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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!


          Related Topics


          • NJ Ramsfan1
            Thoughts and Observations
            by NJ Ramsfan1
            The Rams picked the absolute worst time for an offensive clunker, laying an egg in the Super Bowl, and there were plenty of culprits. Start with Gurley, who showed again that he's obviously hurt, despite the repeated and ridiculous proclamations to the contrary by the organization, McVay and Gurley himself. Was a tight end's name mentioned all night? Higbee and Everett apparently went into Witness Protection, because they were totally invisible. Ditto for Robert Woods, who contributed virtually nothing. Only Reynolds and Cooks carried their weight offensively though Cooks' two drops killed us (more on this later).

            Goff could never get it going. He wasn't helped, as his offensive line played poorly for much of the night, especially Austin Blythe, who was tossed around like a salad every time I watched him. Goff nonetheless took a couple of ill-advised sacks and was skittish on throws when pressure came. He continued his pattern of making bad reads from time to time, trying to hit covered receivers while others roamed free. It's his biggest weakness, IMO, and one has to hope it's the byproduct of youth which will be improved with reps and experience.

            Three pivotal plays changed the course of this game. One was the phantom holding call on Sullivan during Gurley's 27 yard run- a call that changed the drive and forced a punt. Terrible, over-officious call. And plays two and three were the drops by Cooks- difficult catches for sure, but ones made by big time players in big time moments. The 2nd one in particular on a beautifully thrown ball by Goff REALLY hurt, as a possible 10-10 tie was replaced by an interception thrown one play later. Game over.

            McVay was outcoached. One can safely say that because when a man's bread and butter- offensive football- is reduced to a pile of trash on the biggest stage in the sport, he didn't do a good job and had no answers. Why weren't the tight ends incorporated more? Why wasn't CJ Anderson given a bigger role given Gurley's continued troubles? The Goff fake handoff and play action fooled no one. And I think if the offense is predicated too much on the success of one guy (Gurley), you're going to have problems, as evidenced tonight.

            Credit Phillips, who had the defense ready. They played well enough to win, and despite their lousy coverage of Edelman, made stops when needed and kept New England off the scoreboard. We'll certainly see some changes for next year, but couldn't have asked too much more from them- this defeat rests squarely on the offensive side of the ball. And if you had bet me this would be the way the game would go, I'd have lost my shirt.

            In time, I'll appreciate the season we had, but in sports, you must take advantage of opportunities given to you in Championship Games, because you never know if or when you'll ever get back. A bitter pill to swallow on so many levels....
            -02-04-2019, 05:29 AM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Everybody's An Expert On The Rams Woes.........
            by r8rh8rmike
            -12-21-2018, 02:25 PM
          • viper
            Bonsignore: Rams are a legitimate playoff threat
            by viper
            By Vincent Bonsignore | [email protected] | Daily News

            PUBLISHED: October 23, 2017 at 12:16 pm | UPDATED: October 23, 2017 at 9:04 pm

            At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, it’s time to get ahead of ourselves.

            That means it’s time to stop pretending or skirting or avoiding.

            Be it out of fear of jinxing, the other shoe falling or having been burned and hurt so many times before simply protecting yourself from getting your hearts ripped out and trampled upon again.

            It’s time to embrace and accept reality. And own it.

            The Rams are a legitimate playoff contender.

            There, that wasn’t so bad now was it? But why stop there?

            The Rams are a legitimate threat to make a serious postseason run, too.

            Boom. It’s out there.

            And really, what’s to argue at this point?

            Take a look at the rest of the NFC and tell me there’s a team that has all its bases covered like the Rams do right now.

            An offense that’s generally been humming behind second-year quarterback Jared Goff, an offensive line playing as well as any in the league, a deep, versatile group of wide receivers and pass targets and running back Todd Gurley, the favorite for Comeback Player of the Year honors and the Most Valuable Player award.

            They lead the league in scoring and are ninth in total yards. They are the sixth-best rushing team in the NFL and the 12th-best passing team. On both fronts, there is ample room to get even better.

            There might be better defenses in the NFL, but after stabilizing themselves after a shaky initial transition to Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defensive scheme, the Rams have surrendered just 39 points over the past 14 quarters and, by all data and metrics, seem to be getting even better while combining an underrated back-end pass defense with the big push being generated upfront by Aaron Donald and friends.

            That’s not all.

            The Rams special teams are as good as any in the NFL with punter Johnny Hekker, sure-footed kicker Greg Zuerlein and return and coverage units that have already scored touchdowns on a kickoff return and blocked punt, forced a critical fumbled punt and also picked up an important first down on a fake punt.

            At various times this year, the Rams have beaten opponents by outgunning them offensively, slamming the door shut defensively or generating points via special teams. Sometimes all in the same game.

            Few teams can say that. And fewer can confidently count on all three phases clicking on a game-to-game basis.

            The Rams can.

