Friday, August 4, 2017

Los Angeles Rams Weekly, Training Camp Opens, Les Snead, Jared Goff, Aaron Donald, Caushaud Lyons, Dominique Easley, Players Moves, Diary Of A Ram Fan

McVay Prepares To Take On First Training Camp As Head Coach. A new head coach only gets one shot at his first NFL training camp.  

Rams head coach Sean McVay will get his chance tomorrow with the opening practice of 2017 training camp. Though McVay has been with the team throughout the offseason program, Saturday marks his first chance to truly set the foundation for a strong season.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, McVay expressed his enthusiasm to get started and his eagerness to take the field with his team.

“I know myself and all the coaches are all excited to get going and I feel like the players share that same feeling,” he said. “It’s about that daily improvement. If we do that, we feel like we’ll make those incremental improvements every single day that will lead to good things when those games come around on Sundays.”

But those good things won’t come easily. McVay inherited a Rams team that has not seen a winning season since 2003 and has yet to make the playoffs in the last decade. And last season’s 4-12 record was not exactly the dynamic return to Los Angeles that Rams fans were hoping for.

As most Angelenos know, sports fans here in L.A. can be some of the toughest critics out there. However, McVay expressed confidence that training camp would allow them the space needed to create a good product for fans on the field, a product that will carry over into the regular season.

“I think the thing with training camp is like we’ve talked about — it’s really coming together as a team and figuring out a way for everybody to reach their highest potential,” he said. “Because ultimately as coaches, it’s our goal to try to help these players reach their highest potential and come together as a unit. It’s about us trying to be the best football team we can be.”

The next three weeks will be a significant indication as to what the team will look like. McVay, along with the rest of his staff, has had to face a number of challenges in the time leading up to Saturday’s camp, including various contract negotiations and roster changes.

Fortunately for Rams fans, football comes naturally to the young coach, and even in his time off, McVay’s mind was always on the game.

“I did try to get away a little bit. I went on vacation with my family and with my girlfriend,” he said. “It was good to get away, but sometimes you get that playbook out, or you get some of the things out that you want to [get] going into the offseason program. But, it’s exciting to be back and be around these players. This is what you love to do.”
Both his players and staff members alike have experienced that love firsthand. General Manager Les Snead has spent the last seven months getting to watch McVay adjust to life as a head coach and is quick to comment on McVay’s passion for the game..

“I could go on for days,” Snead said. “[McVay] has a passion for football — eats, sleeps, breathes football. He is all about football. We have joked that we have got no life skills, but we can do football and I think every decision he makes is all about ‘how do you help the Rams?’”

McVay will set out to achieve that goal during training camp over the next three weeks by continuing to instill and establish a new identity for his Rams team —  promoting an attitude within the Rams organization that is focused on the “we” and not the “me.”

“We’re always trying to embody a culture where it’s established through our character and communication,” he said. “There’s something special about being a part of something bigger than yourself. When you have great teams, that’s when it ends up becoming a championship opportunity.”

“When you look around the sports environment you see a bunch of great individuals, but for some reason they haven’t achieved it,” he added. “They always want to be a part of a team. And when you go through some of the adversity we’re inevitably going to face, and some of the good times, it’s all about that journey.”

Snead Has High Expectations for Goff Heading into Year Two. What are realistic expectations for Jared Goff in Year 2? Will Jared Goff improve? Is Jared Goff the answer at QB for the Rams?

If you have visited any sports media website in the last few months, chances are that you have read a variation of one of these headlines. Throughout the offseason, much of the attention has surrounded the development of the Rams’ young quarterback who returned to training camp this week, kicking off his second year in the NFL.

General Manager Les Snead was met with those same questions on Thursday, ahead of Saturday’s first official training camp practice.

“Right now, there are 32 quarterbacks penciled in at starter,” Snead said. “He is the only one that is 22 years old. So I do think the experience he got last year coming in with a new offense, you get better with experience, so you expect progress.”

Goff completed just 112 passes for 1,089 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season in Los Angeles.

