Game Preview: Rams open 2019 regular season against the Panthers 

The Los Angeles Rams (0-0) travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to face the Carolina Panthers (0-0) on Sunday in their regular season opener. Kickoff from Bank of America Stadium is set for 10 a.m. pacific time.

To get you ready for the contest, theRams.com compiled a quick preview featuring players to watch, what to watch for on offense and defense for both Los Angeles and Carolina and keys to victory for the Rams.

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Five players to watch

  • Rams RB Todd Gurley II: Everyone is eager to see how he responds to the preseason and offseason plan implemented to manage his health. 
  • Rams S Taylor Rapp: Though listed as a reserve, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said Rapp will see the field and has earned the opportunity. What will his impact be? 
  • Panthers QB Cam Newton: He dealt with a mild foot sprain during the preseason but appears ready to go for Sunday’s game. Newton also said he feels like a rookie again, and that should worry the Rams as he had a record-setting first NFL season.
  • Panthers DE Gerald McCoy: One could make the argument there are high expectations for McCoy, who is stepping into the retired Julius Pepper’s starting spot on the defensive line. 
  • Rams LB Bryce Hager: He’s slated to make his first career start at MIKE linebacker, arguably the most important position within Los Angeles’ defense.

*What to watch for… *

On offense for the Rams

It will be interesting to see how head coach Sean McVay chooses to use his running backs. Gurley will not be on a snap count against the Panthers, but backup Malcolm Brown and reserve Darrell Henderson Jr. will also be available and in play.

There’s also Los Angeles’ somewhat new-look offensive line with LG Joe Noteboom and C Brian Allen making their first career starts against one of the NFL’s most talented defensive lines this season. 

On offense for the Panthers

Two veterans departed Carolina’s wide receiver room this offseason in Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith, leaving second-year wideout D.J. Moore and third-year wideout Curtis Samuel as the group’s top two. 

Tight end Greg Olsen has been bothered by foot injuries each of the last two seasons but said this week he’s feeling good. When healthy, he’s one of the game’s best at his position – he recorded three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-16. 

On defense for the Rams

DT Sebastian Joseph-Day is slated to make his first career start as the Rams’ No. 1 nose tackle and will play a key role in disrupting Newton’s rhythm. 

Hager is making his second career start after spending majority of his first 64 career games on special teams.

On defense for the Panthers

McCoy has big shoes to fill on the Panthers’ defensive line, signed to fill the void left by the retirement of Julius Peppers. 

The unit as a whole is going to be showing more 3-4 looks after primarily using a 4-3 scheme last season.

The Los Angeles Rams practice ahead of the team's week one matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

Three keys to victory

  1. Contain RB Christian McCaffrey: He had a record-setting second season with Carolina and is a big-play threat as a runner and receiver. It will be important for the Rams’ front seven to set the tone and limit him at or near the line of scrimmage. 
  2. Spread the ball around in the passing game: The Panthers’ secondary allowed 7.7 yards per attempt in 2018, tied with three others seventh-most in the regular season.
  3. Take advantage of special teams: Panthers kicker Joey Slye will be playing in his first NFL regular season game this Sunday after starter Graham Gano was placed on IR, a potential edge for the Rams' field goal defense unit.

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