The Los Angeles Rams will face the Los Angeles Chargers Saturday evening at SoFi Stadium to open the preseason, but few veterans are expected to play.
When Sean McVay became the Rams’ coach in 2017, he followed the pattern of most NFL coaches for preseason games — play the starters for one quarter in the first preseason game, more in the second and third games and not at all in the fourth game to avoid the possibility of an injury that would sideline a player for the regular-season opener.
McVay’s philosophy evolved into not playing starters or other key players in preseason games.
“Going into 2018, we had some injuries where we were going to hold guys out,” McVay said Wednesday. “Then you’re saying, you don’t want it to be a detriment to some of these other guys playing and the approach we took.
“Then it just kind of organically turned into if these guys have played a lot of football, let’s try to create competitive situations, get as many joint practices as we can so that we can mimic and emulate game-like situations while minimizing the risk of injury. In some settings, the joint practices are even better because you’re able to activate things that you maybe don’t want to put on tape in the preseason.”
Chargers coach Brandon Staley said his team was “going to try and play the guys in the preseason that we feel need to play, like it can help them. We do that on a case-by-case basis and we do it on a game-by-game basis throughout the preseason.”
Staley said he plans to use the three preseason games “to try and evaluate people that we feel like are really establishing themselves for a certain role, or there’s a part of a competition that we really need to see express itself.
“We really want to make sure that we take advantage of these games to get the right evaluation of these guys,” Staley said.
Bryce Perkins is expected to start at quarterback for the Rams. He signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2020 after playing the final two seasons of his college career at Virginia. Perkins has not played a regular-season game in his two seasons with the Rams.
Perkins completed 56 of 91 passes for 451 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in three preseason games in 2021, starting the final two.
“He’s gotten more and more comfortable even with just his ability to communicate the play, break the huddle, go tip to tip with the formation and manage the overall operation and the outfit,” McVay said. “I’ve been very pleased with him. He’s got a great way about himself and all the reps that he’s getting out here is going to serve him well.”
Perkins is a nephew of the late Don Perkins, a six-time Pro Bowl selection at fullback when he played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1961-68.
The only specific comments Staley made about the quarterbacks’ play during the preseason is that both Chase Daniel and Easton Stick will play during the preseason and “I think it will probably be similar to last season.”
Daniel started the first and third preseason games in 2021, completing 38 of 57 passes for 234 yards with one interception. The 35-year-old Daniel is in his 14th season in the NFL and second with the Chargers. He played in one regular-season game in 2021 and did not throw a pass.
Stick completed 27 of 38 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions in the 2021 preseason. He was the Chargers’ fifth-round choice in the 2019 NFL draft out of North Dakota State. Stick has played one regular-season game, completing his only pass for four yards in an Oct. 25, 2020 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I think he’s really, really improved as a passer,” Staley said. “I think everyone knew that he could make plays. Everyone knew that he has a lot of intangibles, a lot of quarterbacking stuff that way. But I think as a passer, he’s just worked so hard at his fundamentals.
“I think you’re seeing a confident player out there, a guy that can move a team. He’s going to have a big role.”
Players McVay said he is excited to see play in the preseason include receiver TuTu Atwell, defensive backs Robert Rochell and Decobie Durant, guard Logan Bruss, offensive tackle AJ Arcuri and linebacker Daniel Hardy.
“Tutu is a guy that’s done a really nice job,” McVay said. “We’re working through exactly what his role in the preseason looks like.”
Atwell played in the Rams’ first eight games last season, mainly as a kick returner, before being placed on injured reserve due to a shoulder injury. He did not catch a pass.
Rochell played in 11 of the Rams’ first 12 games as a rookie in 2021, starting five, before being placed on injured reserve due to a chest injury.
Durant was chosen in the fourth round of the 2022 draft out of South Carolina State, Bruss in the third round out of Wisconsin, Arcuri in the seventh round out of Michigan State and Hardy in the seventh round out of Montana State.
Storm Norton and Trey Pipkins III, who are competing to be the starting right tackle, are among the Chargers veterans expected to play Saturday, Staley said.
Norton started 15 games at right tackle in 2021. Pipkins started two games at left tackle in 2021, mainly playing as an extra offensive lineman in certain situations and on the field goal protection unit.