The Rams had their first practice of the summer in pads on Tuesday afternoon, bringing more energy to training camp. Here are five observations from the session.
After three practices without them, the Rams put on pads for the first time since New Year's Day to begin the month of August. As head coach Sean McVay termed it on Wednesday, practice began to fee a bit more like "real football," even though the plays weren't "live" with defenders tackling to the ground.
"I thought it was a good tempo that we had on both sides," McVay said following Tuesday's session. "I thought there were some plays that the defense made and then I thought the offense made some plays as well. One of the things you appreciated is that it was a good, physical practice – guys were trying to be smart staying off the ground and I think we were able to accomplish that while getting a good, competitive practice."
One position group that immediately benefits from having the pads on is the offensive line. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth said practice becomes "less frustrating" when this day comes.
"When you don't have pads on, it's very hard to get a hold of guys. It's very hard to hit, punch, and shove, and do all the things we need to do to be successful moving people," Whitworth said. "It's really hard to do with loose shirts and jerseys on. So I think for us, it starts to kind of settle in to real football, and we get to do what offensive linemen do."
2) Whitworth vs. Quinn**
Speaking of the Rams' new left tackle, today was the first time we've seen him go against outside linebacker Robert Quinn in pads. It's a matchup of elite players that's fun to watch, particularly in one-on-one situations.
"It's fun. Obviously for me, it's probably the quickest guy you're going to play in the league — he's as fast as fast gets. So I think it's a lot of fun," Whitworth said. "For me, it's a chance at my age, really, to keep up with a guy with that kind of quickness. I think it only helps me, it only makes me better. And it gives me the opportunity for me and him to work together."
In today's one-on-one matchup between them, Quinn won the first rep with a spin move and Whitworth washed Quinn up and out of the pocket on the second. As Whitworth said, each player should make the other better throughout camp.
3) Special teams standout
For the last few years, special teams coordinator John Fassel has put together a "compete" drill for the first practice with pads. This year was no different.
Two players — usually of similar size — line up against one another. One player has to get to a tackling dummy about 15 yards away. The other player has to stop his opponent from reaching that dummy. There are just about no other rules. Rush to the dummy, or block for the dummy.
"You're looking for guys that can run," Fassel said of this drill a year ago. "I love to see guys that use the techniques we've been working on all OTAs — which have been unpadded — and the last two days. And that's all we've done, is we've worked on the techniques that hopefully will help them out today.
"So who's doing the right thing, who's fighting and scrapping, who shows that they can run, and who's also being smart about not committing penalties and those types of things," he continued. "They stand out."
Who stood out on Tuesday? Rookie outside linebacker Samson Ebukam. He dominated the three reps he had in the drill — both in rushing the dummy and blocking for the dummy. Ebukam has flashed a bit over the first few days of practice defensively. But this was a solid sign that the Eastern Washington product has some strong special teams skills.
Both wide receiver Tavon Austin and defensive tackle Dominique Easley exited practice due to injury and did not return. After the session, McVay said that both were being evaluated and that he did not have a firm update.
For more on both players, check out our full story here.
5) It rained in Southern California
The Rams ended practice a bit early on Tuesday for an unexpected reason — it was raining in Southern California.
You may have heard it never rains here, but alas, rain it does.
But the more concerning aspect were the lightning strikes. Once club officials noticed those, it was time to get off the field about 10-to-15 minutes early.
"We had some lighting close in the area," McVay said. "I want to always first be thinking about the players' safety and with the amount of time that it's going to take for us to be able to clear that and kind of where we were at in practice, we decided to call it.
"We felt like we got a lot of our work in," McVay added. "There were still a couple of things that we wanted to get done, but just being mindful of the situation, we felt like that was the best decision for us to make."
Check out the best photos from the first day of full pads of Rams Training Camp.