The Los Angeles Rams will face the Dallas Cowboys in a preseason game in Honolulu Saturday that figures to bear little resemblance to their meeting in an NFC divisional playoff game in January.
Most of the Rams starters, including quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley, did not travel with the team. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons, did travel to Honolulu and filmed an appearance on the CBS detective drama “Magnum P.I.,” but will not play, coach Sean McVay said.
The decisions on who would travel with the team were mainly based “as always what we feel like is in the best interest of the players,” McVay said.
The players not traveling with the team, and thus spared from jet lag and the physical toll of standing on the sideline for about three hours, will practice Sunday, McVay said.
Saturday’s game is “a big, important game” for “a handful of guys that we’re still continuing to evaluate,” McVay said. “… There is a lot of things where you can feel guys ability to play real football where guys are going to the ground, that you just can’t really mimic and emulate in some of these practice situations.”
Blake Bortles is expected to get his second consecutive preseason start at quarterback for the Rams. He said he plans to focus on “the operational part” Saturday — “how quickly can we get in and out of the huddle, how can we eliminate some of the penalties that we had last week.”
Bortles said Friday he had not been told if he would play more than he did in last Saturday’s 14-3 loss to the Oakland Raiders in the preseason opener. The Rams were unable to cross into Oakland territory in Bortles’ two possessions at quarterback, but McVay said he was satisfied with his performance. The Rams picked up two first downs on their first possession and one on their second.
Bortles completed three of eight passes for 50 yards, including a 23-yard completion to KhaDarel Hodge on the first play of the second possession.
“I thought he did good,” McVay said. “He had some drops. I think the stats are misleading to the production that he had. He made good decisions. I thought he made the most of his opportunities.”
Bortles signed with the Rams on March 19, six days after being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in connection with their signing of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.
Bortles started 73 of 80 regular-season games from 2014-18 for the Jaguars, who made him the third choice in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Both coaches are likely to be more conservative with their offenses than is customary for a preseason game because the teams will meet Dec. 15 in Arlington, Texas.
Dallas offensive tackle Tyron Smith, a Pro Bowl selection each of the past six seasons, did not travel to Hawaii with the team to avoid the possibility of a recurrence of back problems from the flight. The Cowboys will also be without their leading rusher from 2018, Ezekiel Elliott, who did not report to training camp as he seeks an improved contract.
The game is the first NFL preseason game in Hawaii since 1976. The Pro Bowl was played annually at Aloha Stadium from 1980-2016, except for 2010 and 2015. It has been played in Orlando, Florida since 2017.
The game is being played in Honolulu as part of a partnership between the Rams and Hawai’i Tourism Authority designed to promote tourism to the state.
This will be the Rams’ third preseason game in Honolulu. They defeated the Hawaiian Warriors of the Pacific Coast Football League, 41-20 and 42-7, in 1948.
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