For the past five years, Rams starters and other Impact players have lined the sidelines for preseason games in tracksuits and hats.
When the Rams play the Chargers at SoFi Stadium on Saturday, quarterback Matthew Stafford, receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive lineman Aaron Donald will not deviate from tradition.
The trio – with a combined salary cap of $63.4 million – are expected to remain safe.
That’s probably true of veteran starters like offensive lineman Rob Havenstein and tight end Tyler Higbee, as well as up-and-coming linebacker Ernest Jones.
But other players the Rams are expected to rely on, players who couldn’t attend preseason games last season, could get a few snaps — or maybe even more.
After the Rams went down an embarrassing 5-12 last season and have nearly 40 rookies on the roster, coach Sean McVay has hinted he may be using more front players in preparation for the Sept. 10 opening game in Seattle.
“It’s going to be very different than what we’re used to,” McVay said of the pre-season approach.
The Rams also play the Las Vegas Raiders and the Denver Broncos in preseason games. Stafford, Kupp, Donald and other starters will take part in joint drills with these teams before the games.
Five things to keep in mind when the Rams play the Chargers:
Is Stetson Bennett ready to support Matthew Stafford?
The Rams aren’t demanding an answer until the opener, but Bennett showed promise in training camp.
Bennett, who led Georgia to back-to-back national titles, seemed unfazed by mistakes. He bounced back with productive indoor and outdoor plays.
Fifth-year pro Brett Rypien could start against the Chargers given his experience and seniority, but is viewed as a short-term signing rather than a potential Stafford successor.
Also keep an eye on Dresser Winn. During training camp, he surpassed the fourth quarterback’s “camp arm” designation by making multiple plays.
Do the Rams have depth behind running back cam Akers?
Akers, who put in three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances last season, is unlikely to take a pre-season snap.
The question is whether McVay is exposing second-grader Kyren Williams to a possible injury.
Williams, a fifth-round draft pick in 2022, missed eight games last season through injury. During the training camp, he appeared physically healthy.
Ronnie Rivers, newcomer Zach Evans and recent addition Royce Freeman will likely get the bulk of the work.
Is the offensive line better than last season?
It can’t be worse.
Yes, the Rams suffered heaps of injuries in 2022, but remember: The Buffalo Bills racked up seven sacks in the opening game.
Alaric Jackson and Joe Noteboom have rotated at left-back, but given that Noteboom also plays at right-back, Jackson seems to have the edge. Both will continue to be evaluated at joint training sessions with the Raiders and Broncos.
Rookie guard Steve Avila, the Rams’ second-round pick, served as starting left guard throughout training camp. McVay said Avila will play in the preseason.
Last season, offensive lineman Logan Bruss — the Rams’ top pick in the 2022 draft — suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second preseason game. The third-round pick has recovered and played guard and tackle at training camp.
Can young defensive linemen move up?
Unless the Rams add a veteran or two after roster cuts across the league, Donald will be without an established wingman for the first time in his ten seasons.
Nose Tackle Bobby Brown and End Earnest Brown IV are among veterans who could play bigger roles. Rookie nose tackle Kobie Turner looked good in training camp.
Rookie edge rushers Byron Young and Nick Hampton will get a chance to show they can complement Donald and outside linebacker Michael Hoecht.
Which receivers will play?
Rookie Puka Nacua impressed during off-season practice and camp and looks set to be a key part of the regular-season rotation with Kupp, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell and Ben Skowronek.
Veteran signings Demarcus Robinson and Tyler Johnson, along with 2022 preseason standout Lance McCutcheon, can show McVay they’re ready to contribute.