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The good and bad from Rams OTAs, before this week’s three-day minicamp

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  • KoaKoi
    replied
    Glad to see Bonsignore is back to actually writing (some of his recent stuff has been drivel). No real eye openers here for hardy fans, but if I hadn't been following the team much, this would have been a fantastic update on the offseason.

    I definitely think Kiser will be rotating with a safety depending on the package/playcall...

    Leave a comment:


  • RealRam
    replied
    Well, so far so good - so to speak (in general terms). Sans Gurley of course, the Mystery Man.

    Leave a comment:


  • The good and bad from Rams OTAs, before this week’s three-day minicamp

    The good and bad from Rams OTAs, before this week’s three-day minicamp
    By Vincent Bonsignore Jun 10, 2019 1

    THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The Rams have wrapped up the organized team activity phase of their offseason program, and all that stands between them and the opening of training camp in late July is a mandatory three-day minicamp that begins Tuesday.

    If recent history repeats, the minicamp likely will be condensed by a day or two, because coach Sean McVay typically cuts it short to reward players for the work they put in during the offseason program. And after observing the Rams during the open portions of OTAs, I suspect that will be the case this year.

    Among the many observations from OTAs, one that stands out is how the Rams attacked the program with focus and energy. This isn’t your typical, positive-natured OTAs hyperbole, either. I sincerely wondered what sort of mindset the Rams would have, given the gut-wrenching manner in which their season ended, with a disappointing loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Or whether the obvious disappointment would linger into this season.

    That doesn’t appear to be the case, at least not yet. The team I watched the last few weeks looks much more decisive and purposeful than this time last year.

    Some poking around behind the scenes revealed that the work ethic, demeanor and spirit has stood out within the Rams’ building. The resulting sentiment, as expressed in a recent text from a team insider, is that while there’s no guarantee they’ll match or exceed their 13-win total from a year ago, there is confidence that this year’s team has a chance to be better overall than the one that reached the Super Bowl last year.

    That said, here are some specific observations from OTAs:

    The absence of Todd Gurley lingers
    No doubt the Rams are pleased with the work they’ve put in thus far, and even just from eyeballing it from the sidelines, it appears their content is warranted. But the notable absence of Todd Gurley, who was held out of on-field activities while adhering to a training program designed to get his left knee through an entire season, cast a definite shadow.

    The murkiness surrounding Gurley’s health has been cause for boundless discussion, speculation, worry and frustration among pundits and fans. The manner in which he ended last season — he missed the final two regular-season games and appeared to be a shell of himself in the playoffs (save for a powerful performance in the divisional round against Dallas) — and the lack of clarity ever since has been an ominous stain on an otherwise positive offseason.

    Nevertheless, I still believe it’s overly pessimistic to assume the worst about Gurley. Obviously something is up with the knee. All signs are pointing to a condition that needs to be managed, rather than an actual injury that needs to be fixed. Reading between the lines regarding the plan they have in place, it appears the days of Gurley being the undisputed, heavy-load bell cow running back are over.

    But that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a hugely significant piece of the Rams’ offense. In fact, by altering his usage rate the Rams hope to avoid reaching a point of diminishing returns, which seemed to be the issue last year.

    The Rams created cover for Gurley — no matter the severity of the situation — by re-signing Malcolm Brown and drafting dynamic Memphis running back Darrell Henderson. Brown is expected to reclaim his backup duties after he missed the last four regular-season games and all of the postseason with a knee injury, and Henderson showed in OTAs that his speed, explosiveness and versatility as a runner and pass-catcher will add an exciting new element to the Rams’ offense.

    The question is, will he do it more as a complement to Gurley or in place of him?

    Jared Goff and the offense look next level
    One thing that really stood out in OTAs is the obviousness that this is an offense going into its third year under the same coach.

    That isn’t to suggest it has hit some type of plateau, either. In fact, with the foundation of McVay’s offense securely in place, the Rams are adding and building on it.

    The face of that familiarity and decisiveness is fourth-year quarterback Jared Goff, who has looked completely in charge with his operation and leadership inside the huddle, at the line of scrimmage and in actual execution. Quite a bit of that has been against zone-coverage looks, which gave him trouble late last season and in particular against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

    The blame for that is not exclusive to Goff, as the Rams’ coaching staff was slow to make adjustments to the defensive schemes the Patriots utilized. But if OTAs provided any evidence, the Rams seem more prepared, should teams deploy a similar game plan.

