Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Los Angeles Rams Weekly!

Rams set U.S. preseason attendance record in L.A. The Rams felt the California love in their first home game back in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since 1979.
Los Angeles serenaded the Rams with largest crowd to ever watch a preseason football game in United States history with nearly 90,000 fans in attendance. The official attendance for the game was 89,140.

Dallas Cowboys kick returner Lucky Whitehead was an unruly guest during the Rams' welcome-back game. Whitehead returned the opening kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown before much of the crowd even sat down.

Running back Benny Cunningham scored the first touchdown for the Rams on a 14-yard run late in the first quarter.

No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff was intercepted on his second pass of the game by linebacker Mark Nzeocha.

The Rams rallied to win their home opener over Dallas 28-24.
Rams return to Los Angeles with electric victory. "Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to welcome home the Los Angeles Rams!" The public address announcer bellows with special emphasis on Los Angeles.

The stadium is half-full three minutes before the scheduled kickoff, but cheers wail as if the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum were at capacity. The Rams expected 91,000 fans for their preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys at the Coliseum. Official attendance stood at 89,140, breaking the NFL's all-time record for largest U.S. preseason attendance.

The Rams run out to a warm welcome -- from the L.A. weather and from pillars spewing fire and popping fireworks at the edge of the tunnel. It is loud. Woo's echo around the bowl of the stadium, but little clapping can be heard, as most of the fans hold phones to capture the Rams' first steps onto a Los Angeles home field since 1994, and their first home game back in the Coliseum since 1979.

Unfortunately for the fans, the record attendance ties up the cell phone towers, leaving them without enough service to post immediately to Snapchat or Twitter.

Celebrities and famous former Rams take their own pictures from the sidelines. Near the end zone, Rams legend Eric Dickerson chats with Ty Burell, known best for his role as Phil in the TV show Modern Family.

Through the star-studded chaos, Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson runs up to the stands. His mom leans over the cement wall to grab the back of his head. Her thick braided bun presses up against his helmet as she says something in his ear. You can see her lips move, but the cheers drown out her words. Johnson pulls away and runs to the field for kick off.

The Cowboys win the toss and elect to receive first.

Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein kicks it deep, 66 yards into Dallas's end zone. Cowboys kick returner Lucky Whitehead catches it and takes off, christening the Rams' new home by taking it 101 yards to the house.

Lynatta Johnson, Trumaine's mom, shakes her head and sits down. She pulls on her shirt, which has a picture of her son spray-painted on the front and "Tru's mom" and "Rams Nation" written on the back. Cowboys fans sit two rows behind her cheering in a frenzy.

"I'm so scared," she said. "I'm watching with my eyes closed."

She's nervous but excited. Johnson is from Stockton, about a four-and-a-half-hour drive from L.A., but a lot closer than the 30-hour drive to St. Louis. She's thrilled to have her son back in their home state.

"This crowd is unbelievable," she said. "There are more people and more excited people here than at any regular season game I've been to in St. Louis, and I've been to a lot of games."

Rams coach Jeff Fisher later agrees, saying, "The response from the guys was, 'hey, this is really cool.' Some of them had not had that in their professional career."

The crowd was mostly filled out toward the end of the first quarter.

Terry Crews, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 11th round of the 1991 draft before pursuing a successful acting career, flexes his hulking biceps for the Jumbotron on the "Flex Cam." Clayton Kershaw, pitcher for the L.A. Dodgers, waves as the announcer publicizes his presence.

The Cowboys score another touchdown. The Coliseum erupts. Gauging team attendance by noise level suggests it's about equal, Cowboys fans to Rams.

Michael Ochoa, a Dallas fan from California, doesn't care that it's the Rams' homecoming. More importantly to him, it's the Cowboys' first preseason game. He's been tailgating since 8 a.m. with friends who flew in from Texas, Arizona and Nevada just to see the 'Boys.

Jackie Slater, who played his entire 20-season career with the Rams, and Rosey Grier, who was part of the Fearsome Foursome in the 1960s, make appearances on the video board as the game clock winds down.

With 1:41 left in the first quarter, running back Benny Cunningham scrambles 14 yards for the Rams' first touchdown in the City of Angels this century.

Lynatta jumps to her feet, cheering. The Cowboys fans behind her fall silent.

But at the half it's 24-7, Dallas.

The Rams have had nine straight losing seasons and no team has ever won more than eight games in its first season in a new location. Skeptics of the Rams' move to the Entertainment Capital of the World say there's too much to do in the city for a perennial 7-9 team to attract enough attention.

