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Bonsignore: Five things the Rams must accomplish in training camp

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  • Bonsignore: Five things the Rams must accomplish in training camp

    The Rams are counting on new left tackle Andrew Whitworth to bolster a position that has been a problem area for the team for years. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker)

    A year ago this time the Rams were still getting used to their new Southern California surroundings after making the 1,825-mile trip back home from St. Louis.

    There was so much still hanging in the air.

    An entire franchise was making the move across country. A practice facility was hurriedly being constructed to be ready in time for the regular season.

    Families were still settling into new homes and neighborhoods and schools. Directions were required to find the nearest grocery store, let alone figure out how to get from one temporary practice site to another across three counties and more than 100 miles.

    “In flux” is as good a way to describe it as any. And that’s not even getting into the actual football side of things. Although we all know how that turned out.

    That isn’t to excuse the depths the Rams fell to in the eventual 4-12 season. Many of their problems were carryovers from their former home, unrelated to distance and upheaval.

    It’s simply to point out there was an obvious and constant undercurrent of instability this time last year. And no matter how much the Rams tried to deny or manage or work around it, it was just wishful thinking. Instead they spent a year trying to get comfortable while never really getting comfortable.

    The difference now can’t be understated. The Rams are no longer the new family on the block. They are established members of the community.

    And as they approach their second training camp at UC Irvine as the Los Angeles Rams, you get the sense 100 percent of the focus is back on football rather than spread across various different areas.

    The question is, will stability equate to a much-needed on-field turnaround?

    For that to be the case, here are five things the Rams much accomplish over the next four weeks:


    It would be easy to point to second-year quarterback Jared Goff or running back Todd Gurley as the keys to finally getting the Rams offense out of first gear, and their contributions are critical. But the reality is Goff and Gurley remain beholden to the point of attack.

    There are tangible reasons, however, to believe the offensive line can at least elevate itself to average rather than the league worst it was last season.

    The addition of free agent left tackle Andrew Whitworth changes the whole dynamic. A two-time Pro Bowler who continues to get better with age, Whitworth, 35, immediately locks down a position that has baffled and sabotaged the Rams for years. It means Goff’s backside is better protected, often as a one-man operation that allows tight ends to be more active in the passing game. It means Rodger Saffold can settle in at left guard full time and gives new Rams coach Sean McVay the flexibility to move Rob Havenstein from right tackle to right guard and move Jamon Brown to right tackle after playing guard last season.

    Coupled with the addition of veteran center John Sullivan, the Rams offensive line has undergone almost a complete facelift from last year, when left tackle Greg Robinson’s ineffectiveness was a liability. If the changes equate to a significant improvement in play, it alters the whole feel of the Rams offense and gives Goff and Gurley a chance to succeed.


    It wasn’t like the Rams’ entire offseason was designed and executed with their second-year quarterback in mind, but close to it. And they desperately need the coaching change from the defensive-minded Jeff Fisher to the offensive-minded McVay and the rebuilt coaching and personnel infrastructure around Goff to help pave the path he takes to being a productive NFL quarterback.

    The cards were stacked against Goff last year. To deny that would simply be dishonest. He was working behind the worst offensive line in the league, with wide receivers who struck little fear anyone and under an offensive coaching staff that lacked creativity and development experience.

    All of which led to Goff playing under siege, his 0-6 record as a starter and questions about his validity as the top pick in the draft.

    The Rams didn’t just clear the deck for Goff in year two, they pretty much built him a new ship and hired a new captain and crew. Now it’s on him to take advantage, which means developing trust that an improved offensive line will give him that extra blink of an eye to hang in the pocket and make the throw. It means building chemistry with new receivers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett and holdovers Tyler Higbee and Tavon Austin.

    And mostly it means Goff being able to digest a new offense, settle into his role as both a player and leader and prove he is the quarterback to lead the Rams into the regular season.


    The fall of Todd Gurley is one of the more inexplicable tumbles in recent NFL memory. Here’s a guy who burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2015 with 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games only to limp through 2016 with 885 yards and six touchdowns.

    There is no doubt Gurley was running behind an offensive line that couldn’t consistently open holes and alongside a quarterback and wide receiver group incapable of challenging teams down field. And it all conspired against Gurley in the form of little to no running room while facing eight- and nine-man defensive fronts.

    But there also is evidence to suggest when Gurley did have room to run, he didn’t always make the most of it. Maybe he wasn’t seeing things correctly. Maybe he was shell-shocked after taking the beating he did. Or maybe he was so stunned at actually seeing the occasional open running lane he didn’t react well.

    Whatever the case, Gurley had a downright awful season, and the Rams have to figure out a way to get him untracked during training camp.

    The Rams addressed the offensive line and wide receiver problems through free agency and the draft, and year two Jared Goff should be better than year one. Still, the personnel and maturation improvements remain only in theory for the time being.