But the Rams made important changes throughout the offseason to surround Goff with a strong offensive line, signing veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth to protect his blindside. The staff also made a point to bring in new skill players and offensive weapons for Goff, including wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.

“We did make some moves,” Snead said, “some where you let players go, some where you bring them in. I do love the veteran presence of an Andrew Whitworth, even a Robert Woods, [who] is a younger guy. We still have a young team, but bringing in some guys that have been there and done that in the locker room helps.”

Snead went on to discuss Goff’s steady improvement over the offseason, translating his hard work in the classroom, studying the playbook, into better action on the field.

“He definitely didn’t spend time trying to get better at golf if you look at the [American Century Celebrity Golf Championship] Tahoe scores,” Snead said with a laugh. “He has spent a lot of time trying to improve his trade in football. I thought throughout the course of the offseason program he was kind of just getting comfortable with some of the core things that we want to embody as an offense,” he continued, “and some of the things that will shape and establish our identity.”

While the next three weeks here at UC Irvine will give Goff a chance to answer many of the questions surrounding his development himself, Snead made a strong point of looking at the quarterback’s improvement not as an immediate goal, but as a continuous journey.

“Hey, he could have stayed another year in college and he didn’t,” Snead said. “He is still young, so when we made the decision with Jared, we knew it wasn’t necessarily a short-term fix — it was going to be a long-term decision for the franchise. I think he’s showing really encouraging things, it’s just about doing it consistently down-in and down-out.”

Aaron Donald Declines to Report to Training Camp. At separate press conferences on Thursday, general manager Les Snead and head coach Sean McVay acknowledged they were uncertain as to whether or not defensive lineman Aaron Donald would be in attendance for the start of training camp. Now both know for sure: Donald is absent as he and the team continue to negotiate a contract extension.

“Today’s no different than yesterday,” Snead said Friday evening. “Aaron’s a priority. The goal is still the same: Make Aaron a Ram for a long, long time. So, that didn’t change at all. Definitely respect Aaron as a human, respect the process.”

“He’s a great player. We knew this was a potential possibility for us. And we’re constantly going through, trying to get a solution to this,” McVay said. “But in the meantime, training camp starts tomorrow. We’ve got 90 guys — or 89 guys — who will be ready to go. And we won’t allow this to set us back in our preparation moving towards the Dallas preseason game and leading into the regular season. And just like anything else — love him, he’s a great player. I think his resumé speaks for itself. But in the NFL, whatever it is, adversity is inevitable and we’ve got to be ready to handle that as a team. And we’ll move forward accordingly.”

Snead said he had been in contact with Donald’s representation on Friday — “Any time you’re dealing with this, you don’t go a few days without discussing the matter,” he said — but declined to go into any specifics as to how the talks are progressing.

“Respect Aaron, respect his agents working through this, and we’ve said all along — let’s try not to get into specifics, details,” Snead said Friday. “But [we will] stick to the mantra, hey, it is a goal to make Aaron a Ram a long time.”

The 2014 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, Donald is widely regarded as one of the best players in football — including by those in the organization. Snead first said at the Combine in March that Donald “deserves a raise, there’s no doubt.”

Since Donald entered the league in 2014, no defensive tackle has recorded more sacks than his 28.0. In 2016, he led the league with 31.0 quarterback knockdowns and was No. 2 with 68.5 total QB hurries and knockdowns.

“As Sean said, Aaron’s play speaks for itself — that’s the reason why we want to make him a Ram a long time,” Snead said Friday. “So today doesn’t change that urgency at all.”

Even before it was confirmed Donald would not attend the start of training camp, outside linebacker Robert Quinn said Friday morning he didn’t believe the situation would become a distraction for the players.

“No, not at all. You look, even during OTAs, guys didn’t let it become a problem,” Quinn said.
“Aaron has a great heart. He loves playing football, first and foremost. He’s just going through a tough little situation right now. Like I said, the guys have his back and once he finally decides to come out here we’d love to see his face and take it from there.”

