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Sebastian Joseph-Day aims to tackle starting job on Rams defense

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  • Sebastian Joseph-Day aims to tackle starting job on Rams defense

    Sebastian Joseph-Day aims to tackle starting job on Rams defense


    AUG. 5, 2019

    8:02 PM

    The invitation was unexpected — and more than welcomed by Rams defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day.

    Rams defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers already were on the guest list for Von Miller’s third annual Pass Rush Summit in June.

    Donald, the two-time NFL defensive player of the year, and Brockers, a seven-year veteran, invited younger Rams teammates to join them for the hands-on seminar in Las Vegas hosted by Miller, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl most valuable player for the Denver Broncos.

    Joseph-Day could hardly believe his good fortune.

    Joseph-Day, a sixth-round draft pick from Rutgers in 2018, embraced the opportunity to learn from many of the NFL’s most dynamic defensive players.

    “There was so much information,” Joseph-Day said. “New techniques, from breaking down offensive linemen. ... Telling the difference between run and pass, like clues, and then keys that certain guys use to give them hints.

    “So I definitely took a lot of those things to my game.”

    The Rams’ decision not to re-sign tackle Ndamukong Suh created opportunity for Joseph-Day and rookie Greg Gaines, a fourth-round draft pick from the University of Washington.

    The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Joseph-Day spent most of the first week of training camp lining up between Donald and Brockers as the starting nose tackle, putting him on track to possibly start the Sept. 8 season opener at the Carolina Panthers.

    It’s quite a jump for a player who was not active for any games in 2018.

    But Joseph-Day appears unfazed. He reported for offseason workouts in top shape, emerged as one of the team’s most improved players and has impressed new defensive line coach Eric Henderson and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

    Joseph-Day was seeing opportunity, and seizing it, Phillips said.

    “He’s been really solid,” Phillips said. “He’s very strong and a very powerful guy. He’s got size and he’s working hard at it.”

    Joseph-Day is not resting on his first-week performance.

    “I look at it as a day-by-day thing,” he said. “Seize it that day. That’s the approach I have. That’s the approach I always have.”

    Last week, Joseph-Day got plenty of reps in joint practices with the Chargers. This week, he will gain more experience in workouts with the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday and Thursday in Napa.

    The Rams play the Raiders in a preseason game Saturday, but it remains to be seen which players coach Sean McVay holds out. Established starters will not play.

    Along with Donald, Brockers, Joseph-Day and Gaines, the Rams defensive line includes John Franklin-Myers, Morgan Fox and Tanzel Smart.

    Franklin-Myers, a fourth-round pick from Stephen F. Austin in 2018, played in every game and had two sacks last season. He also sacked Tom Brady in the Rams’ 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.

    Fox, a third-year pro, sat out last season while recovering from knee surgery. Smart, a sixth-round pick from Tulane in 2017, played in only two games last season after starting four of the 11 games he played in as a rookie. Smart performed well against the Chargers last week, McVay said.

    “He’s stout,” McVay said. “Tanzel’s a reliable player.”

    The Rams defense once again boasts star power with Donald, cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, and the addition of linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Eric Weddle.

    But the unheralded Joseph-Day could be a key component as the Rams aim to improve from 2018, especially in rushing defense. The Rams gave up 122.3 yards rushing per game last season, which ranked 23rd among 32 teams. Their 41 sacks ranked 15th, though Donald’s 20½ accounted for half.

    Joseph-Day intends to put to use what he learned at Miller’s Pass Rush Summit, and he thanked his veteran teammates for their generosity toward younger players.

    “Shout out to Brockers and Aaron,” he said. “They brought us along. They honestly didn’t really have to do that, but it was awesome that they did.”


    The Rams were off Monday. They will hold a walkthrough Tuesday morning at their training facility at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks and then depart for Napa. … The Raiders’ roster includes three players who played for the Rams under McVay: safety Lamarcus Joyner, defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks and tight end Derek Carrier. Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson was the Rams’ quarterbacks coach in 2017.

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    Good! 6th round draft pick learning from some of THE BEST DL in the NFL.

    Excellent opportunity for 2nd year development.


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      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.

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    • ram3057
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      Way back on draft day last April - Day 3, to be exact - and a ways into the sixth round, Tanzel Smart got a call from the Rams telling him he was on his way to Los Angeles to play defensive tackle.

      Not long after, the Tulane University standout said it meant the world to him that he’d soon be playing alongside Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn, a pair of Rams players he’d been admiring from afar.

      Turns out he was half correct - at least for the moment.

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      In fact, when he was asked about actually starting his first NFL game as a rookie, Smart seemed a bit taken aback.

      “I don’t know man,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m starting just yet.”