However, during halftime, Ashley Taylor, at the game with her three football-playing sons, isn't concerned.

"We still watch the Lakers and they lose all the time," she said.

Lucky for them, today they didn't have to watch the Rams lose.

"Whose house?" The PA announcer asked the crowd.

"Our house!" The crowd responded in unison.

With the sun all but gone and just a burnt orange haze behind the Jumbotron, the clock reads 0:00 and the score, 28-24, Rams.

"They stayed until the fourth quarter of a preseason game and were on their feet for the whole fourth quarter," Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff said. "You can kind of tell right there what it means to them and how exciting it is to have a team back here."

"I had to remind them it was a preseason game," Fisher said of his players. "As far as those guys are concerned it's like we clinched playoffs."

"I hope this city knows that we are going to fight hard for them every time we step on that field," quarterback Case Keenum said.

But it's just the beginning and despite the mood in the Coliseum, it's just a preseason game.

Ashley Taylor and Lynatta Johnson will return during the regular season to fight stand-still traffic and pay between $50 to $80 for parking to watch their team play. But whether the rest of Los Angeles will follow suit remains to be seen.

Here's how social media was reacting to the Rams being back in Los Angeles:

Preseason Five Takeaways: Cowboys vs. Rams. The Rams welcomed professional football back to Los Angeles with a rousing preseason matchup against the Cowboys. With an announced crowd of 89,140, the final whistle blew with L.A. on top after a nice 28-24 comeback victory.

Of course, in preseason, the final score is never the whole story. For a better understanding, here are five takeaways from the Rams’ first exhibition matchup.

1) Goff has an up-and-down debut

Aside from the hoopla surrounding the overall return of the NFL to the L.A. Coliseum, much of the intrigue on this game had to do with No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff’s debut. The quarterback entered the game with 9:45 left in the second quarter, playing the rest of the period for his first NFL action.

The first possession ended after only three plays, as the rookie was hit hard from a blitz on third down and threw an interception.

But Goff looked much more comfortable in his next series, especially on his passes to rookie tight end Tyler Higbee. The Cal product went to his fellow rookie three times on the drive, and two of those passes went for first downs. Goff also threw a strike down the middle that would have gotten the Rams in the red zone, but the pass was dropped.

All this despite Goff aggravating his non-throwing shoulder on the hit that induced the interception.

Head coach Jeff Fisher had initially planned on playing Goff playing a couple series into the third quarter, but scrapped that as a precaution at halftime.

“We talked to him and he was getting a little stiff, so I said, ‘I’m not going to mess with it,’” Fisher said.

Sean Mannion played the rest of the game, but both Fisher and Goff said the rookie will be fine going forward.

“I’ve played through much worse,” Goff said.

2) Running backs steal the show

Running backs Benny Cunninghamand Malcolm Brown did a fine job of gaining yards and breaking through tackles on Saturday. With Todd Gurley a healthy scratch, Cunningham got the lion’s share of carries in the first two quarters, amassing 23 yards on four carries. He broke through at least three tackles en route to his 14-yard touchdown run. And he also had a 20-yard reception on a screen during the same scoring drive.

“I just feel like the offensive line did a good job the entire game,” Cunningham said. “Those guys have been grinding during camp. I feel like they’re going to be the staple of this offense. And they were just opening up holes. I know every series I was in, it was cake the way those guys were grinding for me.”

Brown did plenty of damage himself as the club’s leading rusher. He had eight carries for 66 yards — including a 39-yard rush in the third quarter that put the Rams in position for their second touchdown.

Running back depth is always important, and if Saturday night is any indication, Los Angeles should be just fine behind Gurley.

3) Higbee, Cooper make early contributions
Dubbed “Little Baby Gronk” by Gurley at Family Day last week, Higbee showed why head coach Jeff Fisher said he could contribute early and often to the Rams’ offense this year. Through three quarters, Higbee led the home team with five receptions for 49 yards. L.A. can use him all over its offensive formations, and he’s shown prowess in both blocking and receiving.

But when he makes a catch and breaks tackles, like he did on a reception from Goff in the second quarter, that’s where he gets the nickname “Little Baby Gronk.”

As for Cooper, the Rams already have two strong return men in Cunningham for kicks and wide receiver Tavon Austin for punts. But Cooper may be making creating a good problem for Los Angeles to have.

