Friday, September 9, 2016

The Los Angeles Rams Weekly!

In a new Rams billboard campaign popping up throughout Los Angeles, a Godzilla-size Todd Gurley is pictured in a throwback white uniform with football in hand and muscles bulging from his jersey, deftly jumping over a beachfront pier.

Underneath the running back’s behemoth image, in small type, is his name, jersey number, and position; the educational portion of the Rams’ effort to familiarize Angelenos with their new home team and its stars.
The billboards, which also feature wide receiver Tavon Austin jumping through a set of downtown buildings, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald running over the Griffith Observatory, are the brainchild of Art Machine, the team’s new creative agency of record.

“We’re studying the sports landscape of L.A. and seeing how we fit into that,” said John McMahon, president and creative director of Art Machine, a unit of marketing agency Engine Group.
Although Hollywood-based Art Machine hasn’t handled a sports team before, its diverse roster of hospitality, entertainment, and L.A.-centric clients (such as the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association) provide the insight needed to serve the Rams, McMahon said.

“The team went through an exhaustive process of interviewing creative agencies but ultimately chose Art Machine because of the company’s intimate knowledge of Los Angeles and ability to help the franchise connect emotionally with its fan base,” said Jake Bye, Rams vice president of consumer sales and marketing.

Bye said it is critical for the team to reach the generation of local fans who grew up without professional football. To do that, Rams are ready to make a bold statement.

“We’re here, we’re on the ground, football is back,” said Bye.

Rams taking it slow with Jared Goff. Rams coach Jeff Fisher knew what was coming the second the Eagles named No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback following Philadelphia's trade of Sam Bradford to the Vikings last weekend.

What's the deal with No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, who not only won't start the Rams' season-opener vs. the host 49ers on Monday night, but who will most likely be inactive as the No. 3 quarterback?

"Maybe if we traded our starting quarterback, we'd start our rookie quarterback, too," Fisher said.

Case Keenum will open the season as the Rams' starter, and Sean Mannion will be his backup. Fisher said he wants Goff -- who is from the San Francisco Bay Area, near where the Week 1 contest will be played -- to not deal with any pressure, and to take in everything that comes with game day.

As Goff's inconsistent preseason play and practices already underlined, he's also not ready. That is something not one person with the Rams denies.

However, Goff could be the backup in Week 2, when the Rams play host to Seattle in their home opener at the L.A. Coliseum. On Tuesday, Fisher said the Rams could "flip" Goff and Mannion on the depth chart, with Goff being No. 2 and Mannion moving to the game-day inactive role as the third quarterback.

Would the Rams make such a move and telegraph it more than a week out to protect Goff's confidence? That could be part of it. Still, if Goff isn't ready to be the backup Week 1, why change?

To the cynic, promoting Goff for Week 2 could be a move intended to showcase the first-ever pick by these new Los Angeles Rams to the home crowd, which is expected to number close to 90,000. That doesn't wash, though. Why bother with such theatre when the defense wisely could be announced coming out of the tunnel before the offense? Or, if the offense is to be announced first, why take any attention away from running back Todd Gurley, the current face of the franchise?

Realistically, there might not be much of a gap between Goff and Mannion. And Fisher, who didn't start quarterbacks Steve McNair or Vince Young in their first NFL games with the Oilers/Titans, might be using some of that experience to bring along Goff -- at least for the season opener.

The bigger question is if Goff is elevated to the No. 2 spot for the home opener -- or whenever the Rams promote him -- will he ever be demoted?

It would be hard to think so.

Goff is going to be the starter at some point, probably sooner -- by this season's midpoint -- than later. So unless he is just completely overwhelmed and lost, there is no need for some kind of backup QB rotation.

He needs to get in as much work in the Rams' offense during practice as he can. Running plays off of opponents' flip cards as a scout-teamer isn't the ideal track to improvement. If he wants to play, Goff has to take the initiative to put in extra time -- in practice and in meetings -- to get up to (and stay up to) speed, since he won't be getting as many reps as he did during OTAs and camp.

With all that, everything really comes down to how Keenum plays. The Rams only have two games in Los Angeles before their Week 8 bye, and the schedule appears to be unforgiving. Should Keenum get nicked, not play very well or drop the majority of those games before the bye, you'd think a move would be made.

A quick aside as it pertains to Keenum: There is an old saying in football that players will gravitate to a quarterback who will jump into a pile for a fumble. That's Keenum: a foxhole guy who loves every second he gets to play the game.