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      “Oh, I didn’t know that,” he said. “I really didn’t know.”

      If so, let’s just say it’ll complete a dream he’s had nearly his whole life.

      “I’ve dreamed this way, way, way back in elementary school,” he said. “So it’s a blessing.”

      Regardless of whether Smart takes the field as a starter, he’s expected to play a significant role as Donald’s replacement -- presuming Donald doesn’t end his holdout and take the field Sunday, a concept Coach Sean McVay isn’t quite ready to rule out.

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      Still, McVay continues to hold out hope.

      “No, I wouldn’t rule him out,” McVay said. “We’re still in the same place. I know I kind of sound monotonous where, ‘Hey we’re trying to find a solution’, which is exactly the truth. There’s no update right now.”

      Reality is, it’s looking like a longshot the Rams and Donald get things sewn up in time for him to play Sunday. The next man up, then, is Smart, who impressed McVay and his staff while steadily getting better throughout training camp and the preseason.

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    • MauiRam
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      Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips walks the field during the Rams training camp at UC Irvine. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)


      THOUSAND OAKS — Even before they met him, the Rams bought into the idea of playing for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. His 40-year resume, Super Bowl ring and wry sense of humor didn’t hurt.

      Then, after a few weeks in meeting rooms and on the field, the Rams discovered Phillips’ substance.

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      So from the outside, the Rams’ defense remains a bit of a mystery, and not one that will be solved during Saturday’s exhibition game against the Chargers. The Rams, insist, though, that things are coming along nicely.

      “You see (players) in meetings kind of seeing it all come together,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “Guys are able to see the whole system. ‘I see what we do in this situation and how this play works.’ It’s a good feeling when you see guys seeing results show up in tape. It makes them buy in more.”

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      The Rams asked defensive end Robert Quinn to move to outside linebacker. Mark Barron, a natural safety who played outside linebacker last season, moved to inside linebacker. Brockers, previously a 4-3 defensive tackle, shifted to nose tackle. Barwin, who played linebacker under Phillips in Houston, has moved back there after a season at defensive end.

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      Coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead have said they were in communication with Donald’s agents, but neither side has expressed publicly that they are close to working out a deal.

      McVay said last week he would speak with Donald regarding the minicamp.

      “I know we’ll have an idea based on whether it’s ‘OK, I’m not going to come until there’s a resolution,’ or ‘I will be there,’ ” McVay said.

      Donald is not the only marquee player staying away from an NFL minicamp because of a contract situation.

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      One week from today, the Rams will be back on the field for the first training camp practice of 2018. In this edition of Countdown to Camp, we’re taking a look at the team’s defensive linemen.


      Newcomers: Ndamukong Suh, John Franklin-Myers, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Chunky Clements, Brian Womac, McKay Murphy

      Los Angeles already had a strong defensive line, anchored by 2017 AP Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. Now that the club's added Ndamukong Suh in free agency, the unit is undoubtedly among the league’s best on paper.

      Suh signed with the Rams in late March and is slated to play nose tackle between Donald and Brockers in coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. Suh is remarkably durable, starting all 126 games for which he’s been eligible since entering the league in 2010. He’s recorded 51.5 sacks in his eight pro seasons — five with Detroit and the last three with Miami.

      In 14 games, Donald recorded 11.0 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and two passes defensed en route to winning his first Defensive Player of the Year award. Donald was absent from Los Angeles’ offseason program as the team and his representation continue to negotiate a contract extension.

      Brockers is now the Rams’ longest tenured defensive player, having been with the club since 2012. Phillips moved him from nose tackle to five-technique defensive end last year, and the LSU product excelled in the role. Brockers recorded 41 total tackles — eight for loss — 4.5 sacks, and eight quarterback hits in 2017.

      Ethan Westbrooks returns for his fifth NFL season. He’s been productive in a rotational role since arriving with the team as an undrafted free agent out of West Texas A&M in 2014. After starting the year at 3-4 defensive end, Westbrooks moved inside to nose tackle and started nine games for the club in 2017.

      L.A. re-signed defensive tackle Dominique Easley in March, keeping him with the club. The former Patriots first-round pick suffered a season-ending knee injury early on in training camp and missed the entire 2017 season. Back in 2016, Easley was productive in a rotational role, recording 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for L.A.

      Tanzel Smart returns for his second pro season. A sixth-round pick, Smart started four games as a rookie and made 18 total tackles.

      Omarius Bryant spent 2017 on Los Angeles’ practice squad and signed a futures contract to stick with the club. Chunky Clements spent much of 2017 with the Texans, going between the active roster and practice squad a few times. He signed with the Rams in May after Houston waived him in March.

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