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Dante Fowler ready to prove his worth to the Rams in ‘show-me’ season

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  • Dante Fowler ready to prove his worth to the Rams in ‘show-me’ season

    Dante Fowler ready to prove his worth to the Rams in ‘show-me’ season
    JUN 03, 2019 | 7:35 PM

    It did not take long for Dante Fowler to fall in love with playing for the Rams.

    After the team acquired the edge-rushing linebacker in a trade-deadline deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season, star players such as defensive lineman Aaron Donald and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters warmly embraced him. Coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips let Fowler be himself, and he helped the Rams advance to the Super Bowl.

    Fowler liked the situation so much, he opted not to test the market as an unrestricted free agent. In March, he signed a one-year, $12-million contract with the Rams.

    Now he is preparing for the 2019 season, and he acknowledged Monday that it will be a “show-me” situation over the course of a full season to prove he is worthy of a long-term extension.

    And if he were to receive an offer from the Rams?

    “Damn right, I will be signing that paper,” he said, chuckling, after going through a full-squad organized-team activity workout at the team’s practice facility in Thousand Oaks.

    Fowler, 24, is part of a defense that underwent an offseason shuffle.

    The Rams let lineman Ndamukong Suh become a free agent and released inside linebacker Mark Barron. They signed veterans in safety Eric Weddle and linebacker Clay Matthews, and drafted safety Taylor Rapp, cornerback David Long and lineman Greg Gaines.

    But retaining the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Fowler — the third pick in the 2015 draft — might have been the Rams’ top priority before free agency began in March.

    In eight games last season, Fowler recorded two sacks, four tackles for losses and several game-turning plays.

    During overtime of the NFC championship game, Fowler pressured New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees into throwing a pass that was intercepted by safety John Johnson. The play set up the game-winning field goal that sent the Rams to the Super Bowl.

    After the season, the Rams monitored pass rushers that might be available through free agency, trades and the draft. Rams general manager Les Snead said the best option was Fowler, who has 16 sacks in 47 regular-season games and 3½ in six playoff games.

    “Dante was a priority for us to try to get back for the 2019 season at minimum,” Snead said a few days after he re-signed Fowler.

    Fowler said it was not difficult to pass on free agency and sign for one year after his experience with the Rams. He said he knew within a few weeks of joining the team that the situation was “a perfect fit.”

    “It just felt like everything I was asking for,” he said. “It was like my wishes were being granted.”

    Fowler said he initially was absent from voluntary offseason workouts last month because he was tending to child-care issues in Florida. During last season, two of his children were born.

    Fowler participated in two workouts last week and was on the field Monday. He thanked McVay for his understanding.

    With the benefit of an offseason and training camp with the Rams, McVay expects Fowler to be even better than last season.

    “What he was able to do coming in in the middle of the year and being able to contribute the way that he did really says a lot about how quickly he was able to pick things up,” McVay said. “But now I think you can get a little more intricate with some of the details, some of the nuances, really where you’re starting the right way from a foundational teaching standpoint.

    “And I think that’s only going to help Dante play faster, play more decisive.”

    Fowler concurs. He knows his future with the Rams is riding on it.

    “I’m just going to go out there and bust my tail and try to be the best player I can be on and off the field so I can try to figure out a way to stay here,” he said.

    Running back Todd Gurley, who is not participating in on-field drills, and other proven starters almost certainly will not play in preseason games, as was the case last year, McVay indicated again Monday when asked about his plan. Starters are more likely to participate in scheduled practices against the Oakland Raiders and the Chargers during training camp. ... Receiver Cooper Kupp and linebacker Samson Ebukam are coming off knee surgeries and wearing red jerseys during workouts. On Monday, both participated in a full-squad drill that featured the starting offense against the starting defense. Players are not in pads and there is no live contact during offseason workouts.

