As the second matchup of the Monday Night Football doubleheader, the Rams and Raiders will be the final two teams to take the field for Week 1.
But that hasn't stopped Los Angeles from getting a head start to be as ready as possible for the marquee Monday-night matchup. One that running back Todd Gurley acknowledged on Sunday might not be too widely seen — given that kickoff is slated for 10:20 p.m. ET.
"I mean, everybody on the East Coast is going to be asleep anyway," Gurley joked, "so it'll just be the West Coast people watching the game."
Regardless, the Rams held practice on Friday after a round of cuts, and then once again on Sunday evening— the first session with the initial 53-man roster. And due to defensive tackle Aaron Donald's roster exemption, the club is currently able to carry 54 players.
But there is a wrinkle to the preparation process, especially because it's Week 1. Essentially, there is no film on Raiders head coach Jon Gruden's team. While Oakland defensive coordinator Paul Guenther spent the last four seasons at the same position in Cincinnati, Gruden was on television since departing the Buccaneers in 2009.
That makes studying the opponent particularly difficult.
"[Gruden's] always done such a good job of mixing it up — I'm sure he's got a bunch of new wrinkles that he's added to his arsenal," head coach Sean McVay said. "And it's going to be exciting. But it is a great challenge, kind of that element of uncertainty. And that's does make it very difficult."
That seems to be something McVay has preached in meetings, as both he and Gurley mentioned the need to stick to the rules of Los Angeles' systems for anything Oakland throws out there — whether that's on offense or defense.
"It's very hard," Gurley said. "But at the end of the day, that's why we're here — we've been here since OTAs and camp. There's only so many defenses you can run, there's only so many offensive plays you can run. And it's a copycat league. But, we just try to do what we do, make sure we know our system, and let everything fall in place after that."
"Really, it's about specifically from a defensive standpoint, doing a good job of playing your rules, playing your keys, and adjusting — because you know they're probably going to throw out a bunch of different personnel groupings, might mix in some different tempos. And we've got to be ready to adjust accordingly," McVay said. "That's where defense is so reactionary-driven, but if we play sound with our run fits, we're sound in our matches with whatever the formations or different things based on the coverage concepts we're running, guys should be able to play confident."
And there is one significant player Los Angeles won't have to worry about defending, since Oakland traded premier edge rusher Khalil Mack to Chicago on Saturday.
"I was not upset about that," McVay said, tongue in cheek. "But that being said, you still have a lot of respect for the guys they will put out there."
That, however, doesn't mean McVay isn't taking the Raiders' pass rush lightly. Defensive end Bruce Irvin has recorded 15.0 sacks and forced 10 fumbles over the last two years since signing with Oakland. And third-round pick Arden Key was regarded as one of the better edge-rushing prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.
"[Mack's] a player that's such a good football player that sometimes you've got to be more cognizant of [than] others," McVay said. "But we've got a lot of respect — they've got a lot of young players that they drafted, and some veteran guys who have done a lot of good things in this league, or shown some exciting things — whether going back to college or just what they flashed in the preseason. So, we've got a lot of respect for this front."
While the coaches will stay hard at work, Los Angeles' players will have Monday off for Labor Day before getting back to work with a lighter session on Tuesday. And then, the real game week begins.
"If we were playing on a Sunday, a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday — that will be Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for us this week," McVay said. "So we had today, and then we'll have an additional day on Tuesday that basically will be kind of a walk-thru. We'll get one or two periods of work on Oakland and then some walk-thru stuff for about 45 minutes to an hour. Players will be off on Wednesday, and then we'll come back for those three days worth of work."