Training Camp Continues for the Rams

Pro football is heating up in east Ventura County. The temperature was quickly approaching the 100-degree mark as the Los Angeles Rams wrapped up their morning workout in Thousand Oaks. It was a spirited 2-hour session on the first day the media was allowed to observe training camp due to the COVID-19 protocol in place at all NFL facilities.

To the satisfaction of all, there were plenty of 10-minute drills, scrimmage plays and welcomed hitting as the team moved into the next phase of preparation for the 2020 NFL season that begins in just three weeks. Adding to the very warm atmosphere was the presence of NFL Films production crews for the HBO show 'Hard Knocks', featuring both the Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers this preseason.

"It was good, you know the thing that's been good about that is our guys have really learned how to practice with or without pads being able to go full speed," said Rams head coach Sean McVay in a virtual interview. The mask-clad media asked questions via a large-screen monitor located under the outdoor media tent to conform to health preventative measures.

Quarterback Jared Goff felt really good taking the initial reps in pads: "I think being out there, especially on offense being able to run the ball the way we did today with real pads and being able to really move some things up front, it was really good and a fun day for us... When we get the pads on, it's a little bit different. We're not able to fit up as well up front just without pads."

Without the luxury of any NFL preseason games this year the Rams need to make a quick and calculated assessment of the 79 players, including nine draft choices and 16 undrafted free agents, currently in camp. McVay has been impressed with his rookies, noting that safeties Terrell Burgess and Jordan Fuller have been standouts in recent practices and outside linebacker Terrell Lewis was back on the field.

Offensively, rookie running back Cam Akers and wide receiver Van Jefferson have performed well in practice. "He's (Jefferson) got great ability to be able to work edges on people, separate, good aggressive hands, he's physical... We've talked about what a special player Cam Akers is. I think when you look at those guys that we're really counting on to contribute from that draft class, we've been very pleased."

Rookie Terrell Lewis, who missed a few days last week due to being on COVID-IR, has made an impression with McVay: "Yeah, he certainly looks like you're supposed to. I mean, he is exactly what you want when you draw up a Madden player, in terms of what that outside edge player looks like."

The starting defense looked good in a series of scrimmages against Goff and the offense, including a couple of back-to-back interceptions. "To see the secondary as on-point as they are is definitely a good sight," said veteran defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who was almost a Baltimore Raven in April of this year but re-signed with the Rams soon after the Ravens to balked due to the status of his recovering ankle injury.

"I've been going full speed every practice. No let up, really no treatment besides a little bit of old man stuff just to keep me going and stay stretched, but besides that I feel great," said Brockers, who was equally impressed with Terrell Lewis while drawing laughs from the media: "That dude, he's a massive dude. At first, I was like: "Yeah, that's the guy that they've got replacing me." Then I saw him at outside linebacker, and I was like: "What? What's up?" But he's picking up very well."

The team's defense is now under the direction of defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. He was hired following the departure of future Hall-of-Fame defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Staley started as a graduate assistant in 2006 with Northern Illinois, worked his way up through six college programs before landing the job as the outside linebackers coach with the Chicago Bears in 2017-18 and the Denver Broncos in 2019.

"He has a big picture understanding for offense and defense. He knows how to attack protections. He knows how to manipulate route combinations with coverage principles. He knows how to get guys freed up, up front," said McVay. Brockers concurred: "It's been a great honor, man. The guy comes in wanting to work, he comes with a lot of juice every morning. He actually makes you want to feel like you want to play. I told him the first time we were on the Zoom call... I wanted to put my helmet on, on the Zoom call because he had me so fired up."

Kevin O'Connell will be the team's first offensive coordinator since the 2017 season when McVay began calling the plays upon his arrival in Los Angeles. After five seasons as a quarterback on NFL rosters O'Connell started as quarterbacks coach with the Cleveland Browns in 2015, offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, before ending as the Washington

Football Club's offensive coordinator in 2019.

Goff has enjoyed his interaction with O'Connell: "He's been incredible. He's been really good and you can tell he knows what he's doing and has done it at a high level. It always helps when you have a guy coaching you that has played the position as well and he's done it at the highest level. It's been a good marriage up to this point and I've enjoyed it."

Goff also praised rookies Akers and Jefferson work in camp. On Jefferson: "It reminds me a lot of when Cooper (Kupp, wide receiver) was a rookie, and he was just so far ahead of where a rookie kind of should be... He's obviously extremely athletic, but I think his ability to be able to pick up the offense mentally and understand the little intricacies of it has been really impressive."

"He (Akers) shows up every day. He's really smart, willing to learn, willing to listen and has done a great job up until this point... I can give them some shortcuts to some things and allow them to understand some things from my vantage point... They've both done a great job and I expect them to both have really good years."

The Rams training camp runs until Sunday, September 5. Their season starts, hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, September 13, the inaugural game at their new state-of-the-art facility, SoFi Stadium, in Inglewood for the NFL's season-opening Sunday Night Football clash.


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