Rookies shine in Rams’ fumble-riddled preseason opener

Updated: August 12, 2017

2:58 AM ET

LOS ANGELES — A year can change so much. It was 364 days ago that the Los Angeles Rams hosted the Dallas Cowboys for their preseason opener at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Jeff Fisher patrolled the sidelines, Case Keenum started at quarterback, Dak Prescott was merely a rookie fill-in, and 89,140 people were in the stands, representing the largest crowd ever to watch an NFL exhibition game on American soil.

The Rams hosted the Cowboys to begin the preseason once again on Saturday, but it was Sean McVay as head coach, Jared Goff as the starting quarterback, Prescott among the resting star players, and 62,888 at the game — a reflection of the 4-12 season that sapped some of the excitement for the local team in this city. The new-look Rams ultimately came away with a 13-10 victory, thanks to an impressive defensive performance and a late Sean Mannion drive that set up a 36-yard field goal by backup kicker Travis Coons.

Fumbling around: The Rams fumbled the ball five times officially, and two more could’ve easily been added to that total. Davis fumbled twice, Woods fumbled near the end zone, Blythe fumbled on an errant snap, and Malcolm Brown fumbled on a run across the middle. Brown, currently Gurley’s backup, also fumbled, then quickly recovered, after catching a short pass. Second-year tight end Temarrick Hemingway was called for a fumble after reeling in a long pass from Mannion, but it was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass. “We have to do a way better job of taking care of the ball,” McVay said. “We only lost one tonight, but we put it on the ground way too many times.”

Changes on the right side: Rob Havenstein was at right guard and Jamon Brown was at right tackle during the offseason program and in the early part of training camp, but McVay switched them on Sunday and kept them there throughout the week, including Saturday’s preseason opener. Havenstein has played tackle his whole life and Brown was a guard under Fisher these last two years. It looks like that’s where they will stay. “I feel like Rob’s really settling in nice at that tackle position, and Jamon will be our right guard right now unless something changes.”

Welcome to L.A.: Wide receiver Sammy Watkins, acquired from the Bills in exchange for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick Friday, made it to the Coliseum about three hours before kickoff and watched his new team play from the sideline. Watkins was introduced to a rousing applause on the video board in the fourth quarter. While addressing the media earlier, Watkins called the trade “a total shock, but I’m definitely excited, honored to be here. I really can’t wait to get started, just learning the plays and getting with the guys.”

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