THOUSANDS OAKS, Calif. – Having worked together previously, no conversations are really needed between Rams head coach Sean McVay and Bengals head coach Zac Taylor when it comes to practice philosophy this week.
The expectations are clear: This week is about maximizing opportunities, not taking them away.
"The goal is really to get good work in positively, push one another," McVay said after Monday's press conference. "We don't want any sort of cheap stuff. It's not like they're game planning and we're not game planning. Fortunately, it was the most recent game, but just going against a different defense, different offense. You're seeing a different approach special teams wise to get some good kicking game work. The goal is to really get a chance to practice (with) another really good football team where we positively push one another and really kind of test a lot of our rules that we have structurally offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. So that's kind of the intent."
The pair of joint practices will be the closest to the Rams' starters playing a preseason game, or a live game environment for that matter, which only further underscores McVay's emphasis on clean practices. A controlled setting like those practices allows for simulating game-like situations while minimizing injury risk.
"That's the goal that we're really hunting up," McVay said. "You can get good competitive work, a lot of situational stuff where we can kind of manipulate it that sometimes doesn't always unfold the way that you'd like ideally offensively and defensively. You'll end up accumulating over 90 reps over the course of a couple days or almost a hundred reps if you just bucket it out. That'll be really beneficial to us and then we'll be able to start our Buffalo prep after that."
For Robinson, the practices offer the chance to continue building chemistry with quarterback Matthew Stafford in a more competitive setting than an intrasquad scrimmage. Williams, who McVay said will participate in the two joint scrimmages, will get his closest experience to a live game setting yet. The goal is for Williams to also play in Saturday night's preseason finale against the Bengals, according to McVay.
McVay said he wants to see "good rapport" between Robinson and Stafford in those practices.
"There's been a lot of opportunities even in the practice settings, but you're seeing some different matchups, some different concepts that maybe we would activate against the Bengals that we wouldn't against our guys," McVay said. "But I think you know what it looks like, just a good rapport between those two. Sometimes the best thing that can occur are staying within the framework or the structure of what we're trying to get done, but where they put their own ownership on it, similar to what you've seen with Matthew and (wide receiver) Cooper (Kupp)."
Stafford likewise sees the value in the practices – provided all involved stay on task.
"At this point in training camp, you're just seeing the same defense, the same looks," Stafford said before practice on Aug. 17. "It's a heck of a test for us going up against our defense every single day, but I think it's good for both sides of ball to just see something different. Feels like a game, feels like you're – it's a little bit less scouted, you don't really know which, we don't really prepare for the team that we're going in (with). We just go out there and trust our rules and plays and go play.
"But I enjoy it. It's a lot of fun, it's great competition, and as long as everybody keeps your head on straight and doesn't go too crazy and you have to call practice early, whatever that is, I think it's a positive."