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Practice Report: Keeping the Pocket Clean and Containing Russell Wilson in Week 5

Posted Oct 5, 2017

Rams RT Rob Havenstein discusses lining up against Seahawks' DE Michael Bennett, while the Rams' defense gears up for a touch challenge against QB Russell Wilson.

Los Angeles held its second practice of the week on Thursday afternoon at Cal Lutheran. The team will be back at home this weekend to face the Seahawks in Week 5.

INJURY REPORT

The Rams released their official injury report on Thursday afternoon after practice. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins returned to the field after missing Wednesday’s practice with an illness.

“Sammy was good,” head coach Sean McVay said. “He was feeling better, moving around good, so I think anytime that you get those illnesses, those bugs, hopefully it’s just a 24-hour thing and that’s what it seemed like it was with Sammy.”

Center John Sullivan — who did not participate on Wednesday — took limited reps on Thursday, while right guard Jamon Brown went from limited to did not participate as continues to rehab a groin injury.

Head coach Sean McVay said Sullivan “should be good to go” come Sunday and participated in individual reps throughout the afternoon session. After suffering from a groin injury last week and playing in every offensive snap against the Cowboys, McVay praised the center’s ability to perform at a high level. 

“John is such a tough player. I felt like he knows his body, he’s done it for such a long time and he felt really good going through Friday’s practice,” McVay said. “He knew he was going to battle through it and he felt good throughout the course of the game. I know he was sore afterwards, it was a physical game against an excellent defensive team with the Cowboys. But John played like we expected which is at a very productive level.”

Safety Lamarcus Joyner remains out with a hamstring injury. McVay said he will be “day-to-day” moving towards Sunday’s game.

PASS PROTECTION AGAINST SEATTLE’S DEFENSE 

This week’s matchup against Seattle will mark another tough challenge for the Rams’ offensive line, and particularly for right tackle Rob Havenstein. Last week in Dallas, Havenstein matched up against the NFL’s sack leader, DeMarcus Lawrence, and did an impressive job of keeping the pocket clean — allowing just one sack of quarterback Jared Goff.

But this week, the third-year pro will face off against defensive end Michael Bennett, a dynamic pass rusher known for both his strength and speed on the line.

“Obviously he’s a great player,” Havenstein said. “He’s been doing it at a high level for a lot of years, but it comes down to the same approach every week — just play with a lot of urgency. My technique throughout the week, I feel good about it. I feel good about my plan that I’m going into it with and I’m going to go out there and do the best I can.”

The Rams have seen a lot of success in both the pass and ground game this season, using efficient drives to become the league’s No. 1 scoring team. But the Seahawks have been one of the best defenses in the league for a number of years, characterized by their strong defensive line and relentless secondary, commonly referred to as “the Legion of Boom.” 

For Los Angeles’ offense to be successful on Sunday, it will need to run the ball effectively early, something Havenstein pointed out as one of his primary keys to victory.

“Any game it’s very important to get the run game going because it opens up other facets of the offense, but especially with this Seattle defense,” Havenstein said. “They’re a very stingy defense, so we want to go ahead and be as good as we can in all phases with the run, pass, and whatever else we got. We want to be consistent."

CONTINUING SUNDAY’S SECOND HALF MOMENTUM 

Defensively, the Rams will look to continue the second half performance they showcased in Sunday’s game against the Cowboys. After allowing Dallas to score 24 points through the first two quarters, the Rams held the Cowboys to just six points in the second half.

In what has been a slow start for the defense this season, middle linebacker Alec Ogletree called Week 4’s performance somewhat of a turnaround moment for the defense. He hopes to carry that momentum forward into this week’s divisional matchup with the Seahawks.

“It was huge for us to come out in the second half and play 10 times better than we did in the first half,” Ogletree said. “We were able to get out of the field on third downs and get a couple of turnovers and it definitely helped us in the game to come out with the win. You definitely try to build on things like that and carry it over into the next week.”

The Rams’ main priority on defense this week will be containing dual-threat quarterback Russell Wilson. In last week’s game against the Colts, Wilson finished 21-of-26 passing for 295 yards and two touchdowns. Not only does the six-year pro possess a strong pocket presence, but he is also able to scramble outside of the pocket and extend plays downfield.  

When asked what specific problems a quarterback like Wilson creates for a defensive front, Ogletree struggled to narrow it down to just one.

“He can throw the ball, he can run and really do whatever,” Ogletree said. “He’s definitely an elusive guy that can get outside the pocket and you would think he just likes to run the ball, but he looks to throw the ball down the field when he gets outside the pocket. It’s going to take everybody sticking with their man and upfront just keeping him contained in the pocket.”

And although going against one of the top offenses in the division will present a “big challenge” for the Rams’ defense, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is hopeful that the unit will continue to operate well under pressure. 

“We’re going to try and play the second half defense that we played last week,” he said. “I was pleased with the way we played in the second half and we did learn something about a scrambling quarterback and hopefully that will carry over. Dak Prescott could really move around and now we’re playing a guy that’s probably one of the best ever at it. He presents really big problems and that’s still a really good team that’s clicking pretty well.”