            Which means they are uniquely built to deal with whatever weather issues lay ahead. And they’re versatile and flexible enough that, if one part of their game is struggling, they can rely on multiple others to help steady the ship or, as they already have this year, flat out be the difference...
            -10-24-2017, 02:58 PM
          • Nick
            Training Camp Report: Everything You Need to Know from Day 1
            by Nick
            Training Camp Report: Everything You Need to Know from Day 1
            Kristen Lago
            Rams Writer/Reporter

            At long last, training camp is here.

            The Rams opened up their 2017 training camp with their first official practice on Saturday afternoon at UC Irvine.

            Though the team did not suit up in full pads, if Saturday’s practice was any indication, it should be an exciting month of football here in Orange County. Here are the biggest takeaways from Day 1.

            TOP TAKEAWAYS

            1. The Phillips’ era of defense is here

            For the first time, the Rams' defense publicly showcased its transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme under coordinator Wade Phillips.

            The front line, led by Michael Brockers and Dominique Easley, looked strong up front, causing a few would-be sacks throughout practice. McVay praised the defense as a whole, anticipating the unit’s progression under Phillips’ instruction.

            “When you’re able to get a great defensive look like what our defense created today it can only make you better offensively,” he said. “I think that’s great work. I think until you really put the pads on is when the true evaluations can take place with some of the things that occur upfront. But, I thought it was a good start for the defense as a whole.”

            In addition to the line, the Rams' secondary had a solid day. At one point cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant physically and verbally expressed his excitement for the group’s progress, tossing his hat into the air and hugging cornerback Troy Hill after a pass deflection.

            2. McVay makes a point to bond with players

            Head coach Sean McVay has reiterated that one of his main goals throughout training camp is to build team chemistry and establish a new identity as an organization. And judging from Saturday’s practice, McVay is bringing that point to the grass.

            He was not only out on field moving from the offense to the defense, but he even stepped in as a player at one point, lining up at outside linebacker to cover running back Todd Gurley.

            “I like to get out and be active, otherwise I’ll probably gain a lot of weight,” McVay said with a laugh. “Then I had an injured quad in the offseason, so I have been rehabbing in my time off and I’m ready to run and play some DB for us now.”

            “Today, he came out here healthy," Goff said after acknowledging his head coach's previous injury. "I was like, 'Man, you’re moving around.' He said, 'Oh yeah.' He’s back.”

            3. Goff embracing leadership role

            Goff was met with a series of chants and energetic applause as he took the field for his second training camp. The young quarterback looked composed throughout practice, communicating verbally with his team of receivers and running backs, while appearing more secure behind his offensive line.

            “It’s night and day....
            -07-30-2017, 09:11 AM
          • MauiRam
            Jared Goff already notices a difference with Rams' new O-line ..
            by MauiRam
            1:30 AM HST
            Alden Gonzalez
            ESPN Staff Writer

            THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Rams' offense flowed better -- better than it did at any point last season -- during Saturday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, which offered the first meaningful sample size under this new, offensive-minded coaching staff. Jared Goff was more efficient, Todd Gurley was more patient, the receivers and tight ends were more, well, open.

            But there was something else: The pocket looked cleaner, a product of a new offensive line that should be a lot stronger on Goff's blind side.

            A reworked line and a new offense could keep Jared Goff (16) from absorbing the type of beating the quarterback took during his rookie season.
            Goff himself is already noticing the difference.

            "No doubt," the second-year quarterback said. "I think just as a whole, they’ve really worked together. They’re starting to jell, and I think you saw that last Saturday. The Oakland defensive line is no slouch. They’ve got some dudes over there, and they did a great job keeping them away and giving me a good pocket. It wasn’t just throw it and get hit; it was clean the whole night. It was. No one really around me."

            Behind the Rams' offensive line last season, Goff absorbed an NFL-high 25 sacks over the final six weeks and Gurley averaged 1.59 yards before first contact for the entire season, ranked 41st among 42 running backs with enough carries to qualify.

            The Rams have since replaced Greg Robinson, one of the game's worst left tackles, with Andrew Whitworth, one of the game's best. They kept Rodger Saffold, their best offensive lineman last season, at left guard. And they brought in veteran center John Sullivan, who spent last season as a backup under Sean McVay -- now the Rams head coach -- with the Redskins and seems to be fully recovered from prior back injuries. On the right side are third-year players Rob Havenstein (tackle) and Jamon Brown (guard).

            Gurley needed only eight carries to reach 38 rushing yards Saturday, and Goff only took one sack, courtesy of reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Through the first two preseason games, Pro Football Focus has the Rams' first-team offensive line allowing just three pressures on 109 pass-blocking attempts.

            More people play on ESPN than anywhere else. Join or create a league in the No. 1 Fantasy Football game! Sign up for free!
            That is stunningly low for any team, but particularly the Rams.

            "It’s been a good camp," Gurley said. "We’ve been getting better. Each game, we’ll see how we do. We just have to go out there and just compete and communicate. Even though I might have a 1-yard run, we may have done one or two things, whether it’s me or a lineman or someone back side -- 1-yard runs can always be 20-yard runs. It’s just the little things, going out there...
            -08-25-2017, 10:31 AM