“I know his teammates have a whole lot of respect for Aaron with the way that he competes, what he’s about,” McVay said. “He’s what represents what’s right about this game in terms of those top-tier players like he is. I know that they would want him to be around, but there are business elements to these things that take place that have some nuances to them. And I think his teammates respect and understand the organization and the player — it’s about us coming to a solution. But I don’t think it’s going to affect their ability to perform and do things tomorrow. While they want them to be out there, they’ve got a job to do and I think that’s their mindset.”

McVay said he’s already addressed Donald’s situation with the team to get out in front of it. As the head coach put it, Donald has served as a captain and is clearly a significant part of the club’s defensive plans.

But without him around, McVay named two players who will likely receive extra practice reps in Dominique Easley — who McVay said “had a great spring” — and Ethan Westbrooks.

Once Donald returns, he’ll have some catching up to do. But McVay did not seem too concerned about that being an issue.

“There’s ways that he can stay up with it based on some of the technology that we have. So he understands kind of his roles and responsibilities within the framework of the defense,” McVay said. “But there’s no substitution for getting those physical reps. That’s why there’s no substitution for getting those physical reps. And that’s why this time of year is important to us.

“But he is the type of guy where you know he’s going to stay up from a mental standpoint,” McVay continued. “And he’s one of the few guys that you feel like will be able to make a smooth transition to whatever system just because of the caliber player he is.”

And so as the first practice of training camp begins tomorrow, the Rams will continue to work on reaching a resolution with Donald that pays off for the player and the organization.

“He’s been a priority and, obviously, in these situations both sides are working,” Snead said. “And you’re working hard to try to get something done.”

Rams Sign DE Caushaud Lyons. 
The Los Angeles Rams have signed defensive end Caushaud Lyons just prior to the start of Training Camp.

Lyons, who played his college ball at Tusculum, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015. He was claimed off waivers at the start of the 2015 season by the Pittsburgh Steelers before being released by the team a month later.

Lyons signed a futures contract with the Tennessee Titans earlier this year before being waived.

Rams Players' Training Camp Essentials

For most players, rookies and vets alike, adjusting to life back on a college campus takes some getting used to. With the Rams recently wrapping up Day 5 of their training camp, most of the team has gotten the chance to dive right back into college living by now, but with about two weeks remaining, there’s still a lot to get used to.

Their schedules are packed, the early morning wake-up calls are many, and life in college-sized apartments is definitely not the ideal.

So how do some players make life a bit more bearable? Find out from a few of your favorites.

And don't forget to check out their favorite songs to jam out like a Rams player.
Five Takeaways from Day 1 of Training Camp. The Rams began training camp with a lively practice on Saturday afternoon. Here are five takeaways from the session.

1) Everyone was amped

It might be obvious to say, but there was a lot of energy for the first training camp practice of Sean McVay’s tenure as Rams head coach. Because the players were not yet in pads, McVay said the session felt comparable to what the club was doing during OTAs and minicamp. But the fans provided a different energy to the action.

“I thought it was a great atmosphere out here,” McVay said.

“First day out here, however many fans we had, it was awesome,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “I think I speak for a lot of guys, everyone was a little bit anxious, everybody’s going a little bit fast. It was a good first day of camp.”

It wasn’t the first time McVay’s been on the field with the team as its head coach, but the first day of training camp did represent a checkpoint on the calendar as the regular season gets closer.

“I think going back to the team meeting last night and thinking back to our first team meeting in the offseason program, it feels like it is a little bit closer to reality,” McVay said. “That September 10th date and then getting to play the Cowboys in the preseason opener is really what you do this for and I think everybody has got a little bit more excitement.”

2) Johnson aiming to help the Rams win

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson will be playing the 2017 season under the franchise tag for the second year in a row. Once the July negotiating deadline passed, that became official.

Speaking to the media for the first time since, Johnson was asked about his contract situation. While he acknowledged being disappointed about not receiving a long-term deal, he said his mindset hasn’t changed.

“I’m here, still playing football. I’m still lacing up my cleats. I’m still putting my 22 jersey on,” Johnson said. “I’m blessed. I’m here to win games — that’s my goal. Point, simple, blank — I’m here to win games. I’m not worried about after the season. I’m here right now and my focus is on winning games.”