His teammates dig him, but they also know he's a placeholder. Keenum has to play well, but he also has to win. If the Rams are going to lose, they can lose with a rookie who learns on the job. If the Rams didn't think they were going to win, then Goff might already be the starter.

Keenum Ready for 1st Opening-Day Start. When the 2015 season ended, quarterback Case Keenum had helped stabilize the Rams’ offense by coming in and winning three of the last four games at signal-caller. The Houston product’s performances in those four games earned him Los Angeles’ starting role to at least begin the offseason program.

But since then, Keenum has clearly seized the opportunity in front of him. Yes, quarterback Jared Goff was taken No. 1 overall and will ascend to QB-1 in due time. But until he does, Keenum has displayed he can effectively command the offense. Because of that, he’s earned the first opening-day start of his career.

“It’s exciting,” Keenum said. “It’s Monday Night Football. It’s a divisional opponent.

“It’s my first my time for it to be ‘my show’ starting out, and not just taking over — like, “Oh [no], send out Case now,’” Keenum continued, laughing.

Keenum dons a funny-guy persona when at the podium, but the reality of Keenum’s journey to Rams opening-day starter has a bit more depth.

“We traded for Case — people forget that. But we wanted to get him because of his ability,” head coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s done a great job this offseason, in the preseason games. … He’s ready to go.”

Keenum has a laid-back personality, which the media gets to see with his demeanor in press conferences. According to wide receiver Tavon Austin, that’s the way he is all the time — and it makes a difference in building relationships. Keenum was voted a captain for the first time in his career.

“Case has done a good job whenever he stepped in, from last year to now,” Austin said. “We’re not just teammates with Case — we’re definitely real brothers. And he fights for us just like we’re going to fight for him.”

Still, being “the guy” at quarterback for an entire offseason and training camp has certainly been different for Keenum.

“When I go talk to receivers now, it’s like, ‘Hey, this is how we should do this. This is how I want it, how do you want it?’ Instead of, ‘Hey, let me go ask somebody else and we’ll see how they want it,’” Keenum said.

Those are the kinds of minor factors that can make a major difference during games. But Keenum’s feel for the Rams’ offense has undoubtedly helped him take steps in his progression this year.

“Every week, you’re seeing more and more command of the offense, which is comforting,” Fisher said. “He’s going to get up there and make the right decisions. The position itself is hard to play, but he’s going to give us a chance with checking in and out of run stuff, changing protections, getting the ball down the field, making plays, [and] extending plays with his legs.”

“He’s one of those guys who you know what you’re getting day-in and day-out, but I think he’s progressed — gotten more comfortable with us, just like we’ve gotten more comfortable with him,” center Tim Barnes said.

There may be no more important connection than the one between center and quarterback on the field. Barnes said he’s particularly noticed how the communication between he and Keenum has improved with the Houston product taking the vast majority of first-team reps.

“That’s a big thing, is we’ve been able to do that the whole time,” Barnes said. “For the most part, we’ve been able to be there with each other and know what we’re thinking.”

Of course, Keenum’s final start of 2015 came against the same team at the same venue where the Rams will begin this season. The major difference being now, the 49ers are coached by Chip Kelly.

The Rams have been watching all kinds of film at their disposal in order to prepare, such as Cleveland’s defense from last year. Niners defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil held the same position with the Browns in 2015.

“It’s a different team than the two games we played against them last year. A lot of the same players, but different schemes,” Keenum said. “It does make it a little bit of a challenge to go back and watch and maybe different coordinator’s defense and see — you don’t look at personnel, but you maybe look at schemes and what they’re trying to do defensively.

“But it’s like any first game,” Keenum added. “They can throw anything at you.”

Given the magnitude of the game — the Rams’ first contest representing Los Angeles in two decades, and Keenum’s first opening-day start — it’s fair to expect Keenum to be juiced for it. As much as quarterbacks usually like to be even-keel, Keenum knows himself and the parts of his own personality he’ll have to embrace.

“I’m going to get excited no matter what,” Keenum said. “That’s who I am.”

If this game goes how the rest of 2016 has so far for the QB, Keenum should be able to efficiently lead the Rams’ offense to success against their division rival.

“I’m just coming out and doing my job, and my job is to be the quarterback of this team, to get the ball in the right people’s hands, convert on third downs, and score points,” Keenum said. “So that’s my job and I’m going to come in every day and work on doing that.”