Cooper brought back a kickoff return 48 yards in the first quarter to the Los Angeles 41. Then he used his shiftiness to reverse field and bring a punt back 25 yards to the Dallas 33-yard line.

Again, it’s only one preseason game, but those return skills show just one reason why the club was happy to grab Cooper in the fourth round.

4) Spruuuuuuuuuuce
There’s a reason Nelson Sprucebecame the Pac 12’s all-time leader in receptions.

Spruce has been making catch after catch in training camp. And that certainly translated to the field on Saturday, as Spruce caught led the team with six receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.

The former Westlake High School star shone bright again in Southern California, as he was one of the main catalysts for the Rams’ second-half comeback. At one point in Los Angeles’ go-ahead scoring drive, Mannion completed three passes in a row to Spruce. The wideout also made a number of tough catches, including a leaping grab that gave the Rams a first down in the red zone.

All that induced some pretty loud "Spruuuuuuuce" chants from the Coliseum crowd.

“I’ve seen that from him throughout OTAs, to tell you the truth,” wide receiver Kenny Britt said. “He’s becoming a young player who’s coming into himself.”

“Nelson’s a guy I trained with, and for us to be on the same team now and to see him do that was really exciting,” Goff said. “I’m really happy for him."

Fisher said Spruce needed X-rays on his knee, postgame, but the issue shouldn’t be anything that should keep him out for a significant amount of time.

“He’s a little sore,” Fisher said. “I think he’s going to be fine.”

Especially considering his performance tonight, Spruce is making an early case for a spot on the 53-man roster.

“We brought him here because we think he’s got a chance to help us win games,” Fisher said. “He’s talented. You look at what he did in college — setting the Pac 12 record is pretty impressive. So we’ve thought that since well before the draft.”

5) One for the Fans

The fans deserve a nice ovation for supporting the Rams in the club’s return to Los Angeles, as the announced attendance was 89,140. Clearly many, many people wanted to help welcome the Rams back to Southern California, which helped create what was undoubtedly a special event.

“You could feel after we came in from warmups and then once some of the guys who were no longer playing — the response was, ‘Hey, this is very cool,’” Fisher said. “Some of them had not had that in their professional career. So it was really cool.”

“They stayed until the fourth quarter of a preseason game and were on their feet for the whole fourth quarter, so you can tell right there what it means to them and how exciting it is to have a team back here,” Goff said of the fans. “You could tell the atmosphere was just awesome. I expect it to be like that most games in the regular season as well.”

Rams to Take on Chiefs for 2nd Preseason Contest. After a rousing comeback win in their first preseason matchup, the Rams will be back in action on Saturday evening against the Chiefs (0-1). 

The contest will feature the preseason debut of running back Todd Gurley, who was a healthy scratch last week against the Cowboys.

“I don’t know how much, but he’s going to play. Maybe a series, maybe two,” head coach Jeff Fisher said. “A couple carries, maybe some protection stuff and then get him out.”

Still recovering from his ACL tear in November 2014, Gurley did not take a snap during the 2015 preseason. But that did not stop him from becoming the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Nevertheless, Gurley sees value in August game reps.

“Obviously, practice is a lot different from the game,” Gurley said. “You do that stuff in practice, but those game reps creep up on you a lot faster. It’s always good to go in there and get some reps, for sure.”

Also on the playing time front, Fisher said he plans on having quarterback Jared Goff run a series or two with the first-team offense.

“It’s important to get [him] in there with the starters and the ones, so I think it’ll be a good experience for him,” Fisher said. “He’s been working with them out here off and on all week.”

Goff has been making steady progress in practice, putting together one of his best days of training camp on Wednesday.

“At this point, every day gets better,” Goff said after the session. “Like I’ve said a few times at this point, every day its gotten better since OTAs, all the way through, through the summer, minicamp, up until now, I feel like I’ve grown exponentially, and I’m happy with where I’m at.”

While the No. 1 overall pick left last week’s contest a bit earlier than planned due to experience discomfort in his non-throwing shoulder, Goff had no issues with it in practice this week.

On the other side, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid told reporters he’s planning on playing his starters through the first half, which means the Rams should see plenty of quarterback Alex Smith and cornerback Marcus Peters. Smith has thrived as a quarterback under Reid, averaging 3,355 yards passing, 20 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions over the last three seasons.

Peters is the reigning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, winning the award after leading the league with eight interceptions last season — two of which he returned for touchdowns. He’s picked up right where he left off, picking off a pass against Seattle last week.

