Rams insider Myles Simmons shares his top 10 observations from the fourth Rams OTA session of 2018.
1) The Rams once again began practice in individual drills by working on ball security on offense, and creating takeaways on defense. The defensive groups were working on stripping the pigskin from a potential ballcarrier. Takeaways were a significant part of Los Angeles’ defensive success in 2017, and it’s setting up to be the same in 2018.
2) During individual drills, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips roams around to the different three defensive groups — defensive line, linebackers, and secondary. He may not be quite as active as head coach Sean McVay, but Phillips does make his way around to dispatch with coaching tips.
3) Continuing the emphasis on takeaways, the defense worked on an interception drill during the group portion of practice. The unit would run a particular play against air, then a member of the defense — usually in the secondary — would pick off a pass thrown by a coach. All other defensive players would then have to look to get a block in order to get to the end zone.
4) It’s a pretty minor detail**, but the Rams switched things up a bit when going through 11-on-11 drills. Usually McVay has the first-team offense on the field against the scout-team defense to begin a period. But on this day, McVay put the ones on defense on the field first vs. the offensive twos.
5) Given the season-ending injury to defensive lineman Morgan Fox — who was working at outside linebacker during the offseason program — Justin Lawler now has an opportunity to show what he can do. Lawlwer — a 2018 seventh-round pick — was lining up with the first-team defense at outside linebacker. Following the entire session, McVay said he’s flashed some good things at OLB.
6) Quarterback Jared Goff made his share of strong passes throughout the day, but perhaps his best came in an 11-on-11 period in the red zone. Goff tossed the ball to the back left corner of the end zone, where wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught the pass for a touchdown. In some ways, it was reminiscent of the catch Kupp made for the go-ahead TD against the Titans in Week 16. But there was no need to dive and get a knee down this time.
7) During the same 11-on-11 period, the offense lined up inside the 10-yard line for a fourth-down situation. As the play was beginning, someone on the defensive sideline shouted, “It’s going to Todd!” — as in Gurley. Whoever it was diagnosed the play perfectly, as Goff attempted a pass to Gurley on the left, but linebacker Bryce Hager batted the ball away for an incomplete pass. The defensive sideline erupted with cheers.
8) Toward the end of practice, the Rams ran a nifty play on offense that got running back Malcolm Brown all the way to the end zone — easily. With a couple play-action fakes, Brown may have gotten lost in the backfield for the defense. But then Goff dumped the pass off to the running back, and there was a lot of green space in front of the RB, who also had a couple of lead blockers.
9) As practice ended, McVay walked off the field chatting with center John Sullivan. McVay has often said having veteran players like Sullivan and left tackle Andrew Whitworth on the roster is particularly valuable, given how much they’ve both seen and experienced during their time in the league.
10) Finally, cornerback Aqib Talib and wide receiver Brandin Cooks were non-participants in Tuesday’s session. McVay noted Talib had informed the team of his plans that he wouldn’t be there for the particular practice. And in Cooks’ case, the wideout was there, but was experiencing some groin soreness. Because of that, Los Angeles’ training staff and strength and conditioning staff thought it best that Cooks take it easy on Tuesday afternoon.