    However, Gurley should get some help in the more creative offense McVay brings, which features man-on-man blocking schemes that favor a north-south downhill runner like Gurley. Yes, McVay will also rely heavily on the spread-it-out, shotgun offense he’s historically preferred, but history suggests he does a good job using man and zone blocking schemes in the shotgun in order to take advantage of a power back like Gurley.


    The Rams went heavy on wide receiver help through the draft and free agency while also adding a new vertical tight end threat. And the hope is newcomers Woods, Kupp, Everett and Josh Reynolds combine with holdovers Higbee, Austin, Nelson Spruce, Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas to lift a receiving group that struck little fear in the hearts of opposing defenses.

    Woods and Kupp, in particular, fit a skill-set profile that should translate into much needed dependability, polish and accountability for Goff to tap into. Meanwhile, Higbee and Everett are envisioned as the ideal multi-faceted tight end tandem to operate in McVay’s offense.


    The Rams had an accountability and leadership problem under Fisher, with players privately complaining about a lack of urgency to get problems fixed and a sentiment that players weren’t being empowered to lead.

    The hiring of McVay, 31, was intended to change that narrative by establishing a new culture in which players are held accountable but also given a voice to lead. Those changes were apparent during OTAs when players spoke highly of the veteran presence and leadership of newcomers Whitworth, Robert Woods and Connor Barwin, but also the communication and teaching skills of McVay and an experienced coaching staff that includes long-time defensive coordinator and former head coach Wade Phillips.

    This is McVay’s first go-round as a head coach leading a team through training camp, and though most of the groundwork was laid during the offseason, it’s imperative he establishes the culture, identity and direction he intends to be the foundation his team rests on.

  • #2
    Originally posted by MauiRam View Post

    The Rams are counting on new left tackle Andrew Whitworth to bolster a position that has been a problem area for the team for years. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker)

    A year ago this time the Rams were still getting used to their new Southern California surroundings after making the 1,825-mile trip back home from St. Louis.
    And here I thought they moved back to LA, I must have missed the move to Cleveland.



    • #3
      I would say these five things listed are spot on.......let the games begin !!!! BTW, If we can do these things, our D will flourish!


      • #4
        Ok Wait. I just commented on RFE's post about the defense being a secret weapon and I said I disagreed with the secret part. But this post by Bonsignore is garbage and it makes my last post look naive. These are the 5 things they MUST take care of?

        Sorry, but I have a problem with the fact that the defense doesn't merit a spot on the list despite having a new coach, a new scheme, and a large number of new players in starting positions. This guy doesn't think that foundational changes to a unit that has been successful in the past isn't something that the team must address in training camp. Seriously?

        Ok, so it's safe to say I disagree with this list because I think it's incomplete.... Perhaps if this list was solely for offense, then I'd agree because he hits every marker: Line, qb, rb, wr's, and new coach with new playbook. That's 5.

        But how about a defensive one? I wonder what it would look like. Let's see, 1) revamped line; 2) revamped linebackers with some DE's moving to new set; 3) Ogletree's 3rd new position in 3 years; 4) new cb's and safety; 5) new coach with new playbook. Looks oddly familiar.

        If it were me, I would at minimum drop his passing "must" because much of that falls back onto Goff's shoulders. It's important, yes. But it's not a MUST address in training camp issue compared to making sure an entire team group learns to perform at a basic level. So in it's place, I would insert the defense's ability to learn and adapt to Phillips new 3-4 hybrid system. It's one thing if the old and new personnel don't quite fit in the system (looking at you Barron), but it would be a complete debacle if the defense can't get on the same page and begin implementing the new scheme with some basic understanding. I really really really don't want to see a red and gold wearing Brian Hoyer dismantle the Rams with 300+ yards passing and Carlos Hyde running for 100+ yards.

        Can you imagine the nightmare of having Goff and crew start putting up 30 points a game this year only for the team to keep losing because the defense failed to come together under Phillips?

        I think a MUST in training camp is for the defense to transition to 3-4 well and figure out what the heck they're supposed to be doing. That's a minimum. And it must happen in Training Camp.


        • #5
          Originally posted by KoaKoi View Post
          I just read something yesterday about Andrew Luck and the fact that the Colts open the season against a terrific Rams defense. So, they still get some nods.... but I guess people tend to forget about the good sibling when their black sheep of a twin is a trainwreck. Haha
          Obviously both sides of the ball need to be productive. Last year the offense was pathetic. Fisher was fired because of it. Your comment on the "good sibling vs a trainwreck" sums it up nicely. It is small wonder that so called pundits put more focus on the "trainwreck" than the "good sibling."

          Of course our D must transition successfully to the 3-4. That said, it is a matter of record that Wade has had very good success improving defenses in his very first year with more than one team. Add to that the fact the Rams have some pretty solid players on D. I believe in Wade's proven track record; add to that Aaron Donald, Mike Brockers, Robert Quinn, Connor Barwin, Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron and at least one or two emerging young players (think secondary), and I like our chances of being better - much better even. My only worry is stopping the run. If we can stuff the run, Katy bar the door!


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