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  • Nick
    Did Marcus Peters play his way back into the Rams’ long-range plans?
    by Nick
    Did Marcus Peters play his way back into the Rams’ long-range plans?
    By Vincent Bonsignore Mar 26, 2019 5

    PHOENIX​ —As the Rams shift​ attention​ from​ free agency to​ the draft, they​ face two​ urgent and​ obvious roster matters​ — neither​​ of which is easily addressed.

    The free-agent departure of Ndamukong Suh isn’t yet official, and Rams head coach Sean McVay actually cracked open a door on Tuesday for a possible return while speaking at the NFL’s annual league meeting. But the expectation is they’ll soon need to find a replacement for the veteran defensive tackle. The same is true at one inside linebacker position, after Mark Barron was released in a salary-cap savings move and then scooped up by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The Rams are relying on a combination of the draft, in-house options and the second phase of free agency to fill the two holes. But it might not be until training camp that it all gets sorted out.

    Meanwhile, another long-range issue is lurking.

    As it stands now, the Rams will head into the 2019 season with starting cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters entering the last year of their contracts. That’s a vulnerable position to be in and likely will necessitate them investing draft capital in a cornerback this month, or maybe two, given Talib’s age (33) and the cost it might take to lock up Peters beyond this year.

    Peters, in particular, represents an interesting situation, as it looked for long stretches last season like he was playing his way out of a long-term relationship with the Rams. He rallied midway through the season, and finished so strong it prompted McVay on Tuesday to lay out a compelling argument for making Peters part of the plan moving forward.

    “Absolutely,” McVay responded when asked by The Athletic if Peters is someone he’d like to move forward with long term.

    That might seem like a surprise, given how Peters struggled through the first half of the 2018 season while giving up a slew of big plays. The killer was when he got burned for 12 catches and 211 yards by Michael Thomas in Week 9, including a 72-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to secure the New Orleans Saints’ 45-35 win over the Rams. It marked the low point of a rough stretch of games in which Peters seemed to be taking himself out of the Rams’ plans.

    It was easy at that point to write him off as a bust and rule the Rams’ trade for him an abstract failure. Not only was a long-term extension seemingly off the table, so too was the certainty he’d be back in 2019. That wasn’t what the Rams had in mind when they sent a 2019 second-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason for a player they felt would be a cornerstone of their defense.

    But two things immediately happened.

    First, Peters stood at his locker after the Saints...
    -03-30-2019, 06:11 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams coach Phillips unfazed by Donald's absence, holds out hope for revamped defense
    by r8rh8rmike
    Wiley Rams coach Wade Phillips is unfazed by Aaron Donald's absence, but holds out hope for his revamped defense

    JUL 30, 2018 | 7:50 PM
    Like everybody working for the Rams, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is eager to see star defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald lined up side by side.

    Donald is still nowhere to be seen at UC Irvine. It’s the second year in a row that he has stayed away from training camp because of a contract dispute.

    Donald’s absence has prevented Phillips from evaluating Suh, the Rams’ marquee free-agent acquisition of the offseason, playing in a lineup with last season’s NFL defensive player of the year.

    Asked Monday if there was a specific time he wanted to see Suh and Donald together on the field, the 71-year-old Phillips was typically deadpan.

    “On yeah, tomorrow would be good,” he said. “But we’re off tomorrow. Hopefully that’s coming up … that’s what everybody’s looking forward to.”

    The Donald situation could continue through training camp, the preseason and possibly into the regular season.

    Phillips remains unfazed.

    He started coaching in the NFL in 1976 and has seen his share of holdouts and other dramas.

    After more than four decades in the league, he still enjoys training camp.

    “It’s always interesting to me, no matter what,” he said. “Even if you have the same guys, it’s a new team every yeah. ... So it’s fun for me.

    “Sometimes it’s a chess game and sometimes it’s just coaching to see if you can improve players no matter who they are.”

    Suh, linebacker Ramik Wilson and cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Sam Shields are new additions to a team that won the NFC West last season under first-year coach Sean McVay.

