The Rams have a new coaching staff and have turned over much of their personnel — especially on offense. Los Angeles kept things schematically vanilla in its four preseason contests as well, not revealing much in preparation for the games that count.
Those factors likely have presented challenges for the Colts when it comes to preparing for this week's game at the Coliseum. But Indianapolis' roster turnover has presented L.A. with some questions to answer as well.
The Colts hired Chris Ballard as their general manager in late January, and he's since embarked on a roster overhaul. Indianapolis enters Week 1 having replaced 26 of the 53 men on 2016's opening-day roster. The changes are particularly noticeable on defense, where only one of Indy's Week 1 starters last year even remains on the roster.
That's why offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur described preparing for this week's game as "a little bit of a guessing game."
"It's not like we're studying those players necessarily from last year — we're studying what they do schematically and then what they put on tape during the preseason," LaFleur said on Friday. "So, it is a little bit of a guessing game, but I think our guys are well prepared for whatever we're going to see."
"I mean, the structure has stayed the same, and that's basically the only thing that's truly stayed the same," offensive lineman Rodger Saffold said. "You get a little bit of reps out of preseason, but if you want to see some of the guys who play on the defensive line, you have to go to their prior teams to check them out."
Because of that, Saffold said he's anticipating the first drive to be a learning experience — both for the players and play-caller head coach Sean McVay — just to see how the Colts actually decide to attack the Rams' offense.
"I'm sure coach McVay is going to be trying to feel them out," Saffold said. "But I feel like after that first drive, we kind of know what they're about. And we need to try to attack them the way we can."
Unless a team is playing inside its own division, the mystery of how an opponent will come out schematically is a common phenomenon in Week 1.
"Playing guys twice a year, every year, you get the experience from last year," Saffold said. "So you have to study prior teams, and that's what makes it a little bit tougher. But I think we have a good idea. And I definitely think we're well prepared."
Nevertheless, LaFleur said Los Angeles feels optimistic heading into this week's matchup.
"It's going to be a good test on Sunday," LaFleur said. "Indy presents a lot of challenges in terms of just, it's a man-matched defense that is pretty aggressive and they're pretty opportunistic. So, it's going to be fun to watch our guys get out there and compete for a full four quarters. But, we're optimistic."