As the NFL delves deeper into the summer uncertainty surrounding training camp and the preseason continue to arise. The NFL has officially set dates for training camps to begin, but neither the owners or the NFLPA have been able to agree on what to do about the preseason. However, on Monday the NFL owners offered no preseason to the players.
The idea of no preseason, health-wise, makes sense. There’s no need to risk a player’s health during a world pandemic over simple exhibition games that have no influence on what happens at season’s end. What doesn’t make sense is the fact that no preseason also affects the jobs and livliehoods of hundreds of other players.
No, the Patrick Mahomes’, Saquon Barkley’s, and Julio Jones’ won’t be affected by not playing a preseason, however, it is during those four games that the Phillip Lindsay’s and other roster bubble players show coaches what they have to offer in what is essentially a live, recorded workout against NFL level competion.
Over the last several years a lot of controversy has been made about the preseason. Many say it’s too long and that four games are unneccessary. They may be right. However, that doesn’t mean that the preseason is worthless and needs to be rid of. Yes, coaches see plenty during practices, but rarely, if at all, are those practices recorded and made available to other teams if they have interest in a player that was cut. Preseason games and all-22 are exactly that. A live, recorded practice.
This NFL season is certainly going to be different and it’s hard not to feel for the players that are on the bubble and trying to live out their dream. There’s a good chance those players don’t get the opportunity that they would get in a normal year.
With that said, here are five members of the Los Angeles Rams that could be most affected by a lack of a preseason.
LB Clay Johnston
The Rams drafted Clay Johnston in the seventh round with the 234th overall pick. Some fans have considerered Johnson as a player who could step in Cory Littleton’s spot at inside linebacker and start. He may not put up the same production, but the Baylor prospect showed potential with the Bears and may have gone higher in the draft without a lengthy injury history.
With a shortened offseason and no preseason, Johnston isn’t going to get the live game looks that he would have received with a preseason. The NFL also isn’t allowing teams to have combined training camps. The Rams seventh round pick may still end up as a special teams contributor, but with experience being that much more important this season, it’s unlikely that he ends up in a starting role.
WR Brandon Polk
Polk was signed as an undrafted free agent and was a player that many fans were excited to see in action. In the offseason, the Rams traded Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans, leaving the team without a deep threat.
The James Madison wide receiver went undrafted for a reason, but he would have had the potential to the the Rams another KhaDarel Hodge – someone deep on the depth chart that brings a specific skillset to the table.
DC Brandon Staley
Putting a coach on this list may seem strange, but it is a point that needs to be brought up. Staley has never been a defensive coordinator at the NFL level and he’s going to be in charge of a defense that has a lot of new pieces. The Rams will be starting eight players that were not in the starting 11 in Week 1 a season ago. The only three players that were are Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, and John Johnson.
Yes, Troy Hill, Samson Ebukam, Jalen Ramsey, and Taylor Rapp all started games for the Rams, Hill, Rapp, and Ebukam have mostly been role players and Ramsey was traded for mid-season.
Teams normally play a pretty vanilla gameplan during the preseason. However, this is a defense that will be relatively new together playing under a coordinator that could use some experience, preseason or not, of calling a game for 60 minutes.
The Offensive Line
It would have been interesting to see what Sean McVay opted to do during the preseason with this group. Last season he opted not to play many of his starters, including those on the offensive line, during the preseason.
Andrew Whitworth most likely would not have played at all, but the players like David Edwards, Bobby Evans, Joe Noteboom, and others could have used that experience to learn each other’s tendencies and build that continuity that they lacked last season.
EDGE Terrell Lewis
Terrell Lewis was potentially a steal for the Rams in the third round of the NFL draft. A talent many considered to be a first-round pick fell to the third due to his injury history.
In 2011 following the lockout, NFL players went through a rapid transition to training camp and preseason. The NFL typically has 8 Achilles tears in a full season. In 2011, players suffered 10 Achilles tendon injuries within the first 12 days of training camp, with 2 additional injuries occurring in the subsequent 17 days, which included the first 2 weeks of preseason competition.
This season is scarily similar in which NFL players haven’t had the hands-on overlook of NFL trainers and there is going to be a rapid transition to training camp and playing live NFL game that matter.
Lewis suffered a torn ACL in 2018 at Alabama and the year before he tore a ligament in his elbow. Those are significan injuries. He also missed the final two games of his final year with the Crimson Tide which included the bowl game against Michigan.
This is a player that played 14 games at the collegiate level because of injuries and with the team’s lack of talent on the edge, they need to talented third-round prospect to produce. However, rushing him into action could result in the same injury problems that plagued his college career.