    Circling back to Goff and the command he’s showing, it makes the idea of the Rams walking away from him at the end of his rookie contract seem all the more ludicrous. It makes no sense, after investing the resources it took to acquire Goff, then developing and grooming him, to simply part ways just as he’s hitting his prime years, in order to start over with a younger, cheaper replacement.

    Yes, keeping Goff will be expensive. And there will be salary-cap challenges when it comes to building a championship-caliber team around a highly paid quarterback. But Goff will be in the prime years of his career, with a master’s degree in this offense, and that will provide far more benefit than whatever savings an unproven, younger replacement might provide.

    Inside linebacker is still a question, but there are answers
    The Rams took a huge leap of faith this time last year by anointing Cory Littleton as the replacement at inside linebacker for veteran Alec Ogletree, a fixture they surprisingly traded. Littleton delivered on the Rams’ faith with a Pro Bowl-caliber season while excelling against both the run and pass.

    The Rams hope history repeats this year, because they cut veteran Mark Barron in a salary-cap move, which left the linebacker spot opposite Littleton wide open.

    Micah Kiser, now in his second year after spending most of his rookie year on special teams, got a bunch of snaps with the first-team defense during OTAs. And while he looks bigger and stronger from this time a year ago — he more than looked the starter’s part during practice — until he actually gets on the field for an extended period, he remains a question mark.

    The depth behind Littleton and Kiser is mostly thin, save for Bryce Hager, a veteran backup who can provide capable work in short stints. It opens the door for youngsters such as Travin Howard, in whom the Rams invested a year of development last season, and rookie Dakota Allen, who they drafted in the seventh round this year out of Texas Tech.

    The Rams were noticeably quiet on the ILB front during the offseason, which leads you to believe they’re comfortable that a combination of Kiser and others will adequately man the position. Keep in mind, also, the amount of time they spend in their base defense is not extensive. Whatever learning curve Kiser might experience in pass coverage can be mitigated by sub-package looks, in which he yields his spot to a defensive back.

    It will be interesting to see how quickly rookie safety Taylor Rapp grasps the defense. You can certainly envision situations where he’s on the field in three-safety looks, in which either he or John Johnson drop down to linebacker. Rapp, much like Johnson, was utilized all over the field at Washington and his versatility was particularly attractive to the Rams.

    Lots of numbers on the defensive line
    One of the more intriguing positions to watch in OTAs — and into training camp — is the defensive line. Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers are back at tackle and end, respectively, but who lines up between them (in their base defense) and alongside them (in sub packages) remains in question.

    The good news is, there are plenty of available options.

    The most likely candidate to start at nose tackle in the base defense is rookie Greg Gaines, but don’t sleep on second-year tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, who put in a ton of work in the weight room this offseason and looks ready to earn a role. Joseph-Day was on the 53-man roster for all of last year after being selected in the sixth round out of Rutgers, a sign of the Rams’ confidence that he could deliver if called upon. As it turns out, he was able to take a virtual redshirt season and quietly develop behind the scenes. He has a huge opportunity to forge a role this year, and his work in OTAs shows he’s taken the necessary steps to compete for a job.

    Tanzel Smart is also in the mix, but has some work ahead of him with the addition of Gaines and what appears to be an improved Joseph-Day.

    On the outside, veteran Clay Matthews took some snaps as a hand-in-dirt defensive end, although he was much more prominent at outside linebacker — usually while rotating with Samson Ebukam — and (at times) at inside linebacker.

    Matthews will likely rotate among all three positions during the season, as coordinator Wade Phillips wants to deploy him from various launch points and try to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

    When the Rams do line up with four linemen, expect to see a lot of John Franklin-Myers, who showed natural pass-rush skill as a rookie while notching two sacks, and Morgan Fox, who is back at defensive end after missing all of last year with a knee injury.

    Fox stood out during OTAs with his speed and athletic ability, which served to remind everyone why the Rams were so high on him before the injury. The combination of Fox, Franklin-Myers and Matthews has a chance to create enticing pass-rush pressure off the bench, and help supplement the heat created by Donald in the interior and Dante Fowler Jr. off the edge.
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