    Phillips continues to serve as an understated and experienced sounding board for an occasionally high-strung head coach, McVay said.

    “He’s done it so many different ways,” said the 32-year-old McVay, adding, “He’s able to give his input but it never feels forced.”

    Suh, who was signed to a one-year, $14-million contract, is “right where he needs to be,” Phillips said. He noted that Talib, who won a Super Bowl playing under Phillips in Denver, and Peters are blending and establishing themselves as leaders.

    The linebackers, with Cory Littleton moving into a starting role in the middle, are coming along for a defense that is 70% installed, Phillips said.

    Contingency plan

    Rookie Joseph Noteboom has worked at left tackle as Andrew Whitworth’s backup, but also at right guard as a possible replacement for Jamon Brown, who is suspended for the first two games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

    Second-year pro Austin Blythe is regarded as the front-runner to start at right guard until Brown is eligible to return in Week 3 against...
    -07-31-2018, 05:15 PM
  • MauiRam
    Bonsignore: Rams to put emphasis on fixing offense through free agency, draft ..
    by MauiRam
    INDIANAPOLIS – Like the super smart kid in class who teachers sometimes neglect in order to tend to their less-gifted students, new Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is probably feeling a bit overlooked these days.

    It's one of the double-edged swords of taking over a unit that, frankly, is already playoff caliber

    Especially when the group it has been lining up against every day in practice is, well, challenged.

    As the Rams work through free agency and draft preparations – including this week in Indianapolis at the NFL draft combine – so much of the focus and talk and concentration is on lifting an offense that ranks dead last in nearly every category that Phillips sometimes feels invisible.

    To the point of speaking up.

    “And as any good coach will do, (he'll say) ‘Hey, don't forget about us over here. We're playing defense too,’” is how Rams general manager Les Snead put it.

    Good luck with all that, Wade.

    No matter how many times he raises his hand or jumps up and down or tries to bring attention to himself, the Rams need to ignore him as much as possible.

    Nothing personal, good sir.

    The Rams won't completely shun Phillips this offseason – the change to his 3-4 scheme preference creates a natural need for specific additions – but let's not get things twisted.

    They arrived here in Indianapolis with a particular game plan. And it's one they'll carry into free agency next week and the draft seven weeks later in Philadelphia.

    It's time to pull the offense into the 21st century, once and for all.

    That was the driving force behind firing Jeff Fisher last November.

    And it was the motivation in identifying the offensive minded Sean McVay as Fisher's replacement, and then locking him up almost immediately after first meeting with him.

    “We've got to improve the offense,” Snead said, rather obviously.

    Step one in that direction was taken care of when they hired McVay, a 30-year-old ball of energy and enthusiasm who spent the last three years as Washington’s offensive coordinator and whose entire coaching roots are planted exclusively on that side of the ball.

    Step two was McVay hiring an offensive staff heavy on quarterback development experience and with strong backgrounds in designing offenses.

    That includes new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, quarterback coach Greg Olson and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.

    Along with McVay, they'll form a virtual offensive think tank

    Now comes the really fun part.

    And probably the hardest.

    It's time to find the necessary talent to carry out McVay's vision.

    Which, at the risk of putting poor Wade Phillips on mute for now, means the Rams focusing almost entirely on offense this offseason.

    The needs are too vast.
    -03-03-2017, 09:10 AM
  • Nick
    Rams already start looking toward next season
    by Nick
    Rams already start looking toward next season
    JAN 07, 2018 | 5:40 PM

    The Rams believe they are headed in the right direction as players on Sunday took exit physicals, met with position coaches and turned in team-issued tablet computers following an abrupt end to their season with a 26-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night.

    Players wandered in and out of the locker room Sunday at the Rams' Thousand Oaks training facility, piling the contents from their dressing stalls into large plastic trash bags to haul to their cars.

    The Rams' turnaround season had ended abruptly the night before. Coach Sean McVay and the players were still processing a 26-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC wild-card game.

