It’s football time, folks, and we’re back again with the Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Joseph McAtee of Turf Show Times answers 5 quick questions about the final preseason matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams:
What is the position battle for the Rams that Saints fans can focus in on in the final preseason game?
A couple. There’s contention among the offensive line and wide receiver depth. For the O-lline, the interior’s a bit of a hot wash. With so much versatility, it’s hard to figure out where guys fit in. For the wideouts, it’s equally muddled. I’d put Steven Mitchell (UDFA rookie out of USC) and Fred Brown (second-year UDFA from Mississippi St.) ahead of preseason standout KhaDarel Hodge (UDFA rookie out of Prairie View A&M). Their skill set trumps Hodge’s, but he’s been a playmaker thus far in August.
Defensively, the linebacker group would normally be an automatic entry here, but given how deep we’re going on the roster, everything’s in play. The Rams are EXTREMELY talent among the starting 11 and extremely suspect everywhere for depth on D.
If you want specific battles to watch? On offense, see if the Rams’ O-line can hold up and allow QBs Brandon Allen and Luis Perez to run plays. On defense, I’m intrigued by the safeties. I could see the Rams fielding someone from the depth as a starter in 2020 starting with this year’s position battle.
Do you expect to see any of the starters see time in this game - namely the likes of Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Ndamukong Suh?
Negative. HC Sean McVay has already confirmed he’ll shut down the starters meaning the starting offense (save for whomever starts at right guard in Week 1) will have played 0 snaps in the preseason. The defensive starters won’t have played much more.
It’s a radical decision insomuch as, well, it’s never happened before. We’ve never played the starters so little. But much like last year’s Week 17 game against the San Francisco 49ers where we sat our starters in advance of the Wild Card Playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons, the decision to play the starters so little this preseason will be by and large validate by the result in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders. If we win, nobody will care much about how many reps the starters got in a Week 2 or Week 3 preseason game. If we lose...well, narratives work for a reason.
Knowing that these teams are going to meet later in the regular season, do you expect a lighter playbook this week?
Perhaps, but given the personnel playing that probably changes things moreso than the rematch factor. I’m sure you guys don’t want to reveal anything against us, but is Taysom Hill running things with your WR depth going to expose anything anyway? What kind of playcalls could McVay or Payton possibly call that would raise eyebrows from the other sideline in any sincerity?
More than anything, this is just a practice with added public attention to flush out the bottom of the roster. I’d look more to our 2017 game than this one for recon.
Not for the preseason, but in the regular season, what are general expectations from the fan base? Is another deep postseason run in sight?
Yeah, they’re insanely high. And perhaps your wording is why. The idea of “another deep postseason run” is interesting because we haven’t had one for a decade and a half. Last year’s 180 was an unquestioned success given the stakes, but bowing out of the playoffs without a win despite opening things up at home hurt. Before that...you gotta flip through the annals. The Rams hadn’t been to the playoffs since the 2004 season. We hadn’t even had a winning season since 2003. And in those two postseasons, we only won one game. So the last team we truly had a deep postseason run was the end of the Greatest Show on Turf with the run to Super Bowl XXXVI.
As for this year, fans are absolutely expecting postseason wins. With last year’s performances and the offseason additions, regular season highlights and award show accolades won’t suffice this year. McVay is going to have to push this team deeper into the playoffs.
Just for fun: what’s the final score of the game? Who scores the first Rams TD?
Oh man, what a tough situation. Whose third and fourth strings are better...Can Andrew Tiller and Don Barclay deal with Jeremiah Kolone and Aaron Neary? Is Arthur Maulet’s size going to be exposed by Kendal Thompson? Should we really even watch this? (The answer is no, but if you’re reading this you know damn well we’re all going to anyway)
I’ll go with a rousing 10-10 effort by both sides that make us all sad that we didn’t spend our time more wisely with WR KhaDarel Hodge scoring the lone Rams touchdown of the game and throwing our 53-man roster projections into even deeper confusion.
Thank-you, Joe, for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Joseph and the work his guys are doing over at Turf Show Times. You can follow Turf Show Times on Twitter @TurfShowTimes, and of course you can follow me @dunnellz.