One reason Los Angeles put its defensive starters out there in the first place was to give all the new pieces a chance to mesh before Week 1. Los Angeles is expected to have six new starters line up on defense when the regular season begins — including a new signal-caller in linebacker Cory Littleton.

"Defensively, we thought it was important to get that work today because there are so many moving parts — Cory at the 'Mike' linebacker spot, you look at Ndamukong up front, you look at some of the guys coming off the edge with [Matt] Longacre, with Easley being able to get their first action and then obviously the new additions that we had to our back end. So, there was a handful of reasons why we went about it today."

The experience was useful for Suh, who said he thinks he'll continue to find ways to be successful in his new scheme.

"I think the great thing about Wade is that he's had a ton of great players and he finds a way for all guys to have success, so I'm looking forward to that," Suh said. "I think today is obviously just basics, just trying to get a flow of everything — especially with Cory back there new calling plays and what not, which is great. I enjoyed every minute of it."

So much so that at least for him, two series were not enough.

"I don't know anybody who wouldn't," Suh replied to a reporter who inquired if he wanted to keep playing after the interception. "I think eight plays or so is far too few."