The NFL preseason has officially arrived. The Rams will be back at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday to take on the Cowboys in their preseason opener for the second straight year.
Following the first two weeks of training camp at the team's summer home of UC Irvine, the Rams will begin a preseason slate of games that also includes two AFC West opponents in the Raiders and Chargers, as well as a matchup with the Packers at Lambeau Field. Saturday's kickoff marks Sean McVay's first preseason game as an NFL head coach.
"I'm excited, I'm excited to watch these guys compete," McVay said. "I think it offers a great opportunity for us to play in front of our home fans for the first time this season [and] I know as a coaching staff and our players, we're excited about it."
Though the exhibition matchups do not count towards the regular season wins and losses, it will be the first time since January that fans will get to see the Rams take on an opponent. These four preseason games will also provide McVay's new coaching staff a necessary chance to get everything in order.
"That's what I think the preseason offers, a great opportunity really for us as coaches," McVay said, "so that by the time the Indianapolis Colts game rolls around, we feel good about our process and how we want to handle things throughout the course of the game."
Quarterback Jared Goff is under a lot of pressure heading into both the preseason opener and regular season after a rocky rookie campaign. Throughout training camp, Goff has shown tremendous growth in his confidence as the starting quarterback and a lot of budding chemistry with his new receiving group, specifically wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.
And although after Monday's practice McVay said many of the projected starters would play just six to 10 snaps during Saturday's opener, Goff still expressed his excitement at getting back into the action.
"It feels like it's been coming for a long time now, to kind of get a chance to get back out there in the Coliseum and see all the fans again," Goff said. " I'm ready to get out there and just run some plays — see a real defense, maybe get hit a couple times, just go through some things that you go through in a real game and get back into that feel."
Woods also voiced his anticipation to be back at the Coliseum where he played as a student-athlete at USC. Though he has since played in the stadium as a member of the Bills, Saturday will be Woods' first time back as a member of the home team.
"I'm excited, excited to walk down and experience it once again, have the home crowd cheering," Woods said of going back to his former college stadium. "I have not been back in the locker room since I've played there. I have been in the visitor's small locker room, which I don't want to be a part of again. It's just a little taste of the season since it's the preseason."
But Goff and Woods aren't the only players to keep an eye on this Saturday. The preseason allows for the stacked 90-man roster to prove themselves worthy of a spot on the much lighter 53-man roster for the regular season. Projected starters Robert Quinn, Mark Barron and Kayvon Webster are all expected to sit out in tomorrow's game, as is newly signed wide receiver Sammy Watkins, whom the Rams traded for earlier this morning. With these four off the field many other players will have plenty of opportunity to make an impact.
On defense, the Rams will face a former rookie standout in quarterback Dak Prescott, who saw his first NFL game action in last year's opener at the Coliseum, as well as quarterbacks Kellen Moore and Cooper Rush who both had impressive showings in the Cowboys' win over the Cardinals last week. And though Dallas' offensive starters won't play for too long on Saturday, they will provide a good measuring stick for where the Rams' defense stands under coordinator Wade Phillips.
Expect a lot of rotation in the Rams' secondary as the staff works in a slew of players including cornerbacks Nickell Robey-Coleman and Troy Hill, as well as safety John Johnson. The D-line's depth will also be tested against the Cowboys' running game as they attempt to stop the likes of running backs Alfred Morris and Rod Smith against a talented Cowboys' offensive line.
Saturday will also provide the Rams' offense with its first true test of the season, especially early on in the game when the unit matches up against the Cowboys' starting defense. Look for first-round draft pick defensive end Taco Charlton on the pass rush and young additions to the Cowboys' secondary, including Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods, to challenge Los Angeles' backfield.
"It's a great test," McVay said of taking on the Cowboys. "I think Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett does an excellent job with the team and it's clear why they were NFC East champs last year, so I think it offers an excellent opportunity for our team to go against a quality opponent and see how our first-string guys handle those first couple plays, but it's going to be a great challenge for us."
Kickoff is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. For more information on how to watch click here.