The LA Rams have been insistent upon holding veteran players and starters out of preseason games. The reasons for doing so are twofold. First, and logically, the team wants to avoid any freakish injuries to know starters that may occur over the course of three preseason games. Since preseason games are nothing more than dress rehearsals, Rams HC Sean McVay decided long ago not to let his starters and even significant rotational players risk injury.
The second reason for limited participation by Rams players in preseason games is to allow those players on the bubble of making the Rams roster to put up as much playing time on video footage that will not only allow the Rams coaching staff to make a more informed decision over their fit on the Rams roster, but to allow other teams to have plenty of video footage to use to make a decision over whether a player who is not a good fit on the Rams roster might work on their team instead.
There is one problem with that strategy this year. With so many rookies on the Rams roster right now, will the Rams stand pat on that no-preseason policy? Or will the Rams leverage the opportunity to get near NFL gamelike experience for the plethora of rookies, whether or not they will be starters or even significant rotational players in 2023?
The Stetson Bennett dilemma
The case of LA Rams rookie backup quarterback Stetson Bennett is a perfect dilemma of the Rams situation. In essence, Bennett displays the paradox of trying to protect a young rookie from injury, but in doing so prevents that player from taking the next step in their development. Here's what I mean:
Stetson Bennett, like all NFL players right now, is working out with his teammates in casual shorts and short-sleeved shirts. It's a necessary exercise, to teach the body and the mind what to do on each play in the LA Rams offensive playbook. But that will only take him so far. Eventually, football pads will go on, and the drills will draw closer to real NFL experiences. But even with pads on, quarterbacks will wear the red "no contact'" jerseys, indicating to teammates not to bring them to the ground.
For quarterbacks, the true simulation of an NFL game does not begin until preseason games. Then, and only then, opponents can hit and tackle quarterbacks in much the same manner as regular season NFL games. But it is that contact that risks injury in the first place.
Of course, a veteran quarterback like Matthew Stafford has plenty of experience of getting tackled in the NFL. But what of Stetson Bennett. To truly prepare for the NFL season, he will need to be exposed to NFL defenses at some point, and by doing so, will have to face getting sacked in the NFL. Do the LA Rams bubble wrap the guy in preseason, hoping that he figures it out in live action? Or do the Rams give him a taste of live NFL in the protection of preseason competition, when the defenses are vanilla?
The LA Rams were able to onboard veteran quarterback Baker Mayfield within hours of his arrival at the LA Rams. And it was his success that may have led the Rams to select Stetson Bennett in the 2023 NFL Draft. Still, I would think that some preseason exposure for Bennett would be the optimal course of action. That being said, I am not counting on the LA Rams to follow that path. In the end, we could see a great deal of Brett Rypien and Dresser Winn under center during the LA Rams preseason games.