Rams Season Opener Preview: An Empty House

Nothing about the 2020 NFL season will be business as usual. The Los Angeles Rams deserve a premiere-style Hollywood christening for the official entrance of SoFi Stadium. Yet, when the Dallas Cowboys come to L.A. for this weekend’s Sunday Night Football season opener, both teams will be playing before an empty house due to protocols addressing the current virus pandemic.

Yet, the celebrating started a little early on Wednesday morning, September 9, when the Rams announced that corner-back Jalen Ramsey had signed a five-year extension worth $105 million. Ramsey will be paid $21 million per season, making him the highest-paid corner-back in NFL history. He is reportedly guaranteed $71.2 million of the deal.

The Rams celebrated Ramsey’s signing with a Twitter post: “Locking down our lock down. We’ve agreed with @jalenramsey on a 5-year extension.” Ramsey responded with his own Twitter post: “To whom this may concern,” a funny clip about money along with several cry-happy emoji’s.

Ramsey, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft, was acquired last October in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Rams gave the Jaguars two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder for one of the premiere corner-backs in the league. The signing also contractually locks down two of the top five draft picks from the 2016 draft for the team. The other being quarterback Jared Goff who was drafted number one that year.

I’m really happy for (CB) Jalen (Ramsey) and his family and you know well earned contract. So, definitely glad. I know it was something that he was glad to get out of the way as well,” said Rams head coach Sean McVay. “… and I'm happy for our football team. I think for him to be able to get that taken care of, you don't have any sort of distractions in the background. So, that's definitely a positive for us.”

First-year Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, a direct beneficiary of Ramsey’s signing: “I think that's what's impressive about him, is when you put him in between the white lines, there's a gear that he can get to that few can, there's a level of focus, there's a fearlessness that all special players have and he has that. What he's able to do, is elevate the people around him."

Quarterback Jared Goff will also benefit: “The top corner in our league for a long time. He deserves every bit of it and I'm excited about it. And selfishly, I'm excited to practice against him for a long time… there was a few locker room jabs, of course. You know, you see him and asking him what he's got in his bag and just joking around with him.”

Goff spoke about playing before an empty stadium against the Cowboys” “What's going to be different about it? How will it affect us? I don't know. I don't expect it to that much… I think the main difference is going to be, when there's a big play, either way, not getting that like kind of energy from the crowd. When there's a sack, when there's a turnover, when there's a touchdown, you feel that energy and it gets that momentum going.”

The Rams will face some old friends, now playing for Dallas. They added former Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel to the staff. “We've had friends in common that have worked with John, so I've always admired his work from afar,” said first-year Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. “I think he's not only an outstanding football coach, but I've been so impressed with him as a person. His positivity is infectious and I think he's definitely a big part of our staff.”

Kicker Greg Zuerlein is a Cowboy. An integral part the Rams offense for the previous eight seasons, Zuerlein had already impressed McCarthy: “I can't say enough about him… Being around Mason Crosby (Green Bay Packers kicker) the last 10 years, I think Greg is definitely one of the top kickers in the game. So, we're very fortunate to have the opportunity to sign him here and he's been an excellent fit for us.”

The Rams 53-player roster for Sunday’s Inaugural Opener of SoFi is set. Offense - Quarterbacks: Jared Goff and John Wolford; Left tackles: Andrew Whitworth and Tremayne Anchrum Jr.; Left guards: Joe Noteboom and Coleman Shelton; Centers: Austin Blythe and Brian Allen; Right guards: Austin Corbett and David Edwards; Right tackles: Rob Havenstein and Bobby Evans; Wide receivers: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Van Jefferson, Trishton Jackson and Nsimba Webster; Tight end: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt and Brycen Hopkins; Running backs: Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson Jr., Cam Akers and Xavier Jones.

Defense – Defensive ends: Michael Brockers and Morgan Fox; Nose Tackles: Sebastian Joseph-Day and Greg Gaines: Defensive Tackles: Aaron Donald and Eric Banks; Outside linebackers: Samson Ebukam, Leonard Floyd, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Jachai Polite and Terrell Lewis; Inside linebackers: Micah Kiser, Troy Reeder, Justin Hollins and Kenny Young; Left cornerback: Troy Hill and Darious Williams; Right cornerback: Jalen Ramsey and David Long Jr.; Strong safeties: Taylor Rapp and Terrell Burgess; Free safeties: John Johnson III, Jordan Fuller and Nick Scott.

Special teams – Punter: Johnny Hekker; Kicker: Samuel Sloman; Holder: Johnny Hekker; Long snapper: Jake McQuaide; Punt returner: Nsimba Webster; Kickoff returner: Darrell Henderson Jr. Remarkably, there are 11 rookies on the Rams roster including 16 : Akers, Anchrum Jr., Banks, Burgess, Calais, Fuller, Hopkins, Jackson, Jefferson, Jones and Sloman.

“Those guys last year that were rookies that played a lot, I look at that experience as invaluable,” said McVay. “It's not like they're going into their second year where they're just kind of reserve backup lineman that aren't getting on the grass and playing meaningful snaps.

“So, look at the experience that David Edwards, that Bobby Evans, that Austin Corbett got. You look at Austin Blythe being able to play the center spot for a handful games towards the latter half and Whitworth is probably getting ready to accumulate as 20,000 snap this year.”


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