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Preseason Notebook: Rams Offense Stays Balanced vs. Raiders

The Rams scored three times in their first four possessions in last night's preseason victory over the Raiders, using a balanced approach to effectively attack Oakland's defense.

That started with the ground game, as running back Todd Gurley recorded 38 yards on eight carries — 4.8 yards per attempt.

On one particularly impressive run, Gurley kept his legs moving as his teammates helped push the pile for extra yards.

"I thought that was a great play for us," McVay said. "Todd did a good job staying up and keeping the pile moving. And then when you look at everybody involved in it, it kind of pushed that scrum for a nine-yard gain when it looked like he was going to get stopped at about one or two yards.

"I thought that was a great example of team football — everybody getting in on it, finishing," McVay added. "So all the things that we talk about, and then to be able to see something like that show up on the tape is a great example of those guys playing together and finishing."

Having Gurley be effective kept the Rams out of long down-and-distance situations, which was key for the club's third-down efficiency. L.A. converted six of its eight third down attempts in the first half with Jared Goff at quarterback.

"It all goes back to being efficient, and being efficient where you have your run-pass-balanced options up in your second downs, and your third downs, if available," McVay said. "It allows you to present a lot more to the defense and it regulates some of the looks that you're able to see. And I thought it was a great job by the offense staying in those positive situations to be able to do that."

McVay has often talked about wanting to marry the run with the pass in order to create the most effective offense. That's part of why play action is such an important concept within the scheme. Just in last night's game, for instance, wide receiver Cooper Kupp's touchdown catch came off of play action. And that was after Gurley had already taken four carries on the eight-play drive.

"The marriage of the run and the pass — being able to have plays that start out looking the same that are different," McVay said. "I think it forces the defense to kind of have to adjust and react accordingly. And you have to be able to run the football for them to honor the play-action pass. You have to show that you can be a threat in the play-action game."

Much of that responsibility falls on the offensive line, which McVay praised for its performance in Saturday's matchup.

"As a whole, credit to [offensive line] coach [Aaron] Kromer. I thought he did a good job of getting those guys ready to go. And especially with those starting five, I thought they played really well. And that's the expectation we have for them and it was good to see them play that way."

While the offense had a successful night, McVay said there is still plenty to correct and that it starts with him. As a playcaller, McVay said he probably put Goff in a bad spot or two. But the quarterback was still able to make good decisions.

"One of the better plays that I thought [Goff] made was actually when I put him in a tough spot on the keeper — that third one where Mack is right in his face, does a great job of throwing it away," McVay said. "And that's a great play that maybe nobody notices because it was the only play. And that's being a good decision maker. And that's where you look at yourself as a coach and say, let's try to avoid plays where that's the only play the quarterback can make." 

McVay seemed pleased about what the offense has been able to accomplish so far. But he was clear there is plenty to improve as the Rams gear up for the regular season.

"Anytime that you're able to have some success and feel good about it, especially in some of those game-like situations, it gives players confidence," McVay said. "And now the challenge for us is to know that, yeah, we did some good things. There's definitely some things that we have to clean up. And I can do a much better job for our offense as a whole. But can we now come back this week with a focus, concentration, have a great week of work where we're getting some stuff with the Chargers and still continuing to compete against each other. And then let's see if we can string together consecutive performances." 


From Saturday's game, McVay said defensive back Lamarcus Joyner could have re-entered the game if necessary and should be fine going forward. Wide receiver Mike Thomas suffered a concussion and is now day-to-day. And outside linebacker Carlos Thompson has an ankle injury that will keep him out for a few weeks.


— McVay said offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur served as the offensive playcaller in the second half on Saturday.

"I think we've got a great offensive coordinator in Matt LaFleur, and his ability to get some experience as well — like I was fortunate enough when I was working with Jay [Gruden] in Washington — I thought he did a great job," McVay said. "He made some great calls in that last drive of the game. Really happy with Matt and some of the decisions he made. And we were in constant communication, but I thought he did a great job."

McVay, however, will continue to be the team's regular playcaller for this season.

— Outside linebacker Robert Quinn, inside linebacker Mark Barron, and cornerback Kayvon Webster have yet to play in a preseason game, in large part for precautionary reasons, according to McVay. But there's a possibility all three will play next Saturday against the Chargers.

"We're optimistic about that," McVay said. "We were just in a staff meeting kind of discussing that and projecting the next few weeks with each different situation. But I think those are guys we'd like to see. Depending upon how this week of practice goes, we may have a similar approach in terms of the snap counts that we had last week, as opposed to for sure playing into the third quarter or whatever that might be."

Check out photos from the Rams' Week 2 preseason game against the Raiders in Oakland.

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