St. Louis Rams football has once again returned after the long offseason hiatus. The Rams will travel to Oakland to take on the Raiders on Friday, August 14. Despite conventional belief, there are plenty of things to watch for during the first preseason game:
It will be exciting to watch Nick Foles play for two drives. Don’t expect to see too many passing plays from Foles. He needs to make it to the regular season, and the Rams can’t afford to lose another starting quarterback in the preseason. Foles received his extension and is already the starter; the real action will be the battle of the backups.
Austin Davis would figure to be the backup, because he knows the system and has a few starts under his belt. However, Davis cannot be comfortable with rookie Sean Mannion and traveling veteran Case Keenum also battling for a roster spot. The Rams invested a third round draft pick for Mannion and traded for Keenum, so Davis isn’t safe by any means.
Offensive linemen learning on the job
Running back Todd Gurley may not be participating in the preseason, but there are plenty of other rookies to watch for. Four of the Rams’ draft picks are offensive linemen. Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, Andrew Donnal and Cody Wichmann are all gunning for starting roles and also to make the roster. They will be tested against the Raiders’ defensive front, especially the lineman that lineups against the Raider’s linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack. The Raiders’ defense shouldn’t be taken lightly.
It’s not just rookies to watch for, but the center job is still up the air. Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones and Demetrius Rhaney will need to prove themselves especially during this game. Plenty of focus should be placed on this key position battle.
The flow of the offense
This season, the Rams have a new quarterback in Foles and a new offensive coordinator in Frank Cignetti. To expect the offense to be perfect from the first snap is a lot to ask for. Reports from camp usually sound better than actual gameplay. It’s much different when the opponent on the opposite side of the ball isn’t wearing the same jersey. Don’t sleep on the Raiders either, they still remember the 52-0 thrashing from last year’s Week 13 matchup. Some of those returning defenders will do anything they can to make a name for themselves.
Some things to watch for is if the receivers are on the same page as the quarterbacks. Are they running the correct routes, catching the football and blocking downfield? The running game will also be something to watch for and see if Tre Mason and the rest of the running backs improve from last season. If all goes well, the offense should look like they improved from last season.
The Rams secondary versus the Raiders offense
Last season, the Rams’ secondary was a weak point on the defensive unit, although you wouldn’t know it since they shutout the Raiders. The secondary overall is similar to last season, so the returning players will need to step up. The Raiders did add some quality players like rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper. The secondary should not underestimate them based on last year’s results. The Raiders have a different team now. That said, they aren’t exactly elite. The secondary and the defensive unit as a whole should be able to dominate their offense.