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Practice Report: Receivers Talk Falcons’ Secondary, Rookies Excited for Postseason

Posted Jan 4, 2018

The Rams receivers discuss a talented and speedy Falcons secondary, while the rookies gear up for their first playoff appearance.

Two more days.

The Rams are just 48 hours away from welcoming the Falcons to the Coliseum for the NFC Wild Card round. L.A. hosted its final practice of the preparation week on Thursday and will hold one more walk-thru on Friday.

Here are three of the top stories from Thursday:

INJURY REPORT

The Rams are in good shape on the injury front heading into the first round of the playoffs on Saturday.

Although wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (shoulder) was a non-participant and linebacker Mark Barron (achilles) as well as defensive back Blake Countess (concussion) were limited participants in Wednesday’s session, all three were back in full on Thursday.  

Head coach Sean McVay said the staff feels good about Barron’s availability come Saturday, even though the linebacker has been inactive for the past two weeks.

“He’s gone the last couple days, he felt good today,” he said. “Like we’ve talked about in the past, I think the weather being so nice out here — I think that does play a factor in terms of his health and the games that he did miss and we’re optimistic and feeling good about his availability.”

Wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) was the sole non-participant and is doubtful to play on Saturday. 

In Atlanta, the Falcons also turned in a relatively clean bill of health. There were five players who were designated as “limited” in their Thursday session — including running back Devonta Freeman (knee), wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle/ribs), and specialist Andre Roberts (knee/ankle). But all are expected to play this weekend.

“From an injury standpoint, guys came through well,” head coach Dan Quinn said, according to www.atlantafalcons.com. “Had a good week, and we can’t wait to get rolling.”

FALCONS DEFENSE FLIES TO THE BALL

There’s no debating that the Falcons are a dangerous team. Atlanta is looking to get back to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row and has been hitting its stride in all three phases toward the end of the regular season.

The Falcons’ defense has been especially on point as of late.

Since allowing a season-high 201 rushing yards in Week 9, the Falcons have given up just 93.6 yards per game on the ground. And in the air, the “ball-hawk” secondary has given up just 214.3 yards per game, which is the 12th fewest in the league.

“You could see it’s a point of emphasis for them. They attack at it,” McVay said. “It’s a great defense. They’re tough to go against and you’re watching this tape and you’re thinking this is going to be a great challenge for us.”

Not only is the unit one that focuses on attacking the ball, but it is also one with a lot of speed.

“You have Desmond Trufant on the edge and Robert Alford is making plays at the corner position,” wide receiver Robert Woods said. “Just a good group of guys that play well together, get turnovers and they fly to the ball.”

“It’s going to be a physical game. It’s going to be a fun game, fast and physical,” wide receiver Sammy Watkins added. “We’re going to be playing for another shot to prolong our season. So it’s going to be a bloody matchup. Flying bullets out there and everybody’s level of play is going to be raised.”

The cornerback duo, along with safety Keanu Neal, has combined for 38 passes defensed and four interceptions this season. For that reason, Woods said the receivers will need to be especially on their game, as they will be forced to earn every single play.

“It’s playoff football so that’s what we’re expecting. We’re going to go out there and you have to work for everything, every inch,” Woods said. “No mistakes and no slips. We just have to take this opportunity, put up points and hopefully take their defense away.”

THE ROOKIE PERSPECTIVE

This season has been one to remember for the Rams rookie class, particularly wide receiver Cooper Kupp and safety John Johnson III.

The two have played a significant role in the Rams’ success this season, starting a combined 17 games throughout the year. Kupp finished off the regular season with a team-high 869 yards receiving and five touchdowns, while Johnson recorded 75 tackles and one interception. And while neither necessarily expected to be in the playoffs in their rookie season, Johnson said it was definitely something they “hoped for.”

“We prepared for it and we worked for it. So, it’s exciting that we finally get to play in a playoff game,” he said. “I’m anxious and nervous. It’s taking forever. I’m just ready to get out there and do it.”

And though the excitement might be heightened for a game like this, Kupp said the key to Saturday’s contest will be to keep the same approach they’ve had through the last 16 weeks.  

“They’re obviously a very good team. But you only feel nerves, you only feel pressure and all that stuff if you don’t prepare,” Kupp said. “And we prepare better than anyone else in the league. Everyone in this locker room has been doing everything they can to make sure that when we step on the field this time on Saturday, that we’ve got everything ready to go.”

“For us it’s another game and another opportunity to go out there and execute,” he added. “Do exactly what we’ve been doing throughout this entire season. So nothing changes for us.”