“Any player would want a long-term deal. I just didn’t get one,” Johnson added. “I’m not about to feel sorry for myself, be mad at it, and be selfish about it. It’s not about me — it’s about this team and winning games. And that’s what I’m here for.”

Wide receiver Tavon Austin went against Johnson in a few one-on-one drills during Saturday’s practice and said he hadn’t noticed any difference in the cornerback.

“Tru’s always going to be solid,” Austin said. “I feel like he doesn’t let anything else get to him when he’s on the field. We just play football, just like everybody else out there. That’s the main thing I like about Tru.”

3) Goff opening it up early

One noticeable element of practice was Goff throwing a number of deep passes. As one reporter pointed out during the quarterback’s press conference, that wasn’t really the case early on during last year’s training camp.

“We did a bunch in one-on-ones and I threw, I think, a couple during team [drills],” Goff said. “It’s a big part of my game and part of my game I like to think I’m pretty good at. I enjoy throwing the ball deep.”

Still, Goff acknowledged he’ll have to get the timing down with his receivers on those deep throws. He noted that with the first day of camp, his adrenaline was running and that may have been a factor for a couple of overthrows.

Nevertheless, there was one deep crossing route to wideout Robert Woods where Goff put just enough touch on it to get the ball over the defense and into the hands of his target. That play was likely a product of the time Goff and Woods put in during the summer, working out together in order to build chemistry.

4) Changing the terminology

Running back Todd Gurley kept it simple on Saturday when asked to take stock of what’s gone on in his first two seasons.

“It’s football. Everybody that’s been playing football [in the NFL], we’ve been playing our whole lives,” Gurley said. “It’s football — you catch it, you don’t turn it over, you score points, and you stop people from scoring points. That’s about it, honestly.”

True as that may be, when there’s a new head coach implementing a new offense, there’s plenty to learn — the different terminology being one example.

“Yeah, obviously this is a whole new system. We just had that five or six weeks off, so obviously things are rusty to everybody,” Gurley said. “That’s why we are having training camp and we are in meetings all day every day and on the field. We all made mistakes today. We’re going to learn from them and come back out here and make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes that we did yesterday and just keep getting better.”

It’s early and players are not in pads, so take the following with a grain of salt. But the offensive line created what appeared to be a few solid holes for the running back to rush through during the first practice on Saturday afternoon.

5) No update on Donald
Defensive lineman Aaron Donald remains absent from training camp as the Rams negotiate with his representatives on a contract extension. McVay said after Saturday’s session that there was no update as to when Donald may be back.

“I’m sure that when I go back and talk to [general manager) Les [Snead], [E.V.P of football operations] Kevin [Demoff], and [senior assistant] Tony [Pastoors] they’ve probably been in contact with [Donald’s representatives,” McVay said. “As of right now, we’re keeping those things in house and we’re optimistic and we’re really striving to find a solution to this.”
Rams Hold First Padded Practice on Tuesday. For as many times as the words “Football is back” have been said, written, and tweeted going back to April, you’d think we might be in Week 7 by now. Of course, in reality players have only been in helmets, jerseys, and shorts since the start of Phase III in the offseason program.

That’s why upon saying Tuesday will mark the Rams’ first practice in pads, head coach Sean McVay declared, “Now it’s real football.”

“I think a lot of the things that occur, especially at the line of scrimmage, are definitely different based on just being able to get your hands inside and some of the fits and things that occur,” McVay said. “That’s how we play the game and that’s where really us as coaches get the best evaluation for what type of players that we do have and how they play when we put the pads on. And there’s a little bit more physicality, while also being smart protecting each other. So, we’re looking forward to it and I think the players are as well.”

McVay alluded to it there, but part of the reason padded practices are closer to “real football” is because of how it affects both both the offensive and defensive lines. Without pads, players can improve their technique with their hands and feet. But there’s no substitute for those padded reps — both for player improvement as well as evaluation.

But McVay mentioned on Saturday that skill-position players also have to make adjustments when the pads come on.

“Being able to do some different things and carrying those pads especially when you’re throwing the football or catching it — it creates a different reaction and guys have to get comfortable doing that because that’s how we play on Sundays,” McVay said.

