Head coach Sean McVay had already said earlier in the week that left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan were unlikely to play against the Texans for the third preseason game.
On Thursday, McVay confirmed those two veteran offensive lineman will be out on Saturday. But he also added one name to the list of players who definitely will not play: running back Todd Gurley. And based on the availability of the Rams' offensive line, quarterback Jared Goff's playing status is also up in the air.
With Gurley, the 2017 AP Offensive Player of the Year, McVay said the Rams had not quite ramped up his workload like they would on a normal game week. And given that Gurley recorded a league-leading 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns in 2017, his usage rate is likely to remain high as the focal point of Los Angeles' offense in 2018.
That's a significant reason why McVay is electing to keep him on the shelf for Saturday — and the remainder of the preseason, since in all likelihood there won't be any starter playing in New Orleans a week from Thursday. It's a way of keeping Gurley as fresh as possible for down the road.
"I think that's one of the things last year that enabled him to sustain and really get stronger as the season progressed, was what a good job he did taking care of himself, being mindful of just kind of his maintenance program throughout the course of the year — especially with all of his touches," McVay said. "We feel like this is going to put him on that track and that was more important to us. You try to get him as much good work as you can. There's nothing like truly playing football. I totally agree and understand that, but that was kind of what we felt like — all things being considered — was going to be the best approach with him."
"Obviously it's going to save me. The [less] you do, it's definitely going to save me just a little bit," Gurley said. "We do such a great job — coach makes sure he does a great job of just getting us a lot of reps. It's about that time where we're starting to get the majority of the reps, starting to go through a regular-season schedule. So, like I said, everybody — we make sure we do our job of just maintaining the work on the field, and they do a great job of taking care of us when the time is right."
Without any preseason snaps, Gurley will head into the 2018 not having taken a live rep since January. And Gurley and McVay both seem OK with that, with the running back saying he feels like he's gotten enough work in practice to be ready for Sept. 10 in Oakland.
"That is everyone's dream to not play in the preseason, what are you talking about?" Gurley joked with reporters. "Some guys, it's different. At the end of the day, it's always going to be different between playing in the preseason and playing in the regular season. But I'm kind of happy not to be playing in it. But it's definitely good for some guys as well, too. Some guys just like being out there, just to get a feel for it, and see. But not this guy."
"You try as much as you can to mimic and emulate those things in practice, but there's certainly nothing like getting truly tackled. I think you've got to weigh those decisions," McVay said. "You definitely don't want to take away from the value of the preseason, so I don't want that to be misunderstood by any stretch. But, [there is] that risk-reward and then also kind of being mindful of getting Todd as fresh as possible."
The Goff situation, however, appears a bit more complicated. McVay seemed set on playing Goff against the Texans earlier in the week. But then right tackle Rob Havenstien tweaked his ankle in practice, which affected the team's plans.
Check out photos from the Los Angeles Rams Wednesday practice leading up to preseason week 3.
McVay knows that when it comes to the Texans, pass rushing is a strength. With J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on the squad — plus Whitney Mercilus, who has dealt with preseason injuries — McVay doesn't want to put Goff in jeopardy.
"When Rob tweaked his ankle, that definitely potentially alters it — especially when you're talking about any team in general, but specifically an excellent defense when you're looking at guys like Watt, Clowney. I know Mercilus has been banged up a little bit, but I wouldn't feel great about going against those guys without our line," McVay said. "But, we'll see what happens."
And given that L.A. isn't game planning for Saturday's contest, there's only so much that Goff could likely get out of being on the field.
"The way that we would operate if he does play is not going to be anything close to the way that we'll operate in a normal game anyway," McVay said.
Goff said the way L.A. has gone about the week leading up to Saturday's matchup has been noticeably different that what it's like preparing for a normal game under McVay.
"Definitely different. You're used to a game week where you're so detailed and so intricate on what they're doing," Goff said. "At this point in our training camp [and] preseason, kind of phasing into the season, you're still getting reps with everyone. Still working on the whole team and trying to work on yourself in practice more so than you focus on the other team.
"We've been watching their film, we're prepared for it," Goff continued. "I have a little bit of experience from playing them last year and so we're ready to go."
Despite McVay's apparent reluctance to play Goff on Saturday, the quarterback said he's anticipating being out there.
"I'm planning to play but if something were to come up where it doesn't happen, then that's what they decide to do," he said.
That said, if Goff doesn't play, he's not worried about taking the first hit once the regular season comes on Sept. 10.
"No, I'll get hit plenty this year," Goff said with a laugh. "I'll get adjusted to it eventually."
Defensively, however, most of Los Angeles' starters are still slated to play — with the exception of linebacker Mark Barron.
Generally, though, McVay said there is an excitement about seeing players on the field on Saturday.
"We're excited about it, I know the guys are," McVay said. "We kind of went through what would be an in-season Friday today. Guys moved around, got some red-zone work and a couple jog-thru periods at the end. So it'll be good. I'm looking forward to it."