The Rams' preseason will double as fans' first look (since the mid-90s, at least) at how the NFL will play in Los Angeles.
The Rams drafted a quarterback with the No. 1 pick, have one of the NFL’s most exhilarating young running backs and field a defense on the rise, but none of those storylines match “The Return”. All eyes will be on Los Angeles in training camp—literally. When the Rams’ season of Hard Knocks debuts on Aug. 9, fans will get an inside look at the team’s dramatic relocation. How will Los Angeles embrace a football team that hasn’t finished over .500 in a decade? How will Jared Goff handle his first training camp? How will Case Keenum deal with the pressure of ... the L.A. traffic?
Some of the Rams’ individual stories have intrigue—including the adventures of hilarious punter Johnny Hekker—but the team through it’s smog-covered lens is the biggie.
The Rookie: Jeff Fisher has declared Case Keenum the starting quarterback to open camp, a strategy cemented by some poor practices at Rams OTAs. Fisher is incredibly conservative and could well start the season with Keenum. But c’mon, Jared Goff is the No. 1 pick fronting the new team in L.A., and Keenum is, well, Case Keenum. It seems like Goff would have to be particularly disastrous in the preseason to keep his debut on hold for very long.
Position Battle Spoilers: The Rams drafted two tight ends in April: Tyler Higbee and Temarrick Hemingway. They will compete for reps with Cory Harkey, a hybrid player who doubles as a blocking fullback, and Lance Kendricks, who is more of a traditional tight end. Higbee, the fourth-round pick out of Western Kentucky, is a legitimate pass-catching weapon and should emerge with a lot of snaps, if not a starting role.
The Stat: 297.6, the Rams’ total yards of offense per game in 2015, good for last in the league. With Goff, the aforementioned rookie tight ends and two rookie wideouts (Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas), the offense is poised to improve. And of course, Todd Gurley, is a threat whenever he takes the field. But will the talent and schemes coalesce this season to produce real yardage ... and points?
Preseason Watchability Guide: The Rams host the first two games of the preseason at their temporary home, the L.A. Coliseum, against the Cowboys and Chiefs. The opponents don’t matter as much as the optics. How many fans will be in the stands, and how many of them will celebrities?