The Rams will likely see a familiar face in the opposing huddle during the second half, as quarterback Nick Foles comes to town competing for Kansas City’s backup quarterback role. Foles, of course, started 11 games for the Rams last year. Los Angeles released the signal-caller just before the start of training camp in July.

Generally, Fisher said the Rams’ starters will play into the second quarter and the club will start substituting from there. We do know that while defensive end Robert Quinn is healthy and back from watching his sister compete in the 100m hurdles at the Olympics, the D-lineman is not expected to play on Saturday.

“I think it just makes sense to hold Robert for another week [with] the travel and everything,” Fisher said. “He had a good practice today. He’s going to get caught up — his sleep is a little off and you don’t want to take a chance. He’s in great shape, so I think we’ll hold Rob until we go to Denver.”

Cornerback E.J. Gaines is expected to see live snaps for the first time since Week 16 of the 2014 season. And tight end Temarrick Hemingway should see significant time at tight end after a solid week of camp.

“Temarrick is coming along fast,” Fisher said. “He’s been slowed by injury, but had a really good couple of days on the practice field, offensively. We haven’t done anything with him in special teams, we’ll increase that load with him next week.”

Fisher also said offensive lineman Isaiah Battle and wide receiver Nelson Spruce have been ruled out. Tight end Tyler Higbee has been dealing with flu-like symptoms so he may be held out. And safety/linebacker Mark Barron may be a game-time decision.

The second preseason game is similar to the first in that teams will not do much game-planning. But with all the hype that went into the team’s re-introduction to Los Angeles, it will probably be nice to have some normalcy this time around.

“I think the guys will be a little bit more relaxed, having gone through the experience,” Fisher said. “Understand that 90 minutes before kickoff, there’s a lot of stuff going on in their world. Some guys were on the field with pregame warm-ups and asking for help because they needed tickets and that shouldn’t be the case – that’s a distraction. Once you get through the first one, I think things will settle down a little bit for us.”

Kickoff at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is slated for 6 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS 2 in Los Angeles and simulcast on the NFL Network for those outside the home market.

The Dan Hanzus Hard Knocks, Ep. 2 Recap: Rams a perfect fit for Los Angeles. Two episodes into the new season of Hard Knocks and it certainly feels like the right team is in Los Angeles.
The Rams are a pretty chill group. Everyone seems to be having a pretty good time at UC-Irvine. Yoga sessions, pool parties, bumper cars, Pokemon hunts -- it's like a summer camp for young millionaires. No wonder poor Deon Long thought it'd be OK to bring a girl by the dorm room. This place is fun!
I want to be careful with my words here, because this type of observation of any team -- especially in the NFL -- could lead to one of the most deadly of all sports stigmas:
They're running a country club over there!
I don't think the Rams are running a country club over there. And I understand it is the job of NFL Films to show some of the lighter moments from camp life in the service of entertainment. But from my perspective on the couch -- things look loose.
Take, for instance, Jeff Fisher addressing wide receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick, who damn nearly get themselves killed when their two-seater overturns at a high speed on campus. (This shocking moment was captured brilliantly by an NFL Films camera mounted on the vehicle.)
Fisher has no doubt seen the footage, which plays out like a deleted scene from Fast and the Furious 12: We're Outta Ideas. Britt was moving when he loses control of the cart. We never see how Quick spills out of the vehicle, but Britt is extremely fortunate to escape injury.
Fisher refers to the veterans during a team meeting as "dumb and dumber." Britt and Quick smile sheepishly during the surprisingly tame admonishment. It's over in 30 seconds and life goes on.
The scene made me think back to All or Nothing with the Cardinals. You think Bruce Arians would have found this funny? If John Brown and Michael Floyd flipped their moped, something tells me they'd never see it again. "The b---- is mine now," Brucie may say. (Get well soon, Coach.)
Jared Goff is a total Cali kid. He reminds me a lot of Mark Sanchez (another Cali kid) during his star turn on the JetsHard Knocks season in 2010. Young, cocky, likable and a little bit goofy. Speaking of goofy, defensive tackle William Hayes doesn't believe in dinosaurs and is confident mermaids exist. We'll get into that in a bit.
Dreamers, weirdos, pretty people and wandering spirits. Yep, this feels like L.A. Welcome home,Rams.
Stray thoughts ...
» My full thoughts on William Hayes' breakout performance in this episode can be found here, but let me just say that I'm starting to think it's all a master troll job. The guy has dinosaur toys in his locker.He's begging you to fall in his black hole of Jurassic jabber.
The best news for Hayes (besides the fact he's one dumb hypothesis away from a reality show on Bravo)? He now has a sub-section of his Wikipedia page titled, "Mermaids".
» Defensive line coach Mike Waufle continues to frighten me on a weekly basis. The former marine yells at people pretty much all the time. If I ever meet Aaron Donald, I'd definitely make a Full Metal Jacket joke just to watch the comment fly over his head. Maybe a Whiplash reference will better connect me to the kids? I'm old.
ANYWAY, actual comment from Waufle on Tuesday: "Knock him the f--- back! Put the quarterback on the f------ ground! Go celebrate that s---, b----. F--- you!" Mind you he said this to guys on his own team.