And so that’s what they will begin to do on Tuesday. But McVay said he and the rest of the coaching staff will be aware of players being amped up to put on pads for the first time in about eight months.

“Part of being a pro is knowing how to practice smart and be able to practice fast, but also still protecting your teammates and being mindful that we’re all on the same team,” McVay said. “Certain periods we’ll pick and choose where we turn it up a little bit, but our guys have done a nice job of competing without the pads and we expect the same tomorrow when we put them on.”

McVay said L.A. will not do anything that’s fully “live” with tackling during Tuesday’s practice. But even when they do, getting in good work while making sure players stay as safe as possible.

“I think it’s that ‘thud’ and being able to fit guys up and things like that and protecting your teammates, but you want to try to keep guys off the ground where, some of those piles and things like that can occur where guys get rolled up on,” McVay said. “So, we want to try to avoid that, but still get it as much as a game like atmosphere as we can.”

Five Observations from the First Day in Pads. The Rams had their first practice of the summer in pads on Tuesday afternoon, bringing more energy to training camp. Here are five observations from the session.

1) Pads

After three practices without them, the Rams put on pads for the first time since New Year’s Day to begin the month of August. As head coach Sean McVay termed it on Wednesday, practice began to fee a bit more like “real football,” even though the plays weren’t “live” with defenders tackling to the ground.

“I thought it was a good tempo that we had on both sides,” McVay said following Tuesday’s session. “I thought there were some plays that the defense made and then I thought the offense made some plays as well. One of the things you appreciated is that it was a good, physical practice – guys were trying to be smart staying off the ground and I think we were able to accomplish that while getting a good, competitive practice.”

One position group that immediately benefits from having the pads on is the offensive line. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth said practice becomes “less frustrating” when this day comes.

“When you don’t have pads on, it’s very hard to get a hold of guys. It’s very hard to hit, punch, and shove, and do all the things we need to do to be successful moving people,” Whitworth said. “It’s really hard to do with loose shirts and jerseys on. So I think for us, it starts to kind of settle in to real football, and we get to do what offensive linemen do.”

2) Whitworth vs. Quinn
Speaking of the Rams’ new left tackle, today was the first time we’ve seen him go against outside linebacker Robert Quinn in pads. It’s a matchup of elite players that’s fun to watch, particularly in one-on-one situations.

“It’s fun. Obviously for me, it’s probably the quickest guy you’re going to play in the league — he’s as fast as fast gets. So I think it’s a lot of fun,” Whitworth said. “For me, it’s a chance at my age, really, to keep up with a guy with that kind of quickness. I think it only helps me, it only makes me better. And it gives me the opportunity for me and him to work together.”

In today’s one-on-one matchup between them, Quinn won the first rep with a spin move and Whitworth washed Quinn up and out of the pocket on the second. As Whitworth said, each player should make the other better throughout camp.

3) Special teams standout
For the last few years, special teams coordinator John Fassel has put together a “compete” drill for the first practice with pads. This year was no different.

Two players — usually of similar size — line up against one another. One player has to get to a tackling dummy about 15 yards away. The other player has to stop his opponent from reaching that dummy. There are just about no other rules. Rush to the dummy, or block for the dummy.

“You’re looking for guys that can run,” Fassel said of this drill a year ago. “I love to see guys that use the techniques we’ve been working on all OTAs — which have been unpadded — and the last two days. And that’s all we’ve done, is we’ve worked on the techniques that hopefully will help them out today.

“So who’s doing the right thing, who’s fighting and scrapping, who shows that they can run, and who’s also being smart about not committing penalties and those types of things,” he continued. “They stand out.”

Who stood out on Tuesday? Rookie outside linebacker Samson Ebukam. He dominated the three reps he had in the drill — both in rushing the dummy and blocking for the dummy. Ebukam has flashed a bit over the first few days of practice defensively. But this was a solid sign that the Eastern Washington product has some strong special teams skills.

4) Injuries
Both wide receiver Tavon Austin and defensive tackle Dominique Easley exited practice due to injury and did not return. After the session, McVay said that both were being evaluated and that he did not have a firm update.

