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Practice Report: Rams Face Tall Task in Containing Matt Ryan & Julio Jones

Posted Jan 3, 2018

The Rams discuss facing a former NFL MVP in quarterback Matt Ryan and the dynamic receiving threat of wideout Julio Jones.

The Rams are just three days away from welcoming the Falcons to the Coliseum on Saturday for the NFC’s Wild Card round. On Wednesday, the club held its first official practice of the week — hosting a non-padded session at Cal Lutheran.

Check below for the top three points from Wednesday:

INJURY UPDATE

It was much of the same for Los Angeles in terms of the team’s injury report. Although there were no new additions, the club was without a few key players for the second consecutive practice.

Linebacker Mark Barron (achilles) was once again a limited participant. And defensive back Blake Countess (concussion) joined Barron in a limited capacity. Wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) and wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (shoulder) were the team’s only non-participants.

While head coach Sean McVay said on Tuesday that it would take a lot to keep Cooper out of Saturday’s contest, and reiterated that point on Wednesday.

“Because he is so important and such an intricate part of what we’re going to try to do, he’s on track to play. You just want to be smart with him where when you do a little bit slowed down version of some of the special teams he’s able to take part in," McVay said. "But we fully anticipate Pharoh being ready to go and I think he’d tell you the same thing.”

And after not participating in Tuesday’s session, Falcons’ wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle/ribs) and running back Devonta Freeman (knee) returned in a limited capacity.  

Wide receiver Andre Roberts (knee/ankle), who is also the team’s primary punt and kickoff returner, was the Falcons’ only non-participant.

CONTAINING MATT RYAN

From a future Hall of Famer in the Saints’ Drew Brees to one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in Seattle’s Russell Wilson — the Rams have faced their share of top-tier signal-callers throughout the regular season.

And this Saturday’s playoff contest should prove no different.

This weekend, the Rams will host quarterback Matt Ryan and the defending NFC Champion Falcons. Ryan’s accolades include four trips to the Pro Bowl, an NFL MVP, an Offensive Player of the Year Award, and nine seasons as Atlanta’s QB-1.

“The guy was a great player last year and he’s continued that,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said.

“When it comes to him, I feel like his resume really speaks for itself,” cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman added.

His stat sheet this season includes a 64.7 completion percentage, 4,095 yards and 20 touchdowns. And although the Falcons’ offense has not been quite as dominant as it was last year, Ryan has been just as consistent. For that reason, his name is met with high regard in the Rams’ locker room.

“I have nothing but respect for him, a great quarterback,” Robey-Coleman said. “He’s a quick decision maker, knows exactly where to throw the ball and he trusts his receivers. They have a really good connection over there and just looking at the film you can tell those guys really work a lot together. So, we have to be on top of everything.”

Middle linebacker Alec Ogletree echoed his teammate, saying that even though Ryan has “been doing it for a long time, he’s only gotten better.” Because the quarterback has so much experience in the league, it will be up to the defense to “get pressure on him and hold up in coverage.”

“He has control of their offense and they go through him,” Ogletree said. “He’s able to read all types of coverages and get the ball to his playmakers. You have to execute your game plan.”

JULIO JONES — THE RAMS’ BIGGEST CHALLENGE YET?

“A top-tier receiver.”

“Maybe the best receiver in the league.”

These are just two of the ways the Rams have described Falcons’ wide receiver Julio Jones.

The five-time Pro Bowler is one of the NFL’s most dynamic offensive threats and should provide the Rams’ secondary with one of its biggest challenges yet. This season, Jones became one of just six players in NFL history to record four seasons with at least 80 receptions and 1,400 yards — finishing the 2017 regular season with 88 receptions, 1,444 yards, three touchdowns, and countless eye-opening catches.

“He’s an elite receiver. He may be the best, if not one of the best in the league,” Phillips said. “He’s set all kinds of records already in his career. And this year he’s having a tremendous year, has the most yards of anybody in the league. So, he’s a hard guy to stop.”

In order to stop Jones, the Rams will need to bring pressure early and often. And Robey-Coleman said that third downs will be especially important come Saturday against a Falcons’ offense that has the highest third-down conversion percentage (44.7 percent) in the league.

“Julio is very explosive. They have some great, great receivers,” he said. “[But] they are really explosive on third downs, so that’s what we’re really honing in on. We have to be really good on first and second downs, but on third down we have to really be at our best. To get off the field and put our offense on the field, so they can make some plays.”