    "Really thought we had a chance to make a run — and it ended prematurely," quarterback Jared Goff said. "But we're going to work hard this offseason.

    "We've got a good core nucleus of guys, and a really driven group, and I don't expect this to be the end for us by any means."

    Neither does McVay, at 31 the youngest coach in modern NFL history, who took a team that was 4-12 in 2016 and remade it into the NFC West champion and a playoff team for the first time since 2004.

    "This organization is going in the right direction," he said. "I think we've got a good foundation in place that we can build on, but by no means does that mean that you win games automatically next year."

    That thought was repeated by several players, who remained disappointed that they did not perform against the Falcons in the fashion that made them the NFL's highest-scoring team.

    But they sounded confident that more winning was ahead.

    "It's just a start," said receiver Robert Woods, one of several key free-agent signings before the season. "McVay changed the culture around here, players bought in and believe, and it's just the start of something great."

    Said running back Todd Gurley: "We put pieces together. … It's somewhere to build and start, for sure."

    Players on Sunday took exit physicals, met with position coaches and turned in team-issued tablet computers.

    They will have their final team meeting Monday.

    "We won't have the exact same group of guys back in that locker room [next season], but it was a special group of men that we got a chance to work with this year," McVay said. "There will be a lot of special people back, but I think it's more about just letting them know how much you appreciate the way they went about their business."

    Now that the season has ended, the business side of the Rams football operation will soon begin to kick into high gear.

    Linebacker Alec Ogletree signed a four-year, $42-million extension in October and will be in the...
    -01-08-2018, 03:58 AM
  • Nick
    McVay: Rams “absolutely” want to sign Peters to an extension 
    by Nick
    McVay: Rams “absolutely” want to sign Peters to an extension
    Tuesday, Mar 26, 2019 02:10 PM
    Myles Simmons

    Marcus Peters experienced a number of ups and downs in his first season with Los Angeles.

    He’s admitted as much — both during the year and since its conclusion with Super Bowl LIII. And at every turn, head coach Sean McVay has been complimentary of how Peters has taken accountability and turned adversity into a positive response.

    That’s part of why McVay told reporters at this year’s annual league meeting that the Rams would “absolutely” like to sign Peters to a long-term deal.

    “We are excited about building into year two, and we’ve been really pleased with Marcus — especially pleased with what you can find out with all the experiences that we went through in one year,” McVay told assembled reporters at the coaches breakfast. “The talent is there, love the person, and he is passionate about the game. That was the one thing that — we talked about it a lot last year — but when you got guys that love football and that are good people, at the end of the day you can work with that. The passion and the different things — you love that — and I’ve loved working with Marcus so far.”

    At this point, both of Los Angeles’ starting outside cornerbacks — Peters and Aqib Talib — are entering the final year of their contracts. With Talib, that’s a six-year deal he signed with the Broncos back in 2014. For Peters, that’s the fifth-year option that came from him being a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

    When the Rams traded for Peters last offseason, they received a players who had a strong ability to create takeaways — Peters had picked off 19 regular-season passes and forced five more regular-season fumbles in three years with Kansas City.

    But once the regular season started, Peters — again, self-admittedly — made plays that were uncharacteristic for an individual of his talent level.

    “What I think was unique about getting a chance, in the first year to see Marcus go through a lot of things in one year, where some of the things early on, we know what a great player he’s been throughout the course of his career in Kansas City and there were things that — he made plays that weren’t really indicative of what we feel like he is,” McVay said. “And what I love the most about Marcus is that he took accountability for it, and I think that says a lot about him. Where he wasn’t shying away from the fact that, ‘I got to be better, I got to be more disciplined.’

    “And then I think his ability to take the accountability, but then also respond, get it corrected with Aubrey and “E” doing an excellent job of correcting and addressing some of those issues, I thought he played excellent,” McVay added, referring to cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant and safeties coach Ejiro Evero.

    As the season continued, McVay said,...
    -03-27-2019, 04:02 AM