The Rams held their first practice of training camp today at UC Irvine and gave the big crowds of fans lots to cheer for. I was in attendance, and today, I’ll be breaking down some notable observations during my time at camp.
Many have been wondering how Matthew Stafford will perform on the Rams and seeing him in person. I can say he is just as advertised. His chemistry with Woods and Kupp is good, and it seemed like Woods was his favorite target. His arm strength was phenomenal, and he really hit all the receivers in stride. The day’s catch was a deep shot by Stafford to Desean Jackson during 11/11s that resulted in a TD. At Center, Austin Corbett took most of the reps with Stafford, and Brian Allen took reps with Wolford. Corbett is projected to start, but Allen could earn a starting role somewhere on the line. During 11/11s, Terrell Burgess intercepted Wolford, and it was returned for 6 and had a PBU on Stafford.
As for the pass-catchers, and Woods and Kupp were the standouts as they should be. Kupp made a perfect catch on the sideline from Stafford and looked healthy after returning from his injury last season. Woods looked like he had the best chemistry with Stafford, and their connection stood out throughout practice. Jackson still looked speedy but was seen stretching his leg while Woods and Kupp were already warm up. Higbee and Johnny Mundt were catching passes from Stafford in a warm-up drill, while the other TEs had Wolford throwing to them. Higbee still practiced with his arm brace but still seemed dominant over the other TEs.
Darell Henderson was taking the 1st team snaps in the running back room, while Xavier Jones was on the 2nd team. Notably, Jake Funk got a couple of first-team reps, which might be a sign of a running back committee. Henderson looked ready to be the Rams RB1 but noticeably struggled in some pass drills. The drill put Henderson 1v1 against a defensive player, and for some reps, he struggled to get open and didn’t catch the ball at all. Funk and Calais had better pass-catching skills but could have done better with speed. I would expect McVay to go with Henderson as RB1 and swap in Jones and Funk to keep him fresh.
The #1 defense from last season has big expectations for next season, and I think they have the ability to live up to them. The most notable thing that stood out to me during camp was the secondary talent. Terell Burgess was a standout. He picked off Wolford and batted some passes during the 11/11s. Troy Warner also picked off Wolford maintaining control of the ball while falling on the ground. Additionally, Donte Deayon almost made an impressive sideline interception, but it was ruled incomplete.
Now that John Johnson is in Cleveland, the Rams needed a new defensive play-caller, and rookie Jordan Fuller stepped up. Fuller had the green dot on his helmet throughout the practice and is likely to keep this role for the season. McVay said after practice that “there’s a couple of guys that are candidates,” so we could see different players get the green dot throughout the rest of camp.
One of the best moments of the camp was watching the 1v1 of Robert Woods on Jalen Ramsey. Stafford tried to connect with Bobby Trees, but Ramsey denied him the opportunity. After every play, the secondary came together and seemed to be getting pointers from each other, which shows good team chemistry. The defensive players looked good in drills and 11/11, and Kenny Young picked off a QB in the running back drill mentioned before. As camp continues, the starting LB position is something to look out for. The #1 defense can easily still be a top 5 defense next season, especially with #99 terrifying QBs.
The Rams are looking for a new long snapper as longtime starter Jake McQuaide departed for Dallas this offseason. During camp, the long snappers worked with a punter in a drill, and Matthew Orzech seems to be the favorite. Orzech was working with Hekker in multiple drills while Steven Wirtel was working with Corey Bojorquez. It wasn’t a rotation of players either, as Orzech and Hekker stayed together as they moved from drill to drill.
As for the kickers, Matt Gay was as impressive as a kicker can be. There was a notable difference in Gay’s kicks vs. MacGinnis’. Gay notably kicked through the goal post and almost hit some fans passing by. Gay can give the Rams some consistency at kicker that they haven’t had since Greg Zuerlein.
Kick and punt returner is a position to monitor for the Rams as Nsimba Webster was recently cut. The three major players I saw in punt return drills were Raymond Calais, Trishton Jackson, and JJ Koski. Notably missing from this group is rookie Tutu Atwell, placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. I think that either Calais or Atwell has the chance to start as the main returner. For the special teams’ starters next year, I think it’ll be Gay, Hekker, and Orzech as the starting 3 with Atwell as KR.
What to watch for the rest of camp
- If Orzech keeps getting the reps with Hekker
- When Tutu returns will he get reps at returner?
- Who earns the WR3 spot on first team
- If Xavier Jones or Jake Funk get more 2nd team reps
- Will Jordan Fuller keep the green dot?
- Who starts at LB
For an in-depth season outlook on the Rams, you can check out my other article here.