It’s a fair question to ask in wake of rather unlucky circumstances.
Continue to play important pieces to the Rams’ defense that are poised to earn big roles, or sit them like the majority of the starters to avoid injury?
Brought forth following inside linebacker Micah Kiser's left pectoral injury last Saturday against the Cowboys, head coach Sean McVay understands the unlucky timing of the setback. At the same time, he will still continue to play key defensive contributors who need the reps over the final two weeks of the preseason.
“We’ve really thought long and hard about what we think is the best approach for our team,” McVay said. “I think you’ve always got to try to avoid some of these things that do occur, but this a game that entails a lot of physical things that occur, whether it be out at practice or during games.”
Part of McVay’s reasoning is the value of these games from an assessment standpoint.
Kiser, the projected starter at inside linebacker opposite Cory Littleton, played in 16 games during his rookie year, collecting four tackles, but did so in a reserve role.
Meanwhile, fifth-year inside linebacker Bryce Hager – who is competing with Kiser for the starting job, has played in 64 games but logged just one start. Of Hager’s 34 career total tackles, 25 have come on special teams.
In other words, both players have NFL experience under their belts, but the preseason can be an important tool for McVay in gaging their capabilities to potentially start.
Given McVay’s stance and the indefinite timetable on Kiser’s return from injury, Hager will likely continue to see snaps in the preseason, as will some of the Rams’ younger linebackers as that position continues to sort itself out.
“Part of it is, we do utilize these as evaluation tools, especially for guys that have a chance to be situational starters,” McVay said. “That’s where Micah was putting himself in a position to be, and you hate it for him because he’s worked so hard and he’s done such a great job, but I don’t think you can let it change the approach when we’ve tried to be so intentional about that already.”
McVay also said that it “wouldn’t be accurate” to say the Rams are looking outside of the current roster, as far as bringing in Kiser’s replacement via free agency, because of his confidence in Hager and the other linebackers on the roster – further confirmation he’ll stick with what the Rams have been doing when it comes to playing potential starters in the preseason.
“I’m not going to let one situation affect the way that we go about it as we move forward,” McVay said.
The Rams take on the Dallas Cowboys in Honolulu, Hawaii!