— Aside from Keenum, running back Todd Gurley, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, linebacker Alec Ogletree, and punter Johnny Hekker have been named the Rams’ captains for 2016. Hekker is the only returning captain for the club.

— The Rams somewhat made waves by releasing presumed starting strongside linebacker, Akeem Ayers, in the final round of cuts. Though Fisher appeared to leave the door open for Ayers’ return, the linebacker has since signed with the Colts.

As Fisher explained on Thursday, the Rams were slated to be playing with two linebackers and five defensive backs more often than not regardless of who else was on the roster.

“As you know, we face a lot of three wide-receiver offenses,” Fisher said. “So, it’s two linebackers and it’s five DBs or six DBs. So teams aren’t normally starting with that group, and what teams like to do to us is spread us out and get rid of the football.”

Still, Fisher said he’s been pleased with what he’s seen from the rookies at linebacker, Josh Forrest and Cory Littleton.

“It’s just a matter of time before they’ll see live defensive snaps,” Fisher said.

— For a pair of minor roster moves, the Rams waived linebacker Nic Grigsby and signed cornerback Steve Williams. Williams is a former fifth-round pick of the Chargers who made two interceptions and two forced fumbles for San Diego last year. The cornerback was waived on Sunday.

L.A. also released running back Terrance Magee from its practice squad and signed offensive lineman David Arkin to the group.

— For the first injury report of the 2016 season, linebacker Bryce Hager (concussion) and right tackle Rob Havenstein (foot) both participated in practice on a limited basis. Cornerback E.J. Gaines (thigh), wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (shoulder), and wide receiver Nelson Spruce (knee) all did not participate in the session.
Twitter and the NFL teamed up to launch custom emojis and hashtags for all 32 clubs on Wednesday.
Some fans outside the Los Angeles market were curious as to why the Rams' hashtag was #MobSquad. Here is the story:
Back in September 2015, defensive tackle Aaron Donald made an appearance on SportsCenter after an opening week victory over Seattle. Donald's choice of apparel made a bigger statement than his words. His t-shirt read "Mob Squad" (see tweet) and fans immediately wanted to know where to buy the shirts.
The Mob Squad's origins predate the overnight popularity of Donald's ESPN appearance.
ESPN's Nick Wagoner was the first to cover the story. In his article, he discovered the moniker first emerged in the Rams training room.
"We were all organically talking in the training room how to associate our mascot with having a fan identity," assistant athletic trainer Bryon Cunningham said. "We just said let's look up what a collective group of rams are called. One of the collective names was a mob. We thought not only does that sound cool but it also sounds tough. The Mob Squad was born and the whole thing took off when Aaron Donald wore the shirt on ESPN."
Sure enough, if you look up sheep (male sheep are rams) on Wikipedia, you get: "A group of sheep is called a flock, herd or mob."
"The Mob Squad started internally in the football facility and branched out to the fans," assistant athletic trainer Tyler Williams said. "It was something we hoped the fans could hold onto and feel like part of the team. The fans are the Mob Squad. We are the Mob Squad. On game day, every member of the Mob Squad is a part of our organization."
The evolution of the term is quite remarkable considering its beginnings. On game day, you'll quickly spot fans in Mob Squad t-shirts and you'll hear players reference the name during interviews.
"A flock of rams is called a mob," Brockers said. "That's how we attack. It's not just one of us. You have to play all eleven of us."
So the Mob Squad is a way of life with the Los Angeles Rams, especially on the defensive front. Opposing teams will know when they play the Rams. The team mentality is to be nasty and tough on the playing field.
Head coach Jeff Fisher recently stated at the Rams Kickoff for Charity Luncheon when asked about playing a tough schedule, "Teams have to play us, too, and they'll feel it once they've played us."
The Rams of the 1960s and 1970s had the "Fearsome Foursome." The Rams of today have the "Mob Squad."

Rams Sign DB Steve Williams
The Los Angeles Rams added to their secondary depth by signing Steve Williams to the 53-man roster.

The California alum was a 2013 fifth round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers. Williams missed his rookie season due to a pectoral injury. He finished his two playing seasons in San Diego with 29 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 sack and 2 forced fumbles.

To open up a roster spot for Williams, rookie linebacker Nicholas Grigsby was waived.

Additionally, the Rams signed offensive lineman David Arkin to the practice squad and terminated the contract of practice squad running back Terrance Magee.

Williams will wear No. 41.
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.