5) It rained in Southern California
The Rams ended practice a bit early on Tuesday for an unexpected reason — it was raining in Southern California.

You may have heard it never rains here, but alas, rain it does.

But the more concerning aspect were the lightning strikes. Once club officials noticed those, it was time to get off the field about 10-to-15 minutes early.

“We had some lighting close in the area,” McVay said. “I want to always first be thinking about the players’ safety and with the amount of time that it’s going to take for us to be able to clear that and kind of where we were at in practice, we decided to call it.

“We felt like we got a lot of our work in,” McVay added. “There were still a couple of things that we wanted to get done, but just being mindful of the situation, we felt like that was the best decision for us to make.”
Easley Suffers Season-Ending Knee Injury
 
The Rams were dealt unfortunate injury news to start the fifth day of training camp, as defensive lineman Dominique Easley has suffered a season-ending knee injury.

“We received word that it is going to be an injury that’s going to require surgery, and he’s going to be out for an extended period of time,” head coach Sean McVay told therams.com just after Wednesday’s walk-thru. “But he’s a guy that’s done all the things we’ve asked of him. And we love Dominique. We’re going to embrace him.”

This is, unfortunately, not Easley’s first season-ending knee injury. He tore the ACL in both is right and left knee while playing his college ball at Florida. Easley also finished both of his first two NFL seasons with New England on the club’s injured reserve.

The injury appeared to occur during an 11-on-11 drill during Tuesday’s practice — the first of the season in pads. Easley was seen unable to put weight on his left leg before being carted off the field for more examination.

Easley represents a significant loss for the Rams’ defense, as he was projected to be a starter at the beginning of camp. The defensive lineman was productive in a rotational role for Los Angeles last season, recording 3.5 sacks, 50 total tackles, 21 quarterback pressures, and eight quarterback hits, according to the Rams’ coaches stats.

“It certainly is a big loss for us because he was doing a lot of great things — really counting on him,” McVay said. “But it’s going to open up the opportunity for some other guys to step up, and we accept that and expect that.”

So who will the Rams look to in order to fill the void? McVay sounded like there will be a lot of competition between the inside pass rushers.

“You see guys like Ethan Westbrooks. I think it’s going to make Michael Brockersthat much more important not only in base, but in some of those sub packages that we’re running. You look at a guy like Tanzel Smart. I think it opens up the door for Louis Trinca-Pasat — a lot of guys that have done some good things,” McVay said. “But now they’ll get an opportunity to compete with some of our guys that we’re expecting to start, and we’ll see how they do.”

As Easley goes through his rehab process, McVay said the organization will be there to help him.

“Love him,” McVay said. “We’re going to embrace him, and then we’re going to go through this with him together.”

McVay is expected to further address Easley at his press conference following Wednesday's practice.

Rams Sign Two Players, Waive Laskey
During the Rams off day, the staff made a variety of changes to its active roster. The team signed two players, while waiving one due to injury and placing another on the reserve/injured list. 

Reserve/Injured:
Dominique Easley - Defensive End, Florida 
Easley was officially placed on the reserve/injured list on Thursday after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Tuesday's practice. 

Waived: 
Zach Laskey - Full back, Georgia Tech
Laskey joined the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and was previously placed on the injured reserve list before last season began. 

Signed:
C.J. Germany - Wide receiver, Notre Dame College
Germany officially joins the Rams after being invited to rookie mini camp earlier this year. While at Notre Dame College he amassed 1,623 yards for 77 receptions and 16 touchdowns, setting a school record in yards per catch with 21.08.  This afternoon he took to Twitter to announce his excitement at officially becoming a Ram. 

Justin Thomas - Wide receiver, Georgia Tech
After getting waived by the New Orleans Saints last Saturday, Thomas officially joins the Rams as a member of the wide receiving group. Thomas played as a quarterback at Georgia Tech passing for 4,469 yards and rushing for 2,370 yards before transitioning to a defensive back with the Saints and now a wide receiver for the Rams. 

The team will return to the field tomorrow for Day 6 of training camp. 
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 Football team, and Political Science.