» Jeff, you're not the first white guy to struggle with this, but I feel like you should have more than enough practice by now.
» Whoa, training camp in 1991 was like a different sport. Fisher's classy mullet alone makes the footage notable, but then you see dudes in full pads trying to annihilate each other on a practice field in August. When men were men, I suppose.
» The Rams are serious about this Case Keenum thing! Said quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke: "We all understand the environment in terms of taking a guy No. 1 overall. Case has kept the horse blinders on and said, 'Listen, I'm going to continue to work I'm going to be the best I can be and I'm going to compete.' " You think Case really said that? Stop lying to us, Chris Weinke.
» Sean Mannion was so proud of himself when he hit the crossbar from 20 yards out and won $100 off the rookie hotshot. His future kids are going to hear this story so many times.
» The magic of NFL Films: We meet rookie defensive end Ian Seau, nephew of Chargers legend Junior, then watch footage of Ian playing football as a child as Junior watches from the sideline. The vault in Mount Laurel is truly remarkable.
» Alec Ogletree in the pool: "Michael Phelps ... Black Edition."
» I'm definitely going to start using N.A.F. (translation: Non-Athletic F---) the next time I play basketball. "Who you covering, Dan?" "I got Kyle. Total N.A.F."
Dan Hanzus honestly can't say why alligators and sharks weren't wiped out by the meteor. Follow him at @danhanzus and read him on The End AroundFor a complete rundown of every Hard Knocks episode, click here.
Rams’ Practice Report, 8/18: Gurley to Make 2016 Debut | Rams’ Official Site

As we all saw in 2015, running back Todd Gurley doesn’t need preseason snaps to have a successful year.

Gurley Ready Set for Preseason Debut | Fox Sports

Coach Jeff Fisher said Thursday that Gurley would play one series against the Kansas City Chiefs, perhaps two before taking a seat.

Goff Runs with First Team Offense, Should Again On Saturday | ESPN

Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick who is being groomed to eventually become the Los Angeles Rams' starting quarterback, took a handful of snaps with the first-team offense during Wednesday's practice and is expected to do so in an actual game on Saturday.

Los Angeles Rams Training Camp: Aug. 18 Practice Recap

The preseason opener is behind us. All eyes are on Saturday’s tune-up against the Kansas City Chiefs.


The Gaines news scared me. If he’s truly good to go, he’s going to be one to watch closely after his last meaningful snaps came just in front of Christmas 2014...


Well...we heard the whole “Keenum for 15 snaps, Goff into the third” last weekend, and that didn’t exactly pan out. But fine, I can buy it again. As long as Goff doesn’t take a big hit again and can work the offense (and that’s a sizeable assumption), getting him that many reps can only help.


The real question though is one of the offense line, given Goff’s absence in the third quarter last Saturday. We Sean Mannion do work with the depth. Keenum and Goff were...I guess given the Rams offense, ok, but few NFL offenses would accept that output.
The real news? The Rams get their best offensive player back:


Quinn’s just getting back from Rio to watch his sister compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics, so there’s no reason to rush him in. Plus, this makes more snaps available down the depth chart.

The bigger question remains with the first team. Bear in mind the Rams’ defense gave up 17 points to the Cowboys’ offense last the first half. Improving on that will be perhaps the most important storyline on the defensive side.

A satirical look at more than 75 years of Football's Rams history, combined with discussions of American Exceptionalism and almost 50 years of personal experience in the life of a Rams Fan. The history parallels and intertwines life to form a humorous, yet serious look at American HistoryWorld History, an American Footballteam, and Political Science.