NEWS & EVENTS

Print
RSS

Practice Report 9/21: Working to Reach the End Zone

Posted Sep 21, 2016

The Rams have not yet scored a touchdown — an issue they plan on correcting this week against the Buccaneers.

Head coach Jeff Fisher joked on his radio show Monday evening he might hold a sleepover for the offense in the end zone, just so that the unit will get accustomed to being inside those 10 yards on the field.

Although the entire club acknowledges a need to score touchdowns in order for the team to have sustainable success, Fisher’s trying to keep it light around the building as the Rams work to improve.

“I told them this morning, I was running around the building with the move and everything looking for some things that I hadn’t been able to find yet for my office. I found a box, and I showed it to them — it was full of touchdowns,” Fisher said after Wednesday’s practice with a laugh. “So we watched some touchdowns today.”

“It has to be fun — this business has to be fun,” Fisher added of the approach. “As long as they’re doing the work, and focused, and executing, and doing the things we’ve asked, then it’s OK to have some fun here and there.”

Apparently that’s extended to the practice field as well.

“He hands us the ball and he’s like, ‘Here.’ Then he makes us stand in the end zone, and he’s like, ‘You see this? This is a football. This is the end zone. This is where you’re supposed to be,” tight end Lance Kendricks said. “So we kind of laugh at it, but I know he’s kind of serious.” 

While there was offensive improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, there has to be more as the Rams head to Tampa to face the Buccaneers on Sunday.

“It was a step in the right direction. We know we need to take some bigger strides, but we’re going to focus on the positives,” offensive coordinator Rob Boras said. 

One of the elements Los Angeles did improve upon was achieving sustained drives. The Rams did not have a three-and-out in the second half against the Seahawks, which allowed the defense an opportunity to rest.

“I think we moved the ball a lot better, really, in key situations when we needed to move the ball,” quarterback Case Keenum said. “We didn’t punch it in at times, but we flipped the field.”

“I feel like they had a couple long drives that left us off the field and let us get that second wind that we needed, and helped us a lot to close out the game,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said.

The Rams also were able to score on their opening drive, which Boras acknowledged is not everything. But given the output from Week 1, it also isn’t nothing.

“Obviously you want to start fast,” Boras said. “Our opening series, we went down and got points. I understand it was only a field goal and we wanted a touchdown. But after what we had done the week before, starting that game with a field goal was good for us — was good for everybody’s mentality.”

One area for targeted improvement this week is the club’s third-down efficiency. Through two games, the Rams have converted just six of their 27 opportunities.

“Every third down is going to be critical,” Kendricks said. “We haven’t been that great on third down thus far, so we’ve just got to really just focus on the things that we haven’t been good at and really emphasize that.”

Part of that extends to the Rams simply doing better on early downs, too. L.A. is also tied with Buffalo for the league’s fewest first downs with 27.

Another element Los Angeles must improve this week is their red-zone scoring. Quarterback Case Keenum specifically pointed to a pass he missed to wide receiver Kenny Britt as an example of how the offense must execute better.

“There’s a couple of passes that I’d like back where guys are going to have a chance to score,” Keenum said. “The one to Kenny there, when [Richard] Sherman’s guarding him — I’ve got to give him a chance. [Britt] did a great job winning, and I’m throwing off my back foot, but I’ve got to give him a chance to make that play.”

The quarterback repeated a line he said on Sunday in describing how he feels about the club’s current offensive production: I like touchdowns, but I love winning.

“The burden for me is winning. And if you were to tell me right now that we’re not going to score another touchdown, but we’ll win every game, I’d be OK with that,” Keenum said, adding wining “is quite a bit more important.”

“But,” he continued, “we’ve got to score touchdowns to win in this league. So they kind of go hand in hand most of the time.”

And that’s a sentiment felt on the entire offense.

“It’s concerning,” Boras said of the unit’s lack of touchdowns. “That’s our job, so I’d be ignorant to say otherwise.

“The more plays that we have the more opportunities we’re going to have to score points,” Boras added.

And that is the Rams’ charge this week. The club will be challenged against a fast, aggressive Tampa Bay defense. But in order to win games the way the club believes it can, Los Angeles’ offense must become a lot more familiar with the end zone.

“We’ve just got to execute as an offense,” Britt said. “There were times when we got off the field because [there could be] one player making a mistake [here] and there. So right now, it’s just all playing as one when we’re on the field.”

KEENUM TO BRITT CONNECTION

Since Keenum took over as the Rams’ starting quarterback for the last four games of the 2015 season, he’s displayed some strong chemistry with Britt. That has carried over to the first two weeks of this year as well.

In those six games, Britt has made 20 receptions for 397 yards and two touchdowns — an average of 19.9 yards per reception. The Rutgers product arguably had one of his best games as a Ram against Seattle last week, making six receptions for 94 yards.

“He’s got a great mindset during the week and it shows up on Sundays,” Keenum said of Britt. “I’ve been around Kenny two and a half seasons, kinda — and to really see him turn it on from this offseason, from us throwing during the summer time, to him getting back healthy to being the dominant player I know he can be has been fun to watch.”

Britt said Wednesday the chemistry between quarterback and receiver stems from a lot of work in the offseason.

“Case has a lot of trust in me. We’d been working, actually, really hard in the offseason,” Britt said. “I missed OTAs, so this offseason, he called me every morning [to say] he was throwing the ball. Every Tuesday, every Thursday — sometimes we went three times a week. And that really helped us out.” 

Now the pair is seeing that hard work pay off in games.

“We started off where we left off last year,” Britt said. “We had a head start before we went to camp.” 

“I hope it continues to grow that way, too,” Keenum said. “I think he’s a guy that is one that continues to show up on film getting open, and so as a quarterback, you tend to look toward those guys a little bit more. And I think we’re gaining chemistry.”

INJURY REPORT

The Rams listed six players on their first injury report for this week. The good news is all six players were at least able to participate in some way.

Safety Maurice Alexander (thigh), wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (shoulder), running back Benny Cunningham (knee), cornerback E.J. Gaines (thigh), cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (toe), and wide receiver Nelson Spruce (knee) all practiced on a limited basis.

“It was really good that we got some players back,” Fisher said. “So it was good to see Nelson run around a little bit, same with ‘Coop.’ And we had some guys banged up a little bit from the game who were able to practice.”

Joyner’s injury, a broken toe, may be causing him pain, but he’s not going to let that keep him off the field. You can read more about that in our feature on him here.