The Rams will take the field at the Coliseum for the last time this preseason when they face off against the Chargers on Saturday. This game marks the first contest between two Los Angeles teams since Nov. 13, 1994. And while it is just preseason, the third exhibition often holds more importance than most.
Saturday's contest may be the last for many of the Rams' starters, who are likely to sit out of Week 4 in preparation for the regular season opener. After showing steady improvement in the first two exhibition matchups, the Rams' offense will be put to the test against a strong Chargers' defense.
"I think being able to practice against them twice, you have a little bit of a feel," McVay said after practice on Wednesday. "[But] they're an excellent defense and I expect them to do really good things...They've got weapons all around, so it's going to be a great opportunity for us."
In the Chargers, the Rams' offensive line led by veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan will be up against the dynamic pass-rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bosa was named Defensive Rookie of the Year last season after recording 10.5 sacks in 12 games, while Ingram has 18.5 sacks over the last two seasons.
With these two coming after him, quarterback Jared Goff will need to hold his own in the pocket as he did last week against the Raiders, making good decisions as a passer. In two preseason starts, Goff has completed 19-of-24 passes for 194 yards and one touchdown. This week, he will look to remain consistent.
Check out the best shots from Rams practice at Cal Lutheran.
"If you can string together good decisions, throw the ball with great timing and rhythm and accuracy, [then] that's going to give yourself a chance to play the quarterback position at a high level," McVay said, "and I thought he did a good job of that last week. I want to see the same type of thing moving into this week against an excellent defense in the Chargers."
While wide receiver Cooper Kupp will not play on Saturday because he is out with what McVay referred to as a "sore groin," Goff will still have a solid arsenal of weapons at his disposal. Expect wide receivers Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins, and Pharoh Cooper to take the majority of first-team reps alongside tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett.
The Rams' defense, under the direction of Wade Phillips, will be challenged by a seasoned Chargers' offense led by quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers and company are expected to see their most extensive action yet in Saturday's game and will test the abilities of the Rams' defense with their strong run and passing attack.
Last season Rivers completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 4,386 yards and 33 touchdowns. His primary targets include wide receivers Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates as well as running back Melvin Gordon who rushed for 997 yards last year.
The Rams' defense will be without linebacker Mark Barron as well as cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. Outside linebacker Robert Quinn and cornerback Kayvon Webster did practice on Thursday, but their statuses have not been determined for Saturday's game. McVay reiterated that the goal is keeping the starters healthy for the Sept. 10 game against the Colts.
But, the defense will still include the likes of veteran defensive tackle Michael Brockers and middle linebacker Alec Ogletree, as well as a variety of rotational options in the secondary, including cornerback Trumaine Johnson and safety Lamarcus Joyner.
Overall, McVay says the preseason contest with the Chargers will provide him with one last opportunity to evaluate his projected starters.
"I think it's just looking to see good, productive football from our team as a whole, but especially those guys that we're really counting on," he said, "knowing that it probably will be the last time we see them with the approach we'll take with the Green Bay game."
And though there has been much made of a budding rivalry between the two neighboring teams, McVay is just hoping to present the fans with a good product that they "can be proud of."
"I think what it does is it offers a great opportunity for two teams in a great market to try to put a sound product out there," McVay said. "I think it would be a little bit different if we were both in the NFC. But, being that we're AFC-NFC, have a lot of respect for them and what they represent. I'm hoping for nothing but the best for Coach Anthony Lynn and his team this year."
Kickoff for the Rams vs. Chargers game is at 5 p.m. at the Coliseum. For more information on how to watch click here.